Thursday, September 28, 2006

Stella Says…Everyone can see Kerik is bad for Guyana, except Jagdeo

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 28 September 2006)

It always gets a snicker out of me when I see politicians stick with a poor decision come hell or high water. Bush had the entire world telling him it was a bad idea to invade Iraq. The U.N. shared its wisdom on the situation, several national leaders said there was no valid reason and polls taken before the invasion showed that even the majority of the American people were against it from the start.

Bush did not give a damn and went ahead with his war. Now it is years later and there is no end in sight to this mess, Iraq is in shambles and thousands upon thousands of people have died. This was one time that a politician should have taken the advice of others.

Which brings us to Jagdeo’s decision to stick with former New York top cop, Bernard Kerik, “for a key role in the anti-crime fight here” - as the Chronicle put it yesterday in an article on this matter. Regardless of how badly this man has performed in the past or how spotty his ethics record, Jagdeo has decided to use Kerik come hell or high water – and with this man’s record, it seems we can expect a lot of both.

It is one thing to make a bad decision when all of the necessary information is not available to formulate a more educated conclusion. We all make these types of mistakes, especially when we are treading on new territory and have no previous experience from which to draw wisdom.

However, that is not the case with Jagdeo’s decision concerning Kerik. Jagdeo has been made fully aware of Kerik’s sketchy past - that he has admitted to corrupt practices, that he did not fulfil the expectations of previous contracts and that he is being investigated for further corruption.

Guyana’s President has all the information he needs to make a good decision about this matter. Still, with all of this vital information, he chooses to stick with a bad decision. I smell disaster in the air.

Moreover, Jagdeo has also had previous experience with this situation that should help him make a better decision. He has seen first hand how corruption can influence the police force. Would it not be better to bring in a less experienced person with a clean record than to use a sullied leader to reform a sullied system?

As the old saying goes, a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. I have said before that introducing corruption to corruption is not a way to clean up corruption.

I do believe people with bad habits can be rehabilitated, so yes, I think Kerik could have changed his ways and become a model leader who spurns corrupt practices. However, to put him in such a lofty position in the Guyana Police Force is like sending an alcoholic into a bar.

This is a bad situation for Kerik. It is a bad situation for the GPF. It is a bad situation for Jagdeo. Most of all, it is a bad situation for Guyana, who deserves someone better than Kerik to oversee its law enforcement reform.

Law enforcement is all about trust. If the people cannot trust the police, they will not turn to society’s protectors when they need help. How can they possibly trust the police when they know those who lead this organisation are criminals themselves? This decision by the President is not just a bad decision; it is also very revealing in regards to how he views the national security situation.

Crime is one of the top concerns of most Guyanese and should therefore be one of Jagdeo’s primary concerns as well. Kerik is not the answer to the GPF’s problems. At best, he is a patch job - and a poor one at that. At worst, he could drag the GPF through yet more scandals, of which he seems to be inclined as well.

By not affording the crime situation the amount of attention it deserves, reveals that the President does not take this national predicament as seriously as it ought to be taken. If Jagdeo wanted to bring in some help from outside Guyana, surely he could have found a candidate with the necessary qualifications as well as a record for integrity.

Kerik’s dirty record will be a direct reflection on the GPF now. Way to go, Mr. President. You sure know how to clean up a law enforcement system.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Stella Says…Another one bites the dust at PNCR-1G headquarters

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 26 September 2006)

The PNCR-1G just cannot seem to hold on to people lately. First, almost all of the smaller organisations that formed a coalition with them earlier this year backed out before the elections even took place.

Then Stanley Ming made a run for it too. Ming was a core PNC executive member whose “Reform” aspect of the PNC-R got swallowed up soon after the last elections. His departure was a huge loss for the already floundering party because Ming brought with him a level of respect the party cannot seem to maintain on its own.

Now it is Sherwood Lowe, a lecturer at the University of Guyana and another executive member for the PNC – well, at least he was until September 15 when he tendered his resignation to the longstanding opposition party because they still cannot seem to implement a power-sharing stratagem.

If this trend continues, there will be no one left in the PNC except Corbin, which is typical for those who do not like to play nicely with others. At this rate, the PNC will soon dispense with all of its visionaries and have nothing left but the party faithful. In short, this party will be just like the PPP – all yes men and no vision.

According to a Kaieteur News article from this past Sunday, Lowe said, “I feel that the party has to push the shared governance issue more, which was not being done; and I feel that I could make a greater impact outside the executive because this issue cannot wait until 2011. It has to be done now.”

If we examine this party’s name alone, the PNCR-1G, we will uncover the depth to which Lowe’s words ring true. The “R” (Reform) of the PNCR was all but lost with Ming’s resignation. The “1G” (One Guyana) aspect was also lost when the ties it formed with those smaller organisations was severed before the elections.

In short, because the PNCR-1G cannot play nice with others, it has effectively become the PNC again – and who wants to see that? Most individuals outside of Congress Place believe that, in order to survive, the PNC must go through a transformation beyond adding letters and numbers to its name.

It is now becoming apparent that there must be individuals within the PNCR-1G who do not believe that this transformation is necessary. This is a foolish notion. The egos of Guyana’s politicians are sometimes bigger than the country itself.

It seems as if those who carried the internal struggle for change within the PNC have eventually left in frustration. The long list of discarded visionaries includes Raphael Trotman, Eric Phillips, Peter Ramsaroop, Stanley Ming and now Sherwood Lowe (just to name a few).

While I have to admit the PNCR-1G performed better in this past election than I thought it would, they also lost a considerable amount of their core supporter to the "change" being preached by the AFC. Change is not something the PNC or the PPP have ever done well.

