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As we welcome the new year, it is traditional for us to wish that we all share a prosperous and may I add peaceful and pensive New Year.
With a country with less than a million souls and a super abundance of natural resources, prosperity for every citizen ought to be in the offing. A prosperity where every citizen everywhere can enjoy the bounty given to us by the Creator.
A place where our indigenous people and those who were the most brutalized in human history as slaves and those who came after Emancipation as Indentured Labourers could all share equally in this abundance.
A country where we experience no extremes of heat or cold, no monsoons, no hurricanes, no earthquakes and occasional floods which are never severe.
Ironically, most of our floods are the result of human carelessness and disregard for Mother nature.
Unfortunately, the major disaster has been the existence of leaders whose lack of humility and genuine patriotism has disallowed them to translate into reality the wisdom of, in unity there is strength.
Those who know the authentic history of our country for the past 400 odd years would know that the fly in the ointment has been the European masters whose technique of Divide and rule has been improved over time.
Perhaps, because our Statesmen shy away from the wisdom history offers, we become hapless pawns to Massa, and Guyana’s today we see the emergence of a new Massa employing the tricks and stratagem of the old Massa.
I am reminded of the words of the Prophet Khalil Gibran when he said “Pity the Nation that acclaims the bully as hero and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.”
We saw this during the heyday of slavery which produced the proverbial house slave. Sadly, that mentality , that belief, that behaviour is alive, well and flourishing today.
Speaking over the holidays to a few prominent figures, one for example, argued that we need Constitutional Reform based on an Ethnic Relation Commission to solve our ethnic problem.
I disagreed. My view, after seven decades in the hustings, is that no amount of constitutional adjustments can solve our inherited social, ethnic and economic problems. We’ve had the marriage of the colonies (1621-1830) of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice, we’ve had the Council of Policy and Justice, the College of Keizers, fast track to the Waddington Constitution which removed every adult all previous restrictions and for the first time gave every Guyanese, irrespective of station in life, the right to vote. This resulted in the 1953 popular Parliament led by our two Titans – Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. The rest is recent history.
As we moved towards Independence, certain constitutional adjustments were made but that did not solve as was hoped for the ethnic and social dilemma.
What we need is to teach and share honestly all of our history so that our people recognize that it is possible for us to share this place without conflict, without unnecessary jealousy and inherited prejudices.
This requires thorough education and the sharing of authentic facts which then impart knowledge to allow us to fully appreciate that there is a certain commonality of our imperial past and honour our heroes from Cuffy to the Enmore Martyrs.
This education should begin from the cradle in the home through kindergarten, and all of our educational Institutions on to University.
The development of a moral sense of what is right, what is proper as against what is wrong and improper behaviour so that we judge each other not based on the texture of our hair, our religious beliefs or the colour of our skin but that we recognize that we are all one family, each being able to share his/her skills for the general good.
As we enter a new year, in spite of our wishes, in spite of our prayers and faith in the future, unless we can get the above into our thick skulls, nothing much would change.
Today in Guyana, we boast we are the fastest growing economy in the hemisphere, yet there is hunger and many must rely on handouts from the new anointed Massa. This is not what our ancestors made sacrifices for.
Those who come to harvest our non-renewable resources must be told we expect them to make a profit, we thank them for coming to Guyana but all of our leaders, and here I emphasize all, must with one voice make it abundantly clear that for the new year, we deserve and demand a bigger slice of the cake.
A knowledge of our history will tell us that unless an attitudinal metamorphosis occurs, the oil giants and the gold harvesters would continue to feed us with the crumbs from the Master’s table.
In Guyana, the crumbs may seem plentiful and sweet but listen to the experts and we will soon find out that where we should be getting 99, we get 9.
We’ve had the disgusting feature of deceptive Billboards erected with the permission of either the Central and Local Authorities. The Economic European Union correctly moved to impose a windfall tax on the oil giants for the fact that the price per barrel for oil had almost doubled, while the cost of living in Guyana and elsewhere has more than doubled.
But the oil giants have moved to the Courts to suffocate this laudable effort to get a bigger share of the cake., and from some of our leaders we hear this nonsense about the sanctity of Contracts.
Throughout modern history, whenever conditions change the Contracting parties must examine the conditions agreed to earlier in good faith, sit and talk, and that familiar bad word ‘renegotiate.’ Nothing is ever set in stone, even the laws of the Medes and Persians were changed.
But here Guyanese has high hurdles. Once the oil, gold and diamond giants perceive that the Government they are speaking with represents half of the population, they can remain confident that renegotiation of bad deals is not possible.
But if as I now propose for the new year, a sensible Government, a committed Leader, a nationalistic President with maturity, stretch out a hand to civil society and the Opposition, and say ‘let us speak with one voice, so that that voice represents 99% of Guyanese and that voice would be loud and be a clarion call so that even those who have practiced the art of having their own way in Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia would know that they must listen and negotiate so that we bequeath to succeeding generations that which the Creator has given -the bountiful harvest to the people of Guyana.
Members of the political parties, the business community and religious organisations must insist that their leaders do the sensible thing to avoid us losing an opportunity to be the major beneficiaries of this rich harvest.
Failure to do this could see our bounty of natural resources being a curse and not a blessing.
As we usher in the New Year, I ask every Guyanese to listen to the voices and pleadings of the men and women who daily expose the injustice and the folly existing in our beloved country.
Let us learn from our history and tell the Descendants of our Indigenous people, Manumitted Africans and the Indian, Chinese and Portuguese Immigrants that the soup that some of their representatives are drinking can upset their stomachs as they are only short term.
In summary, my message to all of our leaders is that they should tear down those obnoxious Billboards and replace them with a sign which reads “We welcome your development but the Cooperative Republic of Guyana is Not For Sale.”
To those who are afraid to speak or feel threatened that their right to speak is being throttled, let us abide by the words of Elie Wiesel, Jewish Author, Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Laureate, – “ I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the Oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”