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I am a staunch Guyanese who has given yeoman service to my country in many respects but primarily, as a Commissioned Officer of the Guyana Defense Force (GDF). I, for my part, have attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, serving under several senior officers, including Brigadier Mark Phillips, who has since retired from the military and into political service as the Prime Minister of Guyana.
Ever since stripping my military fatigues, I have dedicated my energies, as a social activist, to the representation of those voiceless citizens who are adamant that they are being victimised and omitted from their share of the nation’s patrimony. Recently, I joined several other prominent Guyanese nationals in support of an allegation of racial profiling, among other issues. All of these individuals affixed their signatures to the document headlined, “Organisations representing African Guyanese and others, condemn the government’s persistent acts of racial discrimination and victimization.”
The missive that was dispatched just a few days ago certainly was not a figment of my imagination but a real-life experience of a mass of Guyanese who are all intent on changing the status quo. Apparently, the Honourable Prime Minister was irked by its contents, obviously took umbrage, and penned a lengthy diatribe to the editor in one of the daily newspapers that, must I say, was well below my expectation of someone of the military ilk, boasting of staunch patriotism and, might I add, self-discipline.
The Prime Minister’s missive begins thus, “It is against this backdrop that I offer my response to a most mischievous letter issued by a group calling itself the Institute for Action Against Discrimination in which the purported author, Lelon Saul, who identifies as the secretary of the group, makes incredibly fraudulent and misleading statements that the Government is pushing Guyana to the brink of civil unrest.”
To say that I am appalled by the Prime Minister’s stance and pronouncements is really putting it mildly. This is a gentleman who had commanded my respect during my many years adorned in green in service to this dear land. This is the very leader I have admired for his strong stance and principles during my illustrious years in the military. It is for that reason that, upon reading the missive I questioned whether the Prime Minister had actually penned it under some kind of duress. That could be the only logical reason for such a letter with his name attached.
But then again, I could be wrong for, as they say, “politics attract strange bedfellows,” a statement that has been forcefully endorsed in Brigadier Phillips’ missive. Unfortunately, something must have gone wrong ever since the Brigadier has proverbially ‘thrown his hat’ into the political ring. I am further tempted to denounce his acquiescence to such unintelligible jargon. Even as a copout he could possibly admit that he is just a confused military officer bereft of the requisite skill who cannot decipher his new role as a politician, or he could admit that he blindly executed the task–anything would be better than the bilge this esteemed gentleman wishes us to swallow.
During my career as a military officer, I admired the Brigadier as someone who resolutely offer viable solutions to problems. Now, for reasons best known to himself, he has abandoned those principles and policies. I am astounded that he shed that quality and is willing to condone the marginalisation and discrimination of a significant proportion of the population.
The unsavoury tactic to ‘sic’ the vicious pitbull within the executive rank and file after those Africans ‘presumptuous’ enough to buck the system is nothing new. The evidence suggests that my former boss has been infected with this blight and was used to besmirch my character instead of addressing the issues and concerns highlighted by the group.
I will not waste time debating Mr. Phillips on this topic but affirm that Africans are victims of the PPP discriminatory practices and policies. I was a farmer in the Belladrum community and I lost over 80 acres of rice during the 2021 floods yet I was denied relief while members of another ethnic group, and in some cases, of a different political persuasion, managed to secure assistance. Naturally, such an unconscionable act forced me to shut down operations.
I did seek the intervention of officials at the Ministry of Agriculture to address the issue of land appropriation by the MMA and clearing of the backdam in the Belladrum District. I could almost sense the smirk on Mr. Phillips’s face as he reveals that I was among those benefitting from President Ali’s benevolence. These were his exact words, “Recently, the purported author was the only person who hid behind a mask among a group that received agricultural equipment less than 96 hours after President Irfaan Ali’s recent visit to Belladrum on a political outreach to the Mahaica-Berbice region.”
For the benefit of those requesting a response, might I state that contrary to the Prime Minister’s claim, my only request was that they clear the backdam, restore the drainage and irrigation, assist residents with seedlings and address the issue of appropriation of land by the MMA, all community related issues. Those were certainly not personal favours and might I say that to date none of these issues have been resolved.
Finally, Mr. Phillips, I am a Pan Africanist, a rights activist, and a patriotic and concerned Guyanese who is committed to equal rights and justice irrespective of the affected person or group’s political affiliation. My mandate is to speak out against all forms of injustice against my fellow Guyanese brothers and sisters irrespective of whether they are PPP, WPA, APNU or whatever other groups by which they identify themselves.