Why fight change? Why fight progress? Why is the core leadership of the PNC clinging to the past and to archaic principles that only hold the party back?

I recently wrote an article on the symbiotic relationship between the PPP and the PNC. It seems as if both of these parties are resistant to any internal change and constantly shed their change agents.

Whether it is the PPP refusing to shed it's Marxist mantra or the PNC refusing to fully embrace progress, both parties have made consistent decisions to resist change whenever it is confronted with the option. Simply put, both parties know they cannot move into the 21st century and still hold on to old school politics tactics that have kept them in power.

I truly believe we will not see real change in Guyana until there is a break in the unhealthy racial voting patterns that chain the country to its past. However, the leaders of the nation propagate this tendency and they have no intention of changing this anytime soon since it would mean the end of their reign.

These parties believe that they can maintain their brand of antiquated politics and their electorate will vote for them anyway. The PPP proved this belief in the recent elections. However, a significant percentage of the PNCR-1G's electorate did migrate to other parties and it is only a matter of time before the PPP’s supporters do the same.

Guyana needs fresh ideas and unsullied leaders, but the nation’s visionaries end up frustrated and leave - and the only ones left are those who needed to step aside a long time ago to allow the party to grow into an 21st century organisation. Of those who do stick around, they vie for power like dogs fight for territory.

It is despicable behaviour for those who would call themselves leaders and absolutely sickening for the rest of us to have to watch. For the PNC, it is sad to watch those who brought the best aspects of the party drop off one by one. Yet another one bites the dust at Congress Place this week and we can only speculate who will be next.

It means there is a disturbance inside the PNC Headquarters so disconcerting that a rift has been created in the upper echelons, but the sad reality is that the wrong people are leaving.

Isn’t that how it always goes? Those with enough dignity to bow out gracefully rather than be willing participants of a sullied system are the very ones we need to stay and fight for a better way.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Stella Says…It's about time someone helped the children

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

I like the new Minister of Human Services and Social Security already. Priya Manickchand seems like a no-nonsense type of woman who does not have time to waste on incompetence. I can relate with the Minister since I am very much that way as well.

Of course, I liked Bibi Shadick too, until she let her true colours show by treating a very sensitive issue involving some young women with disregard and disrespect. I know it may be naïve of me to trust another Minister of Human Services again so soon, but that is exactly what I intend to do.

As long as Minister Manickchand is working hard for the women and children of Guyana, she will have my full support. Understand that this support does not mean that I will not be the first to point out the shortcomings of this vital ministry, it just means that as long as the new Minister is working hard (as opposed to hardly working) to make life better for women and children, then she will find that I am actually a very nice person.

I know Minister Robert Montgomery Persaud, MBA might say otherwise, but I really am a very pleasant person. I smile a lot and I love to laugh. Sure there are times when I get very upset at the way our leaders misuse their power and I have been known to yell at the television when I have heard enough of their lies and propaganda.

However, I am quick to highlight the good stuff that our leaders pull out of their hats every once in a while too. For example, Minister Manickchand has announced that she is in the early phases of starting a child protection agency. This news made my day. The sun shone brighter and the flowers smelt sweeter.

Although the first thought to cross my mind was about how I could not believe there was no such entity already in existence in Guyana given the high number of crimes against children. I let this thought flutter by my brain and tried to focus on the fact that although the ruling government may not have thought it was important to protect the nation’s children in one of its previous terms, at least now it has seen the light.

I certainly hope this new child protection agency does more to protect children than the government’s agencies that were designed to protect women. It does seem as though the new Minister has an eye for detail since she has already outlined a fairly well developed plan for this new agency.

Only time will tell whether we can expect more from this Minister than to be patronised with promises and propaganda that yield little or no fruit – like some other Ministers who shall remain nameless (for this column anyhow). I just want our new Minister of Human Services and Social Security to know how much of an interest I take in this particular aspect of society.

As such, it is very important to me to know there is someone in this position who truly cares about the people (all of the people) on a personal level. I want to know this person has the capacity to understand the plight of the average Guyanese and intends to work day and night to make life better them. I want to know that when the pressure is on, this Minister will not undermine the progress made by her ministry to stay good with family friends.

Most of all though, I want to know what this new Minister thinks about the women’s issues in Guyana and whether she sees a safer and more prosperous life for them in the next five years. I think this new Minister and I will become best of friends very quickly, although no one could ever take Smart and Sharp Robert’s place.

But first, we need to find a way to shorten Minister Manickchand’s name (Sheesh, I thought Ramsaroop was long!). My hands are tired just from typing her name so much in this column. How about Mighty Mani? Nah, it sounds like a cartoon and she doesn’t look like the cartoon type of person.

We need a name that fits the persona she seems to portray to the public with her collared blouses and dark suit jackets. Oh, I know! How about Poised and Proper Priya. That is perfect for a no-nonsense woman like the new Minister.

We are sure to have tons of fun in this new term, Poised and Proper Priya, and I am on pins and needles waiting for your strategy to address the nation’s women’s issues. I do hope it is coming very soon. If you need any ideas when formulating your approach to this matter, feel free to give me a ring. After all, that’s what friends are for.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Stella Says…Here is a woman’s view of what the Pope said about Muslims

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 21 September 2006)

There has been so much commentary and discussion on what Pope Benedict XVI said last week that my initial thought was to simply let this issue slip away without addressing it in my column.

However, very few of the remarks regarding the Pope’s speech were from women. It always strikes me as odd that half of the world’s population (the female half) often chooses not to weigh in on important matters such as these.

