Monday, August 28, 2006

Stella Says…Ladies, I beg to stop them from raping Guyana again

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 27 August 2006)

Ladies, it is time to do something about the deteriorating situation in Guyana – and tomorrow is your best opportunity to change the course of history in this nation permanently.

I read an article this morning by the Caribbean Net News entitled, "Suriname to accommodate possible refugees from Guyana." The article said the President of Suriname, Ronald Venetiaan, is prepared to accept those who want to take refuge in his country during any post election violence in Guyana.

It is sad enough that this preparation has to be taken in the first place. It is as if Guyana's neighbours do not believe the people of this nation can have an election without bloodshed. However, what really struck me was something the President of Suriname said in regards to Guyana.

The article said, "According to Venetiaan, Suriname, along with other countries in the region and the rest of the world, is striving after peaceful development, and it is therefore watching 'how Guyana will survive this period'."

This is something I have said repeatedly over the last year. The world is watching Guyana to see how it acts and reacts to various events. Investors are watching, governments are watching, South American and Caribbean neighbours are watching, World Cup organisers are watching, even China, way over on the other side of the world, is watching.

All of these various parties are undoubtedly hoping for the best, but Suriname's statement shows they do not expect the best. It would be difficult to think otherwise when one examines the amount of violence that has overshadowed this entire year so far.

Ladies, this is why I implore you with every fibre of my being to please, please, please do something to change this situation in Guyana once and for all. I beg you to show up in record numbers tomorrow at the polls and vote for change.

Guyana has been raped over and over again at the hands of self-seeking and ruthless leaders who do not care about you, your children or whether there is food on your plate tonight. They do not care about your future or even about Guyana's future. They only care about power.

This is more than obvious by the continued unacceptable state of the nation. The constant fear that runs through your veins is proof of how your leaders have disregarded you and left you to be taken by the hands of death and poverty. They have ravaged Guyana of every single bit of life and left her barren and desolate.

These leaders then throw parties right before elections and tell you that they care about your situation. To believe these putrid lies again and cast your vote for either of the two parties that share the blame for the state of the nation would make you just as guilty as them.

You know they do not care about Guyana. You know they do not care about you. You know the only reason they even talk to you at all is to maintain their power because as soon as the elections are over they will run back and hide in their mansions and close their ears to you for another five years.

Meanwhile, what will you do? Who will protect you? Who will help you create a good life for your and your family? Ladies, it is time to stop this madness and to kick those good for nothing leaders out on their keisters.

Let them try and find another way to pay for their mansions besides your taxes or the bribes and kickbacks they get from their corrupt practices. What ever you do, I beg you to please make this madness end for Guyana. If all of the women of Guyana vote for change, then change will most definitely happen.

This can be something you determine to do in your heart and no one else even has to know about it. If you are afraid, no one even has to know what party you vote for tomorrow. You can tell the world you voted for the same party as always, but instead vote for change. It is your vote that matters, not what you tell others.

You have other viable choices this year. You have better options than to live in this perpetual terror propagated by those same leaders over decades of your life. You can make Guyana better tomorrow. You can give your children a chance to live in peace and prosperity.

Ladies, if you saw a man rape a woman and did nothing to stop it, your inaction would heap guilt on you for the rest of your life. Likewise, you cannot watch these leaders rape Guyana over and over again and do nothing to stop it. You have to take action.

It is time for the women of Guyana to open their eyes and see that these leaders have been manipulating the entire country for decades now. There are very few who do not know all of the vile acts both parties commit as scare tactics to keep the "faithful" in the fold.

How long will you allow them to play games your mind when they do nothing but harm you, your family and your country? How long will you allow them to ravage your nation? The ladies of Guyana do not need to vote along side the men. They are not required to cast the same vote as their husband, brother or father.

Guyana's women have brilliant minds of their own and they are more than strong enough to make their own decisions about who can finally drag Guyana out of its unhealthy past and into a vibrant and thriving future. This is my plea, ladies.

This is all that I care about for Guyana. I do not care who you vote for tomorrow, so long as it is not the same two parties that have raped Guyana over and over for so long. It is time for the healing to start and the only way that can happen is for the abuse to stop.

The power to stop the Guyana's perpetual abuse is in your hands, ladies. Do not allow them to opportunity to continue their exploitation. Stop them now. Stop them with your vote.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Stella Says…Judgement day draweth nigh

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 24 August 2006)

Since judgement day is less than a week away, I thought it would behove of us to formulate a standard by which each party should be judged. Of course the list I lay out today is not exhaustive and will no doubt vary from person to person based on preferences and priorities.

