Ordinary man pays three times more than Jagdeo for same size house lot
…Jagdeo pays $114 per sq ft,
Ordinary citizen pays $317 per sq ft
September 20, 2014 · By Iana Seale
This week, I found myself reflecting on my journalistic career and the toxic nature of the relationship that develops between the independent press in Guyana and our government, particularly within the last few years of the PPP/C’s scandal-filled management of the state.
20131214de recordIt was an old schoolmate—now embedded in the system—who actually set me upon this course when I ran into him a few days ago and he enquired what I am up to these days, besides, of course, writing an “anti-government” column.
To be clear, the label was not his. He was merely regurgitating what is no doubt aired in government circles, which is, that Iana Seales, like other independent writers in the country, is anti-government.
The label is as old and dirty as our politics itself. We live in a country where successive governments and, in particular, this PPP/C government, arrogantly believe that they are exempt from criticism. And if you dare to criticise any aspect of governance, you are not only anti-government, but you are also an enemy of the state.
I recall the bitter and divisive statements which were being peddled during the government’s propaganda-infused consultations on the anti-money laundering bill held earlier this year. It was either you supported the government’s decision to pass what they said was a Caribbean Financial Action Task Force-compliant bill and deal with opposition amendments after, or you were an enemy of progress.
Often I am tempted to say “only in Guyana,” but I understand how dictatorial regimes work and unfortunately they exist elsewhere. However, what I do not understand is how this government can preach democracy and inclusion and at the same time fight to block scrutiny of its actions and how it is managing our country.
Take, for example, the specialty hospital project and the controversy that attended the award of the contract to Surendra Engineering, long before the government’s recent decision to terminate the contract; or, the sole prequalification of the New GPC to supply drugs for the health sector; or the Baishanlin exposés that are still reverberating across the country. If we are to address these, pointing to the lack of transparency in contract awards and government agreements with investors and the seemingly advantageous nature of such transactions for certain parties, the labels would start to pile up.
I believe that we need to examine—and now is as good a time as any—the issue of free speech and its fading presence in our democracy. This is in addition to calling the government out for its ugly and isolating attitude towards citizens who ask questions and who are committed to staying engaged in the democratic process.
What makes me anti-government? My weekly contributions in this column are meant to express my own views and feelings about what is happening in our country. The writings are meant to engage people, whether at home or in the diaspora, on the issues affecting us, and to trigger conservations about justice, human rights, and more important, basic rights.
There was a reason I got involved in journalism: I wanted to stay true to who I am and feed the curious spirit which burns within me. I had such amazing teachers; beginning with the two persons I call mother and father, who taught me that asking questions was important. Having a certain level of consciousness in those early years came from interacting with elders and learning from mentors in my community.
I was writing about life in my street and how difficult it was for some people since I was in Primary School and, thankfully, no one ever discouraged me from asking questions and from writing. I enjoyed those years of writing freely and sharing my work with people who critiqued it and, consequently, strengthened it.
Today, I can testify to living and working as a journalist in a country where the state viewed me as an “opposition supporter” because of my writing. Former president Bharrat Jagdeo even went as far as to label journalists in the country “carrion crows” and “vultures.” I remember thinking at the time that perhaps we are vultures, because we are left to report on the decaying structures of our society; a country torn by political strife and racial and social divisions.
This new Donald Ramotar administration is no different—if we speak out against corruption and the numerous scandals that have weakened his presidency, we are labeled as “anti-government” or treated to some inane commentary by party faithfuls about how citizens are working against the national interest.
There is an urgent need for us to elevate the level of debate in this country and for citizens to demand greater accountability from government, even if it means being labeled. Over the years, I have proudly worn every label they gave me because I firmly believe that we have a duty, as citizens, to tell things as they are. What’s more, we do this from a position outside the reach of politicians and governments.
Tomorrow as I celebrate another year on earth and blow out a few candles, I will reflect on my years of living as a “vulture” and shining a light in those dark corners the government would like to keep dim. And I do so while forever indebted to all the people who came into my life and helped me to understand that a voice is the most important means citizens have to make their ideas and interests visible.