In his speech at the University of Regensburg, Benedict criticised Islam and the Prophet Mohammad by quoting the 14th century Byzantine Emperor, Manuel II Palaeologus, who wrote that everything Mohammad brought was evil and inhuman, "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Although I am no longer a practicing Christian, I was raised in a Christian home and even I am offended at the Pope’s statement. Such a statement coming from any world leader would be considered careless, insensitive and imprudent. Coming from the Pope, this statement is deadly.

The response by some Muslims is ironic to say the least as well. To counter the Pope’s injudicious statement of Muslim violence with violence is just as imprudent as the statement itself. The reality is that intolerance for other religions is foundational in most predominant world religions.

Whether it is Muslims calling Jews infidels or Evangelicals telling Jehovah Witnesses they are going to hell, there is usually very little charity for any religion outside of the one a person chooses to practice, which is also ironic since most religions preach charity as one of the cornerstones of their faith.

Guyana is unique in that, for the most part, people practice their faith without the radical condemnation that is typically taught in regards to other religions. Kaieteur News printed an article last Sunday entitled, “U.S. report finds religious freedom abounds in Guyana,” that spoke on this very subject.

The article said, “Although significant problems existed between the country's two main ethnic groups, tensions were generally racially, not religiously, based. According to the IRF [International Religious Freedom] report, religious leaders frequently have worked together to attempt to bridge these differences.”

While Guyana’s religious leaders work to bring peace to the country, the Pope is thousands of miles away, on a whole other continent, making statements that could nullify all of their efforts. One very human man should never have so much influence over so many minds.

I am not going to say that the world would be better off without religion. Faith in a deity has different meanings to different people. For my mother, her religion is what gave her the strength to live her life. For me, religion sucked every bit of life out of me and I never felt like I could be myself until I rejected the same religion my mother embraced with such fervour.

There are some who say God helped them become a better person and for these people I am happy. Even I will admit there are times when I want to believe there is something or someone out there bigger and wiser than us mere humans – like when murderers invade your workplace and execute your co-workers.

Still, even within the context of how good religion can be for certain people, it should not escape our attention that the escalation of religious tension in the world is very close to that of The Crusades – thanks in large part to extremists from both Christianity and Islam.

What the Pope said would have been a tragedy of intelligence at any point in history. However, in the current setting, with Muslims feeling victimised by the Christian West and when even something so slight as a cartoon can cause conflict and incite a passionate reaction, why on earth would anyone of a sound mind make such a careless statement?

This is the discussion we should be having. By all accounts, the Pope is a highly intelligent man. So why would he pull a statement out of history and insert it into today’s already precarious atmosphere?

When we can answer that question and stop making excuses for the stupidity of our world leaders - that is when we will find peace, with or without religion.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stella Says…Will this year’s GUYEXPO bring economic change?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 19 September 2006)

It is official folks; GUYEXPO 2006 is going to be held after all. Bravo! The new Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Manniram Prashad, has let the world know that despite rumours to the contrary, the trade fair known for showcasing Guyana’s businesses will be held October 26-31.

I know many people are expecting my sarcastic wit to prevail over any well-deserved praise in regards to the PPP’s many failed attempts to “boost” the nation’s economy. However, since I believe it is important to give credit where credit is due, it would certainly be ignoble of me to ignore the fact that the governing party is on the ball enough to pull off a GUYEXPO so soon after an election.

The GUYEXPO is a great way for businesses around the nation to let the world know they are ready to do business. Of course, if the Jagdeo administration was a bit friendlier with foreign investors and more capable of promoting local businesses to overseas interests, perhaps the GUYEXPO could serve as more than just a big party with the neighbours next door.

Oops, I guess a bit of that sarcastic wit did sneak in after all. I really do think the GUYEXPO is a great idea. However, we must ask what types of financial successes have been birthed from past expositions and what businesses should expect from their participation in this year’s expo?

We know the government will make money since they charge an entrance fee for anyone who wants to attend, yet no one knows what becomes of that revenue when the EXPO is done. However, beyond that, what benefits will those businesses that choose to participate in the GUYEXPO reap from their investment of time and resources?

More specifically, if getting some public exposure from the GUYEXPO in its current state, which does not really incorporate many foreign investors, bolsters a local business, how much more could that business grow if the government knew how to play nice with overseas investors?

I did not major in economics in school - like President Jagdeo – but it seems fairly simply to understand one of Guyana’s major economic issues. This is how I see the problem, if I have a thousand dollars and I have five friends who have a thousand dollars each, we can buy things from each other with our money in exchange for services or products.

If no other money is ever introduced into our little circle, then we will just be passing around that same six thousand dollars over and over again. However, if we let someone from outside our circle do business with us too, then we inject more money into the situation as well as the potential for more business opportunities.

Guyana only has a certain amount of money that passes back and forth between consumers and businesses. However, if the nation introduces more outside investors into the equation, the whole country will reap the benefits of the additional cash flow and job opportunities.

Two years ago at the GUYEXPO, Jagdeo laid out his “economic vision” for the country with “three over-arching principles of my Government’s economic strategy – prudent management of the economy, sustained investment in public services, and support for a modern and vigorous private sector.” Even I know this equation alone does not add up to economic growth.

At last year’s GUYEXPO the President said his “principal strategic economic objective is to generate economic growth and enhanced national competitiveness.” I see two problems in this statement right from the start. Firstly, most businesses in Guyana can only be competitive if they are on the right “team.”

Secondly, economic growth for Guyana is not going to come from national competitiveness. Growth will come from international competitiveness, and this is something from which the Jagdeo administration shies away.

This timidity is understandable to a certain degree since Guyana’s potential for being competitive is weak because of the lack of training in so many vital areas of today’s world economy such as technology.

