We have just celebrated 48 years of Independence from British colonial rule. While many are celebrating our failed achievements, I was greeted with a long blackout on Independence Day while I was watching television. After 48 years of Independence we are still faced with blackouts daily, dirty water that’s unfit for human consumption, poor drainage and irrigation, corruption, a high crime rate, massive migration, unemployment, and extreme poverty. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
As a nation we must face the facts. We must ask ourselves what have we achieved as a nation when we compare ourselves to our Caribbean neighbours. When I look at Georgetown I see garbage everywhere. As I was walking near the Guyana Post Office building a few days ago, I saw over ten persons sleeping on cardboard boxes around the corners of the building. Lots of foreigners traverse this location daily; these beggars are an eyesore to this capital city and all over Guyana.
I now ask: What is the purpose of the Human Services Ministry? We have just passed a $220B budget; this amount of money could eradicate poverty from this nation, but we have a very serious problem when it comes to administration.
I ask the Minister of Finance this question: Does he have a plan for street beggars in Guyana? Children beg on the streets and many kids sell DVDs on the streets, most of whom are illiterates. Does the government have a place to put these beggars to give them a better future? While our ministers in government live in mansions and their wives and kids receive the best medical treatment abroad and they can spend millions on holidays overseas, our nation suffers in poverty and human degradation.
The PNC and our present administration failed to push this nation forward economically, socially, morally, spiritually, and academically. We need to have a greater vision to push our nation further into this contemporary era; we are behind civilization in modern technology. We have a failed internet system supplied by only one phone company that’s very expensive, while Digicel cannot have that space to provide landline phones and a cheaper internet service. It means if GT&T should fail then our entire phone system will be disrupted; we have the incompetent GPL that’s an eyesore in Guyana. We have to pay enormous electricity bills that can obliterate our salaries; yet we keep GPL that’s exploiting our poor citizens daily.
In a nation with less than a million residents we could use solar power in every home and get rid of GPL but we need guts and greater vision for a change in Guyana.
Unemployment has become another problem in this country where we have many UG graduates yearly and young people passing CXC yet they are unemployed so they create their own jobs by selling in the streets and markets, while some even go on to do illegal business. We see more sellers than buyers in Guyana on a daily basis, why? Because in this country jobs are very difficult to acquire if you don’t have ‘lines’ or are politically connected to the bureaucrats. Our young people are hopeless, so they migrate and work all over the Caribbean and North America. Many thousands of Guyanese are living and working in New York.
I was talking to a young man at the market who sells eggs, chicken, dried fish and a few more items. He told me he earns about $200,000 monthly by just selling at the market; he can hardly read a great deal but he has business experience. Then I talked to many educated university graduates and folks who passed CXC subjects and all are market vendors earning over $200,000 per month. An average government worker takes home about $55,000 monthly and a trained teacher about $90,000, so the average street vendor earns twice or thrice these qualified people. Yet in the recent budget we see no increase in public servants’ salaries than the 5% they earned last year. It seems as if our administrators are mathematically naïve and do not comprehend our economic circumstances, thus pushing our citizens to migrate daily all over the globe in search of jobs and a better standard of living. What have we achieved as a nation after 48 years of poor management?
Crime and domestic violence are on the increase, and there are robberies and killings every day. Our police force is ill equipped to deal with hard core criminals while our army just eats, sleeps and plays dominoes. I ask before and will ask again: What is the purpose of the Guyana Defence Force? They should patrol the entire nation to curb crime to help the police. It’s about time our (acting) Police Commissioner and the Minister of Home Affairs use greater measures to deal with crime and criminals or criminals will one day take over this nation.
