Government playing politics with Georgetown residents

by Emile Mervin

On Thursday, November 1st, Guyana’s three Internet dailies carried the news story of the Government coming yet again to the assistance of the cash-strapped Georgetown City Council.

Kaieteur News’ caption read: “Garbage crisis resolved…Government bails out City Council again, urges major restructuring.” Guyana Chronicle heralded: “Government in another City Council bail out.” And Stabroek News blared: “Rubbish crisis averted. Jagdeo grants $184M to City.”

In a previous writing on the issue, I faulted the PPP Government for causing this crisis because of its failure to hold local government elections for over ten years. Today, I want to extend the fault sharing to three political parties that, based on their voter support, have a greater stake than the PPP in Georgetown. Instead of taking a more pronounced stand on the affairs of the nation’s capital, they are allowing the Jagdeo administration to play Russian roulette with the residents of the nation’s capital. It’s now a blurred line between political gamesmanship and brinksmanship.

It is common knowledge that all three parties – the PNC, the AFC and the GGG – draw their voter support from Georgetown, a predominantly Black city that traditionally refused to vote overwhelmingly for the Indian-dominated PPP. And it is against this stark reality I am prompted to ask: Is there a sinister reason why the President of Guyana is being so openly disrespectful, especially to the Mayor of Georgetown and, vicariously, the residents of Georgetown?

To have the capital of Guyana go without mayoral elections for ten years is insulting to civic-minded people in a functioning democracy, but it is an assault on their sense of political rights and self-respect for the Government to turn around and deliberately engage the Mayor in constant public feuding over the city’s management, only to then show up with money in the Mayor’s domain to embarrass him before his constituents. It’s almost like the Mayor is being used to lose!

Why is it embarrassing? Because the Mayor is literally serving at the pleasure of the Jagdeo administration which has not held local government elections in a decade! The Mayor cannot do much without Central Government, and this is where the one who pays the piper is constantly calling or changing the tune. Several months ago, the President appeared in a photo-op handing over a cheque to the Mayor for $40M for city works. If this is not stage-managed politics, then what is?

And rather than address the long-overdue local government elections, the Government is now proposing restructuring talks in a few months? Why after ten years it is suddenly restructuring over elections? Was this the goal all along? What effrontery! All this bickering by the Government with Mayor Green is nothing more than a calculated attempt by the Government to hijack the City Council with the aim of either installing a puppet leader to function as a mayor, or to lay the foundation for such an eventuality whenever the President and PPP are good and ready to hold local government elections.

But it is cheap politicking at the expense of the citizens of Georgetown. In fact, the same can actually be said of the Government’s treatment of the entire population. The President’s style of governance is to make everything fail or fall so he can rush in like a savior and look indispensible. That’s not vision; that’s confusion.

The county of Berbice, a PPP stronghold, is getting a bridge across its river after the Jagdeo administration spared no efforts, including dipping into the NIS, to raise money for the project. But the capital of Guyana, Georgetown, a PNC, AFC, and GGG stronghold is unable to get a properly managed City Council because the Jagdeo administration is sparing no efforts, including interfering with the City Council’s operations and dilly dallying on local government elections, to ensure it ultimately takes over the institution. Perhaps the end game this confusing behaviour here is to convert Georgetown into yet another PPP stronghold?

If the PNC, the AFC and the GGG cannot get their act together immediately and act as one in the interest of the residents of Georgetown – their principal support base – then these same residents and their posterity will blame the leaders of these three parties for failing to put isms and schisms aside and act in a timely manner to save or salvage what is left of a demoralized and decaying capital city that is being politicized by the Jagdeo administration for cheap partisan, perhaps personal, gain.

I have said it before and will say it again: President Bharrat Jagdeo is no visionary. The party list structure made possible his presidency and not anything he articulated on a platform about making the economy better. The way he is running his government – micro-managing, partisanship and petty politics – is exactly the way he will run the City Council if he gets his way.


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Due Process and the Presumption of Innocence

by Keith R. Williams


I agree 100% with the remarks of Steve Hemraj:

“I have been following the reports regarding the manner in which the PPP handled the two attorneys that represent persons charged with drug offences and I am disturbed by the presumption of a guilty verdict without the intervention of the legal system. Isn’t everyone entitled to an attorney and innocent until proven guilty? The precedent set here would be detrimental to everyone in the course of justice.”

