Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stella Says…Even killers and drug dealers should get a fair trial

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

There has recently been an increase of criminal deaths at the time of apprehension by law enforcement forces. Kirby Anthony Heywood, called John Kirby, was killed during apprehension after the police say he shot upon them, although bystanders had another story.

In another incident last week, James Bennett was also shot and killed during apprehension when the police say one policeman fell and his “rounds” went off. Again, bystanders had a different story to tell.

Anyone who knows anything about guns whatsoever knows that a gun may go off once during a fall, but not several times. How many times was Bennett “accidentally shot”? Several other suspects have been apprehended under questionable circumstances lately as well. There seems to be a pattern developing that chills me to the bone.

I despise killers, rapists, thieves and drug dealers. I do not wish to have these criminals walking the streets anymore than the next person. However, I also believe every single criminal should have his or her day in court. This is their Constitutional right and it is a necessary aspect of a democratic state.

Vigilante justice and premature justice by law enforcement officials threaten the very foundation of democracy. Although I am sure there are some who are glad to see these criminals out of the way before they are afforded a fair trial, as is evident from some letters to the Editor last week, this notion diminishes the justice system.

If such actions are allowed to continue without being checked, those same letter writers may one day find that they too may need justice and that justice may be nowhere to be found.

If a shooting occurs during the apprehension of a criminal under questionable circumstances, the law enforcement official who committed the act should be temporarily relieved of duty and a full investigation should be conducted, as is the process in most democratic countries.

After the investigation, if it is indeed found that the policeman or woman acted inappropriately, that person should be dismissed from the force immediately. These “accidental deaths” I have detailed are only two in a new trend that seems to be developing and every single one of these deaths should be fully investigated by an independent entity.

Where is that wonderful task force set up by the government to revamp the police force? I am not sure if the President has taken notice, but there are people dying at the hands of his law enforcement officials. Kerik is obviously doing a bang up job. Will this be allowed to continue?

I am sure the international community would love to see how many deaths have occurred of alleged criminals at the time of apprehension during the last three months. Although I am sure these numbers are nowhere to be found either.

It is all quite black and white, policemen and women are not supposed to kill people at all. There might be a rare instance when such a drastic measure may be warranted, but this should certainly not be the norm – as it has been lately.

Every citizen is entitled to a fair trial. I know the justice system is also lacking, including a person’s right to a speedy trial, and is a contributing factor in the denial of justice to those accused of crimes in Guyana. This frustrates the justice system and the population at large, who need to see justice prevail.

However, that topic is for another column and today I am only concerned with apprehending these alleged criminals alive and well so they can get a fair trial. These “accidental deaths” need to stop immediately and an investigation conducted on any that have occurred. This is fair and just.

The people need to know they can trust the police to protect them, but at this point there are many who believe the police are just as crooked as the criminals. Justice must prevail in Guyana – starting with the police force itself.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Stella Says…It is about time someone told the truth about healing ministries

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 29 October 2006)

I know there are millions of people in the world today who believe in supernatural healing, whether through meditation, prayer or another form of spiritual process. I am not going to ride roughshod over anyone’s faith in a deity, but I think most “healing ministries” do more harm than good – both to God and to the people.

Since I grew up in a very religious home and spent most of my adult life adhering to those teachings, I know those who work for Ernest Angley Ministries will tell themselves (and everyone else) they are being attacked by the devil when facing opposition to their claims of being able to heal HIV/AIDS. In reality, these ministries are creating a false hope that can be very dangerous.

According to a Saturday Stabroek News article entitled, “Health Ministry slams Angley for HIV claim,” the Health Ministry rightly issued a strong warning against believing there is a cure for HIV/AIDS. This was a wise move by the Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, and could have possibly even saved the lives of some people.

First of all, let me say that if Ernest Angley or any others in his band of miracle workers had verifiably healed even one person in this world from HIV/AIDS, we would all know about it. Word of such a miracle would have spread far and wide and people would be able to thank God for such a wonderful exploit.

However, no such feat has occurred and to make such a claim is highly irresponsible. What if a person of faith here in Guyana received prayer at one of Angley’s crusades this weekend and left believing he or she was indeed healed of HIV/AIDS and subsequently stopped taking the necessary medicine and even had unprotected sex?

This ministry’s irresponsibility could have risked the health, and maybe even the lives, of hundred or thousands of Guyanese. I applaud the Health Ministry for being quick on its feet and taking such a strong stance on this issue.

According to the Stabroek News article, the Health Ministry issued a statement that said, “Anyone who promotes the misrepresentation that there is a religious-based cure for HIV is involved in an obscene exploitation of people's vulnerability.”

The Ministry also said, “We are unaware of the existence to date of any cure, anywhere in the world for HIV infection and there has been no scientific documentation of any cure for AIDS."

From a government that is too often reactive on important issues, oft times to the detriment of the general public, this time it was proactive and could have saved the lives of many people.

I am not belittling anyone’s faith for believing in supernatural healing and if a verifiable healing of HIV/AIDS were to take place, I would rejoice as loudly as anyone else. However, this is one time when, for the sake of the people, practicality and good sense should take precedence over a preacher’s desire to make reckless claims of healing.

Such assertions are irresponsible no matter where they are made, but they are even more imprudent when made in a country where the medical facilities are wanting, some of the nurses and doctor need a refresher course on good bedside manners and medical technology and science are frequently dated.

These factors, as well as the knowledge that even with the best technology and medical treatment there is no known cure for HIV/AIDS, can highly frustrate a person with this disease and cause them to want to believe that if they have enough faith, maybe they can be healed.

During my religious days, I watched over and over again as literally thousands of people would flock toward the front of a church or a meeting hall for healing, only to be disappointed. Sometimes these people would even discontinue their medicine believing they were healed and in the end they were worse than before.

