Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Stella Says…Let’s Explore the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 22 Nov 2005)

I have found myself exploring numerous statements and events of the last few weeks with the intention of finding the good ideas and tossing the not-so-good ones. There is always so much going on in Guyana, so sometimes I think it is necessary to cover more than just a single topic in one column.

For example, there is an ongoing debate about the marginalisation of the Afro-Guyanese. I have watched this discussion with much interest and although I have very much to say, I am only going to touch on this subject ever so slightly just to state the obvious.

Why not treat the marginalisation issue with more love?

In my opinion, if a race in any society feels it is being marginalised, then that feeling should be taken seriously - even if the rest of the society does not seem to think this claim has merit. Have we grown so cold-hearted that we can so easily dismiss the feelings of others when they cry out for help?

To ignore this claim of marginalisation is the same as having a child who tells his parents they give all the other children more attention than they do him and the parents respond by waving it off as being silly. Whether the claim is true or not, the child feels he is being marginalised and good parents would go out of their way to make sure that child feels as connected to the family as the other children.

Disregarding these feelings could lead to very harsh consequences as the child grows farther away from the family and resentment sets in because his feelings of marginalisation have been proven to be true since the parents have done nothing to help him feel more accepted and cared about.

It is not as if there needs to be empirical proof that marginalisation is actually occurring for us to care about each other. Why should we need proof that a portion of Guyana’s countrymen are feeling alienated from the rest of the nation before we extend a caring hand of inclusion?

If this is the perception of any part of Guyanese society, we should be working to bridge the gap rather than debating its merit. Again, it is not the proof that needs to be considered, it is the perception. Why not just help other Guyanese to feel like they matter too?

This brings me to my next topic, which touches on how we should care for the people of Berbice and why we should not fully employ Peter Ramsaroop’s version of running a government like a company.

In his business column last Friday in Stabroek News, Peter drew a strong correlation between running a country and running a company. I know Peter personally, so I know how successful he has been as a businessman. He runs a tight shift. However, although there may be certain aspects of running a company that can successfully cross over into running a country, I am just not too sure it can be applied across the board.

Peter mentioned the example of how the Berbice Bridge project should have been put off and the road to Brazil started instead. I am sure this makes sense to a businessman who is hoping for an economic boost in Guyana. However, I am not too sure there would be even one person in Berbice who would agree with Peter on this idea.

There are times when a government must choose to pursue a project that is not going to bring a profit. Sometimes the choice must be to help the people and the result will be a loss of money. It is at these times when we must remember that although the government has a responsibility to stabilise and grow the economy, they also have a responsibility to build a solid infrastructure that connects all parts of the country.

From an economic standpoint, I am sure the Berbice Bridge is a revenue vacuum that will suck up lots of money – a sharp contrast to what a road to Brazil would produce when done. However, good leadership is about more than making a profit; it is also about taking care of the people. This time, the people need a bridge – here’s hoping they actually get one.

While we are on the topic of caring about the people, we can move on to our next subject. I want to reiterate a question that was asked not to long ago – Why not bring in outside help to combat the crime?

At the beginning of October, businessman Deo Sighn made a very good point, why has Guyana not brought in outside help to combat the crime? This is exactly a question I asked a friend after reading about how UN peacekeepers have brought stability to previously crime-riddled countries.

There is an ominous foreboding that plagues each election year with intense fear. Further, there seems to be crime spurts that pop up out of nowhere and then disappear just as fast. The crime spurt phenomenon alone is enough to peek the interest of even a casual observer, much less those who actually keep track of these types of activities.

For example, during the most recent crime spree the criminals exhibited behaviour that was not typical of their usual modus operandi. They were brazen and forward, even to the point of conducting their unseemly activities in broad daylight and on high profile targets.

However, just as quickly as these crime spree show up, they disappear and somehow the criminals go back to conducting their business as they always have – under the cover of night and on those who have little recourse for protection. Very curious indeed.

Of course there is also the ever-looming threat of election-time violence. It weighs heavy on my mind and heart, as I’m sure it does for many others as well. Which brings us back to the question at hand - why hasn’t Guyana brought in outside help to keep peace during volatile times like the elections?

The very presence of UN troops in other countries has curbed violence and saved lives. Perhaps it would be wise to ask for some outside help to keep violence at bay before it ever gets started – especially since the elections are coming soon. It is obvious that Guyana’s government cannot handle these types of situations and if it can save lives and keep peace, why not give it a try? It could be well worth the effort.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

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