Which is exactly why the government should focus its first moves toward tangible economic recovery on education and solidifying relationships with outside investors who would gladly train Guyanese workers themselves.

Therefore, while I applaud the new Minister’s haste in being able to host a GUYEXPO during this election year, I think there are far more important issues to which he should be channelling his efforts in these early days of his new post. Or at the very least, I hope he plans to introduce a lot more outside cash into the EXPO this year.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Monday, September 18, 2006

Stella Says…I refuse to succumb to the fear and bitterness

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

I received some interesting responses to my column from Thursday in which I asked who was in charge of the PPP/C and the country. It was very enlightening to find out what some of the people in general really think about the ruling government.

However, there was one email from earlier this week that stuck with me and caused me to do a re-evaluation of myself. Journalists as a whole are not to let their true feelings show when writing a news article. However, a columnist has a little more room to examine current events and political phenomenon.

As such, the reader knows the opinion section of the paper, which usually includes an editorial, some columns and letters to the Editor from the public, should be taken with a grain of salt. The reader will agree with some opinions and disagree with others.

This whole exercise of promoting free speech and volleying ideas back and forth is not only healthy, but it can be highly productive. However, this week I received an email asking me why I am so mean to the PPP. Of course, this caused me to immediately employ a self-evaluation on whether I gratuitously targeting the PPP.

I found the answer to my self-probe in the email itself, which detailed the atrocities Indo-Guyanese suffered under PNC rule and how much better life was now under the PPP (that is supposedly trying its best).

It is not that I do not know of the sufferings of the Indo-Guyanese under the PNC. I have family who lived through it and I have kind readers, like this one, who remind me of these sufferings every chance they get.

Likewise, it is not that I do not care about what happened all those decades ago or wish to forget Guyana's past with a wave of a hand. I value the lessons of history far too much to excuse such important matters that contribute to the formation of a nation and a people.

The reason I can so easily evaluate the PPP based on international standards of political, economical and democratic growth is because I choose to view the party by the condition of the nation today and not in comparison to how things were decades ago.

It is because I choose to hold the government of Guyana to the same standards that I would hold any other country in the world that my analysis of their performance is untainted by bitterness of the past or fear of the future.

In America, the citizens are too busy to remember the failures and sins of their leaders from week to week and therefore put incompetent politicians in power out of sheer laziness or ignorance. In Guyana, the citizens remember every failure and sin with bitter resentment and maintain that they would rather die before allowing such a situation to occur again.

Meanwhile the politicians play on this fear and use it to maintain their power. If I ever wondered about how far the PPP would go to stay in power, my questions were answered when I saw "The Great Pretender" commercial. Guyana's very own government used flashes of racial violence to scare their people into submission…and the people did as their were expected.

However, it is not the Afro-Guyanese as a whole who suffer under the PPP rule, it is PNC supporters who experience marginalisation. Afro-Guyanese who support the PPP reap the benefits of that support and Indo-Guyanese who do not support the PPP suffer the consequences of their choice.

Sure, things may be better today than it was during the PNC rule for a portion of the population, but there is another portion of the population for which it is worse. This ought not be. Guyana does not need leaders who value one section of the population more than another.

This is not a sin from decades ago; it is alive wreaking havoc on the nation today. Yet I have Indo-Guyanese who tearfully tell me their stories of marginalisation from the past without giving a second thought to the marginalisation their very own neighbours suffer today.

The PPP today is no better than the PNC was so long ago. In fact, the PPP is the very same in so many regards. Both parties should have been voted out in the last election, but too many people still harbour their fear and bitterness to let go of the past and embrace a better future.

However, I refuse to let the past tarnish my view of what Guyana should really be today if there were a government in power that cared about the well being of all of the people of the nation and not just half of the population.

I am not being mean when I hold Jagdeo, his administration and the PPP to basic standards of acceptable performance. I just refuse to succumb to the fear and bitterness they promote at the expense of the nation's future.

I want to see Guyana grow beyond its racial politics and realise that by holding on to its twenty-year-old wounds it does nothing but chain the entire nation, including the next generation, to the past.

There will be no growth, no prosperity, no economic reforms, no Constitutional reforms, and no social reforms until the people of Guyana can start evaluating the government based on its current political performance and not on the performance of dead men.

The PPP can expect me to continue my "meanness" if it means that they will be held to the higher standards of performance that Guyana deserves.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Friday, September 15, 2006

Stella Says…Who is running the PPP/C and country?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 14 September 2006)

Some believe Janet Jagan is still in control of the governing party and therefore, in control of the country. Others, like Peeping Tom, believe President Jagdeo is the one calling the shots now. The one thing we all know for sure is that Moses Nagamootoo does not have a say at all anymore.

So who is running the country? Does Granny still pull the strings from behind the door of Freedom House? Or is Jagdeo bent on creating a legacy for himself that will surpass even that of Cheddi Jagan and is ridding himself of the old guard?

I have heard very convincing arguments from both sides of the spectrum and I cannot help but think there are others who are wondering about this as well. Those on both sides of this coin are also very adamant about their position.

This column is going to be packed full of questions. Of course, I am no more equipped to answer many of these questions than anyone else outside of Freedom House. In fact, I am not sure even those appointed to their new Cabinet positions know the real answer to these queries.

Yet still, the question of whom is controlling of the country must be asked because it is in the answer that we will find the course by which Guyana will have no other choice but to follow for the next five years.

For example, if Peeping Tom is right and Jagdeo is truly in charge now, it would mean the President is the one who gave Nagamootoo a cold shoulder. If this were the case, the next obvious question would be why? Why not keep Moses around since the people love him so much? Or maybe the answer to the last question is in the question itself.

