OP-ED | Discrimination, corruption, execution

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By GHK Lall

I appeal for the liberty to use some well-known Americanisms, since they fit Guyanese circumstances. The first is ‘Guyana, we have a problem.’ It is not Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert calling earth to report “Okay Houston [Texas] we have a problem here.”

More accurately, it is ‘Guyana, there is not one problem, but several.’ This was what came out of the U.S State Department’s 2021 Human Rights report, and three major problem areas were/are: corruption, discrimination, and execution. The latter is not of duty, but of people by members of the Guyana Police Force. For me, there is a single question: do we have a problem, or what, relative to the State Department’s report presented before Guyanese?

I think that we have a serious problem in all three areas. They are looked at one by one, and with supporting extracts from the 2021 report. First, there is corruption; mere mention of the word brings a red haze. Not just PPP red, and the dirty hands patted, the dirty tricks perpetuated, and the dirty practices protected, but red as in this nightmare that grips this land. The State Department’s report said it best: “There remained a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels and all branches of government, including the police and judiciary.” Given that this is straight from the 2021 report, the PPP Government is sure to have what Guyanese call ‘fits’ with what is now public. My attitude to any defensive reaction from the government brings my third Americanism: ‘what’s the beef?’

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Now, regardless of any partisan reaction by any side, this is as good an expression of where Guyanese stand on the issue of corruption. They believe it is at runaway (“widespread”) proportions; it is everywhere(“all levels and all branches”); and there are no untouchables, no untainted (“police and judiciary”). Looking at this, I losehope that there is any hope for us, where corruption is concerned. It is bad, really bad. Forget about culture and national way of life and all of that; settle for this. Corruption in Guyana is now a finely tuned, sweetly purring, perfectly running Mercedes Benz. For those Guyanese, who have a closer identification with the old Mother Country, I give them the British Rolls Royce. In other words, corruption is our pride and glory, our national religion, our most irresistible ideology.

It is so embedded today that Guyanese now take it for granted, the standing norm. They are not fazed. This was confirmed by that International Republican Institute (IRI) poll, which noted that corruption is not considered a ‘big deal’ by Guyanese, so entrenched it is in Guyana’s DNA. Meaning that it has transformed into an inseparable aspect of local life, like breathing, political passion, and racial bigotry. It reminds me of that old American Express selling point: ‘don’t leave home without it.’ I am not talking of the credit card, but of plans on how to game the system during waking hours, through who to give or how much to demand; and all the time, carefully remembering who must be presented with their share of the loot.

I note that the Police is mentioned in the corruption mix. Well, there is that sentence “Corruption by police officers was frequent.” It was from the same 2021 report, and not me saying so. But the troubles of the Police just started, for it came in for dishonorable mention again in the names of Peter Headley and Orin Boston, who are both dead from Police bullets. One in a private vehicle, the other in his home in Dartmouth, Essequibo. Highly disturbing deaths, which none should need any reminding about the surrounding circumstances, and the official sloth that followed what could only be fairly termed their extrajudicial killings. I don’t know how any Guyanese can pretend to be indifferent to the fate of the two men; or to the foot dragging and stonewalling that were part of their long official wakes. Somebody should try rationalizing those two, with haphazard or hair-trigger. I strongly recommend that they include ‘hit’ in both deaths/murders for that word fits the bill to a tee.

Hit was what also what the State Dept’s Human Rights report put out regarding discrimination against Black public servants (and others) by the PPP Government. An extract from the report is as follows: “There were reports by the opposition of government discrimination against Afro-Guyanese citizens in the distribution of COVID relief grants and flood grants, as well as civil service firings throughout the year that disproportionately affected the Afro-Guyanese population.”

Dare to say any of that publicly, and it is hanging time. Again, I dare to say it, especially as it relates to “civil service firings” because I have names, I know of state agencies, and there are enough victims of discrimination, through wrongful firings. The bloodletting has not been through the barrel of a gun, but in the poisons that drip from official pens, and the lips of leaders sending a certain kind of public servant out to pasture. It is a racial purgatory, in which they have been condemned to reside.

Though my focus was on these three troubling areas, I noted also that the State Dept made sure to cover its tracks with repeated mention of “the law provides…” and “the law criminalizes…” and “the constitution prohibits…” which indeed are there in writing. The problem is in what is practiced in the performance of duty (politicians, police, public servants with particular politics). It is how the thinking and visions of the top of the political structure infuse, influence, and impact their henchmen and stealth operators to seek and destroy others considered to be racial or political problems; or, still worse, undesirables, misfits, deviationists, and outright enemies.

This is what is lived with in the Guyana of today under the PPP Government, through goons with guns, grafters, grifters, and wholesale grabbers. Speak or write and the court has been weaponized. It is in a lovely state, this Guyana.



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