However, the list I present in this column includes important national issues I feel should be included on every voters list. That is to say, these are matters I would take very seriously to a poll booth when determining which party should get my vote.

Economic reform ties for number one on my list with an effective crime strategy. Actually, I believe these two issues to be linked. However, for the sake of clarity and to take care in not minimising either issue, we will examine each one independently, beginning with economic reform.

No party would get my vote if they have not addressed economic reform in some intelligent manner. Since there is not a single party in Guyana that can boast of a positive track record in this regard, we will simply have to rely on each party's economic plan and determine which one is most beneficial to the country and has the best chances of actually being implemented.

This plan should include a stategy for a thriving tourist industry, investment in the farming industry (possibly through exploring the production of ethanol), bringing in foreign investors, providing significant aid to local investors and even exploring new economic ventures such as the technology field to see if there is a place for Guyana in this fast moving and very profitable industry.

Just as high on my voting standard list is an effective crime strategy and the ability and will to implement that strategy. Aside from the need for the people of a nation to be able to make a good life for themselves, the next most important matter is for them to be able to live in an environment free from fear.

No party should get even one vote if they cannot (or will not) rid the country of the drug lords, put an end to those incessant crime sprees, reform the judicial system and restructure the law enforcement system (with agents who have no record of corruption).

Speaking of corruption, it is time for a government that can finally shake the assumed role of corruption for public officials. The people of Guyana do not trust their leaders because corruption is the underlying theme to almost every exchange – be it personal, business or political.

Corruption is just a polite way of saying "Our leaders are misusing the power we gave them or taking our money for their own personal use." The voting booth is the only way to hold those crooked politicians accountable and set a new standard for public officials in the nation.

Of all the neglected and ignored components of Guyana's overall well being, the two most forgotten aspects are the educational system and the nation's infrastructure. These are two facets that had long ago been a source of great pride and today are the source of great shame.

The older generation often talks of those glory days when it was a joy to walk down Main Street and when students from Guyana's schools tested far above their counterparts in other parts of the world. Both of these issues should be at the forefront of your consideration of any party that deserves your vote.

Finally, if a party cannot offer a substantial agenda on women's issues, then it is not the party for Guyana. The nation needs a government who takes women's issues seriously and has an established plan for bridging the gender gap in job accessibility, pay rate, societal awareness of domestic abuse and judicial reform on areas such as rape and domestic abuse. I will speak more on this in my Sunday column.

Judgement day does indeed draw nigh and it is time for the people of Guyana to decide what they want from the next government. Do you want more crime, corruption, poor academic standards and a decrepit infrastructure?

You know how the old saying goes, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Stella Says…A weakened PNC is bad for the PPP/C

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 22 August 2006)

According to the most recent polls, one of which was conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) directed by Vishnu Bisram and the other commissioned by the AFC, the PNCR-1G has been significantly weakened and is losing ground as the elections draw near.

This is not good news for the PNCR-1G at all. However, it could also mean trouble for the PPP/C as well. These two parties have had a symbiotic relationship over the past few decades. They have fed on each other for strength and used fear of the other party to garner votes. In fact, they have been somewhat equal forces since Guyana's independence.

If not for the phenomenon of rigged elections and the national racial divide, these two parties may have developed into something similar to the Republican and Democratic parties in the U.S. where they switch power continuously based on the performance of the previous term. This situation would have been good for Guyana since it would have shifted the spotlight to performance instead of race as the primary focus of the elections.

As the PNCR-1G becomes more weakened due to its inability to restructure itself into a viable opposition party, it seems this symbiotic relationship may indeed be in jeopardy and could eventually cause the collapse of both parties – if not this election, then the next one. If you have any doubts of what I am saying, all you have to do is hear the frantic pleas for votes from even the President himself.

Because of this symbiotic relationship, the PPP/C successfully persuaded voters in the last general elections that a vote for ROAR was in essence a vote for the PNCR since it would give the PNCR an opportunity to win the elections. This was a very effective ploy since Ravi Dev enjoyed a large support base during the campaign that did not translate into votes at election time.

The PPP/C is struggling to sell this point this election season because of the weakened PNCR-1G position. This year PPP/C cannot tell an educated Guyanese voter that a vote for the AFC is a vote for the PNCR-1G. According to the most recent poll commissioned by the AFC, it would seem that party has a better chance of unseating the PPP/C than the PNCR-1G.