My stomach churns however, when I consider that expression of this most crucial aspect about due process and the rule of law in our nation is peculiarly tepid when the bodies of persons officially and unofficially regarded as criminal suspects, turn up battered and dead. What manner of society have we devolved into that the politics of party do’s and don’ts seem to stir our consciousness to the prerequisites of our legal system more than bodies turning up mysteriously dead.

Mr. Hemraj went on to write:

“I believe that everyone is entitled to a defence attorney and the prosecution must provide unambiguous evidence to support the charges. As professionals, both gentlemen have a right to represent or defend a case as they see fit. This entire situation is a moral one and not a legal one. The judgment seems based on the argument that attorneys must accept cases based on morals and not by evidence. This kind of behavior is deep rooted in the entire society where we cannot distinguish morals from facts, right from wrong, and respect for people’s professions and professional arguments.

If the PPP wants to legislate morals then let the Parliament begin and start from the top down.”

In 1989-90, the then Mayor of New York City David Dinkins was pilloried by critics, especially those uncomfortable with an African American holding the Mayoralty of the Financial Capital of the world, for visiting with the survivors of a young man shot to death by Cops under questionable circumstances. The critics claimed that he was a drug dealer, (and he might have been), and that the Mayor, by visiting with his relatives was condoning his activities.

We experience some of the same maladjusted kinds of reasoning in Guyana, and notably by many who do not exactly practice what they preach. Bernie Kerik, flawed character notwithstanding, was considered qualified to police reform of our Law Enforcement Body, even though a born and bred Guyanese with the kind of record Kerik has, cannot gain admittance into the Guyana Police Force. And about the most obscene example of this maladjustment in reasoning inundated the pages of the print media following Ronald Waddell’s death, where un-substantiated criminal allegations were advanced, as if to rationalize his murder. While fighting back tears of indignation and more than a small degree of anger, I always wondered whether the newspapers exercised censorship over similar sentiments by kooks subsequent to the massacre of Minister (Sash) Sawh and others, since no equivalent like those that followed Waddell’s gunning down appeared in print.

On the cross where he had been placed to die Jesus turned to the two thieves sharing the moment of finality on earth with him and promised that in spite of how they lived, in death they would find redemption in his father’s kingdom. Apparently many who constantly postulate in his name are not particularly inspired by this 9th hour message of Christ before he passed from this world. But even if you are not a Christian, might have no religious beliefs, basic commonsense and human empathy should be enough to allow you to abstract the understanding that people do not stop loving their kith and kin because they are bad. And that empathy with grief in death is not a celebration or endorsement of the manner in which the deceased conducted his or her life. It is a civilized reaction to a human situation that is and will be visited upon everyone who is born into this world.

I do not know Steve Hemraj, and am not familiar with his politics. I have no idea whether the position he holds on the issue of the right to legal representation and the undiluted principle of the legal presumption of innocence is absolute and uninterrupted across the board. My reading of his letter however, particularly the comment:

“This kind of behavior is deep rooted in the entire society where we cannot distinguish morals from facts, right from wrong, and respect for people’s professions and professional arguments.”

This quote suggests that he has been paying keen attention to the public discourse on a myriad of issues related to Guyana. Philosophically, we are an embryonic society at best, and very rough around the edges when it comes to examining and pronouncing on issues, without being affected by nurtured influences that operate to sway us askance from objectivity and sometimes reality. Hopefully, the independent media will become agents of change for a paradigm shift from this “deep rooted attitude and behavior that renders our understanding of morals and facts, right and wrong”, ambivalent at best.

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Our National Motto must be more than an Anecdotal Expression

by Keith R. Williams

No one has ever been able to come up with a definitive non partisan/non pandering across the board reason as to why people commit horrible and atrocious acts. However, there are a plethora of inconvenient truths that are associative with every variety of human upon human horror imaginable. For example the worse manifestations of men’s inhumanity to man, woman and child are neither endemic or unique characteristics of any individual, group or community. And there are not, and should never be, a better or more acceptable form of such inhumanity regardless of the identity, prestige or lack thereof, of the perpetrators or their victims..