I have travelled this entire nation and our drainage system is really deplorable. The trenches are filled with bushes and garbage. The NDC’s don’t dig the trenches thus 30 minutes of rain will flood a whole community. All over we see roads with huge potholes and nothing has been done; if our leaders cannot fix basic potholes and get trenches cleaned then it’s not possible for them to govern this nation. VS Naipaul wrote a book called: An Area of Darkness’ and he says, “Nothing has been produced in the Caribbean.’’ He is absolutely correct; we still import matches from Trinidad so it tells me we cannot produce a box of matches or even a ruler. We need to be honest with ourselves and don’t be politically brainwashed and ignore the facts I have stated here; after 48 years of independence we are a failed state.
What we have produced is rum that has destroyed the moral fabric of our society. We must accept a profound philosophy that the half-educated have risen to power fighting daily in parliament. Dante said:
You were not born to live the lives of brutes
But beauty to pursue and knowledge high
We need divine wisdom and a greater vision to govern this nation.
Rev Gideon Cecil
May 25, 2014
Independence. Liberty. Freedom. For whom and to do what? What good can be said about the increasingly sorrier years of so-called liberty?
Let’s start with political leaders. They have arrogated to themselves the freedom to do whatever pleases them, and then keep questioning citizens in the darkest of darkness. To be brutally truthful, their conduct has been characterized by the freedom to cheat, and then to lie continuously about the litany of cheating.
They tell with the zeal of true believers, now hopelessly trapped by their own delusions and deception, of the roads built and structures erected. But they have left out a substantial part of the story. It is that their friends and families who have the freedom to erect collapsible roadways and floating stellings; they also have the liberty to do shoddy work and get paid; and the freedom (protected right) to participate in cost overruns and get paid more. For all these outstanding efforts, these same friends and families – part of the party patriotic profiteers – they get more taxpayer contracts and the opportunity for further enrichment. Yes, independence has been wonderful for this crowd.
This same crowd crows loudly about freedom of speech and press. Yet when it spends billions of taxpayer dollars, it has taken the liberty to deliver not a single piece of persuasive reporting. Thus, the nation is left – saddled – with this invading horde of mysterious investors, mysterious currency, and businesses shrouded in thick secrecy. Oh, freedom has worked prosperously for some… Additionally, they insist on the sacred freedom to resist reform, be it the GPF, the media, local government polls, among others.
Now what about ordinary citizens? One SN columnist wrote that they have taken their skills and fled in droves. Since this has happened, there is now the freedom (with limited exceptions) for a massive morass of mediocrity to reign supreme locally. And they do. Truly, I say: the lunatics have taken over the asylum. They are in the majority, and they possess that special talent called ‘native cunning.’ It is how they survive.
Further I see people agreeing with me about ineffectual civil society and compromised middle class. I say that genuine change cannot – will not – occur when those talking about change reach with one hand for a government contract, and the other for a cocktail invitation. The question to be asked repeatedly is: were we better in 1986 against 1966? And again, what about in 2006 versus 1986? Did much occur in either the quantitative or qualitative spheres at many levels that lifted most up and not just a few?
Then there are the children. Currently, double-digit thousands of them are locked in CXC examinations. How many thousands of them have freedom from gnawing fear? Freedom from being relegated to the far outside and the gloom of being unemployed cyphers. Multiply most of those double-digit thousands by 5 or 10 years and there is arguably close to between 50,000 to 100,000 young ones on the unemployment line. To them, freedom has imbued their lives with all the desolation and devastation of a terrible blight. Now for a moment of nostalgia.
It is said that the past always looks rosier. I remember how parliamentarians, headmasters and headmistresses, high court judges and commissioners were the personification of uprightness and standards. Can the same be truly said today, 48 years later? Speaking for myself, there is very little regard (if any) for most of these groups nowadays. This absence of regard goes for top people and the top, too. It comes down to this for me: independence of mind, and independence of conscience to point out lack of trust and to highlight scarcity of credibility.
In this time, leaders will seize upon the freedom to trumpet empty platitudes about togetherness, even as they adhere to parochial and ethnic politics. They do so at the expense of the pragmatic, mending and healing, or daring to examine the imponderables of strategic sophistication. In other words, try a different way, lift up, and then move.
