March 16, 2014 | By KNews | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon
If you are a student of politics and you have been in this country since the PPP came to power, but especially since Mr. Jagdeo became President, you must have said to yourself one morning while having your coffee or tea and while reading the newspapers; “Which lunatic asylum did these Guyanese leaders escape from?” Central African Republic, South Sudan, Thailand, Venezuela and Ukraine are going through terrible times, but at no time would you hear the foolish things come out the mouths of governmental leaders as we have in Guyana. As a student of Guyanese society you are torn between contrasting emotions – exasperation and hilarity. The sad thing about the PPP leadership is that no one in the hierarchy possesses the authority to say; “Wait a minute, stop that nonsense; you are embarrassing the party and the nation. Be careful in the future.” The PPP leadership not only fails to shut up its clowns that continue to ruin their image but on the contrary, they are promoted in rank. A Minister says that he is “a maan dat does illegal things” and he is elevated to the upper echelons of the judiciary. A Parliamentarian, Neil Kumar, does not know that in politics and journalism in Guyana, we call the three states that provide the bulk of Guyana’s aid, the ABC countries – America, Britain and Canada. So he publicly refers to these three friendly nations as Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Since then the PPP has put him on a number of parliamentary committees. Anyone who comes from another planet and sees Roger Luncheon on television at his press conferences would refuse to believe that he is perhaps the second in charge after former president, Bharrat Jagdeo. No one from the top of the PPP pyramid has whispered to Luncheon that his press conferences are more noted for his amusing style than for substance. If Luncheon resumes work, he will continue to host the Government’s weekly press briefings and the country will be entertained. Clement Rohee has become the PPP General-Secretary. He doesn’t deserve it and for one reason – he refuses to learn that after you leave the gutter, there are behavioural forms that you have to adopt not to please the Joneses, not to please your friends, not even to please society but because that is essentially what life is about. You do not go to a wedding in short pants. And why not? Because that is life. You do not go to your swearing in ceremony and your hat is on your head. And why not? That is life. No matter how hungry you are, you do not open your sandwich wrapper and eat in church while the preacher is conducting his sermon. And why not? Because that is the way life is for all humans. Mr. Rohee has made a mockery of himself countless times and he has not learned and will not learn. Why would any nation vote for a man who wants to be president when in announcing his intention exclaimed; “Why not, goat ain’t bite me!” Foolishly, Rohee could not have seen that in such an explanation, an irony would have been produced because in such a style, people would say that goat did indeed bite him. No one from within the helm of the PPP ever lectured Rohee on his deportment. On the contrary he was elevated to the General-Secretary’s post. And the circus goes on. At every press conference, there is a laugh when his utterances are carried in the media. And it is also his reaction to questions that is predictably funny. Tell me if as a journalist or a citizen you wouldn’t laugh at the following. Rohee said that the opposition politicians are friends of the drug traffickers. Asked to produce evidence, a simple educated answer should have been; “At the appropriate time, I will release such.” Here was Rohee’s reply to the reporter, “I ain’t dealing with that.” Keep an eye on Rohee’s pronouncements at his press conferences. Here is the latest. The PPP issued a statement asserting that a Minister is a Minister at all times. He is never off-duty. This was the explanation for offering governmental support to Finance Minister Ashni Singh who was the erring driver in a road accident in which he fled or left or moved away from the scene of the accident. So when a Minister is looking for ladies of the night or having sex in his marital home or fishing or drunk to hell in a rum shop, he is on duty? So while rum-drinking at midnight or fishing on a holiday in the Mahaicony creek, he can take the Ministerial car? The circus goes on.
March 14, 2014 · By Staff Write
There is no doubt that we live in a divided society. And I don’t mean the accidentally created and artificially maintained ethnic cleavage; I am talking about the real division: the huge gap between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor. The evidence of this growing divide and the negative consequences of this reality are clear. So, is the Ramotar administration blind to the issue or is the problem being ignored and perpetuated?