Jagdeo recently tried to convince his supporters that a vote for the AFC is a wasted vote because the AFC is not seeking the presidency but only a few seats in Parliament. A few months ago, I would have agreed with this statement. However, I have noticed a recent audacity in the AFC that portrays the idea that they could possibly win the upcoming elections if they are successful in convincing the PPP/C supporters that they should make their decision based on the PPP/C's past performance (or rather the lack thereof) and not on race.

I find it interesting that the AFC and PPP/C are both campaigning on promises of what they can do for the country. This might make sense of the AFC since they do not have a record of governance in Guyana. However, the PPP/C should be campaigning on their record over the past years instead of trying to convince the Guyanese that they will somehow influence change.

Isn't it ironic that the PPP/C has to use a platform of "change" and is promising improvement as a campaign strategy? If they plan to change anything, it would have to be their own policies and procedures since they are the ones who have been running the county for multiple terms now.

A "change" platform is traditionally reserved for a new party or a party that is different from the incumbent. If an incumbent party is promising change, they are actually saying things are so bad under their own governance that change needs to be enacted for the country to thrive.

A "change" platform for the PPP/C is basically a confession of poor governance. It is an admission that they have not done their job – and they are completely correct. Guyana does need change. It needs change desperately.

However, I do not see how the PPP/C expects to be able to bring about the necessary changes in the next five years when they have not been able to do so for the last few terms. They have tied their own hands so many times in almost every situation so they were unable to act in the best interest of the people.

Now the people are suppose to believe the leaders of the PPP/C have changed and will be looking out for their best interest in the next five years? If they want the people to believe such nonsense, the best way to prove their good intentions would be to publicly publish accessible personal financial records of those in the Jagdeo administration by the end of this week.

If they can prove they have been working in the best interest of the people instead of their own best interest for the last few terms, then I would gladly take back every single bad word I have ever said about this party. If they are indeed concerned about Guyana and have been financially, socially and politically ethical – they should have nothing to fear from public scrutiny.

In fact, in a democracy, public scrutiny of elected officials should be the norm. No one should have to even ask for such accountability. It should be expected and received as a matter of daily business. Of course, I am sure the Jagdeo administration, with their "ultra-democratic tendencies" already knew this.

However, dear reader, please do not hold your breath as you wait for the Jagdeo administration to publish their personal financial records. I'd like for you to be alive and well next week to cast your vote for a party that might actually be able to bring change to Guyana.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Stella Says...I hope Guyanese voters are smarter than American voters

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 20 August 2006)

Has anyone else noticed how efficiently the ruling party is attempting to run the country in the last couple of weeks? If they had put this much effort into their entire term, I would have very little to write about and all of the hilarious propaganda from Information Liaison to the President, Robert Persaud, MBA, could actually be taken seriously.

It has not escaped my attention that after months of brutal murders of innocent citizens, the PPP has finally decided that perhaps they should ask for some outside help since they are obviously in over their heads when it comes to the security of the nation.

Although asking Caricom for help was a good move, asking Bernard Kerik for help was like asking a pirate to watch your treasure chest full of gold coins and rare jewels while your run to the store to buy a lock for it.

Likewise, it cannot go unnoticed that criminals are finally being arrested (or killed). This is indeed very interesting since these slippery thieves and vile murderers have gone for an extended period of time without much resistance.

Oh, sure, the government has always made all the right noises so it would seem like they cared. They would condemn criminal acts and call on the GPF to step up their efforts to reign in the crime situation, but when it came down to actually giving the nation some real hope for help by rolling up their sleeves and getting to work, they chose to sip red wine while writing incredulous propaganda instead.

However, things have really started to happen in the last couple weeks. Criminals are being brought down left and right in a flurry of arrests and shootouts. It is as if someone gave law enforcement officials the green light to finally clean up the streets of Guyana.

I expected this to happen months ago and was a bit perturbed that the self-assured PPP hadn't taken the necessary measures to at least appear to be competent as the elections neared. It was almost as if they were so confident about winning the elections that they felt they would test the citizens to see just how inept their party could be and still be elected for another term.

If the PPP had actually taken the crime situation more seriously months ago, perhaps our colleagues here at Kaieteur News would still be alive today. If they had called in Caricom last summer when crime sprees were suspiciously overt, then perhaps those killed in Agricola would still be alive and with their families too.

Had Guyana's cocky government not received a wake up call by way of a NACTA poll showing them with less support than needed for a majority, it is highly possible that all of those putrid villains who have been apprehended in the last week would still be roaming the streets.

It seems the PPP is sweating now and begging for votes as they attempt to portray the image of a competent government that is hard on crime in a country that is overwhelmed with fear.

