A most disillusioned robbery victimMy Response
I wish to register my profound disappointment and frustration at the state of affairs of this country. My business, GAIN-MART, was robbed on 24/01/06 at approximately 20:00hrs by four armed bandits who in the process took all of our money, jewellery and other valuables.
We were severely beaten and along with our two children, ages seven and two, were all traumatized beyond explanation.
I had to undergo a brain scan for injuries to my head at the St Joseph Mercy Hospital at a cost of $25,000, plus pay other fees for doctors and drugs.
I guessed we were not shot because we complied and as one of the bandits who were confronted by my seven-year-old son said to his accomplice as they were about to leave, “Let's go. We have enough”.
In retrospect I wondered if bandits can be satisfied. On the night of the robbery the police responded rather quickly, but that was all.
To date (29/01/06) a proper statement has not been taken.
I visited the Sparendaam Police Station on three separate occasions at the request of the police there, but every time I went there they seemed overwhelmed with work and disorganised and could not take my report.
How will this case ever be solved if the details are not taken?
Perhaps I am naïve to believe that this case will ever be solved. Is it fair for me to go again to the police? I hardly think so.
Apart from giving vital information to the police I also require a police report to take to GT&T to claim a refund for stolen phone cards.
After the robbery, we contacted all three major newspapers. Both SN and Kaieteur News carried initial stories the following day, while KN followed up with a more detailed report. The SN reporter had promised to do a detail report the next day but did not show. Nevertheless I wish to thank both of these newspapers for the coverage they have given to this case.
The Guyana Chronicle was a gross disappointment. They were contacted on four separate occasions.
On the fourth occasion I spoke with a male reporter and told him that I was of the opinion that the “Chronicle” did not want to carry our story because it would make the PPP look bad.
He responded that they were aware of the story but it was the Editor's call.
I went on to tell him that both my spouse and I were supporters of the PPP and further, that our grandparents and parents were/are “Jaganites”. My children were supposed to grow to become “Jagdeoknights”.
I explained further that we were strong supporters of the Guyana Chronicle, placing weekly classified ads with them.
We had never done Ads with either KN of SN. Despite all of this the Chronicle did not carry our story.
Customer loyalty which is so crucial in business today will now be taken into consideration in the placement of future Ads.
Henceforth, one less “Chronicle” will be sold everyday or perhaps more than one. The support we have received from family, friends and customers both locally and overseas tells me now that both KN & SN are widely read newspapers.
In the fight against terror perpetrated on people and property of the USA, the US President George W. Bush has quite admirably declared war against the terrorist. He has taken it personally upon himself to ensure that his people, the Americans, are safe and protected at all or any cost. The parallel for us in Guyana is quite the opposite.
President Jagdeo has failed or seems reluctant to want to mirror President Bush's approach despite the continued brutality being unleashed on his supporters. Everyday it's the same story: different families, predominantly supporters of the PPP and Indian Guyanese. It is a myth that such activities make the support base of the PPP stronger because in our case it will certainly have a negative effect, which will be further expanded by our other relatives and friends.
My humble advice to President Jagdeo is to declare war immediately on these terrorists, failing which Guyana will be accelerated into a failed state.
Our Home Affairs Minister is most inconspicuous as crime continues unabated. Such is the behaviour of the PPP towards its known supporters.
Let it be known that I am in no way seeking to have sympathy. I simply wish to highlight our plight which is quite possibly the same experienced by other victims.
At the rate at which we are proceeding it is my belief that Guyana will commence on the road to development in a little more than ten decades or so from now. I doubt if my children or self will be allowed to make a meaningful contribution; such is the level of my confidence at this time.
In view of the foregoing, I am certainly not impressed by the efforts of those responsible for the safety and security of the productive citizens of this country.
By the way Mr. Editor, could you or any one suggest a suitable source who could offer some form of treatment for my traumatized children? They have not quite been the same since. Please contact me on telephone 222-3488.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Sunday, January 29, 2006
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 29 Jan 2006)
When I was a child in school, I never even gave a thought to college or getting a higher education. There was not one person that I knew of in my family who had ever gone to college. The little I knew of my father’s side of the family was that they were probably farmers until the last generation, when they all became alcoholics instead.
On my mother’s side, I only know of my grandmother, also named Stella, and of my mother and her six sisters. They were all poor and never privileged to such indulgences as education. In fact, my mother only had a primary school education. This was before mandatory attendance was enforced in the U.S.
As such, I did not grow up in a family that even once brought up the thought of getting a higher education. In fact, most of those in my family didn’t even complete secondary schooling. Therefore, I always assumed that I would continue to live in the same weighty poverty that had forever shackled my family. They were proud of their poverty too and when I made moves to rid myself of the same poverty, I had an auntie who told me I grew up poor, my family was poor and I would always be poor too – so just get use to it.
It was a Guyanese who helped me find my way out of poverty and introduced me to the benefits of getting a higher education. Which is why it pains me that so many Guyanese have such an exaggeratedly low self-image whilst believing that people in the U.S. live in an embellished paradise.
Can you imagine for just one minute that a young Guyanese man from an educated home taught a poor American girl from an uneducated home that she had a future outside of poverty? If you can, then half of the battle is already won because that means you can see Guyana achieving her full glory – and it won’t come by way of a political victory, it will come by way of the people.
As I mentioned before, I met my husband at a young age. When we met, he was in his first year at a university. Both of his parents had received a solid education in Guyana and his father went on to receive a Doctorate Degree while in the States, so I was thrust into a family who valued education and taught me to raise my own educational expectations as well. And I am so glad.
This higher personal standard combined with an opportunity to study, made a world of difference in my life. Consequently, I raised my own children with high academic goals too and now my two oldest are in higher educational institutions, one at a university and another at a community college.
In short, it was a Guyanese who gave me the hope and opportunity to create an occupation for myself that is both fulfilling and rewarding. Which brings me to an email I received the other day from a young woman in Guyana who lamented over her seemingly hopeless situation.
I will not reveal this young woman’s name for fear that someone might take retribution on her for merely speaking the truth, but she deserves to have her story told. All of Guyana’s youth deserve to have their stories brought to the forefront of society.
She told me, “I am a policewoman not by choice but desperation in job selection, I have my qualification but I am a black woman with not much money and contacts.” Notice the key word in my friend’s statement – desperation. Guyana’s young people are being refused the security that rightfully belongs to them. They have no guarantee of academic security, personal security or economic security. I can completely sympathise with this sentiment and can feel the sense of despondency that must overshadow them as if it was my own despondency.
Providing this young generation with the equipment it needs to successfully navigate the modern world should be one of the foremost priorities on the election agenda. My friend also confided that she was not happy with the political party she voted for in the last elections. Who can really blame her? It seems with all of the politicking that goes on in Guyana; it never results in any substantial changes in the areas of real issue and import.
The politicking in this country is all about how one party can out manoeuvre the other party and very little attention is actually given to the real people, with their real problems, who want real change. Economic security is more than just a offering a respectable education, once the young men and women graduate, they need to have an array of occupational choices with salaries that will help them fashion a good life for themselves. In turn, they will provide the same opportunities for the next generation.
This is how John Mootooveren put it in a letter to the Editor on January 20, “So why haven't young people challenged this new economic and political system? One reason is that we've been raised to view our struggles as personal problems, rather than seeing how the rug has been pulled out from under us. While we sense that something has gone wrong, we still look to our own behaviour and decisions as the root cause of why we can't get ahead - especially when we compare our own lives to the riches that seem so prevalent.”
The young people of Guyana are desperate for someone to offer them a promising future, so desperate that some are selecting careers out of “desperation in job selection” and others have turned to a life of crime. What kind of life is this? What kind of future will these young people have?
I remember feeling that same desperation and wanting with everything inside me to break free from the generational cycle of poverty. Luckily, a Guyanese came along and helped me find the untapped potential that lay dormant inside and to reach that potential in a powerful way. Where are the Guyanese who will do the same thing with this nation’s youth?
I do not believe the current administration has the capacity or the desire to create the type of country these young people so desperately desire. I have already mentioned that women should not vote for any party that does not address their issues. Now I am encouraging Guyana’s young people to do the same.
If a party does not care enough about you to include you in their platform – then they do not deserve your vote. This is your country and if you don’t demand a competent government, then you can only expect more desperate youth and victimised women.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I will use this opportunity to commence my response to Stella’s article “This is worthy of discussion for all of Guyana, Bisessar [Part 1]” dated Sunday, 23 January, 2006.
It’s not easy and it would be quite lengthy covering a couple of columns trying to deal with the kind of spin that Stella has put on many issues.
In a previous article I pointed out that Stella seems to have accepted the “two race-based party” slogan as true, and as the basis for analysis without first proving that it is so in reality. I cannot recall that she responded.