Free speech is not a subversive activity—it is a fundamental human right and we are not going to truly progress if this government cannot find room to accommodate the full breath of the voices and opinions of the people in our democracy.
Have a question or comment? Connect with Iana Seales at about.me/iseales
I know that I have had cause to express my curious appreciation of those columnists and dedicated letter writers – based in Georgetown and overseas – who, virtually, daily, lambaste Bharrat Jagdeo, his heirs and wannabes, most relentlessly with a view to regime change.
(I wouldn’t know how to do it with such pointed frequency, even though I have nothing against those gentlemen’s ultimate success.)
Incidentally “when yuh own louse bite yuh…” Research how many of today’s harshest, most strident critics were once in the same room with the matured Donald and young Bharrat. And silly me! Why do I keep wondering what would have been happening today if Moses or Ralph Hari Narayen had secured the PPP/C vote for Presidential nominee?
Perhaps my latter personal puzzle is the motivation for returning to what was, by around 1995, the Bharrat Jagdeo enigma. Along with the phenomenon of how, with electric swiftness, to the chagrin of his comradely seniors, the relative enigma became profound reality! With indelible consequences for his own party and our own country. (Recall too my sustained wonderment with regard to normally upright persons of ability, values and integrity, serving a regime who stole the people’s will for years.)
Young Bright Burnham returned to British Guiana just in time to be embraced by Young Cheddi Jagan, only to swiftly become Jagan’s relentless nemesis. Old PPP knowledgeables still around would recall Burnham’s political acumen, inclusive of the “race-card” dealt to him, between ’53, ’55 and ’57. Fast-forward to ’92, ’95, ’97.
Out of the political blue arrived a young Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO) East Coast Demerara member; briefly a school teacher who went to Moscow to become an economist, returned to work with the PNC’s Haslyn Parris at the State Planning Secretariat, then emerged after the PPP/C returned to government near the end of 1992.
Like Cheddi his mentor, he had a rustic charm, deceptive smile and, privately, vast ambition. The latter fuelled by the Jagans – especially Comrade Janet.
Travelling with Cheddi and Senior Finance Minister Asgar Ally, young Soviet-trained Bharrat enjoyed a relatively brief apprenticeship before becoming full Finance Minister after the 1997 elections. Cheddi had passed on months before in ’97. But young Bharrat was moving forward. Like lightning!
I could not agree with the nastiness on the streets when Comrade Joe Hamilton, Aubrey and other PNC “militants” demonized Janet Jagan after the 1997 Elections. Say what you like she was a political Amazon.
Like Comrade Carberry I didn’t care about her being my President. She succumbed to the pressure of the streets and law courts and failing health.
Recall, then the unprecedented, governmental musical chairs organized by Comrade Janet: Young Jagdeo was made Prime Minister, President Jagan resigned. Prime Minister Jagdeo became President and re-appointed Samuel Hinds as P.M. all in four or five days! All politically vulgar, but constitutionally acceptable.
President Jagdeo, role and legacies
Manufactured and Readymade! Made in Janetland! My Guyana had her Bharrat as President of our Republic. I understood the hurt of such loyal “Cheddi Children” as Reepu, Moses, Navin, Clement, Ralph, even Roger and Robeson.
Look, even I, who had grown weary of my erstwhile PNC strategies and excesses, looked forward to what this baggage-less new Kid-on-the Political Block (literally a “kid”!) would offer.
I wrote about the “new Bharrat” as, mistakenly, many thought Cheddi was “a Bharrat” once. I did a whole newspaper supplement on his first 100 days. Such hope as he posed with Linden’s Afro-Girl students! Swiftly, President Jagdeo shed his masks and, Putin-like, even did some Forbes Burnham-like things. He seemingly made his Party secondary. He grasped Presidential and Constitutional authority. At his swearing-in he said Cde Janet would “always be (his) President”. Later he would describe her as “an ordinary citizen sharing her views”. There was venomous aggression against both Party and external critics. Old Cheddi stalwarts were immobilized, co-opted, hushed or evicted.