Reporting on a PPP rally from last weekend, Stabroek News wrote this, "Jagdeo asked those gathered to try and convince supporters of the other parties or others who may want to move away from supporting the PPP/C, to come into the PPP/C fold. 'We have to work on the PNC supporters... go to their homes, tell them we have a space for them. When you go back home carry on the message. Our message is one of progress'."

As if this statement was not desperate enough, Stabroek News then quotes the Prime Minister who makes an even more frantic plea, "I want to emphasise. We must emphasise. We want to win a majority. We want to. We need to go more than 50%. Indeed I hope we win 60%. And therefore everyone of you must vote and see every member of your family goes out and vote for the PPP/C,' Hinds said."

"And you need to work. You need to work with those who may not have been here, who may still be fearful of coming and identifying with us, those who may still be suspicious of us. You need to `sweet talk' them, cajole them. Encourage them to vote for us once more.' There is no doubt, Hinds said, 'that things go better when the PPP/C is in government'."

Do they really believe people will buy this nonsense? Does Mr. MBA and his Public Relations team really think the people have such a short memory? The one very poignant point is that this party is not running its campaign on its governing record. It is begging for votes and making empty promises because party leaders know its record is as villainous as the criminals who have been rounded up recently.

I do not support any party and try to stay as neutral as possible. However, I adamantly oppose giving the PPP another opportunity to drag Guyana through the mud for another five years.

I voted for George Bush in his first term and when I saw what he was doing to the U.S., I refused to even consider him for another term. However, he used fear tactics to garner enough support to get back in office and look what he has done to America. I hope Guyanese are smarter than the Americans were in the last major elections.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stella Says…U.S. corruption meets Guyana corruption

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 17 August 2006)

How ironic that the PPP, Guyana's ruling government that has been plagued with incessant accusations of corruption and crime ties, has now introduced Bernard Kerik, who just pleaded guilty to charges of corruption in the U.S. in June and reportedly has his own share of crime ties, as the man to clean up the Guyana Police Force, an institution that has struggled to maintain clean cops.

If birds of a feather do indeed flock together, then perhaps this flock of birds is ethically challenged. It cannot escape anyone's attention that all three separate entities represented in this newest attempt to overhaul the GPF have some serious ethical flaws.

The PPP has sidestepped accusations of all sorts of shifty dealings, including close ties with certain drug lords. It sure makes one wonder about the extravagant houses that continue to pop up in Pradoville while the infrastructure of the nation continue to crumble.

The GPF struggles to maintain a force that is untouchable by the constant onslaught of corruption that plagues public servants as a whole in the nation. As such, it is a rather good idea to bring someone from outside of the situation to find possible remedies.

However, I have serious doubts as to what Mr. Kerik could positively contribute to Guyana's law enforcement system. We are talking about a former law enforcement official who himself was susceptible to corruption.

Kerik just pleaded guilty on two charges of corruption in June of this year. He was so disgraced in the eyes of those in his field that a Manhattan jail named in his honour was renamed the Manhattan Detention Complex so there would be no ties to Kerik.

This is one response in The New York Times article from July 3 on the renaming of the jail, "No jail needs to be named after a crook," said Monique N. Randolph, 30, of Brownsville, Brooklyn, who was visiting a relative at the jail yesterday. She said that she had followed the Kerik case closely and was disappointed that he would only have to pay $221,000 in fines and penalties. "I think he should do time in jail just like the other criminals," Ms. Randolph said.

In fact, they ripped Kerik's name off of the front of the jail almost instantaneously after he pleaded guilty to the corruption charges. If a jail does not think this man's name is fit to be on the front of their building, then why on earth is the President of Guyana bringing him in to help the GPF?

Instead, it seems to me that someone should be teaching Kerik how to clean up his act. Introducing corruption to corruption by corruption is not a way to clean up corruption. It is simply inviting more problems to an already shaky situation.

The President's newest election ploy is not something that should be waved off as if it was not important. What could a criminal possibly teach a police force?

If this is a clue as to what the Jagdeo administration plans to offer Guyana for the next five years if they do manage to get the majority again, then we are in for another very dramatic term.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stella Says…Guyana deserves better than the PPP and the PNCR-1G

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 15 August 2006)

One cannot help but wonder how the tragic events of this past week will effect the upcoming elections. There are some who think this recent killing spree could actually help the PPP and the PNCR-1G chances at the voting booth. As such, perhaps this is an idea that should be explored to see if there is any reason Guyanese should vote for one of these two parties more than before these murders took place.

The logic of this reasoning escapes me, then again there seemed no sensible reason to vote for either of these two parties before the killings either. I cannot help but relate those who would continue to vote for leaders who are corrupt and incompetent to an abused child who always goes back to the parent who beats her because she does not know where else to go.