I also pointed out to her that her dependence on the media may distort her understanding of what is taking place as the media is usually negative. The same may be true of Chavez.
In “CovertActionQuarterly.org” Kersap Shekhdar stated: “The media of this country (America) are no longer independent news organs but are shills and “whores” for the government and the powerful.” He continued, “An officially supported apparent campaign of thought control is underway, as the government and its media channels barrage the public with slogans, misinformation and propaganda terms. It goes undetected by the vast majority of people, for the most part the campaign succeeds.”
Is it possible that Stella proves the truth of this statement as she sees nothing positive taking place in Venezuela? And even when she mentions something that can be seen as positive she, utilizing some kind of convoluted logic, makes it out to be not good.
I would like among other things, to correct Stella’s distortion, and misapplication of what I said with regard to Marx’s position on socialism/communism to suit her narrow interest to criticise Chavez and by extension make the situation analogous to the Guyana government.
Stella suggested that Marx ideology allows for the distribution of wealth according to need and not utility and that the citizens, regardless of their occupation, and would enjoy a relatively similar life style” with no disparity. She concluded that “Chavez form of socialism/communism” is not as defined by Marx.
Anyone who read my article would recall that I specifically differentiated socialism from communism. Socialism is from according to ability to according to work done and very futuristic. Communism is from according ability to according to needs.
Stella, why are you accusing Chavez of not practising a present impossibility, communism?
And why are you ignoring my reference to objective laws and the nature of the relations of production and productive forces.
It seems that even though, as you admitted, I defined the terms well, you still seem not to understand them.
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 26 Jan 2006)
Smiling is good for you. This notion occurred to me this week when I read a letter to the editor from Angela Jones encouraging the staff at the General Post Office (GPO) to smile. Since my last couple of columns have been sort of heavy – and made a few prattling persons pickled (PPP) – I thought it would be nice to talk about something light for a change.
Guyana has so many very serious issues to be addressed on any given day that it seems beneficial to take a much needed break every once in a while just to smile. Smiling has always been one of my favourite pastimes. Well, smiling and reading, but the book I am reading right now is not a smiley-type of book.
It is about nanoparticles coming to life through a mishap at a lab. The nanoparticles then prey on living organisms, such as people and animals, to create more bacteria to sustain and enhance their pre-programmed swarming behaviour. I am only about two-thirds of the way through the book, but I am hoping the hero of the story, a middle-aged programmer, can find a way to destroy the rouge nanoparticles before they move out of the desert and into heavily populated areas.
See what I mean? The book does not make you smile, but it is so very intriguing and reading helps me to relax, which in turn keeps a smile on my face. That is the first step to being able to smile, knowing what makes you smile. For example, when my daughter calls me from college, I smile. When I have a good hair day, I smile.
When I see how passionate Freddie is about Guyana, it makes me smile. When I see letters to the Editor from fictional persons who propagate the propaganda of the PPP, I cannot help but smile. When I see pictures of Robert Persaud, MBA it makes me smile because he looks so much like my nephew and it makes me want to pinch his cheeks.
Last week, this paper ran a picture on its front page of the President surrounded by a large group of people and his arms around a sweet older woman. Everyone was smiling, which I thought was odd since the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the flooding situation. Be that as it may, that lady had such a beautiful smile that it made me smile.
For all of those crass grumps who would belittle the value of smiling, I took it upon myself to find some reasons to smile. I found these reasons on a Website (www.smileycollector.com) that I will share with you. Smiling is free, legal and non-fattening. It gives your mouth something to do when you are not eating or talking. Smiling makes you look like the “after” picture instead of the “before” picture and it gives you those cute little dimples that no one can resist.
This Website said that smiling makes you look innocent too. I wonder if that is true since I have seen some wicked-looking smiles in my lifetime. Freddie once backed down from an argument just because he saw my smiling picture, so maybe that statement is true. I wonder if the PPP looks at my smiling picture and thinks, “She looks so innocent.”
I also read a tongue and cheek article by Shannon Wand on the benefits of smiling. She said, “Smiling is the easiest, cheapest way to improve your looks. Try it. Go to your mirror and give a great big smile and see if you don’t want to make out with yourself! It takes about as much effort as blinking and we do that without even thinking. I’m smiling right now and it’s all I can do not to grab myself and go smooch me in a dark corner somewhere! Smiling is just that powerful.”
I don’t believe I have ever felt that great about my smile, but you get the point - smiling makes you look better. It makes you feel better too. There is a chemical reaction that plays a part in the smiling. I’m not quite clear on whether smiling releases these good chemicals into our system, or if the good chemicals are the elements that produce the smiles on our faces. Either way, the absolute conclusion is this – smiling is good for you.
Smiling makes others feel good too, which is why politicians are always smiling (well, except for Corbin). When we see someone smiling, it is natural to smile back even if we do not know the reason they are smiling. So by smiling, we can help others look good and feel good too.
Wand maintains that smiling will help you make money too. She said, “It’s been proven that smiling people make more money and have free sausage given to them more regularly than non-smiling people… The truth is that smiling makes you look happy and happy people are desirable. Let’s take, for example, a famous star like Julia Roberts. She sure does smile a lot and isn’t she really rich and popular?”
Okay, I admit that Wand is obviously not a doctor, but she does have a good point about those who smile. The truth is that we would all rather be around someone who is smiling and happy than to be around a grump who is complaining all the time.
No, smiling is not a cure for all of society’s woes. It will not clean the clogged canals or fix broken streetlights. However, it just might help make life a little more enjoyable.
I think this is the point Angela Jones was attempting to make to the staff at the GPO. Perhaps an experiment is in order. We can call it the Smiley Experiment. Here it is, if the staff at the GPO is not smiling, then as many patrons as possible should smile at them to see if it will help them to crack a smile. Those in the PNC should use the same concept to help Corbin with his smiling deficiency. Hey, it can’t hurt to try.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 24 Jan 2006)
In my column on Sunday, we began a discussion that took a closer look at how Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, is slowly and slyly replacing that country’s democratic status with an autocratic rule. The purpose of this exercise was to determine if any of these practices could be applied to Guyana and its sitting government.
I drew some interesting behavioural correlations between Chavez and the PPP, which included the distribution of wealth only to those who serve a political purpose, allowing the national infrastructure to decay and of letting crime run rampant as part of a Hobbesian approach to governing – which maintains that the more barbarous a populace is allowed to become, the more it will want a government to intervene into almost every aspect of life to preserve a form of personal security. Hobbes maintained that the more chaos is allowed to reign, the more the people will desire state intervention.
This latter point is where I would like to resume this discussion by examining the current flooding situation. There is no shortage of complaints of governmental incompetence over this issue, of which I have also contributed. However, when doing some research on Chavez and the way he manipulates these types of situations to make the people more dependent on him and thereby creating a stronger sense of public loyalty, I realised that perhaps the PPP is not as incompetent as they appear to be at face value.
This thought was further solidified as I read an article by Emile Mervin in Sunday’s issue of the online publication, Guyana Gazette. The article, “Decision 2006: ‘It’s About the Economy, Stupid,’” takes a statement made by Bill Clinton during his campaign for U.S. president and applies it to the current pre-election status in Guyana. Mervin said, “‘Stupid’ here is not intended to denigrate as much as it is to differentiate between a commonsense approach and a foolish approach to governance in Guyana. To say that the PPPC's approach leaves a lot to be desired is to put it mildly; but when one takes a hard look at Guyana and Guyanese, what the PPPC is doing flies in the face of all logic and everything sensible. It is downright stupid!”
Or is it? Don’t get me wrong, I thought Emile’s piece was brilliant, but is the PPP really that incompetent? Robert Persaud is no dupe; that is for sure. He may think the rest of us are dupes and that is why he insists on putting out propaganda that is intellectually insulting, but overall he seems to be intelligent. In fact, many in the PPP rank and file seem to be highly intelligent. So how can a party of so many intelligent people be so incompetent? Perhaps we are looking at this the wrong way. Instead, could it be that the PPP is actually very competent in what its true goal is – chaos?
Could the Chavez-like attributes being exhibited by the PPP - the decaying infrastructure, the rampant crime, the perpetual poverty, etc. - actually be a very competent implementation of the Hobbesian philosophy? Has the plan all along been to allow more chaos to reap more control? I believe it is very likely, and if this is the case, it is working.
Last week there were protests by those from the western villages of West Coast Berbice. These people wanted the President’s attention because they believed he was the only one who could fix their flooding problems. A couple weeks ago, the people of Mahaicony greeted the President with a parade amidst their own tragic flooding situation. How is it that a government that is so “incompetent” can get such a warm welcome from the very people who suffer at the hands of that incompetence? This is Hobbes’ philosophy in action.