The psycho-pathological nature and animus identifiable in those who would slit the throat of a market vendor for his or her purse, is not diminished when it manifests itself in cold blooded torture, mutilation and killing of people suspected to have been involved in wrong doing, whatever its nature, by self appointed enforcers with questionable reputations. The two are interminably joined together at the same perverse hip bone so to speak, and represent, inarguably, an obscene blight on the nose of a civilized and aspiring democratic society. There are no acceptable rationales that can be advanced to obfuscate the inherent perversion of the mindsets that find these paths negotiable. Civilized society, the civilized mindset, while accepting of the reality and necessity for measurable force as tools for the preservation of law and order and the protection of life and property among other things, including, albeit regrettably, deadly force on occasion, must reject the usurpation of that power by folks who come to the forum with questionable reputations and more than likely dirty hands. An abhorrence for unlawful and mindless violence cannot, must not be selective.

During his acceptance speech at the Noble Peace Prize Ceremony Martin Luther King intoned that quote:

“Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle, and to a movement which has not yet won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize. After contemplation, I conclude that this award, which I receive on behalf of that movement, is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression”.

It is fashionable today for us to express a general abhorrence for oppression and violence and wrong doing, while maintaining a myriad of attitudes and behaviors we tend to adopt as individuals and groups, and which serve to vicariously project our values and self worth above and beyond that of others. It requires the ultimate in moral character and integrity to steadfastly hold to principles uninterrupted by momentary partisan conveniences, especially while under constant threats of violence, and actual experience of abuse and physical assaults, as was typical in the daily existence of Doctor King. Fortunately, armed with and nurtured by faith in a religious creed that demand unmatched moral and ethical standards of behavior from its adherents, he was able to stand tall on that principled pinnacle. And that he died with a prescient utterance on his lips, to wit:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord……”

This quote magnifies his stature as a role model for fearless and un-bargaining commitment to what is right, and his life’s work as a holy grail worthy of pursuing.

There is no difference, within an ethical and moral construct, between the expression and manifestation of an absolute abhorrence for criminal violence and lawlessness, and the sometimes unpopular position that it is crucial to the well being of any society for due process and the rule of law to be enforced without favor and affection, malice or ill-will. These are unchallengeable conjunctive ethical and moral positions. Compromising rules that have been established to explicitly standardize the judicial visitation on wrong doing and legal disobedience in a society is tantamount to taking a jack-hammer to the main pillars upon which a civilized society is founded.

The scions and kith and kin of the most powerful, the most wealthy, the most influential in our societies have no earthbound or stratospheric entitlement to a different standard of justice than, say, the son or daughter of the man or woman who earns a livelihood from operating a horse drawn cart. Our worth as humans, our rights as people, as members of a country, a nation, a state, must substantively transcend the ornamental materiality that adorns and depicts our social status in our nationally defined human nestings. There is no cause more worthy of constant articulation and pursuit than that which seeks and demands fairness and balance in our interaction as a nation, as a society, as a people. And if we in Guyana are going to be able to hold up our motto of “One People, One Nation, One Destiny” before the world as a self evident truth, we have to, we must guarantee that this reality is transmitted into the experience of the people on the ground.

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Crisscrossing Ethical Fences

by Keith R. Williams

The ever prolific cheering section for everything done by the Guyana Government proceeds to advance a litany of points, ostensibly to demonstrate that the response of the Stabroek News to the withdrawal of Tax Payer funded advertisements from that periodical by the Government, was unjustified. What is demonstrably apparent in the position that these points caption however, is the accuracy with which George Orwell was able to project the human capacity for hypocrisy into his porcine characters in his literal work “Animal Farm”. For among all the issues under mastication in Guyana between 1992 and the present, none is more analogous with the before and after scenario of “Animal Farm”, than the issue surrounding press freedom and ownership in this Nation.