I do not doubt that people make spiritual connections through their faith. Likewise, if a person wants to believe his/her faith has brought healing, that is fine too. My concern begins when the irresponsible actions of a minister threatens the health and lives of the people, such as minister making claims of healing HIV/AIDS when the medical community is working tirelessly to educate and help those who suffer from this deadly disease.

Moreover, I have seen people psychologically crushed when they did not receive the healing promised by a minister and consequently lose their faith in God altogether because the “man of God” did not come through.

There have even been times when these people feel as if there is something wrong with them, like they are not good enough for God or like they are less of a person for not being able to have enough faith to get healed.

Ministers solidify this emotion and tell these people to build their faith, but instead, someone should be telling the minister to stop creating situations that make it appear as if a person’s faith has failed. In truth, it is the minister who has failed.

Level heads prevailed this time around for Guyana. The Health Ministry has protected the people as best it could and no one could ask for more from any government. However, much should still be expected from Ernest Angley Ministries, like perhaps a more responsible approach in promoting its crusades and an apology for telling the nation it can heal HIV/AIDS.

If I am wrong, and Ernest Angley has healed just one person with HIV/AIDS, as proven by the medical community, then I will write a public apology in this column and go to church as soon as possible.

However, if I am right and there is not one verifiable healing of HIV/AID by this ministry and it is dishonestly promoting its crusade by making such claims, then it owes Guyana an apology.

Ernest Angley Ministries will shake the dust off its feet concerning my soul now, but I will have an assurance in my heart that the people are finally getting the real truth.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stella Says…Will Captain Corbin go down with his ship?

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

One day Robert Corbin, party leader and presidential candidate for the PNC, is stepping down from his position. The next day he is not. Does anyone know what is going on at Congress Place?

I have long believed Corbin should step down and have said so on more than one occasion in this column. In my opinion, if any political party in the world cannot win an election with a certain candidate, then that candidate has had his/her chance and it is time to move on to more promising prospects.

Under Corbin’s leadership, the PNC sailed into some stormy weather in the last elections when it lost a good portion of its support base. This should say a lot. Yet for some reason, there he still holding on for dear life while the PNC’s ship continues to sink. Has anyone at Congress Place thought that it might be time to find a new captain?

If Corbin has not decided to step down, then he should certainly be considering it – for the good of the party. Could Corbin’s refusal to step down be the reason why so many people have recently parted ways with the PNC? I think it is highly probable.

However, the foremost question in lieu of such a scenario would be who would replace Corbin. Raphael Trotman has his own thing going now. Stanley Ming made a run for it. Peter Ramsaroop has distance himself from the party. Even Sherwood Lowe went his own way.

That does not leave very many options for strong leadership in the PNC, which may also be by design. So who would it be? Maybe it would be Basil Williams, who has controversial cloud following him around. That strategy seems to work well for the PPP.

At least the PPP has Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud, MBA to fall back on should they need some leadership. I’m sure he would be all too happy to jump in and fill any leadership gaps in the upper echelons and I bet there are others who are biting at the bit for their chance too.

Yet no one seems to be all that anxious to try and save the PNC’s sinking ship. In fact, most PNC shipmates seem to be jumping ship as fast as possible. Will Corbin let the ship sink under his leadership? Will the PNC executive members abandon ship or start a mutiny?

Somebody pass me the popcorn because this movie just got good and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stella Says…Peeping Tom thinks I have a hidden agenda

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

It seems that my good friend, Peeping Tom, does not like my suggestion to introduce some new faces into the political scene in Guyana. I cannot imagine why this would be such an issue with dear old Peeps, but as these pages show quite well - we all have our own opinions about life, love and politics.

Peeps pointed out that I did not specify the traits these new faces should embody and then suggested that if I were looking for certain traits, such as vision and leadership, that I would probably look no further than my own family. This hurt, Peeps. And I thought we were such good friends.

Referring to my “family,” Peeps said, “Fortunately, most of us know that it takes more than billboards to identify the future generation of leaders.” I thought my good friend Peeps knew me better than to insinuate that I have a hidden agenda that would cause me to speak for a family member, friend or any other politician. My voice belongs to the people alone.

Moreover, if Peeps knew me half as well as he should, he would know that this family member and I have very different views when it comes to politics. In fact, he leans very far in one political direction and I travel a whole different road, which of course is the right road.

If Peeps had read (without his preconceived notions) my analysis of some of those old faces from my original column to which he responded, he could have easily concluded how certain family members of mine could possibly fall into the “old faces” category. Peeps, I’m so hurt. I thought you knew me better than this.

Peeps also said, “I am not as keen to see the experienced hands disappear as I am to see the resignation of leaders who prop up only in Guyana at election time; leaders who know more about image than substance; political hoppers that cannot even sustain a political chat group much less a political party; leaders who could not even put together a coalition of attention grabbers and publicity freaks.”

Peeps, this statement proves we are destined to be friends for life because I could not agree with you more. However, we have very different methods by which we hope to see change come to Guyana.

For example, you said, “I am not so much interested in new faces as I am in new ideas because this column has always insisted that what can result in a qualitative leap in this country is to find different ways of doing the same things.”

It’s like this, Peeps, you want to “find different ways of doing the same things,” and I think it all needs to change. Why would Guyana want to find new ways to continue the reactive governance, the neglect of the infrastructure, the continuous decline of the educational system, the incestuous corruption, the unbridled crime and the lethargic economy?

Guyana’s politicians already have plenty of ways to accomplish these tasks.

To be a good sport, I will tell my good friend Peeps what I deem important in a leader and would like to see from any new faces that pop up in the near future. I believe leadership is a responsibility that should be accepted by the most humble of society since it carries such heady power.

I believe politicians must not be money hungry since they need to handle so much money, which is why it is important to know how much a politician is worth when he/she takes office, how much salary will be acquired during the elected term and how much he/she is worth when the term is over.

I believe the government should answer to the people on every official decision, which means these decisions should be maintained on public record. I believe the people are intelligent and know best how to run their nation. Therefore, it is unnecessary to “protect” them from information that should rightfully be theirs.