In short, the more incompetent the PPP becomes, the more chaotic the state becomes, and the more the people will cry out for the government to intervene in every aspect of society. If the PPP is indeed using this form of autocracy, it would explain why Guyana can never get ahead economically and why crime can never be fully reigned in. In fact, it would explain a lot. The national chaotic situation created by a government’s “incompetence” is the tool used to ensure its control over the people instead of the people’s control over the government.
As such, our frustration at the government’s gross incompetence only plays into the master plan as poverty pushes crime to dig its talons in deeper and flooding creates so much confusion and hopelessness that the people cry out for the president to do something. In such a state, it is easy to see how over time Guyana’s democracy will be replaced with an autocratic rule – and most of the people will be happy about it, just like they are in Venezuela – because they do not understand that 1) the government created their chaotic state to start with and 2) their plight will not improve under an autocratic leader because he/she must maintain chaos in order to assure the continued loyalty of the people. Crime can never be gone, poverty can never be gone and chaos can never be gone – or the government loses control.
Consider this, Chavez runs Venezuela’s billion-dollar oil company very successfully. How is it then, that he cannot run the country just as effectively? It is by choice. Even more importantly, consider this, how is it that millions and millions of dollars of international aid rolled in for the flooding situation in 2005 and yet the government was completely and totally unprepared when the floods came this year. Was it by choice?
There are only about 750,000 people in Guyana. Is it really so difficult for a party full of highly intelligent people to be so incompetent that they cannot efficiently run a small country like Guyana? Is this incompetence by choice? Is it actually a very competent implementation of the Hobbesian theory?
With general elections coming very soon, certainly these are questions that should be thoroughly explored before choosing the next government.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Warning : Readers are forewarned that should you choose to be influenced by this column, you run the risk of suffering from congenital malfunctioning of your powers of reasoning. Read on therefore at the risk of your mental health.
This newspaper has a policy of not interfering with the opinions of columnists, except in the case of incitement to violence, race hate, slander, libel and misrepresentation of facts -- the latter of which is sometimes as obvious as the causes of the high waters in the Mahaicony basin -- none of which are permissible for publication.
Without attempting to dictate the views of anyone, the editor has always reserved the right to ensure that misrepresentations of facts do not take place, and when detected, suitable corrections made.
An example was when the Peeper stated, based on information received, that Rajendra Bisessar was an adviser to the President. The fact is that Bisessar is not an adviser to the President and therefore had an ethical duty as a columnist in this newspaper to bring this fact to the attention of the readers, so as not to allow them to be misled by the Peeper. Bisessar, however, for reasons that only he knew best, did not seek to make the correction of this important issue and because the editors felt that something as important as this should not have gone uncorrected, he was brought to book.
Out of a similar obligation I must this week ask sweet and adorable Stella to verify that one of my fans, David Jenkins, did apologize to her. Jenkins has forwarded to my mailbox, an exchange of correspondence between himself and sweet and adorable Stella's better half, and from my reading of the exchanges I could find no mention of any apology from David Jenkins nor did I detect any sexist resentment on his part.
And I certainly did not infer from what I read that Jenkins did not like the fact that a woman is being allowed to speak her mind.
As a matter of background, readers are informed that Mr. Jenkins had taken offence to Stella's reference to some politicians as wimps, jellyfish and possessing egos that sometimes get the better of them.
Jenkins then issued a two part challenge to Stella, one of which was to publish a recent photograph of herself and the second to come to Guyana six months before the elections and stay at least three months after.
Stella's response in these pages was very upsetting to Jenkins -- he even at one stage was contemplating giving up on Guyana -- and he asked that Peeper compare what Stella wrote about him to his email exchanges with her better half.
In order to put this matter to rest and in order to satisfy Jenkins and readers that Stella would not claim that he made an apology unless he did, I am asking the sweet and adorable lady to forward to my mailbox the exchange of correspondence where Jenkins apologized and where he took umbrage that a woman should speak her mind.
From the correspondence sent to me by Jenkins, I can find no mention of an apology. Looking forward to hearing from you, Sweet and Adorable.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 22 Jan 2006)
Rajendra Bisessar has taken me to task yet again, this time for applying the “C” word (communism) to describe certain actions of the PPP in 2005. I concede (slightly) that I did indeed push the envelope when I said it had been difficult to stave off the communist whip last year, however, at the same time, I believe there is merit to a discussion that explores this line of thought.
In fact, I believe an open discussion like this one is long overdue, Bisessar, and would like to thank you for broaching the subject. Still, I do not think it is specifically the ideology of communism that warrants so much time and attention, but rather the imposition of an autocratic government on a democratic state.
For example, surely no one can deny that a vile autocracy reached into the UG in 2005 and ripped away that institution’s autonomy in one fell swoop. Even this past week, Guyana’s sitting government has attempted to control yet one more vital part of society – the trade unions.
In order to understand what it is the PPP is doing, little by little so as to not to alarm the nation, perhaps we should take a look at what Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela over the last decade. No argument can be made to counter the fact that Chavez is indeed a democratically elected official, much like the PPP. Still, it seems as if Venezuela’s president has cunningly found ways to control more and more of the nation, whilst maintaining an appearance of democracy.
Chavez is no ordinary authoritarian leader. On the surface level, civil society has remained intact and there are no obvious signs of state-sponsored terror. Even more, Venezuela has an active and raucous opposition party. These aspects alone certainly will make one think twice before calling this president a dictator.
Yet there are other pesky little factors that should also be considered when evaluating the level of democracy in Venezuela. It seems Chavez has found a way to circumvent those nasty details of a democratic state. He contrived a new constitution that reduced the nation’s bi-cameral legislature to a single chamber and required only a limited majority to pass major legislation, rather than two-thirds, to secure the necessary changes to control more and more of the country.
He expanded the Supreme Court from 20 to 32 justices and made sure he filled the new positions with buddies who were loyal to him. There is now no congressional oversight of military affairs; Chavez is the head honcho of everything. This includes the nation’s largest state-owned oil company, PDVSA, which according to an article in the January/February issue of Foreign Policy brought in an estimated $84 billion in sales for 2005.
Ideally in a socialist country, Bisessar, this $84 billion would have been distributed to the good citizens of Venezuela. However, that has not been the case. Instead, the money goes to Chavez’s loyalists, which does not include the opposition party.
Speaking of the opposition party, Chavez has found a way to keep them sufficiently antagonised enough to give the appearance of a democracy, while removing every avenue by which the opposition can effectively challenge him. He uses this situation to polarise the nation. It becomes the wealthy and middle-class against the poor. Then in a Robinhood-type move, he has changed the laws to allow him to snatch up the land of those who oppose him.
Therefore, the poor will believe he is their champion even though they have seen very little of the money that is pouring into the country. The wealth is not distributed to each according to their need, as Marx would have liked, but according to their political utility. He further secures the devotion of the people by allowing chaos to prevail so as to promote constant insecurity for the citizens. To this end, he has implemented a Hobbesian philosophy, which states that the more bestial a populace is allowed to become, the more it will tolerate – yea, earnestly desire – state intervention into almost every aspect of society to control the volatile elements.
Instead of spending money on maintaining a functioning infrastructure, Chavez allows the nation’s crumbling infrastructure to enhance the state of chaos and instead trickles money into social services such as run down clinics. Instead of using that big wad of money to alleviate poverty, he subsidises the prices of neighbourhood grocery stores. Therefore, when the poor start to feel overwhelmed in their situation, Chavez helps out by handing out money here and there to soften their plight.
Does any of this sound familiar, Bisessar? This is the new type of autocratic government that is being peddled today. It is essential to the spirit of this discussion, to examine these traits exhibited by Chavez to determine 1) if democracy is still indeed intact in Venezuela 2) if this is truly what Marx intended for those who claim to be socialists, and 3) whether any of these traits found in Chavez’s administration can be applied to Guyana’s ruling government.
Firstly, in a democratic state – or rather a representational republic – the people are the ones who determine those who will decide their fate in life. If the elected government does something that is opposed by the people, the people have the responsibility and the right to protest and subsequently remove the sitting government. However, I maintain that if the sitting government imposes roadblocks that make it difficult for the people to remove it from power, whether through legislature or by extreme polarisation of the voters that will ensure loyalty to the sitting government, then democracy in its truest form has been denied. So I would say that democracy is therefore on shaky grounds in Venezuela.
Secondly, to be true to the intent of Marx’s ideology, then distribution of wealth should be according to need and not according to utility. In such a society, the citizens, regardless of their occupation, would enjoy a relatively similar lifestyle. There would be no chasm of disparity in housing, forms of transportation, food, clothing, etc. As such, it can only be said that Chavez’s form of socialism/communism is not in fact the same as the definition intended by Marx, a definition you explained quite well in your column, Bisessar.
Thirdly, we are now obligated to examine the extent to which this evolved form of socialism has infiltrated Guyana. Therefore, it is necessary to see if it is possible to draw any correlations between the Venezuelan government and the government in Guyana.