Enter the Real Jagdeo!
Unlike other more hostile commentators and political analysts, I can’t ignore the strengths and positives of leaders. However temporary, strategic or meant to deceive.
Mr Jagdeo did steady and sustain an erratic exchange rate – – even if his parallel market had something to do with that; he did seek out a more robust continental foreign initiative with Venezuela (Chavez), Brazil (Lula) and Suriname (the Doubtful Desi); Jagdeo did attempt massive infrastructural works – – even if many contractors never built dreams before; he withstood a five-year crime wave, eventually getting the murderous gang; he catapulted Guyana onto the Global Climate Change/Forest Preservation Map and he was a Master of Showpieces – ICC World Cup at new Stadium, Carifesta 10 and Jamzones many.
His loyalists of the current new PPP recently responded to a litany of his failed Presidency by presenting their own Super List of his Achievements – from the Law-of-the-Sea triumph over Suriname’s claim to his weathering the international financial meltdown. Good for them. But really, how will Bharrat be remembered? Not because of what people write and assess, but by the thousands of poverty-challenged citizens of this Blighted Land?
A powerful, petulant,
President’s (PPP) Legacy?
Jagdeo was masterful in having the selected Ramotar declare that, as President, he (Ramotar) would “continue” the policies of Jagdeo. Great for Bharrat, Catastrophe for our poor and powerless.
Frankly Speaking, to me, this lad from the fishing village of Unity, now known by the UN, Caricom, South America and the world, succumbed to the virus of unmitigated power, power that immobilised even successive bright intellectual opposition(s).
From Virgin Lands, Guysuco’s retired acreages; the so-called “Commanding Heights of the Economy”, the Private Sector, Investment Opportunities and Parliament, to even the electronic spectrum, Jagdeo channelled to his buddies. Using from nepotism, new legal entities, fronts, sleight-of-hand to retroactive legislation.
Frankly Speaking, young Bharrat made young Black Professional Persons seem like either an endangered species – or extinct. His is a powerful “legacy” of Indo-names in every sphere of authority, power, status and public life.
Sadly, even if not of his doing, under his watch sugar collapsed, crime and cocaine reigned, extra-judicial killings soared, greed submerged even sport, institutions were compromised and national morality plummeted as thousands fled and his own folks also suffered. And still suffer. Now add your List.
What is to be done?
The perennial question! What have been the Opposition responses to the Jagdeo legacy since he departed from Office but not from influence?
Unfortunately I’ll have to return to this as time and space shackle me here. (Just don’t ask Chris Ram that question). To me the Ramotar fellows – and Madame Gail – have done a fine job to stymie any effective measures the Brigadier’s Opposition have mounted. The Administration has used judicial challenges and delays to a fine art.
Budget challenges are by-passed, contracts are awarded like ice-cream and the PPP/C boys are rewarding themselves for any eventualities. Hail now the AFC’s No-Confidence motion! But wait! What’s in store for the Opposition? Stay connected.
*1) Old PPP fellows tell me they get Bharrat livid by telling him that – “is you mansion and pension mek we lose de majority. What America, Britain and de PNC fail at you manage to do!”
Til next week!
June 14, 2014 · By Staff Writer
I’ve been in coastal Guyana for the past month. I’ve visited friends in Regions 6, 5, 4 and 3. What I have witnessed should make any decent government hang their head in shame, but then again, this government is not decent neither do they know how to be ashamed.
Apart from the failing infrastructure all over the coast, a lot of people are faring worse than we are in the hinterland.
I have seen countless, what the Jamaicans call, screw-faces. These countless masses seem to be trudging through life in a zombie-like manner, not seeming to know where their deliverance will come from or when. No wonder we have so many spontaneous, violent crimes. People are literally living on the edge.