I believe an elected leader should work tirelessly for the people who put him/her into office to create better lives for the citizens of the nation. If a leader is more concerned with playing politics than helping the people, that person should be taken out of leadership as soon as possible because he/she has no worth to the country.

I loathe narcissistic, egotistical and selfish leaders. The motives of these politicians will never bring good things to the nation because they will always seek personal gain over national growth. Fortunately, the people usually see right through such people and these leaders never go anywhere politically.

I could go on all day, Peeps, but I know you have a column to write and research to do. I do hope this clears up any misunderstanding. I would hate for anything to cause a rift in our friendship, but I can’t help but wonder if you are the one with a hidden agenda.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Stella Says…Billboard women and magazine models are not real

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

For me, last Thursday was one of those days when a woman wants to look her best. Therefore, I went out and bought a new outfit last Monday and made sure to get some sexy, strappy three-inch-heels to go with that outfit.

I promptly went home and put on the whole ensemble to see how it looked in the mirror, but I was completely disappointed. It was not the sexy shoes that I found disappointing or the clothes either really; although the outfit did not create the statement I wanted to make for my special day.

What I found disappointing was myself. All women have bad hair days or that outfit that we thought was so cute only to realise much too late that it was a huge mistake to wear it out of the house. However, my disappointment was deeper than this. I just did not feel beautiful at all.

Most guys who are still reading this column will no doubt shrug their shoulders and excuse my insecurity as nothing, but for any woman, it is vitally important that she feels beautiful – especially on special days.

In a world where feminine beauty is honoured above almost all else, including intellect and money, most women want to be as pretty as possible or she loses self-esteem. I know how shallow this sounds, but it is reality nonetheless and this week was a week when I wanted to be beautiful instead of intelligent.

When I told my husband about my feelings, he laughed out loud and told me I was absolutely beautiful. He thought I was being absurd to think I was ugly and I know he does think I am beautiful, but I still did not like what I saw in the mirror.

Lucky for me, when I woke up on Thursday morning and put on my new clothes and shoes, found a matching clutch from my closet and did my hair and makeup, I did like what I saw in the mirror – for the most part. So even though I felt ugly earlier this week, on Thursday I felt pretty. Go figure.

In some ways I was frustrated with myself for being so superficial concerning my looks, especially when I am constantly telling women to rely on their intellect over their looks. On the other hand, we all live in a society that is driven by beauty and are therefore going to fall victim to the insecurities of coming up short when it comes to being beautiful.

On Friday I saw Dove’s new commercial for their real beauty campaign that seeks to show women as they truly are. This ad is only available on the Internet (you can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_aDpmfAzxI) and shows a woman who sat in a chair for ten hours as several people worked to make her “beautiful.”

Once all of that work was done, the next phase started on the computer where they enhanced the woman’s image by elongating her neck, airbrushing the blemishes that makeup did not cover, enlarged her eyes, shortened her shoulders, made her lips fuller, etc.

After ten hours of work and hours more on the computer, the woman’s image was finally ready for a billboard. How realistic is it for any woman to look at that billboard and aspire to be as beautiful as this image of a person that is not even real? Even more, how realistic is it of a man to desire this type of beauty?

I am so tired of driving down the street and seeing a billboard of gorgeous women and feeling like I do not measure up when those women are not even real. I am sick of the media constantly presenting images of women that are unrealistic and unnatural.

The women in fashion magazines are not even real, those images have been so doctored up that the real woman was lost in the process.

I am even more pissed off that my daughters are targeted victims of this twisted and abnormal definition of beauty. I do want them to feel the insecurities I felt earlier this week because they do not measure up to society’s distorted view of beauty.

This column is far more personal than my usual political prose, but I know there are other women out there who have suffered from these same types of insecurities and I think it is time to take back our self-esteem from these phoney images posing as real women.

Advertising critic Barbara Lippert recently told CBS that 98 percent of women from around the world do not consider themselves beautiful. This is a flabbergasting number and absolutely intolerable. I am 37 years old and have no intention of living the rest of my life trying to look like I am 25.

I want to look in the mirror at 50 and like what I see, not through the lens of a society that creates an illusory representation of 50-year-old woman doctored to appear much younger, but through the lens of a society who appreciates the wisdom that accompanies facial lines and grey hair.

To that end, I am joining Dove’s campaign for real beauty. Ladies, when you look in the mirror today, it is my hope that you can look past the socialisation of fake images and appreciate your real beauty. Push those insecurities of whatever it is you do not like about yourself aside and allow yourself to love your eyes, your lips, your hips and your hair.

Allow yourself to love all of you, because there is only one of you and that fact alone is pretty amazing. Oh, and if you have one of those men who tell you that you are ugly or fat, it is time to find someone who is worth your time.

Tell that loser goodbye and find someone who will light up your eyes. Listen sweetheart, there is nothing that will make you feel more beautiful than a man who loves every inch of your body. By the way, those sexy heels accomplished their desired goal.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Stella dissing the old faces - Peeping Tom

Here is fellow Kaieteur News Columnist, Peeping Tom, response to my column Stella Says…Out with the old faces, in with the new faces :
Stella dissing the old faces - Peeping Tom

Stella has joined the PPP bandwagon in questioning the freshness of the political movement, the Alliance for Change. The PPP had described the AFC leadership as ‘political rejects”; Stella has now christened them as recyclable statespersons merging together to form a new party of old faces.

Stella has been liberal in her irreverence against the Alliance for Change. She can be excused for her views about the need for new faces.

What Guyana needs is not new faces alone but new faces with fresh ideas. I was very disappointed for example when reading an interview this newspaper did with the new Minister of Finance wherein he outlined that stabilisation of the macroeconomic environment is one of his top priorities to allow for investment and economic development.