I have so much more yet to say on this subject, Bisessar, and intend to resume this discourse in my column on Tuesday at which time we will examine the chart I have created and discuss its implications. I do hope others will contribute to this discussion since it is of utmost importance to the understanding of where Guyana’s future will go should it allow the sitting government back in power for another five years.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 19 Jan 2006)
On Monday I went to put Peeping Tom's new email address into my computer's address book (I forgot to do so the first time it was announced). The first entry section was for the person's first name, so I typed in Peeping. The second section for entry was for the person's last name, so I put Tom.
Then I realised that “Tom” is not really his last name and perhaps Peeping Tom should all be in the first name section and I gave him no last name. In any case, I am now ready to email Peeping Tom about all of my concerns regarding Guyana , should the mood ever strike me. Not that it ever has yet.
However, it seems that my new best friend, David Jenkins, emailed Peeps when the letter he wrote to the editors of all three dailies did not get published. David sent me a copy of his open challenge early last week too. He really wanted it published, but Peeps was right David, I think it was the second word of the first paragraph that kept your letter out of the papers.
David was so desperate to get this challenge published that he inadvertently emailed it to my husband, who had already read it because I forwarded it to him when I received it. My husband told Mr. Jenkins in no uncertain terms that he owed me an apology for the second word in the first paragraph. Jenkins apologised and has been sending me pictures of his lovely family ever since.
However, he and my husband had an exchange of emails in which David revealed his real reason for being so upset. Although he told Peeps, “I am baffled that she gets away with open attack on Guyanese personalities,” - he told my husband that he couldn't imagine how a woman is allowed to get away with such a thing.
So it was a woman thing. David has no problem with Freddie or Peeps “attacking” Guyanese personalities – just the woman columnist. It is suspicious that David's fuming open challenge came immediately after one of my Sunday columns that explained how much women like sex too and should expect to be as satisfied as their husbands.
I may be wrong, but I think it was the sex article that pushed David overboard. I think that was when he decided that something needed to be done about this opinionated (insert the second word of the first paragraph) before I contaminated the rest of the world.
At least he acknowledged that I am non-partisan in the inclusion of all the political parties when doling out critiques, he just didn't like the fact that a woman was allowed to speak her mind on such things. God forbid that women should start acting like they have a place in society. What's next? Will animals start having rights too?
David also told my husband that he sympathised with him because he has to be married to me. Funny, I never hear my husband complain. In fact, he seems to be quite happy – and he let David know as much. What is this world coming to when men start finding smart, opinionated and sassy women attractive?
Peeps might want to be careful though; David may soon demand a “close-up 5 x 7” of him to be printed in “all the newspapers in Guyana ”. This could prove to be problematic for Peeps. Or maybe that request is only for the woman columnist too. Boy, I just get all kinds of special treatment, don't I?
Don't be jealous, guys. You are all special in your own way too. Especially the writer of the “Dem Boys” column. The columnist said I was on the right side of 40. Does that mean there is a wrong side of 40? And that Freddie is on the wrong side? If so, does that mean that I am always right and Freddie is always wrong? Don't answer that Freddie, you might be wrong.
Freddie was being a big brother again this week and warning me not to trust the PNCR. He is just so sweet. Freddie is watching out for me and I appreciate that. However, I'm not sure if he is afraid that I can be too naïve at times or if he is just protecting me from being the PNCR's mouthpiece. Either way, it's good to know that he has my back.
Speaking of the PNCR, Hamley Case sent me their anti-crime initiative a few weeks ago and I wrote a column in review of their strategy. However, I just found out that this column was not published. I wrote it around the holidays and things were a bit crazy during that time, so I think it must have inadvertently got lost in the fray.
In short, the strategy was good except for one very ominous omission – a detailed outline for combating crimes against women. Mr. Case dropped me another email this week letting me know that they are hard at work on this faux pas and will send me the amended initiative for review when it is done. (I can see Freddie shaking his head already).
I noticed a letter to the editor about me from Kinda Monkhouse last Monday too. Kinda maintained that I should take Peeps' New Year's advice and concentrate on social issues more than political ones. I like a woman who speaks her mind, Kinda. David doesn't like that though, so I'd walk lightly when he visits Guyana . I have thought about your suggestion and came to a conclusion.
As a rule, my columns tend to lean more toward social issues already. I do hit on political issues here and there as well, but mostly when political and social interests collide. I cannot go into as much depth as I would like to concerning political issues, since I am at a disadvantage in getting the first hand information necessary to make a serious analysis. Therefore, most of my political contributions are an overview of a general situation.
By the way, Kinda, pretty women can talk about politics too. In fact, more women in general need to talk about politics. Specifically, more Guyanese women need to talk about politics. That is when more people will take an interest in the nation's women's issues.
However, I am simply not a human-interest type of person - sorry. I do attempt to cover women's issues at least once a week or so. I understand that there is a difference between women's interests and women's issues, but again, I'm just not a women's interests type of writer either…though I do think women's issues should be of interest to women.
Would it make you happy if I shared my chocolate chip cookie recipe with you (I make the best ones in the world) or told you about the pair of shoes I scored at a great price the other day? If so, I'll try to work those titbits into my tedious women's issues articles and my fluffy political attacks.
Stella in her article captioned “Guyana is no place for political wimps” dated Thursday January 5, 2006, may have concluded that we have a lot of political wimps around. She may be right as some are afraid to make their support for third forces and new parties open to the public.
Some of the bravest seem to be living outside of Guyana . Maybe their independence allows for that kind of bravery.
I have no problem with Stella criticising or for that matter broad-siding the PPP, however I am concerned about her pedaling misconceptions and distortions to de-educate readers, in her efforts to do so. Stella seems to be adopting the strategy of Roar, that of using ideology and calling the PPP communist. She writes, “It has been difficult to stave off the communist whip in the last year.” What is she talking about? Is she mixing up countries in her article?
She continues, stating that she is a socialist (she needs to define this) and adds that there is a significant difference between socialism and communism and that “most communist governments - apparently some do not - impose rules on society without feeling a need to explain itself to the people. I am not aware of the existence of any communist countries, socialist yes, according to the definition of the founders.
There was primitive communism and for a period the practice of Christian communism.
With regards to dictatorial rule, I have stated before that there are types of economic systems, forms of government and methods of rule. Some of the bloodiest dictatorships were in capitalist societies.
Obviously Stella understands the concept of socialism and communism differently from people like me, Dr. Walter Rodney, Dr. Cheddi Jagan and those who came up with the concepts in the first place. The issue here is not whether we accept or reject these concepts, whether we believe in them or not but whether we understand them.
It is important for us to operationalise concepts as we enter into discussions or we may be using the same words but meaning different things.
Karl Marx - recognised as the brain of the millennium by the BBC poll - arrived at his understanding of socialism/communism by his particular analysis of history and the way society was transformed in the past. It must be noted that Fredriech Engels and Vladimir Lenin also made tremendous contributions to the development of these ideas.
Marx, using the materialist dialectics, a methodology that he developed, arrived at a method of analysing history known as “historical materialism”.
Historical materialism accepts the existence of objective economic laws that caused the transformation from communal to slave to feudal and then to capitalist society and predicts the transformation of capitalism to communism. It concludes that the development of technology facilitated the development of the productive forces resulting in the division of labour. This caused the transformation of a society with collective ownership to one where private property became dominant; and created the technological basis for the enslavement of people which resulted in the rapid expansion of private property. Society became class-based and the state emerged to protect not only the collective but also the superior economic class and private property. In this sense the state is oppressive especially when the ruling class is threatened.
As technology continued, slavery became retrogressive and revolution resulted in the emergence of feudalism. In the same way, technology resulted in manufacturing and the emergence of the capitalist class. The peasants had to be freed from the land to enable them to move to the cities to work in the factories. This was accomplished by the capitalist revolution, the first of which was in England , where through civil war the capitalist class took power.
Slave, slave master, serfs, lords, worker, capitalists are referred to as production relations.
Marx came up with the law of the constant development of technology and the idea that specific relations of production corresponded to specific levels of ‘productive force' development. Production relations that facilitated the further development and utilization of technology for increasing benefits, become retrogressive and a brake to production at a certain stage of technological advancement. Revolution takes place and the old relations are replaced by new ones, which correspond to the new level of development of the productive forces and facilitate further advancement.
The question to be considered is whether capitalism would face the same fate as its predecessors or would it be the last of the socio-economic formations. The issues are whether capitalism continues to foster real growth and development; whether the production relations of capitalist, workers and the way it distributes society's wealth, income through profits on the one hand and wages and salaries on the other, have now become retrogressive and a brake to growth and development.