I suppose another very important question is that if Jagdeo really is in charge now, why do people still want to believe that it is Granny who still controls the PPP? Perhaps the reason for this immovable stance is nostalgic or maybe it is fear of change.

Or perhaps people in general are afraid to think of what will become of Guyana if one man really does have too much power again and would rather believe there is an old lady with a familiar face watching over them somewhere.

If this is really the case and Granny is still in charge, does this mean she is the one grooming our Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud, MBA for the next president of Guyana? Some theorise the new cabinet is a Freedom House creation and Janet Jagan is just clearing the way for Mr. MBA to take the helm in 2011 and she is the one who pushed many of the old guards (like Moses whom she could not control) out of the PPP/C.

Still others, like Peeping Tom, maintain that this Cabinet is a clear indication that Jagdeo is moving out on his own and getting rid of those old geezers (including Nagamootoo and Granny), which would mean that Mr. MBA is actually a Jagdeo protégé.

What do you think? Who is running the country? Is Nagamootoo out because he threatens Jagdeo or because Granny cannot control him? If we interviewed people on the street and asked who they thought was in charge in Guyana, I would venture to guess that the responses would include various names in the upper echelons of Freedom House, but no one would know for sure.

Today I am full of questions and do not have one single answer.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Stella Says…Now Showing in a Theatre near you, "The folly of the politician"

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 12 September 2006)

Stella Says…Now Showing in a Theatre near you, "The folly of the politician"

It never ceases to amaze me when I see politicians act like they have no more common sense than an elephant. Minor episodes of bad judgement can be, and often are, overlooked by a forgiving public. Like when Khemraj Ramjattan did not take my advice and shave his beard. If this party leader was not instrumental in pulling in many votes for the AFC votes, I bet it was due in large part to that blasted beard.

The major mistakes by political leaders sometime border absolute idiocy. This past week has been chucked full of foolhardy decisions, which are particularly disheartening given that we are just two weeks into a brand new term. One would think that it would have taken at least a month before the nation's leaders made any glaringly reckless or impulsive decisions.

However, since these politicians insist on making my job so easy by opening the door wide to a critical analysis of their folly, I will respectfully oblige their invitation and examine two very illogical political moves.

Firstly, there was the AFC's decision to disregard its platform of ethnic balance in appointing those who will represent the party in Parliament. I am not referring to the fact that the AFC leaders obviously angered the wrong person when they chose to omit Gaumatie Singh, who displayed all the statesmanship and poise of a cat with its tail on fire when she did not get her promised seat.

That situation may have been a time bomb just waiting to explode and it seems Trotman attempted to handle the aftermath in the most diplomatic way possible. Too bad they were not quick enough to squelch that fire before it even started (sigh). However, the AFC's big blunder was in not foreseeing how the public would react when it did not take more care to portray an overt attempt at racial balance in appointing its parliamentarians.

This is a colossal gaffe the AFC cannot afford to make at such an early juncture. If this new party truly wishes to be viewed as a party for all Guyanese, then it would have been critical to further this image by its choice of parliamentarians that appear to represent the general makeup of the population.

On the heels of such a huge victory for a third party in Guyana, the AFC should be walking softly and not leaving critical aspects of Guyanese politics – such as race – open for speculation. Yet this is exactly what they have done less than two weeks into the term. Perception is everything in politics and the AFC really dropped the ball on this one.

According to the alleged email exchange between Singh and Trotman, which was made public, the person who was chosen to serve instead of Singh received the position to make sure she was receiving a wage. In other words, the AFC potentially sacrificed their entire image and may have compromised the trust of their constituency just to make sure one person was on the payroll.

I suppose we should just be happy they have their own legitimate seats in which to fight over and that they are no longer highjacking seats from another party.

Speaking of another party, the President did seem to understand that the people wanted some new faces in the Cabinet, but I'm just not sure he changed all of the right faces. Those who were appointed to the Cabinet tells us so much of what we can expect from the PPP during the next five years, just as much as those who were clearly omitted.

Just when we started to think this term would be Jagdeo's time to shine, just when we thought this time around things might be different, just when we were being drawn in by the lure of the "inclusiveness" propaganda – we find that we are right back where we left off last term and that nothing has really changed at all.

It is these types of decisions made by politicians that boggle my mind. For example, Clement Rohee has not displayed an exceptional performance in any of his previous ministerial appointments. Therefore, it seems a bit ironic that Rohee, who has a healthy share of speculative accusations flying about, is replacing the one person who stood up to the drug lords as Home Affairs Minister, Gail Teixeira.

So much for my optimistic faith for clean and accountable leaders, eh? The funniest part of Jagdeo's new Cabinet is that Robert Montgomery Persaud, MBA is now the Minister of Agriculture. Does anyone else remember that photo of Mr. MBA knee-deep in mud after last year's flood while some kindly citizens tried to help him out?

I sure hope he can handle the job and I do wish him well, but I am going to miss him so very much. I hope the Information Liaison replacement is just as entertaining as he has been.

Sometimes I really do not know what goes on inside the head of politicians. It is as if they completely lose all grip on reality and toss their common sense into the trash just before taking office. Or perhaps they just get so arrogant that they forget those for whom they serve and make their decisions based on all sorts of other factors except the most important one – what is best for the people of the nation.

In any case, this term promises to be tons of fun for all. Stay tuned for the showing of "The folly of the politician." It is sure to be along very soon.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Stella Says…How will the re-election of the PPP affect women for the next five years?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 9 September 2006)

After considering the ramifications of the PPP's recent election victory on the nation's general population, my first and foremost thought always returns to the women of Guyana. As such, I think it is important to consider the implications of what another five years of PPP rule will have on the female half of the population.