On the other side of the spectrum we have a few who are living it up. I am sure that their pets eat better than a lot of our people. Yet they go about their daily hustlings, oblivious to the suffering masses. This new class of wealthy people can be observed daily flouting the laws of the land with impunity.
Meanwhile the Guyana Police Force in the forms of their traffic ranks, motor-bike squads and black clothes ranks can be seen day and night adding to the misery of ordinary Guyanese. At every turn one can observe the harassment, the subtle traps and the open bribe-taking schemes. The alarming thing is that the bribe-taking is no longer covert. This begs the question: do the upper echelons know of these deviant behaviours and the perpetrators? Of course they must know.
Instead of fixing the many ills that have befallen us as a nation, the government has engaged in activities that are divisive and counter-productive. I do hope that the new government will call this excuse of a government to account.
I also hope that the next time around that the Guyanese people remind the PPP what a miserable failure they have been and replace them with a government that can bring peace, national unity and prosperity to each and every Guyanese.
Carl Parker Sr
June 3, 2014 · By Staff Writer
Last week Monday, Guyana observed 48 years of political independence from Britain. But unlike the first few years or so when Guyanese participated with gusto at flag-raising ceremonies, street parades featuring the police band and schoolchildren, and the singing of national songs at open spaces and in schools, the occasion these days has taken on a toned down ceremonial ritual without a true sense of meaning and purpose. Many Guyanese who lived through the late ’60s might even tell you, those days were better than these days in every sense of the word.
And although Mashramani Day was introduced in 1970, literally displacing Independence Day as a day of national celebration, with spectacular costume competitions, float parades, masquerade bands, and dancing in the streets to the accompaniment of steel band music and calypsos, Independence Day should really have been the more celebrated of the two.
While political independence speaks of the coming of age of a nation, as when a young person comes of age and moves away from his or her parent, indicating a sense of readiness for individual responsibility and purpose, Mashramani, an Amerindian word, speaks of a celebration of a special event, which was really the attainment of Republican status, as Mash Day literally replaced Independence Day as The Day!
But here we are, 48 years after independence and 44 years after becoming a Co-operative Republic and the question is: Given our present state of affairs, what exactly are we celebrating or even observing? A secondary question is: Are we better off under local leadership versus foreign leadership?
Guyana was supposed to get better for Guyanese under Guyanese leadership. That much was promised us by Cheddi Jagan back in the 1950s and Forbes Burnham in the 1960s. It did not happen and is not even happening as I write, despite the PPP regime’s constant boast of economic growth, national development and national exports.
If there is one thing Guyana is exporting, in a backhanded sense, which other nations really want are skilled, professional and hardworking Guyanese who become useful to the host countries. I really don’t know what the general consensus is of how other nations are faring after attaining political independence over the decades, but while Guyana and Barbados attained political independence the same year, Barbados is economic light years ahead of Guyana and even a home to thousands of Guyanese. Do I need to reference economically buoyant neighbouring Suriname, also home to thousands of Guyanese?
I am not even going to attempt to produce migration figures to Caribbean nations or Canada, England and wherever our people are scattered, but the point must be made that Independence Day, which is supposed to always stand out as the most important national holiday for all Guyanese, regardless of race or religion, has been reduced to a disappointing ritual as over half of Guyana now lives abroad, including countries which are governed by people our leaders once decried as too horrible to govern us.
And the crux of this migration matter is people’s sense of political and economic worth. While the PPP and PNC have screwed us politically, in 1970, forty-seven US cents was exchanged for one Guyana dollar in Georgetown. Today, it is US$1=G$205. When people cannot earn enough to make life livable they will borrow, steal or run, and so political independence has produced a nation of migrants.
Guyana’s population reportedly almost doubled from 375,000 in 1946 to 700,000 in 1970, and 758,000 in 1980, yet the population now stands at around 800,000, if we include foreigners becoming naturalized citizens and hustling a living in Guyana. So did we stagnate in the area of population growth between 1970 and now?