Dr. Rodney and other Marxists saw the major contradiction of capitalist society being resolved and capitalism being replaced by socialism/communism, where the workers in unity with the intellegentia and the peasants would become the owners of the means of production through public ownership and the new ruling political class, replacing the ruling capitalist class.
Now one may disagree, but if one were to use the terms, it has to be defined in the manner and within the framework of those who coined them.
The theory concluded that, because of the peculiarities of the transformation of capitalism to communism, a transition period was required. Socialism is regarded as the transition period. The principle underlying socialism is, “From according to ability, to, according to work done”, while the principle of the futuristic communist system would be “from according to ability, to, according to needs” on the assumption that high technology with the correct production relations would be able to cater for the needs of all. It also assumes a successful cultural revolution that transforms man's attitude.
As for Stella believing that “there is some merit to certain capitalistic notions, Marxists theory assumes spiral development where the development facilitated by the past that are positive are retained. In the search for alternative to the capitalist mode of production man has to define in a creative way alternatives. Mistakes can be made and historical retrogression can take place.
But history has a way of bringing up again for action, that which is historically necessary in accordance to the theory of praxis. This is why we need to educate and why Marxist books were banned in America and in other countries.
I have in my article “Rich capitalism poor capitalism” explained the two side of this system and pointed to the accelerated increase in poverty and inequality in countries and between rich and poor capitalism.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
(Originally published in the The Caribbean Voice, December 2005 Issue)It is difficult to wish upon a star here in the DC area. I live in the thick of it all where lights blaze and traffic roars on a continuous basis. So it is almost impossible to find a star through all of these bright lights and the city haze, but tonight a single star is shining very bright and I intend to make my wishes known.
Actually, I know the star is not even a star; it is the planet Mars. However, I am not deterred from my mission to send out as many good thoughts and positive energy pulses as possible for the Caribbean. Therefore, tonight Mars will be a wishing star and it will listen to my hopes for 2006.
There can be no doubt that this year is destined to be an interesting one for the Caribbean. There are some highlights to anticipate, both as a community at large as well as individual countries. There is also an ample amount of dread in the hearts of many as we consider the violence and poverty that has been plaguing almost every one of the CARICOM nations.
I am not sure if my wishing star cares at all about politics, economic issues, racial harmony or good governance. Even so, the Caribbean can use all the help it can muster in these areas, so here I stand with a willing spirit and an armful of wishes that are ready to be tossed out for the universe to consider.
I will present Mars with my wishes in an orderly manner, so as not to tempt fate by confusing the cosmos. My first wish is small and may seem insignificant to the giant red planet, but it is nonetheless a very important one for the Caribbean – it is for organisation.
I know this seems like a silly thing and a waste of a perfectly good wish, but if the Caribbean hopes to host a good World Cup in 2007, there needs to be a significant increase in the level of organisation concerning almost every aspect of the event. The World Cup is the community’s chance to prove that it is more than just a pretty face. I have heard that wishing stars can be temperamental at times, so I hope a small wish like organisation does not seem too trivial a wish to ask of Mars.
The next wish I want to toss out into the galaxy is for a high level of trust and cooperation between the countries in regards to the new Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). This year is the dawn of the CSME; January 1 being the official start-date of this joint venture. On the 23rd of this month at least nine community leaders will gather in Jamaica for a ceremonial signing of the initial component of the single market aspect.
There are a number of views on the necessity, plausibility and potential of the CSME – some are positive and others are not. However, with the European Union’s sugar cuts hitting the region hard and ongoing violence putting a damper tourism, the community needs for the single market economy to work. And if it is to succeed, the community leaders need to extend an unprecedented amount of trust and cooperation to each other during 2006.
The CSME can bring the community several steps closer to stamping out poverty. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) cited in its December 2005 report a decline in overall poverty in the region since 2003. However, it also said that 41 percent of the region’s population remain in poverty and 17 percent live in conditions of extreme poverty. I trust that my wishing star understands how much the Caribbean needs an economic stabilising force – and soon.
We need to pause for just a moment while a cloud passes in front of my celestial guardian. (Pausing) There it is again! Shining bright as ever and waiting patiently for my next wish, which is for the various governments to realise the ongoing value of their Diaspora. I do not know one Diaspora who would not move heaven and earth to help his/her motherland. As such, the establishment of a reciprocal relationship could connect the human, financial and logistical resources of the Diaspora with their beloved homeland to promote regional development and investment. I truly do wish such a connection could be made that would bring those who are separated by distance back together under one vision for progress and prosperity. My star twinkled in response. I do hope that is a good sign.
My final wish is a doozy, but I am hopeful that the universe will be able to muster all of its cosmic power to handle such a large request. I wish for peace in the Caribbean. I wish for an end to disunity along racial lines. I wish to see the kidnappings stop, the random robberies and murders cease and for the rapists to completely disappear from the face of the Earth. Maybe Mars can make some room on one of its moons for those who commit these barbarous acts so they will be far, far away from here.
Crime can be directly linked to many of the ongoing Caribbean woes. Persistent criminal activity chases off both local and foreign investors, which leads to a depressed economic state, which creates a feeling of hopelessness and desperation in the people, which contributes to the deterioration of social values and increases the drive for multilateral corruption, which causes a breakdown in good governance and the solidarity of national infrastructures, which forces the citizens to move to another country that is safer and promises a brighter future. It is a cycle of despondency.
Crime has infiltrated almost every aspect of life in the Caribbean to the point that it now controls the hearts of the people and the streets on which they walk. From the random bombings in Jamaica to an unbearable influx of rapists region-wide, crime has a strangling grip of fear on the entire community.
I am not asking for a miracle from my wishing star, because although I want peace to reign in the Caribbean for a change, I know it needs to come by way of the people. So when I wish for peace, I want the cosmos to know that my definition of the word is an awakening of the citizens to their responsibility as members of society to demand an end of this constant onslaught of misery and pain. Lasting peace can come by no other means.
Therefore, although I suppose there is nothing wrong with tossing my wishes out to the universe and hoping something good will happen, perhaps it would be better to put my hope in the people. The hope we have is found in each and every citizen of the Caribbean and I believe 2006 is the year when the people will stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”
Therefore, each time you look to the stars this year let them remind you that the mankind has already conquered space. Let the stars tell you of the remarkable intelligence and the sea of courage it took to overcome the tremendous obstacles of the universe for the sake of exploration. In this you will find the hope to believe that the Caribbean can overcome its own tremendous obstacles for the sake of peace and prosperity.
Please feel free to borrow my star anytime since it is the brightest one in the sky right now. Just be sure to return it when you are done so it is ready for me whenever I need to find a little more hope too.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 17 Jan 2006)
On Sunday the people of Chile elected a new president; her name is Michelle Bachelet. In fact, Bachelet won the election by a good margin over her very wealthy opponent, economist and businessman Sebastián Piñera. Electing an unconventional woman as president is certainly no small feat for this conservative country that is predominantly Catholic.
Across the Atlantic Ocean on Monday, Africa's first elected female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, was sworn in as U.S. First LadyLaura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looked on. The inauguration was also attended by Bush's daughter and was watched over by two American warships. This high-level delegation was no doubt a clear sign of strong support for the Harvard economist.
Meanwhile, Germany 's new Chancellor, Angela Merkel has certainly wasted no time getting right to work. She has been making her diplomatic rounds with a trip to the U.S. last week and one to Russia this week. She has taken a tough stand on Iran 's nuclear programme, insisting that the country has “crossed the red line” and at the same time is moving toward building a warm relationship with Russia . That is feminine leadership in action.
For all those nescient men, who obtusely believed a woman's place was only in the home…well, it looks as if the woman's place is also as heads of state. This is indeed a week of historical proportions for all women and we can expect the situation of our sisters worldwide to get progressively better as women begin setting the international agenda.
In Chile , the women have high expectations of their new female president. In an article by the Financial Times (www.ft.com), a 54-year-old Chilean secondary school teacher said, “Men scorn our abilities; a woman president will shut them up.” The President-elect has plans to do much more than that.
Bachelet has said she will include an equal number of men and women in her cabinet. When she does this, Chile will have a serving Cabinet that is closely representative of the country's gender demography. If this trend continues, we will soon see governments at all levels that parallel the make-up of the nation at large.
Bachelet has also promised more childcare so women can easily participate in the work force. It is about time that women had some friends in high places, especially since male legislators have yet to seriously address issues that are uniquely related to women, such as childcare.
In Guyana , women deal with the fear of rape, abusive partners and absentee fathers on a daily basis. The steady stream of articles in the newspapers that report on these atrocious acts do not seem to reach the ears of the nation's male leaders, for if they did hear about these events, surely they would have taken the drastic measures necessary to put an end to the ongoing suffering of Guyana's women.
On the very first day of 2006, this newspaper devoted a significant portion of its front page to the issue of sexual assault and called for a national strategy that included improved forensic technology, a special court to deal with this sensitive issue and a tougher stance by the judiciary against perpetrators of these acts.