For example, in America, another term with the Bush administration basically stalls most of the progress that should be taking place for women. There have been some small victories here and there, but this president's administration, and his party, work hard to make sure women have not gone too far from where they were in 2000 when the Republicans took over the White House.

In Guyana, there are some celebratory aspects as well as some vital areas of concern with the re-election of the PPP. On a positive note, the PPP does not seem to be hesitant about putting women in decision-making roles. It seems we can anticipate a healthy number of women in leadership roles again for Jagdeo's new Administration, which he has done in past terms as well.

The new Cabinet appointees still do not add up to a 50/50 split or anywhere close to actually representing the number of women in population at large; however, Guyana's record in this regard is typically higher than most other countries and that alone is a reason to celebrate.

I have to say (once again) that although I supported Bibi Shadick and her work with women's issues in Guyana, I was emphatically disappointed by how badly she recently handled a very sensitive case when some young women charged some well-to-do young men with sexual misconduct.

Up to this point, the PPP had been making some measurable progress on women's issues with Shadick at the helm. This included new legislation that raised the legal age of consent from a mere 13 years old to a more reasonable 16 years of age. In fact, there have been various programmes and government sponsored organisations started under the PPP to address women's issues.

This is in stark contrast to the PNCR-1G, who kindly sent me a draft of their crime strategy last December for review. However, they absentmindedly forgot to include any programmes in their initiative to protect women, discourage domestic abuse or create stricter legislation that would send a clear message to rapists and women abusers.

Having pointed out the positive aspects of the PPP regarding women's issues, there is another side to the story. On paper, the PPP's track record looks promising for women, but in real life, there are some glaring discrepancies that should be addressed in the upcoming term.

Domestic abuse is still a very alarming problem in Guyana. It is very disturbing to see the amount of disregard new mothers receive from their healthcare providers in the medical facilities. Absentee dads leave so many women all alone to rear the children and provide for the family without any help. Rapists are very seldom caught, and when they are, they get a slap on the wrist, which is basically an invitation to rape again.

Sexual abuse is a very real fear for girls and can come from a total stranger, a friend of the family or even a family member. Although it is not gender specific, the quality of education afforded to young women is also an important matter. On top of everything else, there are still remnants of the "boys club" mentality that slams the doors of opportunity on intelligent women and sexually harasses those they do hire for "female" jobs.

My point is that although gender equality is slowly becoming a generally accepted concept, and although the government has taken some meagre steps to address the progress of gender specific issues, there is still a cavernous gap that distinguishes men from women in their everyday lives.

Until some positive results from the various programmes and women's organisations created by the PPP spill over into real life, there cannot be any claim of actual progress on women's issues. The establishment of these initiatives alone does not change the climate of gender discrimination if the government does not act in accordance with their own women's issues agenda.

In other words, the PPP needs to do more than just talk the talk on women's issues in the upcoming term. They need to walk the walk. This does not include appointing a minister who will negate all of the hard work the party has put into women's issues by making statements that further victimise women.

What can we expect from the PPP in the next five years? Since they have not invited me to their brainstorming sessions (I guess that means I didn't get that job as the new Information Liaison. Darn!), I cannot say what they have in store for women in the next five years.

However, I am hopeful that with a change of guards in the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, there will also be a change of focus that encompasses more than just the obligatory response to the international community on this subject. It would be nice to see the PPP initiate some real progress on women's issues that will help reshape the gender discriminating socialisation that preys on half of the nation's population.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Friday, September 08, 2006

Stella Says…It is time to clean house

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 7 September 2006)

There are times, when our attention is required somewhere else, that our routine responsibilities inadvertently get neglected. For example, I recently had a bad infection that required me to rest a lot and kept me from physically doing certain daily activities.

After about a week of this, I looked around to find I was overwhelmed by all of these responsibilities that on a normal basis are just a matter of routine maintenance. The most pressing issues for me right now are firstly that my email inbox is full of unanswered emails and secondly my laundry is piling up.

Paul is great with doing his share of the household chores and would have normally helped with the laundry, but he was out of town all of last week and as far as my emails, there is no one else that can respond to my emails but me.

On Tuesday, I finally felt strong enough to get these items in hand. I decided to start with the laundry and it is almost done now. However, my emails remain unanswered to date and continue to come in. I suppose I will have to make the time to attend to them as well within the next day or so.

I cannot help but think that President Jagdeo must feel a bit overwhelmed about the start of his new term too. There so many (so very many) issues that should have been maintained on a routine basis, but have become overwhelming tasks that would be daunting even to the most optimistic hard worker.

To name just a few, there is the crime situation, the paltry economy, a beleaguered work force, an outdated Constitution, a growing movement among the citizens to privatise the radio and an educational system that has been neglected for so long that it is becoming a real embarrassment to the nation.

There are times when we can be so overwhelmed by the tasks requiring our attention that we simply do not know where to start. For example, my daughter tries her best to keep her room clean. However, she falls way short by our standards and every so often Paul will help her get it organised and cleaned up again.

It could be overwhelming if he just looked at the room all at one time with books, artwork, toys and clothes in all directions. Instead of being overwhelmed, he simply goes after one area at a time and works until it is done, then he moves on to the next area.

I have employed this same strategy many times in life. At one point I had four children, all under the age of five, and often needed to find the most effective way of conquering even the simplest of tasks such as bath time or nightly homework.

Life is much less demanding for me now with just one child left at home, but perhaps the PPP could use this straightforward method to address the many (so very many) matters that they have let get out of control in the past few years (terms).