The pre-1992 voices that rose stridently in condemnation of ex-officio political control and regulation of media apparatus in Guyana, indulge in the most acrobatic linguistic exercises to rationalize in 2007, that which they were bitterly opposed to in 1991. Orwell’s pigs changed rules that read, “No animals should sleep in beds” to “No animals should sleep in beds with sheets”. Their human replicas on the Guyana ethical political scene are also given to adjusting their positions on issues with like consummate elasticity. For example, while it was repugnant and undemocratic for the state to control radio stations and a daily newspaper in 1980, it is ok in 2007 for them to control television, radio and newspaper. And about the only reason that exists for their strange acrobatic adjustment, is the fact the political party they support is the one now in control of the media apparatus today.

Among the points advanced in rejection of the Stabroek News response in the ads withdrawal issue is one that reads:

“It appears that the Stabroek News believes that the administration is obligated to advertise in its newspaper. Why does it feel that way“?

Well, given the fact that the dollars for those ads come in large quantities from the salaries of many who depend on the Stabroek News and the other Independent Daily for their public information requirements, isn’t it kind of presumptuous of the Government and this defender to exercise this kind of hubris? Those ads are not paid for with party funds I believe. If they were, then certainly the Stabroeknews and any other media entity unaffiliated with the party in question would have to band their bellies and bite their lips. But since their circulation is provably supported by large segments of the population, there is an obligation, on part of the Government, to cater to the information preference and requirements of those population segments to the same degree that it has to do for others. And how ironic and perhaps informative that those who, with one hemisphere of their brains formulate thoughts of the insignificance of a newspaper, with the other hemisphere seem to reverse that thought process through manifested expectations that their views will be given illumination in the same newspaper. Go figure.

Another point advanced is that quote, “The Stabroek News, as we have seen, is making the issue political”. Of course the issue is political. Only a Martian or sycophant more committed to spinning than to postulations of truth and reality would harbor the notion that those ads would have been withdrawn if the Stabroek News had been operating like a cheerleading ensemble for the ruling party and Government. The innate intelligence and memory of the population of this country are being insulted every day by such partisan and fatuous conclusions.

The insinuations are that while certain behaviors of the predecessors of the current regime were reprehensible, when they are repeated by the current regime they are ok. And that somehow the population, or most of it anyway, lack the facility of conscious memory and abstract cognitive connectivity to detect the glaring and apparent hypocrisy always being advanced as salient points. Sure, if you believe in the tooth fairy you night be inclined towards the notion that the decision to withdraw the ads emanated purely from business considerations. Because you would have to ignore the fact that audience size is a primary business consideration when the circulation of advertisements are under speculation. But if you are given to calling it a duck when it walks and quacks like one, you will throw out the rubbish being advanced to obfuscate what is an unequivocal mean spirited political payback.

When one considers that the Stabroek News was virtually the lone print media voice crying the concerns of the PPP in the wilderness prior to their advent into the pinnacle of power, one would be advised to take stock of what is going on in Guyana. Those that beat on their chest and utter proclamations in favor of democracy at street corners, are peculiarly offended when its manifestations operate to illuminate the variance between their talking and their walking. They are wont to cry for and champion the enforcement and rule of Laws, except when the transgressions appear in the form of vigilantism and extra-judicial adventurisms. In brief, they wish to have their cake and eat it too.

The definition of Freedom of Information in a democracy cannot be encapsulated in a framework limited to how many private newspapers or television stations exist. Particularly in societies such as ours, where truth is, undeniably, too often a circumstance of convenience. The existence of freedom of information must be manifested by people having a choice of diverse sources of news and information. It would be a blatant falsehood to claim, for example, that the people of Linden or in the hinterland enjoy the freedom to diverse steams of information.

Only the state controlled television station is allowed to supply information to the people of the former location, and since only state control radio broadcast is possible in Guyana, the choices of information sources for both Linden and the Hinterland are thus limited to what is dispensed by the state. And given the fact that the state did not secure a majority of the electoral confidence of Lindeners, what is occurring in respect of information freedom there is both despicable and dictatorial.

The advancers of the points critical of the Stabroek News would have labeled it just like that, if the location was Leguan and the state was controlled by the PNC. The convenience and alacrity with which they can cross ethical fences based on who is in control is alarming, and the yardstick by which their integrity should always be measured.