There was also a statement concerning the inaction of Guyana 's women's groups. I have nothing but genuine respect for the Red Thread and Help and Shelter organisations, but it is time to turn the fire up a notch or two, ladies. You are leaders of women and it is your responsibility to keep these issues at the forefront of the community's awareness.
However, you should not be expected to do it alone. There are plenty of women leaders in Guyana that can lend a helping hand. Should I name a few? Ah, why not! We should start with Denise Boodie and Karen DeSouza and their staff members. Then we should add other women of influence like Bibi Shadick, Deborah Osman-Backer, Sheila Holder, Clarissa Riehl, Miranda LaRose (yep girl, you too) and Kaieteur News very own Gwen Evelyn.
Who else? The list should also include the nation's businesswomen, church leaders and educators. Of course, we cannot forget the one woman who should be known throughout the country as a staunch advocate for women's issues, Janet Jagan.
There is one more person who should care about the women of Guyana too – his name is Bharrat Jagdeo. Mr. President, the women of Guyana need your ear concerning their issues.
I should also mention that although it was impressive that the PNCR finally stood up for itself regarding my assertion that they have been a “missing in action” opposition, they have yet to respond to my request for a crime strategy that includes the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and paedophilia. If you guys need some help, why not ask a woman?
As the world moves closer to gender equality this week with the introduction of three women as national leaders, I feel like this is indeed a significant moment in history and can't help but revel in the triumph of the 21st century woman. At the same time, having been reminded just this week (again) that I am only a woman and my place is beside my husband, I know there is still so far to go.
My husband let this person know in no uncertain terms that he would never belittle me by expecting me to be only a mother and a wife when he knows that I am far more than that, just as he is more than just a father and a husband. Now that is my kind of man!
I wonder how many times Chancellor Merkel, President Johnson-Sirleaf and President-elect Bachelet has had a man tell them to fall in line? Probably a lot, and I bet they did the same thing I did this week when a man tried to “put me in my place.” I laughed and laughed and laughed – then I went back to the books to try and make this world a little bit better.
Where is this woman's place? My place is not just “in the home”. Sure, I thoroughly enjoy the comfort of my cosy home and I love my husband and kids to pieces. But my place is also in the world - travelling, learning, teaching, working and being part of the global community. In short, the world is my playground.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Kaieteur News columnist, Stella Ramsaroop, writing in yesterday's edition of KN, informed us that PNC heavyweight, Sherwood Lowe, requested her thoughts on the PNC at this moment in time on Guyanese politics. It is a measure of the respect some people in the PNC have for Stella since her views are certainly not on the same wavelength of the PNC.
It is certainly also, a measure of a modesty on the part of Sherwood that he can go outside the circle of the PNC and enquire of the ideas of an independent mind. Mr. Lowe deserves our respect for such a new approach.
The question that has to be asked is how sincere is Sherwood? Is he honest about looking beyond the PNC's parameters for philosophical opinions? Or could this be a publicity campaign? I don't know Mr. Lowe at all. The little I know of him by his writings makes me feel that he belongs to the old culture that has enwrapped the two major political parties.
I have seen no one inside the young brigade of the PPP and the PNC that has wrested with the task of surmounting the inherent limitations of the PPP and PNC. Khemraj Ramjattan was the only one in the PPP; Trotman, the only one in the PNC.
That the PPP hasn't produced more of such people has to do with power and wealth. Why would young men, guaranteed of a prestigious job, an opportunity to accumulate wealth, and invested with influence and authority, rock the boat? Ramjattan was the exception because he was financially independent and had national standing.
It was in the PNC that more Trotmans should have been produced. The PNC is an opposition party and innovation, ingenuity and dynamism have to be manufactured to achieve the level of national support needed to take control of the government. There is only one reason why this scenario hasn't become a reality – the PNC is hopelessly trapped in its old mansion of race, violent politics and intellectual stultification.
Since I don't know Mr. Lowe, I have to believe that he is sincere in trying to discover new horizons. But those new paths have always been there since the PPP began to falter in the early stages of its rule with Cheddi Jagan from 1992 onwards. Is the PNC interested in these existing positive directions?
A long time ago, I remembered a statement the vastly experienced WPA leader (and someone I respect and admire immensely. I hope he and Eusi Kwayana return to live in Guyana ), Moses Bhagwan made to me. I asked him with all the power and resources Burnham had, why did he never seek to win the support of the Indians. After all, Jagan was hardly a great innovator.
Bhagwan's response was that he thought Burnham had given up on the realization of winning the Indians.
Had Burnham gone that route, such a culture would have transformed the nature of the PNC. For all his astute ability, Burnham was a miserable failure in this respect. His party is paying the price of that failure. My theory is that the PNC has rejected walking those new paths because its traditional political culture does not allow it to.
This explains the parallel existence of 13 years of bad governance and 13 years of arid, uninspiring, old opposition manoeuvres. Could Sherwood Lowe's correspondence to Stella be a search for the new landscape?
I don't want to be rude or insulting to Sherwood Lowe, but I doubt it very much. But it's there. It's there waiting for the PNC to embrace it. But the PNC can only do that with fresh leadership. It is the other side of the coin with the PPP. The eroding credibility, the disappearing popularity, the decreasing support have done absolutely nothing to cause the PPP to reflect much less to change its face and its policies.
The tragic thing about the PNC and PPP is that they are so hopelessly lost in a bygone age that no Mandela or Jesse Jackson or Bill Clinton or Kofi Annan (Jimmy Carter has given up) can put them back on track even if all of them come together and travel to Guyana.
At the psychological level, the PPP understands one thing only about Guyana as the party in power – the PNC is a Black party with Black people supporting it; we will not give them this country; it is us versus them. The PNC on the other hand, sees the PPP as an Indian party and it directs all its energies to fighting the PPP.
The dangerous, frightening and melancholy thing about these two parties is that they inculcate that belief system into the younger generation of the membership. Thus, young leaders in the PPP and PNC with good degrees to their names, with training at some respected universities cannot go beyond this political miasma.
This analysis of mine is not original. Raphael Trotman said he left the PNC because the party couldn't be beyond what I just described. When political commentators and businessmen say that Guyana's future lies with another political force, people accuse them of making a pitch for the party of their choice.
What these critics have to understand are the inner negativities of these two parties that drive them and they cannot produce a vision and a new political culture to take Guyana out of its rot. Speak to PPP and PNC leaders and they feel that the private sector will save Guyana . What about the bulk of the population that has lost imagination and faith and want to leave Guyana because they feel that the PPP and the PNC will forever dominate their country?
I wish you luck Stella in your advisory role to Mr. Lowe. I wish Mr. Lowe well too if he is looking for a modern meaning for the PNC. But this I will warn you Stella; don't trust the PNC leadership. They had 13 years to come good. When are they ever going to? I have to reply to you about your question of me being the AFC's mouthpiece. You are dead wrong. I am congenitally, an independent thinker. It runs in my blood.
It is useful that Stella Ramsaroop, in Kaieteur News January 15, has given us a better insight into her feelings towards the PNCR rather than fall back on her loose one-phrase quip.
One senses (maybe mistakenly) from her article a view of the PNCR that says damned if you don't and “election-time ploy” if you do.
She correctly advises that the PNCR should be about serving the people. The PNCR is about serving the people. But Stella seems to have a restricted view of what serving means. She is right to say serving means offering direct help to the people in distress or in need.
The PNCR does this to the best of its limited resources. And we do this with compassion. One of the more active and long-standing departments of the PNCR is its human service department.
It is involved in programmes to support the needy, the old and the otherwise vulnerable. Its work is on the ground, in the communities, among families.
I want to also mention here our service to the people during the January flood of 2005. The PNCR, with its Leader, Robert Corbin, tirelessly setting the pace, did an enormous amount of work bringing material relief and emotional comfort to a devastated nation.
I can easily put quantities to this effort. Let me rely instead on the assessment of one of PNCR's most relentless and hostile critics, Frederick Kissoon.
Yes, Stella, your Sweet and Sensitive Freddie, in one of his articles last month, stated that the PNCR was first out of the blocks with flood relief for the people, that the PNCR was all over the country bringing relief to the people, and that the party's efforts got little media coverage.
Who can be more anti-PNCR that Freddie? And for him to say that!
But serving the people is a much, much broader mission. The fight to put an end to government corruption is about serving the people.
The fight to get government to adopt a proper crime-fighting strategy is about serving the people. The fight to expose narco-politics in the PPP is about serving the people. The fight for shared governance and participatory politics is for the people.
The fight to get all the constitutional reforms implemented is for the people. Our vision for a new Guyana is for the Guyanese people (we are pleased, by the way, that you read our weekly articles in Sunday's KN).
