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The very next day President Nicolas Maduro told a forum in Colombia that he would respect the will of the people. At face value, that respect means annexing Essequibo. It means sending in the Venezuelan army to take control of Essequibo. Maduro, as part of the referendum asked his people to support the call for Venezuela and to grant Venezuelan identification cards to those living in Essequibo.
Of course, Guyana is in no position to repel an attack from Venezuela. For all the talk and knowing the truth, this country is helpless without international support. However, if one is to believe the reports by independent foreign reporters, and the Venezuelan Opposition Leader, just about 10 per cent of the population voted. So Maduro is preparing to act on the decision of the minority of Venezuelans.
But, there is international pressure on Venezuela to abide by the rule of law. Neighbouring Brazil which also shares a border with Guyana and which could be affected by Venezuela’s annexation of Essequibo, has already dispatched troops to the area, ostensibly to protect its interests.
The United States has already dispatched advisers to Guyana to work with the Guyana Defence Force. All this is happening after Guyana approached the International Court of Justice to seek a restraint to Venezuela’s action ahead of the final ICJ decision. The ICJ did rule in favour of Guyana on this occasion.
There is a lot going on. Prior to 2018 when Guyana moved to the ICJ to put an end to any claims by Venezuela, the neighbouring republic said that it would not recognize any decision by the World Court. But it did appear and gave evidence before the very court. That is like playing cricket but telling all and sundry that you would not abide by the rules.
This time around the ICJ, commonly called the World Court asked Maduro to exclude three clauses in his referendum. He refused, claiming that the referendum was an internal matter.
Not long after the referendum, the woman selected by the majority to be the Opposition Leader, Maria Corina Machado, described the referendum as a defeat for Maduro. Like nearly all Venezuelans, she too believes that Essequibo belongs to Venezuela. They have all been taught this from the cradle.
However, the right-minded ones, conscious of sanctions and other pressures, are prepared to use places like the World Court. But, Guyana at this moment is on tenterhooks. No one knows what Maduro would do. In preparation for any untoward action by Venezuela, Guyana has been pushing the unity line. Yet people are complaining about being discriminated against. Those in the government’s corner have no such fear.
There is the construction of a school at Bamia, along the Soesdyke-Linden Highway. The $364 million project got underway following the contract signing by St8ment Investment Incorporated in November 2021.
This group is best known for its entertainment skills—for organising concerts and for inviting foreign artistes. But being close to the government it was awarded the contract. The school should have been completed in July.
When that deadline passed the government extended it to November. November has come and gone but the school is nowhere near completed. The 800 children it should have accommodated are somewhere other than at the school.
Recent photographs of the construction actually revealed that not a single worker was on the project. The situation brings back memory of actions by the government when it returned to power in 2020.
Brian Tiwarie, a contractor had all but completed a school at Good Hope, East Coast Demerara. Covid had played a significant part during the construction process, enough for the contractor to claim force majeure.
The government did not care. It yanked the contract post haste with a mere two per cent of the school to be completed. It was the same with the construction of St Roses High School. Courtney Benn was not given a chance. And as if to drive the final nail in the coffin, the spokesperson claimed that Courtney Benn abandoned the project.
In the end it was given to one of the many Chinese contractors operating in Guyana. These contractors have close ties to the government to the exclusion of others. This is only a continuing trend of preferring foreigners for major contracts. This began with the construction of Marriott Hotel. No Guyanese was even employed as a labourer.
Having locals work alongside the foreigners would most certainly lead to the development of local skills. In his book ‘From Third World to First- the Singapore Story,’ Prime minister Lee Kuan Yew said that when Singapore gained its independence, he put in place by law that any foreign company must employ a specific number of locals.
And these must be senior positions so that there could be the transfer of knowledge. At time Singapore was exactly as Guyana was back in the 1960s. People lived in thatched houses.
Guyana cared not for the transfer of knowledge. It cared not for skills development. So this country is now about 500 years behind Singapore.
Things seem to get even worse when it comes to education. Preparing teachers to mould the children of tomorrow is moving full speed ahead. The decision has been taken to increase the output of the Cyril Potter College of Education.
Now some of the graduates are asking if indeed the output of trained teachers is really what the intention is. This came to light when a young man, who is a trained teacher from the days when teacher training was still a reality, actually said that some 80 per cent of the recent graduates believe that they passed through the system like eggs through a fowl or water through a pipe.
They could not access their grades, could not get a transcript because they were not graded. This sounded strange until the Guyana Teachers’ Union confirmed it. No wonder President Irfaan Ali is not keen to improve the salaries of teachers.