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Is the AFC a ‘third force’ or a ‘terrible farce’?

by Emile Mervin

I was more disappointed than surprised when I read a recent news article in which Alliance For Change leader, Mr. Raphael Trotman, opined that he is supportive of shared governance. This, after running his party in the 2006 election campaign as the most viable political alternative or the genuine ‘third force’ to the other two political forces – the PPP and PNC.

At what stage of his political career did Mr. Trotman become aware of the importance of the shared governance concept? If it was before or during the elections, then this is downright hypocritical. If it was an epiphany that dawned on him after he took up his seat in Parliament as a leader of the AFC, then there are serious questions he must be prepared to answer regarding the overall future of Guyana under a shared governance system.

In retrospect, I recall Messrs. Trotman and Khemraj Ramjattan splitting from their old parties, the PNC and PPP, respectively, because of those parties’ intransigence in the face of needed internal reforms. The two eventually paired up to promote the formation of a ‘third force’ party, even though the concept was already being bandied about the local political circuit.

Before they could have officially launched what is now known as the AFC, though, they were upstaged when the Guyana Third Force movement was launched. They went on to survive the confusion that evolved from this apparent conflict of there being two ‘third force’ entities, because the GTF morphed into a teetering facilitator. In the end, the AFC went on to snag five Parliamentary seats, with another one still under dispute.

But it was the AFCs staunch refusal to follow the GTF’s lead and consider an alliance of political parties, including and especially the PNC-One Guyana, in the run-up to the elections that distinguished it as a genuine alternative to the PPP and PNC. The general consensus back then was that a party could not be a ‘third force’ if allied itself with either the PPP or PNC.

Who knows, perhaps it was on this basis of presenting itself to voters, as well as the world, as the alternative to the PPP and PNC, that some voters hedged their bets in the hope that the rewards will outweigh the risks in an election race that traditionally favored ethnic support for the two major parties.

In the ensuing months since entering Parliament, observers and supporters of the AFC saw the party become engaged in an internal and external obstacle course race as it sought to break the PPP-PNC self-absorbing stranglehold on the nation’s body politic and establish itself as the ideal alternative that promoted ideas for development over ethnic pandering for partisan gains. As with most new organizations, teething pains are to be expected, so the AFC was cut some slack as it tried to distinguish itself as different from the status quo.

But then came this bombshell announcement that the party is amenable to the shared governance concept that was being mooted by the PNC before, during and even after the elections. This AFC shocker begs for an explanation as to what triggered this 180-degree about face. Is the AFC a ‘third force’ or a ‘terrible farce’?

Admittedly, I threw my support behind the AFC because I became convinced that the PPP, after fourteen years in power, was no better than the PNC. Further, since the PPP’s continued occupation of office is contingent on support and votes from Indian Guyanese, there is no way the ethnic tension in Guyana will ever be ameliorated. For example, the PPP, like all winning parties, has to find ways to reward its constituency, so it is inevitable to hear cries of discrimination, favoritism, cronyism and nepotism from those outside its constituency.

But for the two principal leaders of the AFC who could not work with their former reforms-resistant PPP and PNC – hence their departure to form the AFC – to now claim it is feasible to try and work with the same unreformed PPP and PNC under the shared governance umbrella, makes me wonder what were the leaders’ end game plan when the party was launched?

I vividly recall Mr. Trotman, in a well constructed diagnosis of what ails the PPP and PNC, concluding that the two parasitic parties need each other to survive, by demonizing each other and by exploiting the ethnic insecurities of their supporters. To tinker with this particular aspect of their survival, apparently is the equivalent of political suicide. So the PPP and PNC are stuck with each other and the people are stuck with them both.

To also demonstrate their designs on immutablity, consider the proposed recall legislation that would appear to the natural eye as a broadening or strengthening of the democratic process, but which legislation actually seeks to give parties the power take away seats from reform-minded and dissenting members in Parliament. Genuine recall legislation would expand the democratic process to actually allow voters, not parties, to be the ones to initiate a recall.