Has the PNCR extended itself to be an effective opposition? Yes. Could it have done more?
Yes. Is the PNCR or Robert Corbin the reason why this country is in dire straits (high crime, high joblessness, and high waters)? No! The fundamental problem in Guyana is a bad political system in the hands of a bad government.
The PNCR wants to change both.
The first contains excerpts from Kaieteur News columnist, Peeping Tom:
This past week the 'writetopeeper' mailbox was filled with tales of doom and displeasure. Keep the suggestions flowing, folks! The Peeper will try to at least comment on the acceptable suggestions as to how we can improve Guyana .Here's a portion of a letter to the Editor:
Last week, Mr. David Jenkins was suggesting that Uncle Freddie provide an e-mail address available so that his fan club can contact him. This week Jenkins is fuming and has extended and open challenge to another of our columnists, Stella Ramsaroop. He writes:
“Dear Peeping Tom Sir,
I am writing to you hoping that you could tell me what's going on in Georgetown .
Can you say if Stella has protection in the media circles in Guyana , or the portion of news dealing with her is not posted on the Internet? I had sent the following letter to the major newspapers, but so far, not a squeak from them on this person. I am baffled that she gets away with open attack on Guyanese personalities.”
I have read your Open Challenge, David, and while I cannot say exactly why your letter was not published, I rather suspect that the editors may be uncomfortable with certain words which may open them to libel action.
I would suggest that you modify the second word of the first paragraph. I am sure that with some minor other adjustments, the editors may be pre-disposed to carry your challenge.
I am however intrigued by your challenge but you are not the first person to ask the vintage looking lady to publish a recent picture of herself in all the papers. Sweet and adorable Stella has done more than that - she has given us her life story and when you read it, tears come to your eyes.
To think that in the richest country in the world someone has gone through so much pain, just breaks your heart. Hers is a story of Oprah and so I urge that readers be considerate of Stella.
I will, David, mention through this column the other challenge you made to Stella. But as I said this feature is really for suggestions as to how we can improve Guyana . Since, however, your challenge has not been published by the local media, I thought that I would help you out.
Your second challenge to Stella is for her to come and live in Guyana for six months prior to the elections and three months after.
You know, David, I am not as pessimistic as some people are about the forthcoming elections. The results are a foregone conclusion and should any party decide to misbehave, then I am sure that the international community will be willing to impose visa sanctions on those persons and their families.
This is one of the things that I have written about before and which I intend to raise with the international diplomatic community. I am therefore not envisaging trouble both before and after the elections.
Is it I or is everybody fed up of opening the newspapers and seeing more columns written by so-called columnists?
I don't care about the politics in this country, be it who wins the upcoming elections, both the Indian and the Blacks would have to work a full eight hours each day and at the end of the month, take home the same salary. What's the big fuss.
It started out all well with “Peeping Tom”, and then Uncle Freddie and Robert Persaud joined in. Now its Stella Ramsaroop and whoever else who care to share their thoughts about politics in Guyana . It's just too much to read in one day.
As it relates to Stella, when I first saw the column with the pretty woman above the article, without even reading the headline, I thought to myself, eh heh, this is going to be one with a difference, probably addressing the issues of women that we are faced with each day.
But lo and behold, she is on the same wave band like Uncle Freddie and the others. Come on, Stella, as Peeping Tom said a few days ago, “Politics is not your thing.”
Why can't these columnists address something of mere interests and facts to the Guyanese people, like the economic situation in the country or even human interests?
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 15 Jan 2006)
I offer my unsolicited opinion on a variety of topics almost daily, so when I received an email from Sherwood Lowe this past week asking for some suggestions on how the PNCR could appear to be less of a “missing in action” party (my nickname for the PNCR) given their current situation, of course I was more than happy to oblige – even though he has not been very nice to our Sweet and Sensitive Freddie lately.
I am going to be frank, Sherwood, your party looks beat already and the real campaigning has yet to start. In fact, Corbin has looked totally downtrodden in almost every photo for the last month. I don't believe I have seen a smile on his face since before the holidays. Did he not get what he wanted from Santa?
The leader of the PNCR certainly does not look like he has the energy or the will to lead a healthy opposition into the election season. Instead, he looks like he is in mourning. That look of resignation will make the voters uneasy, not excite them. Perhaps you could encourage him to smile when the cameras are clicking away in his face?
Sherwood, you suggested that it was difficult for the PNCR to be an effective opposition given its lack of legislative influence due to the winner-take-all system and what you described as “uneven, sporadic and manipulative coverage [received] from these three dailies.”
I too maintain that the current political system should be amended to a more equitable one. However, the PPP bemoaned the current system when the PNCR was in power and when it took office did nothing to change it. It seems they were just unhappy at the time because they were not the ones with all the power. They certainly do not seem to have a problem with this issue anymore.
I wonder what the PNCR would do if it won the elections next year? Would it move away from the Westminster system to a consensual paradigm as suggested by the World Bank in 2003 when they reported that Guyana was in a crisis of governance? Or would it just be happy to have all the power again, like the PPP?
Let's get back to the issue at hand, Sherwood. You asked, “…what space exists between what the PNCR is currently doing and mass street action that the PNCR can occupy to make it a more effective opposition?” There is so much the PNCR can do, but it must first shift its focus and re-examine its priorities.
Your party's focus should not be on the amount of media coverage it does or does not receive – its focus should be to win the hearts of the people. Likewise, your first priority should not be to fight the PPP on every little thing, but to make good things happen for Guyana regardless of the obstacles. In other words, your focus and priority should always be the people.
For example, when the floods hit this season, the PNCR should have been raising money to aid in the recovery efforts and it should have been where the waters were deep to help the people get what belongings they could from their homes and farms or to save their livestock and farm equipment. Maybe you did this and I did not hear about it? If not, then you should have.
An approach such as this would have resulted in positive press coverage too, because the PNCR would have been where the news was and by default where the media was at the time as well. Further, when the PPP showed up at the flooded areas to calm the people, you could have already been there up to your neck in muddy water to ask the hard question of those who were supposed to be protecting the people.
The PPP is great with propaganda and making a bad situation look positive. Where do you think the flood victims got those huge signs of Jagdeo and the garlands they put around his neck? Their homes are flooded and their crops are loss, but somehow they have big banners of Jagdeo that were high and dry?
However, the PPP went too far with that whole stunt. Malcolm Harripaul had a point when he questioned whether anyone saw the flood victims in New Orleans giving Bush a parade for not taking the measures he should have taken to protect them from an impending flood. Those people in New Orleans were ticked off and had every right to be. The same holds true for the flood victims in Guyana.
Anyhow, the point is that your party's focus should be to help the people regardless of how much power, resources or money the ruling party has allotted for you. Here are some other ideas that can help the country. If the PNCR leaders organised some concerned citizens in GT to form an ongoing “Clean Up The City” campaign to permanently purge the streets, canals, public parks, etc. of litter and debris, when the media takes notice, guess whose doors they will be knocking on?
Also, when the floods hit again and the canals are still being maintained - thanks to the hard work of the concerned citizens and the PNCR - the PPP will then be forced to admit that the drainage system is antiquated, falling apart and must be completely replaced. The public would see that the PNCR has done its job and the PPP would be caught with their pants down…again. As it is, neither party is doing what it takes to stop the floods – as is quite clear since there is still flooding.
Here is another suggestion. At the start of a new school term, adopt a few students from each region to help them proudly attend school by paying for their uniforms, school supplies etc. Party members who donated items and services such as a tailor or seamstress could help defray the cost of this program and the media loves these feel good stories.
As you can see, Sherwood, being an effective opposition is not as much about fighting the ruling party as it is about serving the people. There are many more ways the PNCR can revamp its image and become a party that demands public attention simply by virtue of being a party for the people.
Sure, there will be times when the PNCR will need to stand up to the evils of authoritarianism, but it will come across as far more credible if there is a proven track record of compassionate concern for the citizens.
I am sure the PNCR has done its share of community projects that I have not heard about, just as the PPP has done its share lately too. However, these projects should be done with a sincere and genuine concern for the people – not as an election-time ploy to garner votes.
This is how I see it Sherwood, one side of this coin is self-preservation and the other side of the coin is Guyana preservation. The question at hand is this - which side of the coin is the PNCR?
Thursday, January 12, 2006
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 12 Jan 2006)
Kaieteur News printed a letter to the editor on Monday (January 9) by one Sharda Singh that asked four particular questions about me. Now I know full well that this person is only up to mischief since Sharda was clearly not asking these questions just to get to know me better, but I have nothing to hide and I thought it would be fun to tell Guyana more about Stella Ramsaroop.
(Question 1…I can’t believe Sharda actually numbered the questions)
I was born in St. Louis, Missouri in the United States to a very poor woman who raised my two brothers and me (one older and one younger – in case you wanted to know that too, Sharda) by herself. My older brother had Muscular Dystrophy and died when he was only 15 years old (I was ten).