I have talked about my abusive childhood before, but I cannot help but draw the correlation between my abusive past to Guyanese who continue to vote for a party that has done the nation so much harm. When I was a child, after my mother would beat me, I always needed to go for a walk to clear my head and try to reason the logic of how someone can love a child and still be so cruel.

The answers never came because my young mind could not comprehend the anger that drives an abusive person. I would walk for hours and hours and just think. I would think about running away or turning my mother into the police. But that is not what I ever did. Instead, I always went right back home to the same person who habitually hurt me.

My friends at school would see the bruises and cuts and threaten to turn my mom in to the police, but I would beg them not to do it. It was not that I wanted to protect my mother (I felt no such allegiance to my tormentor), but I was afraid of what would happen to me if the authorities took me away from her.

I did not know who I could trust to protect me. This is why I always went back home. I just did not know where else to go. I thought it was highly possible that if I was taken from my abusive mother I could be placed in a home that was even worse than the one in which I already lived. So I always went back to the abuse and I never let any of my friends stop the abuse either.

This scenario closely resembles the situation in Guyana between the people and their leaders. The nation has primarily had two ruling parties since its independence four decades ago. These parties have abused the people in so many treacherous ways, yet the people continue to return to the very leaders who hurt them over and over again.

For those watching from the outside, they do not understand this behaviour. However, I have heard it over and over again from my family members, "They just don't know where else to turn." This is a feeling with which I can definitely relate.

Who can you trust? How do you know the next set of leaders will not be just as bad or worse than the ones you have been with all along? And if you do find other leaders with whom you can place your trust, will they be strong enough to protect you? These are the very same emotions that ran through me every single day of my tormented childhood.

Ironically enough, it was a young Guyanese man who showed me that I could trust people again. This was a long and arduous journey, but I was in a safe environment and ready to learn about the good things of life for a change instead of living in constant fear and anxiety.

If I had been strong enough to make that daring move to trust someone else at a younger age, I could have probably prevented years and years of torment and abuse. That is the trap in which abuse victims often find themselves. They want help and they want the torment to end, but they are so beaten down physically, emotionally and mentally that they cannot find the strength to reach out for help.

This year the tormented and abused people of Guyana have been thrown a lifeline by way of a credible third party option. The ever-present questions of trust bombard each voter, because trust does not come easy for an abuse victim. How do we know these leaders will be any better than the abusive leaders?

I cannot predict whether the new party will be any better than the abusive parties of the past four decades. However, there comes a time in the life of every abused victim's life that he/she must find the strength to at least try and trust someone outside of the abusive situation. This is the only way the madness will ever stop.

It is sheer madness to think either of the two long-time parties have the capacity to protect the people of Guyana. They have not been able to do much of anything good for the nation in all these many, many long years.

The only thing the people can be assured of if they vote for either of these parties again is more of the same abuse and neglect that has brought Guyana to the brink of utter ruin. It is time to reach out for help. It is time to trust that there are some leaders out there who are willing and able to protect the people and do something good for the nation.

I took that chance and my life is better for it. Perhaps it is time for Guyana to take that chance too and believe they deserve something better than to be constantly abused by those who say they care.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stella Says…In the midst of the grief and fear, the elections must be held

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 13 August 2006)

In yesterday's "Dem Boys" column, the columnist attempted to encourage the nation to keep going on with life. I know this is true, but my first reaction was shock and dismay. How could this writer even suggest such a thing so early after this bloody massacre?

Then I realised there is a movement afoot to postpone the elections and I knew that it was time to do the same thing as my fellow columnist and encourage people to keep going. We do not want to keep going. It feels like life is standing still since last Tuesday's execution of innocent life.

We want to believe this is all a horrible dream and we will wake up any minute to life as it was before this despicable event. It is not that life was so wonderful before and by waking up from this nightmare Guyanese will return to a rosy life. It's just that Tuesday's massacre pushed the nation one step closer to the edge of a breakdown of civilised society.

Just when it seemed there was no way to possibly see anything more that could jolt our already overly-assailed consciences, just when it seemed we had lost all innocence, just when we had become desensitised to the constant onslaught against life and liberty – these vile animals discovered yet one more way to abuse our good senses.

However, in the midst of our mourning we must find a way to keep going. Dem boys is right, we have to get on with life.

Even as I wrote that last sentence, I felt it was a lie. It feels wrong to keep going and my fingers seem to be so paralysed with sadness that it is with great effort that I continue to write this article at all. When I say we should go on with life, it feels like I am attempting to promote something in which I do not believe.