To Mr. Ramjattan’s credit, when asked in 2005, he noted that if an AFC member was expelled from the party, s/he would be allowed to retain her/his Parliamentary seat. But the AFC is not one of the majority parties that seek to retain their stranglehold by shutting out reformers and dissenters through the proposed recall legislation, so Mr. Ramjattan’s point is only good in principle.

In a nutshell, the PPP believes it is God’s gift to Indian Guyanese and the PNC believes it is God’s gift to African Guyanese. They both have deceived themselves into thinking that without them their supporters will suffer. But the reality is that both groups have been suffering immensely despite the fact that both the PNC and PPP held the reins of power for the past 43 years.

And this was why the AFC was born: to make a marked difference on the political landscape, rather than seek now to blend in and become one of ‘them’. As an avid sideline cheerleader of the AFC, I’m terribly disappointed and unless I am otherwise persuaded, I will have to throw in the towel that I now wave frantically and in unison with others as a show of support. I’d hate to know the AFC went from being Guyana’s last political hope to Guyana’s latest political hype.

Really, though, is shared governance Guyana’s best hope? Or is it a cop-out that empowers politicians but not the people?

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The PPP and PNC have practised personality politics to their own detriment

by Emile Mervin

Much has been written in recent weeks about the leadership of the PNC, but rather than construe the many letters as attacks on the party’s leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, I think the collective voices were merely aiming to get the party to either radically change its approach to politics or continue to fossilize, and especially in light of 1) its ability to still collect a substantial number of votes, and 2) the obvious failings of the PPP under President Bharrat Jagdeo.

This observation in no way equates with my support for the PNC, but simply seeks to put the recent letters on the PNC in an objective perspective.

I said before and repeat for emphasis that the last elections revealed that Guyanese of both major races are fed-up with the political status quo and want to see changes.

After over forty years of watching the PNC and PPP take turns in power, Guyanese demonstrated they had no stomach for politics-as-usual when 1) half of the PPP’s support base eligible to vote stayed home, 2) the once-dominant PNC lost Parliamentary seats, and 3) the totally fresh AFC gained five Parliamentary seats, with an additional one yet to be officially determined.

It is unfortunate, yet not surprising, to read letters from those who came out in defense of Mr. Corbin, because traditionally, the PNC has been a party built up around personalities, with Forbes Burnham holding down the lead spot. Incidentally, this personality politics concept was just as dominant in the PPP under Cheddi Jagan.

This then explains, why after both men passed, both the PPP and the PNC have been gradually losing their original gravitational pull and appeal among their traditional support bases.

For example, after Burnham passed, we saw the bold efforts by Desmond Hoyte to change the PNC’s political and economic course, but while, in principle, he did well, he also lacked the personality cult dynamism of his predecessor and so the party began to lose its aura of invincibility.

After Jagan passed, we saw a series of carefully orchestrated maneuvers by his wife to take over the presidency, only to later step down because of claims her health was failing.

Her most notable action while in power seems to have been her preferred choice to replace her, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who, while he may have a likeable personality, obviously lacks political currency among a significant portion of his party’s support base as the last election showed.

So, here we are today with two men – Jagdeo, heading the PPP Government, and Corbin, heading the Opposition PNC – who emerged into their current positions by virtue of the manner in which their respective political parties operated – the accentuation of political personalities over pragmatic politics.

Now, until and unless the leaders of both major parties shy away from this failed approach and adopt an approach that allows ideas to trump personalities, Guyana will continue to witness the emergence of what the PPP delivered to the people in the person of Mr. Jagdeo: a political novice thrown in a heavyweight fight swinging at the shadow while missing the real object; and what the PNC delivered in the person of Mr. Corbin: a political foot soldier who was effective during the time of personality politics, but who has been ineffective once promoted to general of the troops.

Before I conclude, I wish to admonish shared governance advocates who firmly believe the best solution to the current dilemma created by both the PPP and PNC rests on this novel shared governance concept, that as long as the PPP and PNC have to pander to Indians and Blacks, respectively, to remain viable, then there is going to be friction that will eventually lead to constant fighting.

And not only is a rush into political marriage for sheer convenience a recipe for social disaster, it could also be a first step towards emergence of a corrupt dictatorship in which the PPP and PNC are fused to block out any other political opposition.