Over the past eight years, all that has been preached by the Jagdeo administration is the need for macroeconomic stabilisation. All that we have been told about the government achievements in the economic realm is about the macroeconomic stability. Yet while the government boasts about this stability, it can point to only a palpable record in terms of economic growth and investment.

Stella of course has not identified what are the missing elements that would allow for macroeconomic stabilisation to be converted to economic growth and prosperity but I am sure that if she did, she would point to the need for vision and leadership and when it comes to identifying the “new faces” that can provide such leadership and vision, she would not have to look very far in her family when it comes to selecting the best candidate for the job.

Fortunately, most of us know that it takes more than billboards to identify the future generation of leaders. Both of the main political parties in fact have begun the process of proving exposure to a new crop of political leaders as is clearly evident in the candidates on their respective lists.

The PPP has appointed an impressive list of persons to the new Cabinet and during the election campaign gave exposure to a number of new leaders. The PNCR, though limited by the number of seats that it secured in the last elections and the gender requirements that have to be met for the names of its candidates extracted for appointment as parliamentarians, has actually managed to bring together an interesting blend of the new along with the experience of some of its older heads.

I am not as keen to see the experienced hands disappear as I am to see the resignation of leaders who prop up only in Guyana at election time; leaders who know more about image than substance; political hoppers that cannot even sustain a political chat group much less a political party; leaders who could not even put together a coalition of attention grabbers and publicity freaks.

I am not so much interested in new faces as I am in new ideas because this column has always insisted that what can result in a qualitative leap in this country is to find different ways of doing the same things.

I will give an example and show where there is both good and bad. There is an experiment taking place in Guyana- even though I am sure that this is how the Ministry of Agriculture will label it- wherein fish is cultivated in rice fields during the period when the fields have to be swamped. This has reportedly resulted in increased yields from 40 to 42 bags per acre.

The excitement with this idea, however, should not stem from this increase of two bags. In fact, considering the investment that must take place to cultivate the fish in the rice fields, such a marginal increase in output, even if it can be entirely attributed to the rearing of the fish, can be considered a failure because it makes no financial sense to risk so much for relatively so small a return.

The real excitement must come from the philosophy that we are not stuck in traditionalism; that we can break with the hardened way of doing things and approach old problems in new ways.

I for one believe that the survival of the rice industry in Guyana must involve growing rice in lager plots because the traditional rice industry was intended to keep many small farmers in a state of subsistence so that they would not abandon full time employment on the sugar plantations.

I believe that in the future, the competitiveness of our agriculture cannot be secured through low prices or higher yields but must involve a greater commitment to bio-genetics that would produce new and more resilient varieties. Coming from an old face, that sure as hell must be a good idea.
Read my response

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stella Says…Out with the old faces, in with the new faces

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

There has been some chatter lately about the upcoming local elections and even predictions for who will be running for the presidential seat in 2011 are handily available.

Although I think it is a bit premature to be considering the next general elections, I would like to entertain this thought momentarily to consider the need for Guyanese to spread their political wings to include some fresh, new faces.

I believe clarification may be in order to further define the phrase “new faces” in the context of my statement. When I say “new faces,” I do not mean old faces slipped into new positions. This seems to be the definition some political parties have recently adapted for this phrase.

There are many parliamentarians and ministers being passed off as new faces when they are just old faces conveniently rearranged to give the appearance of being a new face - as if in a magical trick. Now you see them here, now you see them over there. Presto, chango.

Likewise, when I use the term “new faces,” I do not intend for it to mean familiar faces repackaged in a new political party. This is a popular new trend among the politicians too. Even whole parties are doing it.

The AFC is a perfect example of recycled statespersons merging to form a new party - yet again, old faces. Some of Guyana’s politicians just move from party to party trying to create the illusion of having a new face and in the process give their supporters an identity crisis. Like I said, old faces in new parties.

Even the PNC tried to rebrand itself with a new face by getting an updated name and trying to form a coalition of sorts with some smaller parties, all of whom had old faces. This is like taking week old bread and repackaging it to sell as fresh and delicious. Nobody was fooled though.

Therefore, I will indeed clarify my definition of the term “new faces.” It simply means new faces - people who are new to the political scene. When I say Guyana needs some new faces, I actually mean that it would be nice to see some new people toss their names into the political arena and help shake things up a bit.

I am looking for the next generation of leaders. These old ones are…well, old! Their policies are old. Their politics are old. Their practices are old. Their vision is old. The ridiculous games are very old. Some of these current politicians are so crusty that they make Methuselah look like a wee little youngster.

If the recent general election showed us anything, it was that there is a clear indication that people are tired of the old politics. The PNC lost a hefty portion of its support and a sizeable portion of the PPP voters simply stayed at home rather than waste their precious time at the voting booth.

As such, the upcoming local elections would be the perfect time for some fresh faces to hit the political scene so Guyana can begin to weed out some of those old faces. This type of choreography would go a long way toward setting the stage for the next general elections.

I suppose there are some leaders who would be worth keeping around for their experience and wisdom. There might be one or two who actually deserve their honourable positions and contribute greatly to the governing process.

However, even these noble persons seem jaded at times and have been forced by the system to compromise their beliefs so often that they are now but a shell of that beacon of hope they once were.

While these statespersons remain important to the future of the nation, the country needs new leaders who are untainted by the system to rise up and become Guyana’s new visionaries. Better to have green and inexperienced new faces than old faces who constantly prop up the relics of a broken system.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Stella Says…Guyana needs someone like Muhammad Yunus

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Bangladeshi Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank for pioneering a new concept called mircrocredit, which advances small sums of money to people, most of whom would never be taken seriously by other banks, so they can create a decent living for themselves.

It all started in 1976 when Yunus himself gave 42 village women a total of US$27 to buy some weaving stools. The women got their stools, started to weave quickly and repaid him quickly. He continued to offer small loans like this with a focus on helping women with credit since most banks shy away from women as much as they do the poor.