No! Almost half of Guyana now calls some foreign country home, despite Guyana being geographically big enough to accommodate up to 60 million people and despite having the agricultural potential to feed itself and the entire Caribbean.
It depends on who is your source, but anywhere between 350,000 and 450,000 Guyanese call America home, with New York City claiming 140,000 alone. That excludes the suburbs and other cities/states and so-called ‘illegals.’
It is one thing to blame the PNC for starting the massive flight of professional and skilled personnel or the deterioration of socioeconomic conditions, but after almost 22 years in power, what else does the PPP need to start turning around the fortunes of the country to stop the exodus? Where are the incentives created by this government to give people a reason to want to stay (or return) and build as opposed to survive until the door opens to exit the country? What good is it to try and educate children just so they can go and develop another country because they cannot find decent paying jobs in Guyana after leaving school, or be forced to take jobs that come with political attachments? Boasting about GDP growth that fails to positively impact ordinary people is useless.
Bunrham and Hoyte studied Law in London. Jagan studied Dentistry in Chicago. His wife was an RN (from Chicago). Jagdeo studied Economics in Moscow. Ramotar spent 10 years in Czechoslovakia. And we wonder why so many Guyanese are racing overseas to better themselves when all these leaders gained some sort of overseas training and experience?
Those of us who lived through the era of the attainment of Independence now have a right to ask: Independence from whom and for whom? We went from chasing the white man from doing business in Guyana to inviting the Chinese man to do business in Guyana, and Guyanese are not even lining up at the Chinese Embassy for visas to China! Looks like reverse dependence to me.
June 3, 2014 · By Staff Writer
The nonsense of our political independence has reached worrying heights. Our children –Amerindians, African, Indians, Portuguese, Chinese, and a melody of mixes – are naturally apt and quick to learn. But the manner in which they acquire their education is not up to par with trends in the developing world. They are exposed to low educational standards and their teachers are not the best, though there are some notable exceptions. They are taught more about Shakespeare than Shaka, more about Galileo than Gandhi. They are quick to emulate and embrace foreign elements but ignore their own because their leaders have done so. Everywhere you go in Guyana you will see that the once dread colonialists are back in different shades and forms buying, selling and occupying properties left and right. They have come to occupy as well as wine and dine in the finest edifices Guyana has to offer. They have the tendency to invite a few locals into their circle explaining to them in discreet terms that this is the rightful place to be. But ask them to close the door behind them because they have earned a seat at their table. Our leaders and the desperate still run to these individuals to solve Guyana’s problems. What is the meaning of independence?
Then there is Georgetown which for some bizarre reason missed being renamed. There are GuySuCo, Guyoil, Guybridge, but not Guytown. However, this city has claimed a name of its own: Garbage Town. Nonetheless, every major institution in Guyana is located in the capital city reflecting a sort of internal colonialism. The rest of the country, including Berbice, has been in a state of perpetual monotony. People there go to bed early and wake up early. If the colonialists were to return, they would certainly recognize Berbice. More than fifty per cent of the people use latrines and open sewage as well as piles and piles of garbage, like Guytown, is a common sight. Yet, the current administration is in power principally because of the votes it receives from this region.
Then there are the media through which many Guyanese have come to express themselves. The print media are described as free as the air. But there are limitations. Open criticism of the government and exposure of peccadilloes are not tolerated. Nowhere in the world does one find an ex-President suing a columnist. Now, we have a Mayor suing a newspaper.
Then there are our politicians who shake hands with the world on daily basis either through direct personal contact, through diplomacy, or through the social media. One would expect that from this experience there should be some impetus for checks and balances and not opportunities to become paternal despots. What we have in Guyana are the politics of the donkeycart instead of democracy; the politics of personality instead of policy; the politics of antagonism instead of achievement. All this means stagnation instead of progress; decadence, dissatisfaction and disintegration instead of determination. We have hit rock bottom in Guyana. What a national shame! What a national nightmare! What a national disgrace! Guyana badly needs a national political bath.