Both the PPP and the PNC have to undergo a metamorphic change from the inside out and from the top down before they can become suitable and convincing candidates of the shared governance concept where all Guyanese can benefit and feel secure.

Ergo, this process requires time for trust to be established, and the best place for both parties to start is in the manner in which their leaders are chosen.

Here’s a novel concept worth considering. Give potential leaders opportunities to vent their views on issues and then let there be party primaries in all regions to select the best candidates to represent the parties.

By Election Day, the voters would have had access to the ideas of the their next national leaders in both parties and they will then know how to vote.

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Is this just another form of ethnic cleansing?

by Keith R. Williams

There is something ominous in the Minister of Home Affairs singling out of a particular segment of the population for special attention in Guyana’s so called robust War on Drugs. Particularly when that segmented group identified by the Minister, to wit, unemployed young people, will be comprised of large majorities of African Guyanese young men. It is amazing that were the President of the United States of America or any major Law Enforcement Authority in that country to make this kind of statement, they would immediately be bombarded with protestations of racial targeting. Ironically in Guyana where the demographic group affected would be similar to that in the US, the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Clement Mr. Rohee, can propose this policy with such grave racist implications and undertones with all the confidence that it will escape scrutiny and challenge. Why? Because clearly in his view, in his assessment of the power balance ratio in Guyana, the children of a particular group of citizens are easy targets to go after in maintenance of the illusion that there is really an administrative interest to mount a robust assault against drug trafficking in Guyana.

Imagine that in every normal part of the world where drug trafficking has become a major concern of political administrations, the effort to contain it is rightfully focused on the large operators ensconced behind legitimate business fronts, and the agencies that operate to launder the proceeds from the trade. In Guyana, this nation where one can experience excruciating cognitive dissonance from trying to figure out the reasoning behind some of the policies adopted by the powers that be, and their prima facie acceptance from a sometimes less than curious independent press corps, things consistently seem to trend to the contrary.

Recently, the President of Guyana, in response to murmurs of dissatisfaction from quarters in US administration regarding our efforts at drug interdiction and money laundering, made statements that suggested that he was not of a mind to jeopardize prospects for local and foreign investments by scrutinizing the source of wealth of those so inclined, or words to that effect. Should some of us not presume that from this expressed presidential position, and the tone of the Minister of Home Affairs recent pronouncement, that our children will have to become pawns to protect a political or economic preserve. For what else is there to construe from the unambiguous comment quote, “I have made it known publicly that I, as Minister of Home Affairs, intend to carry a strong fight, irrespective of the criticism that people may make against me. There will be zero tolerance with respect to persons who are engaged in drug trafficking in this country. It is not something to be tolerated,”. “He further noted that great efforts will be made to curb this action, especially among unemployed young people, whom he believes are more vulnerable”. As a matter of logic and commonsense, shouldn’t those great efforts be concentrated especially among those who we know possess the means and the influence to keep this trade going? Is the selling of a couple of spiffs of marijuana at a street corner or from some remote bottom house or shack more likely to concretize drug trafficking in Guyana than say, the shipping of chemical compounds derived from the cocoa or opium plant?

Bearing in mind the importance of disclaimers when commenting on these kinds of issues in our discussion space, let me assure all and sundry that I am certainly not advocating for a total ignoring of any aspect of drug use and drug trafficking among any population segments in Guyana. I am saying that unless someone is retarded or believe in the tooth fairy, the foregoing statement of policy by the Minister of Home Affairs clearly implies a discriminate targeting of a specific segment of the Guyanese home bound population for incarceration. We can only interpret his intentions from the words with which he announces or illuminates them. And a zero tolerance in the case of drug trafficking that targets especially the young and unemployed, rather than the mysteriously rich and camouflageable employed, seem to be a coded assertion as to who will be attracting the main focus and attention of law enforcement in Guyana. I am not averse to law enforcement intervention to make Guyana drug free. I am averse to my sons, my nephews and my brothers and other male relatives becoming sacrificial lambs to the political correctness of presenting an illusion before international donors, and protecting an ensemble of local sacred cows.

In my humble opinion, this IS just another form of ethnic cleansing.

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