Yunus’ generosity and vision advanced both economic and social opportunities for the poor in Bangladesh and according to a recent CNN article, the Grameen Bank has loaned over 290 billion taka (US$5.72 billion) to more than 6 million Bangladeshis with loans averaging about $200 each, which typically goes toward buying a cow to start a dairy or chickens for an egg farm.

One would think that the Grameen Bank would have a difficult time recovering its loans since they are dealing primarily with poor people. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, CNN’s article stated that the bank “recovers nearly 99 percent of its loans even though borrowers need put up no collateral.”

For the poorest borrowers and the beggars, Grameen gives interest-free loans. Yunus said, “Why should financial services be denied to the poor? Why should information technology be the exclusive privilege of rich people? Why can't we design things for poor people?”

If you ask me, Muhammad Yunus is well deserving of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. In a world of greed and power-lust, he has risen high above all other entrepreneurs and succeeded in bridging the ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Moreover, Yunus and his bank have found an ingenious way to ease the poverty rate in Bangladesh with their microfinancing. Guyana needs a man like Muhammad Yunus. If the microcredit concept can work in Bangladesh with a population of over 144 million, imagine the impact it can have on Guyana with a population well under 1 million.

The notion of giving the poor a chance to help themselves by starting a small business is not new, but it often just talked about and actual implementation is seldom realised. Yunus has provided the world with proof that if the poor are afforded the dignity of credit, they too can work wonders.

He told Reuters, “Leave it to the people. They can take care of themselves. You don't have to shed tears for them. They are very capable.” I agree. All they need is someone who will believe in them enough to invest in their lives.

Once people feel they have a financial stake in a community, no matter how small it may be, they often tend to become more involved in the political and social aspects of society as well. In Bangladesh, this meant that the women started playing a more visible role in the community as a whole.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee noted, “economic growth and political democracy can not achieve their full potential unless the female half of humanity participates on an equal footing with the male.” Grameen Bank said 97 percent of its borrowers are now women, and that it provides services in more than 70,000 villages in Bangladesh.

Yunus and his bank have transformed Bangladesh and their microcredit concept is now spreading quickly throughout the world. I would love to see the women of Guyana afforded the same opportunities for advancement that the women of Bangladesh have been given.

Too often it seems that unless a person is from a certain race, or is a certain gender, or in Guyana, is loyal to a certain party, the opportunity for advancement is stifled. It is nice to see someone like Yunus hit the international stage and make a valiant attempt to level the playing field.

In closing, I want to echo the words of Muhammad Yunus after learning he was being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, “I don't care if the rich get rich. It doesn't bother me. They should get richer. I'm worried about the poor getting poorer and not getting richer. If there are several Bill Gates in the country, I don't care. Lifting the bottom of society is the most important.”

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Stella Says…Clement Rohee wants you to be a monk

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

The new Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, told the nation this past week that he was worried about the younger generation being drawn into the criminal underworld because it offers such lucrative enticements.

In a Kaieteur News article from October 11entitled, “Growing underworld activities worry Home Affairs Minister,” the minister said, “The answer to this is not to become gullible or susceptible to the underworld, nor to seek to gain fast and easy money, because fast and easy money is not the solution. The solution is hard work and dedication to certain principles.”

Allow me to first say that I share the Minister’s concern about the pervasive criminal element that seems to be infiltrating every aspect of society in Guyana. The lawlessness and disregard for life emanating from these demented minds have reached alarming heights.

At the same time, it is truly ironic to see such concern from any part of a government that has conveniently looked the other way while this criminal population has grown exponentially over the past year or two. The time for the PPP to be concerned was at the start of this madness, not after it has become an out-of-control monster.

However, I will give the good minister the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge his ostensible concern as if he is just now discovering the depth to which crime has infested the nation. To accept this apparent ignorance, we must all wear our greenest state of mind.

How else would we possibly be able to swallow the simplicity of the aforementioned statement from the Minister of Home Affairs when he tells the youth of Guyana to shun fast and easy money for hard work and dedication to certain principles?

I cannot help but wonder if he could hear how incredulous his statement sounded when he said it aloud. I suppose he wants the youth to choose from all of those lucrative career choices created by the PPP instead.

Or maybe he thinks the younger generation will cheerfully shun a life of crime to adhere to a life of hard work that will ultimately never pay their bills, get them their own house or will get them killed as a business owner, like so many who have been murdered lately.

This is his solution for ridding the nation of this criminal underworld of which he is so concerned? Who is truly the gullible one in this story?

While I am sure Rohee has chosen a life of “hard work and dedication to certain principles,” just like a monk who has chosen a life of monetary sacrifice and material minimalism, I have my doubts as to whether we can or should expect this from Guyana’s youth.

As a great portion of the world moves along at lightning speed in areas of technology, medicine and other modern advancements, it is the criminals who have made the most noticeable progress in Guyana, as Rohee also pointed out in the article.

Yet we are to expect the nation’s youth, who long for those modern gadgets and gismos they see being advertised, to defer to the monkish qualities buried deep within and shun the opportunity to make enough to buy a cell phone or drive a nice car.

This is the Minister’s solution to the encroaching criminal underworld? How probable is it to believe that in today’s generation of materialism, the youth will choose hard work that will seldom afford them an opportunity to buy their own home over a remorseful conscience from robbing the businessperson down the street?

I am in no way justifying criminal activity in any form, I am simply pointing out that Guyana’s youth have very, very few alternative lifestyles from which to choose.

The government offers very little for the future of the youth by way of educational advancement, career opportunities or financial security. In fact, with murder incessantly in the air, one can easily understand why the youth would choose a few fast dollars to enjoy life for a while before they too are killed.

This mindset might seem a bit extreme, but I would bet it is not too far removed from what many of Guyana’s youth contemplate on a daily basis. We need only to ask some of those locked up why they chose their lifestyle to verify this analysis of the situation.

