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They say ‘hope springs eternal in the human breast’ (Alexander Pope), and as Guyanese begin the journey into a new year, it is my hope and I believe that of the majority of decent patriotic citizens that in the words of the late K.W.E. Denny, we will see an attitudinal metamorphosis.
A change that first allows those in control to be gracious and magnanimous and extend a hand to the Opposition and other social, economic and cultural entities to set aside our differences and sit around the proverbial round table to craft an agenda to deal with those who have come and are coming to utilize our non-renewable natural resources – gold, diamond, oil and gas.
Speaking to some members of the Government, they contend that Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton is not interested in healthy dialogue. That is contrary to assurances given to me and I found this surprising since whenever I have raised this question , senior Opposition Members assured me that they are willing to speak with anyone including the government top brass, if it would yield betterment for the people of our country.
I am only interested in the truth as I know it. In early 2021 I wrote to His Excellency the President Irfaan Ali, the General Secretary of the PPP, Dr. Bharat Jagdeo, Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon and Leader of the AFC, Khemraj Ramjattan. I carefully crafted a letter pointing out the folly of failing to sit together in order to confront the conglomerates to obtain better deals to benefit our people.
After oral sorties at several levels, there was no enthusiasm shown for this initiative to sit and talk. After December 2021, when Aubrey Norton became the Leader of the Opposition, I sent an identical copy to him for his consideration. He replied positively and to date he is the only person to express a willingness for serious dialogue to address the concerns of the majority of Guyanese.
This should put to rest the claim by the PPP Government that the other side is not interested in dialogue. What you see and I hope things would change, is a descent into the dismal dark by the Presidential team that they subscribe to the belief that the winner takes all.
The tragedy is that the picture emerging in Guyana is that we are going towards a Police-state and an authoritarianism regime – no big thing. That when persons placed in high position misbehave and violate the norms of decency and protocol – no big thing. We see an attitude and belief that the President and his emerging oligarchy also subscribe to the philosophy supporting “the divine rights)” of Kings.
So they see nothing wrong with putting in place a massive propaganda machine, which assails the independent media for the truth and our President treating citizens as though he is a Commander-in-Chief of the fiefdom of Guyana.
In other words, as was in medieval times, we are his feast or perhaps his vassals and subjects so that he hands out an 8% to the public sector with neither consultation nor even informing the Unions as is required in a living democracy. But these days democracy is a chameleon word meaning different things to different folks.
So the darling of the President, his appointed High Commissioner to India misbehaves calling a respected female Indian Professor ill names and when his uncouth behaviour is made public, he issues a purported apology while justifying his banality to the point where he displays a warped understanding of sexual equality.
We yet to hear whether this Hon. Gentleman High Commissioner’s recall means that the President has severed his services to Guyana, since it appears that he represented Guyana to a Hindu function in India subsequent to his purported recall.
I’ve written about this on-the-bed promotion of a Presidential Guard when there is no evidence of valour or bravery and even before there was no proper investigation of the incident that took place two Thursdays ago at State House. Typical of this Government, there is a blanket of secrecy. And so the public is denied the opportunity of hearing the whole story.
But Editor, yesterday’s statement by the wife of this Nigerian, not being allowed to visit him in hospital is ominous and here some explanation by the government agencies is necessary. That is if democracy must not be translated in Guyana to mean demons gone crazy. We hope that the hospital will ensure that this man lives to tell his side of the story.
So we have a blanket of secrecy over events, agreements and disbursements of oil and gas.
Of course, the secrecy surrounding oil and gas is a serious problem and I hope that Guyanese will be given an opportunity to read those several agreements so that we can come to our own conclusions.
I say there are many other issues that point to a governance that is rekindling all of the themes and conditions of imperialism and colonialism.
We now live in a country where democracy means once you win an election, it gives you the right not to consult even where the Constitution so demands.
So, we have a Judiciary, hobbling along because the President feels that the appointment of the Chancellor and the Chief Justice can be postponed – no big thing and if their kith and kin, Charandass’ attitude to women represents the hues of the government, we can understand.
Of course having important institutions, such as the Police Service Commission, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Integrity Commission being no more than impotent is as they say, “right up the alley of the powers that be.” What a wonderful place is Guyana.
At Mocha, EBD, MPs Amanza Walton and Nima Flue-Bess were harassed merely for standing in solidarity with people who were being forcibly removed from where they had lived for some time. When an attempt to arrest her was made, one Police rank said they were merely carrying out orders. Reminiscent of when the Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine and Sherod Duncan were arrested for standing in solidarity with vendors on the eve of Christmas .
In some areas folks are encouraged to seize ancestral lands. All the while blowing the trumpet of One Guyana.
My hope for the new year is that we get over this apparent high hurdle of misunderstanding, if not distrust.
For 2023, with this abundance of resources the nation’s leaders must not be allowed to fritter away the opportunities that beckon, because of pettiness and shared stupidity.
This is the high hurdle, but even as we approach this high hurdle, we need this year to rid ourselves of the prejudices, propaganda and deception which have been a heavy burden on our nation and the young people in particular.
We heard for example, a statement in an interview that our future is not about oil but about food security and eco-tourism. This sounds good and in theory laudable.but with few exceptions, once oil and its revenues flow, it has tended to suffocate food production and other sectors.
Oil revenues, even though we’re not getting as much as we should, is already much more than half of the revenue from all other sources.
The President and his government must now be bold and openly change some attitudes they themselves created several decades ago. No one can deny the massive strides in the 70s to produce our own food.
Many of us publicly structured our contention to Feed the Nation on the position taken by the British Governor, Sir Gordon Lethem when initiated in the midst of World War II, the grow more food campaign.
The clarion call by Burnham was produce or perish and some of those who now prattle about food security criticized and sometimes sabotaged the effort to produce local vegetables, grains and fruits. And so today, we have a whole generation that has developed a taste for foreign foods in cans and imported fruits.
In the 70s, imported fruits and vegetables were alien and during that same period, the nutrition of our people improved. And speaking to Cardiologists, they would tell you that a diet with plenty of local ground provisions, vegetables and fruits is a protective mechanism for the heart.
The success for food security will require educating our people and helping them to recognise the value of locally produced foods. This, of course, will involve the President and the government persuading their friends who import and make a lot of money to invest substantial sums in drainage and irrigation and encouraging urban agriculture started by Burnham , which some folks criticized.
Simultaneously, working together, we can persuade and I use the word persuade, in its nicest form, meaning the conglomerates who are smiling as they report the enormous profits being made from Guyana’s natural resources to their shareholders, that Guyana is demanding a bigger slice of the cake.
This year, when calls are made as have been by some of my friends, we should come out in support irrespective of your political persuasion.
We must say to all of our leaders that we are not satisfied with what we are getting, from oil, gas and gold.
At noon on New Year’s Day, there was gentle rainfall at the Parade Ground as the Opening of the Bicentenary year of the Glorious 1823 East Coast Demerara Revolution of August 1823.
I prayed then that with the Creator’s help, the drizzles of despair would be showers of blessings to be enjoyed by every Guyanese for this new year and beyond and further that we should decelerate granting of permission to foreigners to harvest our non-renewable natural resources and to those who contend, we have neither money, equipment to bring up that gold that leave it until we Guyanese can acquire the technology to harvest that gold, etc since gold don’t rust.
Give our young children and descendants the chance to be the major beneficiaries of this bounty given to us by the Creator.