We all know the names of the rich; the beneficiaries of government contracts, inside information and preferential treatment. These new money-makers are the ones connected to the powerful decision-makers, while we, the ordinary Guyanese, struggle to make ends meet. The new-rich powerful people serve each other in a hand-wash-hand relationship. They are the elite; we are the poor masses. It is ‘us’ and ‘them,’ the division is clear.
The problems created by class division are recognised by religious leaders, academics and political thinkers across the spectrum. In 2012, US President Obama said that class division is the, “defining challenge of our time.” Mahatma Ghandi said: “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Conservative economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, advisor to Republican President George W Bush highlighted the social problems caused by economic inequality and, incredibly, actually advocated progressive taxation of the rich. In reference to trickle-down theories of economic development, Pope Francis said: “ [They are] a crude and naïve trust in those wielding economic power.”
The facts are clear. In December 2013, Oxfam International reported that the eighty-five wealthiest individuals on earth were worth US$1.7 trillion; the same amount of money sparsely shared by the poorest 50% of the world’s population – 3.5 billion persons. The report, presented to political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January 2014, also stated that the world’s richest 1% possessed 65% of humanity’s financial resources. So, is this inequality fair; is this the way things are supposed to be?
The poor masses are suffering day after day; they are always worried about bills, rent and the cost of food. But now, the problem is becoming so big that even the world’s wealthy, powerful elite are getting worried. This is because if the world’s poor people have no jobs and no money to spend, they cannot buy the goods that the rich people are producing. And they are afraid that the whole economic and social house of cards can collapse under the weight of resistance to the status quo. After all, the masses will not tolerate this situation indefinitely; the concentration of wealth in the hands of the elite will have consequences. Eventually, the jobless poor across the globe will stop sitting and starving quietly, and will take action to change things.
In Guyana the issue is stark and immediately obvious. Poor people die at public hospitals for lack of medicines and oxygen, while the elite can charter private jets to overseas hospitals to treat their fevers. The masses are locked up for speaking out against injustice, while the rich drive their 4×4 vehicles recklessly, cause accidents, and face no consequences. The children of the wealthy attend the best private educational institutions, while our poor children have to fetch water to flush toilets in public schools. So, are we, the poor masses supposed to put up with this forever?
The experts agree that to change things we must act together; we cannot allow the elite to continue to divide us. Indigenous Guyanese in Lethem are suffering in constant blackouts, poor fishermen in Berbice are being attacked by pirates, Georgetown’s residents are living in a garbage city and our brothers and sisters in Linden have no jobs.
We, the poor masses, must change things. We must insist on a living wage, access to decent education, gainful employment and quality health care. We must reject all attempts to divide us; we are all Guyanese facing a common enemy: poverty. We must use our voices, our pens, our votes, to remove and replace anyone who would keep us down. We are the masses; we have strength in unity and in numbers. We will not be divided and trampled on by the few, no matter how much money they have.
Yours faithfully, Mark DaCosta
March 8, 2014
In this little piece of paradise we call Guyana, we hardly depend on the tourism industry yet we have much to offer. Our 83,000 square miles make us the largest Caribbean state, 80% of which is largely untouched forests. From the beaches of the Corentyne to the rolling hills of the Rupununi Savannahs, the marine turtles on the North West beaches to the dense Iwokrama forest – Guyana is no doubt blessed and is a haven for eco-tourism.
But there is a problem. One that is staring at us right in the face. And we should be embarrassed to invite tourists into the country because of this problem. We all know what it is: the current state of the capital.
The practice has been to have tourists land at the Cheddi Jagan or Ogle International Airports and then whisk them off to Kaieteur and the interior to visit our eco-resorts and get their fill of looking at our birds and breathing that clean fresh air. But to have the full Guyanese experience one would always have to visit the capital which boasts a mixture of every culture that kissed this earth. And the same cannot be done when cruise ships dock at Port Georgetown.
Picture this: City Hall, which used to be a gem is now a murky piece of lead. The High Court building is in shipshape, but the broken hand and sceptre of Victoria is an insult to our colonial heritage. The canals that used to be low and shimmering are now pungent, stagnant and filled with garbage. The streets are lined with filth and the air with disgust. I could go on. But you get the picture. It is familiar and it is what the tourist sees.