I am sure there are some who will choose to do the right thing no matter what, but poverty and desperation can make even the noblest person commit some of the most abhorrent acts. Yet Rohee says, “The solution is hard work and dedication to certain principles.”

I vehemently disagree with the minister. In fact, the real solution to the growing criminal element, Mr. Minister, is to offer the youth viable alternatives to a life of crime, like a marketable education, a thriving economy and promising future outside of criminal activity.

It is embarrassing to think that Rohee believed he was actually addressing this issue by offering such a simplistic statement to address this complex crisis. So he acknowledges the problem. So he is worried. So he blames deportation. What is new? The PPP says the same type of nonsense on a daily basis about any number of issues.

And we just get more smoke and mirrors, but do we really need to be intellectually insulted as well? I think Rohee should tell the families of all those business people killed in the last month that their hard work and dedication to certain principles has paid off for them and see how they react.

It is Rohee and the rest of his pals who should be adhering to this creed of “hard work and dedication to certain principles.” If they had been following this creed all along, perhaps Guyana’s youth would not have to choose between life of crime and a life of poverty.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stella Says…What crime did the women and children commit?

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

I am always stirred by the words of women who suffer at the hands of cruel men. Some of us have good men who treat us with love and respect, but we are the exception. In fact, a recent report from the United Nations said most countries do not do enough to prevent violence against women.

According to an Associated Press article, “The United Nations claimed that countries have failed to do enough to protect women from violence,” the report maintained that although violence against women has been recognised as a human rights violation on an international level, “many national policies fall short of appropriate condemnation and protection.”

The report also cited the high rates of violence in various countries. The article said, “Many of the highest rates were found in developing countries, such as Zambia, where 49 percent of women said they had experienced violence at some time in their lives, and Papua New Guinea, where 67 percent had. But industrial nations, like Lithuania, with 42 percent, and Australia, with 31 percent, were also near the top of the list.”

In fact, even in the United States this month a 32-year-old man went into an Amish schoolhouse, waiting until the boys had left the building and then opened fire with his gun on the girls. If this had been a hate crime against race or religion, there would have been an uproar over the incident.

Instead, because it was against gender, a hate crime that is still commonly acceptable, the media attention this incident received spotlighted the school killings and said very little about the fact that this man specifically targeted the girls.

This incident happened on October 2. Five days earlier, a 53-year-old man took six girls hostage in a Colorado school. He sexually assaulted the girls before killing a 16-year-old female student. However, the focal point of the investigations to date has been on the fact that these crimes were committed in schools, not that the crimes were against females.

Kaieteur News printed an editorial in Tuesday’s edition about the death of a woman who was burnt alive. I could not help but wonder about the circumstances surrounding this story since most women grow up cooking around open flames and know full well to keep their clothes a safe distance from fire.

However, the one story that really hit me in the heart this week was about a Kurdish woman who was testifying against the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. The woman told of rapes, chemical terror, savage beatings and so many other horror stories in the detention camps like one woman who was forced to give birth in the toilet while other women cut the umbilical cord with a broken peace of glass.

Several Kurdish women testified about these atrocities, but one woman said, “I'd like to ask Saddam, 'What crime did women and children commit'?” These words were like an arrow shot straight into my heart. Indeed, what crime did the women and children commit?

Proper protocol demands that women and children are generally exempt from being taken as prisoners of war. There is a reason for this; women and children are not the ones who decide to go to war in the first place. That is why they are often referred to as innocent.

In fact, given the opportunity, a woman will most often choose a more diplomatic solution than the violent avenue too frequently chosen by male leadership. Yet even in our modern times whole villages of women have been raped and oft times killed in the name of war.

What crime did those women commit? Likewise, what crime did those girls in the American classrooms commit to be victimised by those wicked men? What crime did women who are set on fire and burned alive commit?

I cannot help but wonder what causes men to act so violently toward women. An article by the National Organisation for Women (NOW) entitled, “School Shooters Target Girls, Point to Larger Problem of Violence Against Women,” touched on something Peeping Tom addressed in his column on Tuesday, the prevalence of a culture that degrades women and promotes violence.

The NOW article quoted educator and author Jackson Katz as saying, "The issue is not just violence in the media but the construction of violent masculinity as a cultural norm. From rock and rap music and videos, Hollywood action films, professional and college sports, the culture produces a stream of images of violent, abusive men and promotes characteristics such as dominance, power, and control as means of establishing or maintaining manhood."

This might explain why some Western men act so violently at times, but as a general rule, 53-year-old men, like the one who assaulted the girls from Colorado, do not associate with pop culture. And what about those who reject the Western culture of rap and rock?

The NOW article also said, “The continued stigma against being ‘feminine’ or sharing any traits with women works hand-in-hand with the aggressive image of manhood in our culture. The message to boys who are told by the coach ‘You throw like a girl’ or ‘Don't be a sissy’ is that girls and women are weak, inadequate, and definitely not equal.”

“Because women are frequently perceived as inferior to men, a perceived insult from, rejection by or upstaging from a woman can damaging a fragile ego. In that case, a boy or man looking to reassert his authority may well look to threats or acts of violence as his next course of action.”

In other words, when men are violent against women, it is because they are taught to be that way by society. If so, it is high time for society to start teaching men something else.

Since I grew up in an abusive home, I have always hated violence of any sort. I cannot even watch television shows or movies that contain violence. If I see someone slap or punch someone else on television, even if I know it is fictitious, I feel like it is happening to me.

This is why I have absolutely no tolerance for violence against women and children. If men want to beat the hell out of each other, that is their choice. But when it comes to women and children - that is a whole other story.

After all, just like that brave Kurdish woman in a courtroom in Iraq this week, someone has got to ask that rhetorical question, “What crime did the women and children commit?”

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Stella Says…Joey Jagan is wrong about who should be in the big tent

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

Stabroek News printed a letter from Joey Jagan in its Sunday’s paper in which Dr. Joey seemed to really need to vent. He took no hostages and relentlessly fired away at almost anything that moved in the political arena – except the PNC.