I suppose to some degree this is true because my heart does not want to think about the future. When humans look into the future they see hope and it feels wrong to have such optimistic expectancy right now. Then again, there is a nation to which we must attend.

Guyana cannot handle many more attacks on it's democracy, which is why the elections need to be held as scheduled regardless of the increased presence of these killers. They are attempting to shred every last ounce of law and order and when they have infused just the right amount of unrest and fear; they will take this nation for themselves to conduct their criminal business affairs unchecked by a weakened law enforcement branch.

Their agenda is clear – they want to rule Guyana. Conversely, the people are the ones who should decide the party that will run Guyana. Civilised society places thieves and murderers behind bars, where they should be, not as leaders of a nation.

Even under normal conditions, election time in Guyana can be volatile, but this recent killing spree is not a reason to crawl under a rock and hide from the responsibilities of a citizen. If anything these killings should be the primary reason Guyanese go to the voting booth in droves.

This would be the best way to send these cold-blooded killers a message from the entire nation that their fear tactics will not intimidate Guyana. When thousands upon thousands of voters show up at the polling stations at the end of this month, it will let these killers know that Guyana belongs to the people.

We will continue to mourn and we will cry bitter tears over the next few weeks. At times there will be an instinctive fear and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. These are all natural feelings for anyone who has gone through such traumatic events.

However, in the midst of all of this grief and dread, Guyanese must find a way to hold the elections to ensure the persistence of democracy lest this nation resort to anarchy and vigilante justice. Proper governance under the watchful eyes of the people is the only way for Guyana to maintain and further democracy within its borders.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stella Says…They want us to hide now, but we will do no such thing

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 10 August 2006)

The Kaieteur News printing staff was in a secured area out of the way. They were not in a main thoroughfare where trigger-happy gunmen might just stumble upon them by accident. There was nothing visibly taken. So this was not a robbery. This was meant to send a message.

Our co-workers were shot execution style to scare us. The lives of so many young people snuffed out to send a message to the rest of us. Those killers do not like that this newspaper refuses to bend to their whims. Those cold-blooded murderers do not like that this newspaper cannot be bought or intimidated. They want us to crawl into a hole and hide now. We will do no such thing.

The Publisher of Kaieteur News, Glenn Lall, tells me that we cannot let this break us as he sobs in tears. "We are fighters," he says. And he is right, of course. We are fighters and to lay our pens down now would mean those murderers have won. If we hide now, it would be a disgrace to the precious memory of our printing staff.

The senseless murder of our co-workers is heart wrenching. There will not be one dry eye in the newsroom today. They executed our printing staff. It is natural for us to want and to expect justice. The fact that we all know better than to expect justice makes this ordeal even more traumatising than if we knew the police could find these killers and the courts would sentence them to death for their actions.

There is a profound sense of hopelessness in a situation such as this. It would be so easy to let this feeling sweep us away with the tide into an ocean of despondency. But that is exactly what the killers want, which is why we cannot comply. We will cry and we mourn, but we will not give up.

I have always despised bullies. When I was younger and the older boys would pick on my younger brother, I would fight them myself if I had to do so just to make sure my brother knew someone cared. One time I picked up a two-by-four piece of wood and started swinging. I was relieved that I never actually hit anyone because they all scattered, but those boys stopped bothering my brother after that.

The best way to honour our fallen comrades (this does feel like a war zone more and more each day) is to continue to fight for them – and for all of the other Guyanese who have been ruthlessly murdered at the hands of home grown terrorists. We must continue to tell their stories to the world so the international community can see the plight of the Guyanese.

Will the President lift a finger to help find these murderers? Will he at least make a public condemnation against such abhorrent violence on a newspaper in a free country? Will the Guyana Police Force provide us with something more than just empty words? And if they do, will the courts give us a speedy and fair trial with a judicious sentence?

The blood of our co-workers cries out from the floor of the Kaieteur News printery demanding justice. How many wake up calls can one nation get within a six-month period? How many more people must die before the people of Guyana realise they should demand law and order from their government?

In a small country like Guyana, it is only a matter of time before the criminals kill off all of the good and upstanding citizens. At this rate, it could easily be within the next decade. This is exactly why we cannot back down from these bullies.

I have my two-by-four (which is my pen) in hand and I am ready to swing. Only this time, I'd be more than happy to make sure I hit those bullies – as well as those who allow the bullies to run free. Guyana belongs to the people – not to the criminals.