We can call this method the "Paul Housecleaning Method" and I know just the place to start first – the educational system. The dilapidated state of the educational system is no secret and it is good to know that at least a little progress has been made on building repairs (though many students have been misplaced in the meantime).

However, the educational system needs so much more than just a few repairs on its physical structures. The entire educational process needs to be addressed, including the curriculum, the testing procedures and teacher recruitment and pay increases.

If the President and his soon-to-be appointed Cabinet are feeling overwhelmed at the many (so very many) issues that have gotten out of hand and are needing some guidance on where to start, perhaps the educational system would be the best place to start cleaning house.

The students of today, from primary school all the way through university, are the nation's leaders of tomorrow. These are the people who will be leading the nation and starting businesses. They need every academic advantage that can be afforded to them as soon as possible.

The longer it takes for this issue to be addressed, the more children that are lost to sentiments of failure and neglect. Guyana can ill afford to lose even one more family to migration or one more child to the drug lords because he/she feels that way of life is the only way to make any money in the country.

As the President cleans house in his Cabinet in the next few days (and I say a hearty good riddance), he will no doubt be considering the first steps that should be taken in this new term. If he does employ the "Paul Housecleaning Method" to tackle the many (so very many) issues he overlooked last term, I am confident he will have this country in tip top shape in no time at all.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Stella Says…Will the AFC become another deadbeat opposition party?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 5 September 2006)

There is a phrase used when people talk about a father who neglects his responsibilities as a parent. We call that person a deadbeat dad. However, it often seems as if Guyana has had the same type of problem when it comes to their representation from opposition parties.

There were so many times in the last year that I wondered time and again about the very existence of Guyana's primary opposition party, a group that represented almost half of the nation's population last term. This is most bothersome since it negates the accountability factor that is vital in any healthy democracy.

I know all of the excuses for this apparent apathy from the PNC last term. I have heard them all. The PPP will not let them do anything to upstage the sitting government. The PPP will not give them money. The PPP is mean and bad and plays ugly.

While all of this might very well be true, there is still absolutely no reason for the PNC to leave its constituency out in the cold simply because the PPP has been incapable or unwilling to conform to its role as a democratic government.

I can think of so many ways the PNC could have been true to its constituency regardless of how the PPP acted. However, for some reason the PNC felt their hands were tied and they became a deadbeat opposition.

The people are the ones who suffered in the end with the loss of their voice in government and they were none too happy about it, which was obvious from the recent elections where the PNC lost much ground to a new credible opposition group, the AFC.

Normally, I am an advocate of cooperative politics. When various political entities work together toward one goal, it is simply amazing to see what can be accomplished for the nation. This is what makes President Jagdeo's new desire to play nice with others a very interesting turnaround.

However, I could not help but notice that the AFC has said it will not be joining any informal coalition arrangements in Parliament. At face value, this statement may seem pretentious and uncooperative. However, given the fact that the nation's long-time leaders have done so very little to bring progress to the nation, maybe it is better that the AFC isolates itself from these slackers and raises a new standard of governing in Guyana.

It seems that if the AFC can be a bit more creative than the PNC has been in the past as an opposition party, then perhaps it can find ways to effectively represent its constituency without any money or support from the ruling party.

Another aspect to consider with the introduction of this new opposition group is that the PNC must now step up their game for this next term if they plan to stay alive past the next five years. If they continue to spend their entire time yelling foul again and accomplish nothing for their voters, those votes will be gone in 2011 as well.

Taking this to another level, the PPP knows full well that their days are numbered too if they perform as badly in the next five years as they have in the past. The introduction of a new opposition has changed the entire political landscape in just a few short months.

However, I cannot stress how vital it is that the AFC perform well in the next five years. They have to stay above reproach on issues of accountability, find ways to help Guyana progress (with or without the support of the PPP), reject all forms of corruption and be quick to deal with those in the party who succumb to bribes and corrupt practices and they must address the national issues that impact the people the most.

These are all points on which both the PPP and the PNC have fallen short and on which the AFC can solidify their presence in Guyana's government. On the contrary, if they end up just like the other two parties, then they can be tossed with the rest of the deadbeat politicians in 2011.

Ever the optimist, I want to believe the introduction of this new opposition party will bring the change Guyana so desperately needs. Then again, I was naïve enough to believe the nation was ready to shed its racial voting pattern too.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Monday, September 04, 2006

Stella Says…I want to be the next Information Liaison to the President

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 3 September 2006)

Since it seems likely that the current Information Liaison to the President, Robert Persaud, MBA, will be moving on to bigger and better things like a ministerial position or something of that lofty nature, I have decided that I think I could do a bang up job in his soon to be vacated position.

Let's try out the title first to make sure it works - Information Liaison to the President, Stella Ramsaroop. Hmmm. It seems like something is missing. Oh, I know. I need a cutesy little accreditation thingy at the end of my name. How about DSP, Doctor of Spin and Propaganda? Nah, the acronym sound too much like an STD. Let's try MGG, Master of Getting a Groove. Oh yeah, that works baby!

Let's try it out for a test run - Information Liaison to the President, Stella Ramsaroop, MGG. Beautiful! Just beautiful. I bet Mr. MBA is going to be so jealous of my adorable new designation. Now that I have decided on my groovy title to be used as next potential Information Liaison to the President, I should probably let the President know that I can do this job.

I know that I have very big shoes to fill since Robert Persaud, MBA has been the all time king of spin (or a close second to his guru, Baghdad Bob). Therefore, to be worthy of wearing that weighty crown, I had better be at the top of my game for this informal audition to showcase my talents for the President.