Before I continue my analysis of Dr. Joey’s letter, please take note that I purposefully omit the R of the Reform arm of the PNCR and the 1G of the One Guyana arm of the PNCR-1G when referring to the PNC since it no longer has a standing by which to claim affiliation with these previous coalitions. It is just the PNC again.

Now back to Dr. Joey’s letter. I am not going to pick apart his numerous criticisms about the various political parties because it was a tad amusing to read his take on Guyana’s politics. Neither am I going to address his bellyache with Sweet and Sensitive Freddie. This too is quite entertaining at times.

Instead, I am going highlight the central theme of Dr. Joey’s letter, which was to advance the Big Tent concept with hopes of seeing it further develop for the upcoming local elections.

Dr. Joey maintained in his letter, “The PNC tried to work out the concept of One Guyana which is really a big tent approach and which should have been the one concept to remove the communists if everyone had worked together in the opposition forces.”

Is this true? Did the PNC really try to “work out the concept of One Guyana”? If memory serves me right, Dr. Joey himself, as well as several other One Guyana advocates withdrew their support and chose not to contest the general elections with the PNC before the coalition even had a chance to really make any inroads.

Dr. Joey’s very own party, the Unity Party, said among other factors, its decision to not contest the elections “was also influenced by the failure of coalition politics.” Likewise, the WPA said its decision was in part, “the result of the failure to attain conditions for an electoral alliance.”

In other words, the PNC just could not play nice with all of its friends. Tsk, Tsk. How are we to believe the PNC “tried to work out the concept of One Guyana” when the evidence seems to prove the opposite? It seems to me the PNC just wanted to use these smaller parties to garner whatever credibility these party leaders, such as Dr. Joey, could muster from the electorate.

The One Guyana concept does not seem to be anything more to the PNC except one more way to make the people believe it has changed its spots, but it is more obvious now than before that it is the same party that it has always been. They cannot seem to even get along with each other inside their own party, much less other parties.

Dr. Joey also maintained in his letter from Sunday, “Without a "big tent" approach to political action in the future, we can never remove these communists from power. This approach has to be reinforced by attracting individuals who are upstanding patriots in our society and who want real change by removing this government from office legally.”

I agree with Dr. Joey in this regard, if (and only if) he is not basing this assumption on the PNC being a foundational element of this political action. This tired dinosaur party has no more to offer Guyana than the PPP.

In fact, the sole purpose of this “Big Tent” movement should be to remove both of these parties from power permanently. Ironically, the AFC had the best opportunity to gather together these “upstanding patriots,” as Dr. Joey called them, in a joint effort that could have permanently ended the long and miserable reign of the PPP and PNC, but it too failed miserably to work hand-and-hand with the smaller parties.

The AFC is just as much to blame for the PPP’s electoral victory in the last elections as those who chose not to contest the elections because it was shortsighted and over-confident. The same goes for GAP/ROAR and its selfish agenda.

Every single one of the “third party” entities failed Guyana because of their own lust of power. I do not consider the power hungry and manipulative to be patriots. If this were true, the PPP would be the most patriotic of them all.

In short, Dr. Joey’s letter was akin to the PPP pushing the blame for its own countless failures on the PNC, a party with very little political power or influence. It is unreasonable to tell the people of Guyana to encourage their leaders to join him under his big tent while he simultaneously picks apart the very “patriots” with whom he should be uniting (not the PNC).

I tire of these dramatic exchanges and backroom brawls from the third parties. If I want to be entertained, I will listen to some music. Meanwhile, Dr. Joey is playing with the wrong people under his tent. The PNC is not the future; it is the past – and a wretched past at that. A strong, united third force holds the brightest future for Guyana.

In my opinion, if the third parties cannot find a way to work together for the good of the country to free the people from the despotism of the PPP and the PNC, then they should just find another hobby and make room for some real leaders to rise up in Guyana.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Stella Says…The Jagdeo administration should use the mini bus system for a week

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

I just bet that if Jagdeo and his administration were forced to use the mini buses in Guyana, like many of the citizens of the nation must do, they would find a way to exact a safer performance from these drivers.

Can you imagine Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud, the new Minister of Agriculture, riding in one of the nation’s out-of-control mini buses to get to an appointment in the interior, holding on for dear life as the bus races down the street and zigzags to dodge pedestrians?

How about the new Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Poised and Proper Priya? Would she still look crisp and polished after being tossed about during her morning ride to work? What would her frame of mind be when she (hopefully) arrived at her office after listening to blaring music during her entire trip and maybe even watching some very sensual behaviour along the way?

Even better, let’s make Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, ride the mini bus system for a week and see if after that week he is still willing to allow the criminally reckless behaviour of these drivers to continue.

It really does seem as if a person is risking his or her very life just to get from point A to point B. Safety does not appear to be a priority with these drivers, or at least loud music and speed seem to take precedence over the safe delivery of their passengers.

On one of my trips to Guyana, I rode from the airport to Georgetown with a mini bus diver and even if we took the cows and construction out of the equation, the speeding and swerving were enough to make me beg the driver to maintain a more tranquil mode of driving. I was never so happy to get out of a vehicle in my life.

The fear I felt during that drive was obvious to my relatives, which is why my heart goes out to anyone who must deal with this frenzied driving on a daily basis. It is simply unnecessary and risks the safety of the passengers for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

I have read countless letters to the editor and news articles on this subject, yet people continue to die and the problem persists. I cannot help but wonder if these drivers are provided with some form of specialised training, or at least required to obtain a chauffeur license, since they are responsible for the lives of so many people on a daily basis.

There are so many small gestures the Jagdeo administration could make that would go a long way toward improving the quality of life for the people of Guyana. It is not as if it would cost the government a fortune to fix the chaos created by the nation’s mini bus system. In fact, if tickets were generously dispersed to these manic drivers, things might start to calm down quite quickly.