We must demand justice with every breath that is within us. These murderers sent their message loud and clear with the precious lives of the Kaieteur News printing staff. But we simply cannot back down. We cannot run and hide. Most of all, we cannot give up.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Stella Says…The swing vote could decide this year's election

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 8 August 2006)

The last few days have been full of rallies and political manoeuvrings as the PPP/C and the PNCR/1G attempts to bolster the trust of their long-time supporters. To accomplish this task, they have been employing the typical methods that have worked for decades now.

Each party has been highlighting the depravity and wantonness of the other party to their supporters. This is politics as usual. Except there is a major factor that plays a part in this political manipulation in Guyana that is not generally found in other political races throughout the world – that is the race factor.

This issue is exploited for the sake of politics – just like it has been for decades in Guyana. The PPP/C tells its supporters how bad it will be if the PNCR/1G gets the majority vote and vice versa. It is a sad and disgusting ploy, but if it gets the "right" candidate elected, no one really seems to care.

The truth of the matter is that neither of these parties has accomplished anything notable for the country. If the opposing party wants to find depravity in their rival party, they certainly do not have to dig too far. Still yet, both of these parties have their own share of buried secrets hidden in a closet far from the public eye.

As the general elections creep up on us quickly, the political rhetoric will amplify and the supporters will be wooed by love for their representatives or by hate for the other party. However, there is still one more factor that seems to be going unnoticed by both of the dinosaur parties.

The swing vote is a vital aspect of almost every election worldwide. In Guyana, this portion of the population has been so minute in the past that it has not received the attention it would have garnered in almost any other democracy. But make no mistake about it, this year the swing vote could mean the difference between a win and a loss.

The swing vote population consist of the voters who do not pledge their loyalty to any one party. This voter cast his/her vote based on the performance of the last incumbent and the likelihood of a better performance from another party.

In Guyana, this is very rare since it would mean that the swing voter would not listen to the political rhetoric of the mainstays or vote by race. This year, there is a very healthy portion of the nation's population that fits into the swing vote group, which is quite possibly the best thing that could have ever happened for Guyana.

I would venture to guess that most swing voters plan cast their ballot for the AFC this year. Perhaps this is the reason the dinosaur parties are ignoring this demographic again. Or it could be because they would not know how to answer the questions of corruption and ineptitude this group will undoubtedly put forth.

However, by not courting the swing vote, both parties put themselves in a very precarious position. Although everyone is predicting a slight win for the PPP/C – giving it the presidency, but not Parliament – it is clear that anything can happen in the next few weeks that could upset this prediction. This year's election is not in the bag for any party.

Moreover, there is the question of how the voters who are of mixed race will vote this year. This demographic makes up a substantially larger group than at time in the past. A sizeable portion of this group will no doubt consider themselves to be a swing voter as well and it will be interesting to see which party gets their votes.

Meanwhile, whilst the dinosaur parties continue to use their tired methods of creating support, there is an entire portion of the population waiting for something better, something fresh. And they do indeed deserve something better.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Stella Says…Should the PPP get another chance?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 6 August 2006)

Last weekend President Jagdeo asked his supporters to give him and his party another chance to revamp the Guyana Police Force and introduce necessary reforms to the nation's judicial system.

This is a reasonable request from any president at the end of a term and should be given the same amount of consideration as any other party on the list. It would most certainly be wrong of us to simply mark off the PPP without first deliberating the pros and cons of re-electing the ruling party.

At the request of the President, we are obliged to use the nation's crime situation and the judiciary system as a factor by which we decide whether Jagdeo and his party should be given another chance. And so we shall.

I have always believed that if you want to see the full capacity of a political party, the best time to observe them is the year prior to an election. It is during this crucial time that political parties carry out remarkable feats in an attempt to win votes.

Election money will be tossed in various directions to garner the waning support of disillusioned voters. Long ignored issues will be attentively addressed to re-engage the disconnected constituency. And each party will put their best and brightest to the forefront of the campaign with hopes of convincing the public of their sincerity and capability.

Which is why the bright and charismatic Jagdeo was front and centre at the PPP's campaign rally trying to convince the people of Guyana that his party did indeed care about their daughters who are being raped and their sons who are being killed.

As to whether the PPP should be given another chance to prove it is willing and capable of protecting the citizens, I am not too sure this would be a wise move. Since the PPP has had so many years to do something about the constant onslaught of crime and has not yet been able to make any significant advancement, I have serious doubts about its ability to take care of this problem at all.

In the past year, which has been an election year, the nation has seen some of the most horrendous criminal acts. The have been sporadic crime sprees on public places in broad daylight. There have been political and business figures gunned down with no one ever held accountable for the crime. And a massacre of innocent people in Agricola sent chills throughout the entire country.