My home life was very difficult because my mother was physically, mentally and emotionally abusive. I had friends who constantly threaten to turn my mother in to the authorities when I would show up to school with more bruises or whelps. However, I would always beg them not to do so because I was afraid of leaving my mother’s home, even though I was also afraid to stay.
(Question 2) I met my husband Paul, a native Guyanese, when I was 15 years old. I fell instantly in love with him. He would listen to talk about my sufferings and he would comfort me when I just couldn’t be strong any more and would break down and cry.
We married young, I was only 16 and he was 19. Now I would never encourage anyone else to do this, but it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me at the time. I had finally found someone who loved me unconditionally and expressed that love in a gentle and caring way.
Needless to say, when I got married, I did not know a thing about cooking, relationships or life. However, my husband’s parents took me under their wings and loved me like I was their own daughter. His mom taught me how to cook, so the first dishes I learned to fix were Guyanese dishes like chicken curry and rice – a staple in the Ramsaroop family. I thoroughly immersed myself in my husband’s culture and enjoyed it completely.
Eighteen months later, we had our first daughter and the next year our first son. Shortly afterwards, we left the States and lived in several Latin American countries for varying lengths of time. While living in Panama for a few years, we adopted a four-year-old Haitian boy and a newborn Panamanian girl.
We had always wanted to adopt and since both of my pregnancies were extremely difficult, we were grateful for the chance to bring these two children into our home. As you can see, Sharda, we are a very racially diverse family.
(Question 3) We came back to the states in the mid-nineties, yet we still move around a lot because of my husband’s career. Together with Peter Ramsaroop, my husband’s brother, and another partner, the three started an Information Technology company a few years ago and made it successful. Peter sold his portion of the company last year so he could focus on his endeavours in Guyana.
I am a freelance writer and have also had business dealings with Peter to help with some of the communications aspects of his business and I edited one of his upcoming books. However, we have no current business dealings.
(Question 4) The picture next to my column is about five years old. I am 36 right now (my birthday is February 12 if you want to send me a card, Sharda), so that picture was taken when I was about 31 or so. You are right that I do not look my age.
In fact, the other day I was picking up some makeup remover – a bottle for my oldest daughter and one for myself. The girl at the counter asked, “You have a daughter old enough to wear make up?” I responded, “I have a daughter in college.” The youthful appearance comes from good clean living. Therefore, I’m sure you look young for your age too, Sharda.
You are also right that I need an updated picture. The problem is that I am just not photogenic at all, so when I get a decent picture I tend to stick with it for a while. However, just for you, Sharda, I will try my best to get a new one made as soon as possible for the column.
Now, what else is there to share with you about myself? Oh, I know. My personality is very similar to my columns; there are days when I am full of feisty attitude, days when I am ticked off at injustice and days when I tend to be more academic. However, no matter what the mood of the day, I always like to have fun. It is how I keep my groove.
I am 5’6” with blonde hair and blue eyes, but don’t believe that old stereotype about blondes being dumb, because I can argue a point up one side and right back down the other before many people ever get a word in edgewise. Do you like to debate, Sharda?
My own husband doesn’t know how much I weigh, so I suppose you can do without that information as well, right dear? I am an avid reader. I love all the political mumbo-jumbo of life and I am a HUGE history buff. I like flowers, chocolate and I would like to think that I am Joan-of-Arc reincarnated, but my friends tell me that I could have never submitted to even a king.
I guess that is about all there is to tell about me, Sharda, and I believe that I have answered all of your questions and then some. I hope you got what you were looking for. See, I know you (and your cohorts) think the people of Guyana will not want to read my column anymore when they know that I am not a native Guyanese (a fact I thought was common knowledge already). However, I think you are wrong about them.
I know first hand how Guyanese can open their hearts to someone regardless of race or nationality – just like my husband’s family did. Further, my sincere love for Guyana cannot be doubted, even if I was not born there. I have no hidden agenda, what you see (and read) is who I am – through and through. Sometimes it is brilliant and sometimes I need another five cups of coffee before it makes sense, but it is always fun.
Sharda, someone told me that this is just another case of attacking the messenger instead of dealing with the message. Are they right? Why don’t you prove them wrong by telling me your life story now? Since I have told you all about me, why don’t you tell me about yourself and then we can become best of friends. What do you say, Sharda? Who are you?
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 10 Jan 2006)
Freddie sure is groovin this week! As I read Sweet and Sensitive Freddie Kissoon’s column from yesterday (Monday, January 9), I could never have been so proud of my fellow columnist. With all of the fire that can come from his pen, it is good to know he attempts balance by applying humility and self-examination.
It says so much about a public person when one can admit (publicly) that he/she is not perfect and own up to his/her mistakes. This is only possible for a person who is willing to take a good look inside and perform a self-evaluation. Coming face-to-face with our less than perfect side has never been a favourite pastime for humans.
Of course, this is a scary act for anyone since it could mean that we might see our own failures and nobody likes to fail. However, it is even scarier for someone who is in the public eye on a constant basis and knows that if he/she can see the failures then so does everyone else.
It takes a strong person with a good heart and a functioning conscience to admit to himself/herself that they are wrong. Even more so, it takes someone who is courageous and honest to tell the rest of the world when they are wrong.
The PPP could learn a few very important points from Freddie. What can the infallible, omnipotent and “anything that goes wrong, it is the PNC’s fault” party learn from the mild-mannered Freddie Kissoon? A whole heck of a lot.
The PPP runs as far from humility as possible. It never owns up to its mistakes and, clearly, it is not prone to self-examination for potential improvement. These are the qualities that Freddie displayed all in one article. The PPP could never let on to the world that they are not perfect like Freddie did either. Freddie sure can groove!
On the other hand, the PPP has wannabe groovers, like Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud, MBA, who put out another column last Sunday that was full of praise for the PPP when the party has so many failures for which it should be apologising. Mr. MBA even inserted various forms of the word “groove” throughout his column – as if he could actually pull that off!
I think my friend, Smart and Sharp, had a bit too much of his favourite wine before writing that column. Robert, darling, you have to know how to move if you ever want to groove. I’m just not too sure you have the groove vibe. After all, it does not seem that you can even wade through muddy water without the help of at least three others, so what makes you think you can get your groove on?
In Persaud’s column, he said, “Another important element of getting in groove is the safety and security of our people. It is expected that our security forces will continue to make diligent efforts to arrest the crime situation.” All I hear is blah, blah, blah. Dear Smart and Sharp, do you really think anyone listens to this stuff anymore – much less believes it? Not groovy. Not groovy at all.
I should also mention another portion of Mr. MBA’s column. After rambling on about maintaining a positive attitude, he said, “For example, the low-blows by the PNCR Leader in his New Year's message and his surrogate CN Sharma blaming the government for the flooding in certain communities is the type of attitude and sentiments we all must eschew to make 2006 victorious for Guyana.”
You are wrong, Robert. Acknowledging the full scope of the national problems and addressing these issues head-on is what will make Guyana victorious in 2006. The PPP has ignored these serious issues and pretended like everything was just fine, even while the streets were flooded and crime dug its talons even deeper into the country.
It is as if the whole party lives in a make-believe La-La Land, but governs the very real and suffering people of Guyana. There was nothing positive about the flooding situation at all. Instead of spinning this into another piece of propaganda, the PPP should have admitted that it failed again and will try to do better.
See the grooviest people are honest and forthcoming. They are humble and able to publicly acknowledge imperfection – like Freddie. The PPP displays the exact opposite of all these qualities. Oh dear! The PPP is the anti-groove! I wonder if that is contagious?
Come to think of it, the PNC could apply a little more humility and self-examination too. It is simply unrealistic for a “missing in action” opposition party to just pop up on the scene one day with some nicely composed strategies and start acting like it was there all along.
However, if the PNC publicly acknowledged their failures of the last few years, like Freddie just did for 2005, then perhaps more people could take them seriously now that they attempting to present themselves as a viable option for the elections.
In fact, I am hoping the recent letter from James Mc Allister will help our dear Freddie come to terms with the PNC’s role in the whole UG fiasco. Don’t worry folks; I’m not going to start fighting Freddie’s battles. I would just like to see something break soon in this whole debacle so Sweet and Sensitive Freddie can move on. Lately, it just seems all roads lead to the UG scandal for Freddie.
I don’t want it to seem as if the UG mess does not merit Freddie’s perpetual grumblings, but he seems like the anal-retentive type who is not going to give up on this until justice wins.
So Freddie gets a big shiny star on his column for being so groovy. You really are the grooviest, dear friend (when you’re not being the AFC’s mouthpiece). Don’t let all of this praise go to your head though; we really do not need another egomaniac in the country. Guyana has enough of those already.