Let's start with this past week, which was full of issues that would need the attention of an Information Liaison. For example, Mr. MBA was asked about why he thought there was such a low voter turnout for the general elections. He just gave a dismissing response that showed he was not prepared to answer that very important question.

As Information Liaison to the President, I would have let the media know before they even asked the question that the primary reason that so many Guyanese chose to not cast their vote in this election, which is a distinct shift in the way the people of this nation practice politics, is simply because they were just too tired from all of those fun parties we threw the weekend before elections.

Since the blasted media has already shared the information with the world, we acknowledge that voter turnout was down by about 20 percent from the last election and the streets of the country looked like a ghost town during a national election day.

We also acknowledge that because of this lack of voter turnout, we acquired more seats in Parliament than we had last term even though we received over 25,000 fewer votes this election than in 2001. However, we sure did have fun at those rallies.

Oh boy, did we have fun! There was live music pulsing through the crowd that numbered somewhere close to 850,000 people at each rally (I know that number is more than the country's population, but such information is not common knowledge so why not throw it out there and see what happens? Mr. MBA would be so proud of me right now.).

Anyhow, as I was saying, we partied all weekend, so on Monday when the people needed to vote, they were simply too exhausted from the weekend. It's a good thing the President gave them a national holiday so they could rest up, but for next election we need to remember that our rallies should be tamed down a bit so the people can have the strength to vote the next day.

Therefore, the explanation for the low voter turnout was that we partied too much the weekend before. This nonsense being tossed about by the sore loser politicians and various commentators claiming the people are just tired of the nation's political practices is simply a way for them to steal our shine since we won and they didn't.

The electorate was just tired from partying, not tired of us. They love us. Why else would they elect us for yet another consecutive term?

There is another issue from this past week that should be addressed by an Information Liaison and since I think I'd make a great one, I will tackle this matter as well. It seems after adamantly proclaiming that there would be no power sharing to squeeze every vote out of a politically gun-shy electorate, the President is now telling the opposition parties that he wants to play nice with them.

Now I know this may seem like a scheme to impress the Organisation of American States (OAS) and The Carter Foundation, both of which encouraged Guyana's leaders to find ways to work together this week. However, the President is very sincere in his sentiments of cooperation.

He was just playing around last term when his administration refused to cooperate with anyone else. This term he plans to work with anyone who is willing to roll up his/her sleeves and labour hard to promote the PPP's agenda for progress in Guyana. (Now that is great spin. Read it and weep, Mr. MBA.)

I sure hope the President considers me to fill this position if it is vacated by Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud. It might be a bit difficult for me to adjust my thinking to reflect the ideology that a government can do as it pleases and then make up all kinds of stories to cover its tracks and ease the conscience of the electorate, but I think I can do it.

After all, we cannot have an electorate with a guilty conscience now, can we?

Additional references for the position of Information Liaison to the President are available upon request.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Friday, September 01, 2006

Stella Says…The people have done their part, but will Jagdeo do his?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 31 August 2006)

Now that it seems the people have expressed a vote of confidence in Jagdeo's ability to govern and turn Guyana around, the question now turns to what the President will do with this opportunity. Will he finally step out from the shadows of Freedom House and Janet Jagan and make decisions that are clearly beneficial for Guyana?

For example, although the people of Guyana have spoken and given Jagdeo another chance at governing their nation, just as they said they would according to a recent poll by NACTA, the people also said in that poll that they would like for the President to fire his cabinet. Will Jagdeo do right by the people who elected him and cater to what they want and need?

In the past, party faithful were appointed to ministerial positions regardless of whether they had the qualifications for that position. Many of these individuals have gone from rags to riches during their short term in office while the country at large continues to wallow in abject poverty. However, if the President cleans up his cabinet, this would go a long way in helping the people to begin to trust their leaders.

Does the President even care if the people trust their leaders? Will he look across the span of the country and find the most qualified individuals to be his partners in leading Guyana to prosperity? Will he demand that the ministers of his cabinet be above reproach and insist they declare their net worth to the people of Guyana prior to taking office so there can be finally be accountability in Guyana's government?

Will he immediately and without delay, pull the PPP out of hypocrisy and privatise the Chronicle, as well as the television and radio stations owned and controlled by the State? (The very practice the PPP fought against while the PNC was in power)

Will the President create a Ministry of Spin and Propaganda and appoint Robert Persaud, MBA to head the ministry so he can be groomed to be Mrs. Jagan's next presidential candidate of choice? Or will Jagdeo see the wisdom of appointing Moses Nagamootoo to a prime position to help steer the party for the next five years?

Mrs. Jagan's communism has proven to be a very bad deal for Guyana and it is time someone stepped up and made that declaration. In a gist, I just want to know if the President will finally have the guts to cut the apron strings and be the strong and just leader that Guyana so desperately needs right now.

Will he put issues that matter at the forefront of his agenda, such as building a strong economy, containing the crime situation, bolstering the nation's infrastructure, revamping the educational system and addressing the many women's issues that still permeate the social framework of the national culture?

Will his next administration give Guyana more than a bag full of hot air on these important topics? In real life, spin and propaganda are nothing more than empty words to a single mother who is trying to find food for her children or a family that has just been beaten and robbed by vile thieves.

Mr. President, the people - not Freedom House or Janet Jagan - elected you. Therefore, your loyalty should be to the people and no one else. Some in Freedom House might say they helped you get elected again, but you were the only thing the PPP had going for them this election term. You helped the PPP get re-elected – not the other way around.

Even though you have not done right by the people in the past (in so many ways), they still trust you enough to place their country under your leadership for one more term. What would it hurt for you to find out what the people want from you and act accordingly?

Email: StellaSays[at]