The ruling party was either unable or unwilling to do anything at all about these heinous crimes. Even more, when some girls came forward and said they were forced to conduct sexual acts on certain well-connected young men, the party's Minister of Human Services and Social Security treated the situation with disregard.

Shady business practices overshadow government contracts, drugs are being planted in the luggage of unsuspecting travellers and each day brings even more stories of murder, rape and thievery.

One cannot help but question what, in this election year, has the PPP done to protect the citizens of Guyana? Better yet, what has the PPP not done in this election year to protect Guyanese?

If the ruling party is putting its best foot forward on this particular problem for the election and still falling so short in accomplishing its task, then what can it possibly expect to offer the nation if it is re-elected for another term?

Realistically, I cannot help but believe that what Guyana has seen in the last year by way of crime and a yo-yo judicial system is precisely what should be expected for the next five years if the people do indeed indulge Jagdeo by giving the PPP another chance.

I really do try to believe the best of people. In this situation I would love to believe that Jagdeo is willing and capable of combating crime. However, there is a fine line between having a generous spirit and being gullible and I think it would be completely na├»ve for even one person to believe the PPP is going to perform any better in the next five years than it has in the last year – or in the last 14 years.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Stella Says…We have seen yet another failed PNC coalition

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 01 August 2006)

Try as they might, it seems to be a very difficult task for politicians to join hands for the good of the country. We would like to think their lack of cooperation with one another has to do with uncompromisingly high standards, but more often than not it is their egos that cannot withstand the demands that come with working with each other.

So it is with Guyana's leaders. This time last year, there were so many very promising coalitions popping up and a little later even the PNCR – one of the old dinosaurs – had decided to try and play nice with others and joined One Guyana, a coalition of smaller parties and organisations with the PNCR. This generous spirit did not last long though and the PNCR soon bared their teeth and seemed to have hijacked the One Guyana platform all for itself.

According to Freddie in his column from last Sunday entitled, "Questions about Stanley Ming and mumbo jumbo answers," Stanley Ming has now joined Rupert Rupnaraine, Peter Ramsaroop and others who have walked away from the One Guyana Platform. Freddie seemed to believe the issue was a failure by the group to decide on a "non-PNC consensus candidate." It makes sense that a PNC candidate would send the message that this group is simply another attempt by the PNC to give an impression of change.

In past columns, I have expressed a desire to see a new force rise up in Guyana to help move the nation out of the control of the longstanding political dynasties. I find it interesting that the PNC was interested in becoming a part of a group whose intentions was to diminish its control. It's no wonder they would not allow a non-PNC consensus candidate.

One cannot help but wonder about the naivety of the Guyana One participants concerning the PNC given its historical inability to be a successful partner in coalitions dating as far back as the failure of Burnham and Jagan to work together. There have also been recent revelations of additional failed attempts of the PNC and the PPP to form a coalition.

During the last elections, there was much hype about a coalition between the Reform, led by Eric Philips and Stanley Ming with the PNC. This new group was supposed to "reform" the PNC to remake the party into a more inclusive party and aid in shedding the PNC of its past sins.

However, the Reform was absorbed into the PNC and instead of continuing as the PNC/Reform, the PNCR was formed with the Reform members becoming a part of the PNC. In a strikingly similar manner, the One Guyana Platform is now nothing more than the PNC and many of the One Guyana politicians and supporters are out in the cold.

Overall, it is clear that Guyana's leaders know that cooperative leadership is the only way to rescue the nation from its current stagnate state caused by a racial division that has defined the political landscaped for decades.

Even those who are less than willing to cooperate with others talk about joint leadership because they know the people want to see their leaders work as a team to bring about a better Guyana. However, almost all of the coalitions have died before the campaigning has even had a chance to begin – except for the AFC.

With the One Guyana platform failure, one wonders what those who were backing this coalition will now do with their energy, time and money. Is there room for consideration of the AFC in this group? It seems as if the AFC is accomplishing the task that the One Guyana Platform had hoped to accomplish – that is to work together as a team regardless of past political affiliation or race.

Moreover, I wonder if those who did not believe the AFC could make any inroads for this election will be able to now swallow their pride and throw their political weight behind the new party if they truly want to see a regime change.

It will be interesting to watch the developments of the next few weeks. Will the former Guyana One participants be able to swallow their pride and support the AFC? Will the AFC be able to embrace these political orphans or will we see this new party follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and reject the notion of furthering cooperative leadership for a better Guyana?

The next few weeks will provide ample opportunity to see what Guyana's new leaders are truly made of.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com