In the long interlude of 48 forlorn years, Guyanese willingly exchange ‘free’ status for that of fugitives elsewhere. We run away from this poisoned, long meaningless freedom.
May 26, 2014 · By Staff Writer
Guyana has achieved forty-eight years of Independence. We are quickly creeping up to half a century. Take any textbook on the history of any country in the world and you will see what is achieved in fifty years. At the rate Guyana is going, there is absolutely no reason to believe that when we reach fifty, there will be any improvement in the life of this country
Let us say within two years, there is a new government; the population’s disenchantment will be horrible because the retrogression is so enormous that the take-off period will need decades. Just one example will suffice. If on the 50th year of Independence, there is a new government, there is no way within fifteen years, if it stays in government, that a new administration can even attempt to put UG half way through what a normal university should be. The funds to resuscitate UG will be so demanding that competition from other sectors will cause UG to do without many types of resources. And that is within fifteen years.
On this anniversary of Independence what worries me the most, much more than our primitive conditions, is the acceptance and praise for a horribly poor and backward country by major sections of our society. I can understand the fear people have of criticizing their government. I can understand praise for a terrible government by its citizens if the country is enjoying great moments of wealth as Russia under Putin, Venezuela in the first five years of Chávez, etc, but in Guyana there is no wealth going around (except the extravagance and ostentation of a very tiny elite), and poverty and primitiveness are ubiquitous.
Why would any citizen continue to see Guyana as a positive place and devote eulogies to it? Even if there are pockets of wealthy people, they themselves must be revolted to see what Georgetown is. Make no mistake: the appearance of Georgetown is something you only see in a science fiction movie.
Is there a citizen living in this country on the 48th year of Independence to make a case for national achievement and national development since 1966 when you look at Georgetown? The capital city is an indicator that after 48 years of sovereignty, this country has failed. No capital city anywhere in the world looks like this. I saw a photograph of an alleyway clogged up in Bosnia during the floods last week and what those people were clearing was equivalent to a baby stroller compared to Guyana. If you show those Bosnians what we have in our alleyways they wouldn’t believe this is a country on the map.
It takes a nakedly, depraved and repellant mind to look at the national cemetery of Guyana after 48 years of Independence and say that this country has achieved progress since 1966. Again I say if you are an extraordinarily wealthy Guyanese living here, at some point it must lacerate your psyche to see how terribly primitive we are as a nation after 48 years of Independence. You may earn great wealth from your investments but could you be happy with the country you see around you? I would like any of the super-rich Guyanese to tell me if they respect Guyana for what it is after 48 years of the ending of colonial rule.
We hardly manufacture anything for export. Before 1966, we exported rice, sugar, gold, fish, bauxite and a few agricultural products like peppers and fruits. We do exactly the same thing almost fifty years after Independence. Many of the laws British Guiana had at the beginning of the 20th century are still the laws of Guyana even though the world has scrapped similar legislation and has moved on.
Forty-eight years after Independence, we cannot get traffic signals to work. I return to the wealthy folks of Guyana. Rich people drive vehicles in this country. What happens when a rich man or woman is slowing up at a junction where the signals don’t work, and a foolish driver hits them. Surely, traffic signals would have helped. Do you know the large numbers of accidents that occur at junctions where the signals do not work? My point here is that even if Guyana’s poverty doesn’t bother you because you are wealthy, you can still lose your life because of the staggering and incredible backwardness of this land. Forty-eight years after Independence, almost ninety per cent of the streets of this entire country have no stop signs, or if they do they are faded at the junctions where two streets meet. Guyana must be the only country in the world where the major one-ways have no signs. Church Street, Charlotte Street, Wellington Street, North Road – just to name a few – have no signs to inform strangers to Georgetown that these roadways are one-way. I saw a Mercedes Benz packed with Chinese people driving at a fast rate going the wrong way into Wellington Street.
They turned north into Wellington while travelling east on Robb Street. They just didn’t know it was a one-way and there was no sign to inform them.
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.