And after we have fixed the city physically—and only heaven knows when that will happen—we have to fix the citizens. Or maybe we should tackle that first.
Let me list the tasks: We have to fix the often rude and uncaring behaviour that sometimes passes for customer service. We have to straighten out the security forces. Then we must tackle the less-than-average citizens; the ones who delight in standing on the corners urinating, cursing at the top of their lungs; blasting derogatory music from their vehicles or push carts.
Public transportation is a nightmare: too fast, choked, rude conductors and aggressive drivers. Then there are those pedestrians who have no regard for vehicular traffic and cross the roads when they feel like and at their own speed. It is as though we are slipping into anarchy; or have we already fallen?
When did the most hospitable country in the Caribbean lose its charm? Suriname boasted during Carifesta it was the most hospitable and Trinidad and Tobago invites business and tourists alike to ‘the Bridge between South America and the Caribbean’. What is our claim to fame these days? Garbage?
Let’s be grateful that Guyana does not have to depend solely on tourism. Let’s be thankful that we have diversification. Tourism is needed, tourism is wanted but tourism can never be accomplished with how we keep ourselves. Let’s stop pretending that we have arrived. And let’s start working really hard to regain what we have lost. (Jairo Rodrigues)
Some things have to be spelt out
March 6, 2014 · By Staff Writer
I still cannot believe that Guyanese are this slow and thick in the head. Do they really need Lear jets, car accidents, and police derelictin to drive home their status, or lack of any, in this society? Since some things have to be spelt out; I step up to do the honours.
If they did not realize and appreciate their lowly meaningless position before, now is the time for the great majority of citizens to get wise.
They are peasants, and peasants of the lowest sort in the eyes of the ruling aristocracy. Whether professional or poor, credentialled or illiterate, successful or struggling, Guyanese outside of the upper political echelon are mere peasants, part of the labouring class, and just plain working stiffs. They are non-existent mass coalesced at the bottom of the barrel, and they can like it or lump it.
Their lot is the Georgetown Hospital; it is why so much volume and ink are expended from the power brokers to enlighten the masses of its existence and stellar virtues. Peasants go to the ‘public hospital’ or private ones, if they can so afford. The political nobility go overseas to cool their fevers and deliver their babies, compliments of the longsuffering overburdened Guyanese taxpayers. I regret to say that these same taxpayers have more suffering and burdens on the way. Those who need details on the overseas babies can check with the sitting ministers.
Moving from health matters, ordinary citizens (peasants) are jailed, do not get bail, and get the book thrown at them for running afoul of the law.
On the other hand, minsters and their offspring enjoy near absolute immunity. They are above and beyond routine police and court procedures; or the police go through some hazy somnambulist motions to mislead the public. Before long issue and alleged perpetrator fade from view and memory. In fairness to the senior officials, the self-discovered eighth wonder of the Guyanese underworld had it right when he said: no invitation extended by the police. Thus, the high road is taken, literally and chemically.
Here is the bottom line: domestic political lawbreakers answer to no law and no one, save themselves. Citizens are encouraged to embrace second class (or third class) status, and grin and bear.
The latest polls and propaganda reports indicate that they are most delighted to comply, and are thankful for where they are. In the meantime, peasants struggle with their house lots and mortgages in regular housing schemes, while the political royalty reside in Johannesburg. That is better known locally as Pradoville 2, the latest representation of economic and social apartheid, Guyanese style. The cradle of crooked luxury it is, conceived in perversity. This is la dolce vita for the top dogs; regular ‘common breed’ dogs have to fend for themselves amidst heavy competition, and a scarcity of opportunity and essentials.
The lords of the manor call this democracy; I call it criminality.
Clearly, in nearly every aspect of Guyanese life, the yawning dismal disparity grows into an ecstasy of sullenness. Rarely have so few done so much wrong to so many, and gotten away with it. There is more in store.