For the more brazen of these drivers, those who just do not give a damn about the people on the bus, the pedestrians on the streets or the other cars on the road, I think some jail time and hefty fines are in order. Surely some suitable drivers can be found to transport the people of Guyana in a safe manner and in an innocuous environment.

Like I said, small gestures would go a long way to fix this situation. The real problem is how to get the Jagdeo administration to take this issue seriously enough to take action. This is why I suggest a new mandate that requires the President and his cabinet to ride the mini bus system for at least one week a year.

I know it is naïve of me to make the next suggestion, but blame it on my ever-present desire to believe the best of people. It would be nice to see someone from the Jagdeo administration volunteer to use nothing but a mini bus for transportation for an entire week.

By riding a mini bus for a week, that government official would have a chance to interact with the people and get a firsthand taste of the fear and frustration with which the people of Guyana must live just to get around the country. But I won’t hold my breath for volunteers - that would be expecting too much from this administration.

Meanwhile, bus drivers continue to kill people with their criminal recklessness and the administration wastes its time and resources arresting those very lethal and dangerous strippers.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stella Says…Guyana is one of the 25 least competitive countries

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

The World Economic Forum released its 2006-2007 Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) Report last week. According to the organisation's Website, "This annual study is a valuable tool for shaping economic policy and guiding investment decisions. It is one of the leading monitors of the competitive condition of economies worldwide."

With the importance of this report in mind, it did not offer very encouraging news for Guyana at all. In fact, out of 125 countries, Guyana ranked an overall 111, a decline from last year's ranking of 108. As I browsed through the relevant comparator group for Guyana, none of those countries, most of which were in Africa and have been racked with various types of civil unrest, had the vast amount of natural resources readily accessible here in this nation.

If we compare Guyana to countries closer to home, this is what the report said, "A lack of sound and credible institutions remains a significant stumbling block in many Latin American countries. Bolivia (97), Ecuador (90), Guyana (111), Honduras (93), Nicaragua (95) and Paraguay (106) achieve low rankings overall and, in particular, are among the worst performers for basic elements of good governance, including reasonably transparent and open institutions."

In listing Guyana as one of the 25 least competitive countries, Forbes Magazine echoed the summation of the GCI report and drove home this walk of shame by detailing the specific scores received in the various categories in which the country was graded.

Guyana ranked 101 in technological readiness and 106 in market efficiency. Although the nation ranked a respectable 75 in health and primary education, receiving a 114 in higher education and training obliterated the optimism of that number. Remember there are only 125 nations listed in the report, so coming in at 114 out of 125 is highly undesirable.

However, that was not the lowest rank for Guyana. It ranked 115 in institutions, 116 in innovation and a morbid 121 in macroeconomy. A ranking of 121 means there were only four other countries that scored worse than Guyana in this category.

I am completely aware that the government likes to brush these scores aside with a wave of its hand and make it seem as if these rankings means nothing or that the information is skewed, which is what it did last year. In reality though (reality is the place the rest of the world lives and the PPP cannot seem to find), these ranking are actually quite significant and aids businesses around the world in determining where they should invest their money.

If Guyana is to know how to remedy this embarrassing position on the world stage, it will need to know what caused the nation to receive such poor ratings in the first place. It will need to examine those aspects of the economy that inhibit competitiveness on a local basis as well as on an international scale.

This is what the report concluded about Guyana and the other Latin American countries listed above, "These countries all suffer from poorly defined property rights, undue influence, inefficient government operations, as well as unstable business environments. Perceived favouritism in government decision-making, an insufficiently independent judiciary, and security costs associated with high levels of crime and corruption make it difficult for the business community to compete effectively."

I would like to go one step further and speculate that it is not simply fear spawned by the "high levels of crime" that hampers competitiveness, but that since so many business owners are being killed by these criminal elements, this will surely slow down the nation's ability to be competitive.

With each death of a business owner, that is one less business that can compete. Surely, with such a fantastic team created by the President to address the issues plaguing the Guyana Police Force, a plan can be fashioned to finally put a halt to all of the killings, robberies and gunmen roaming the streets unchecked.

This year has seen enough death already with the murder of a minister, the killings in Agricola, the execution of Waddell, the deaths of newsmen and countless murders every single day by thugs who own the streets more than the law-abiding citizens or the government.

Every day brings another headline of another businessperson killed. It is not as if there are so many business people in Guyana in the first place that this vital commodity can be squandered indefinitely without regard to the end result.

If the government cannot find the time to combat this escalating problem simply because there are vast amounts of people who are dying and it is the government's job to protect them, perhaps the government should consider how embarrassing next year's CGI ranking will be when all competitiveness is erased with the death of the nation's business people.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Stella Says…We need some Lysol to spray on our world leaders

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

How many times have we seen it happen? A good and honest guy/gal decides to get involved in politics because they want to help make a positive difference in their little part of the world, only to turn into some type of Jekyll and Hyde monster who retains an honest face in the light of day, but has a dark and sinister face in the shadows.

I am not sure if some disinfectant spray is enough to clean up all of the raunchiness spread thickly across the world’s various governments, but the level of corruption and debauchery has reach levels that would make ancient decadent Rome seem pristine and pure.

In America, there are some disgusting allegations that a Florida congressman, Representative Mark Foley, “exchanged sexually explicit messages with teenage congressional pages,” as CNN.com put it, and that the Republican leadership in the House had improperly squelched concerns about the Representative’s contacts with those youth.

What’s even more ironic (and sickening) is that according to CNN, “The six-term Florida congressman was co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus and a prominent backer of legislation to crack down on online predators and criminalize child pornography on the Internet.”

In Brazil, there is a different type of dirtiness, though just as treacherous. The incumbent president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, of the Workers’ Party, finished first in the presidential vote held in Brazil on Sunday, but fell just short of the majority he needed, amid allegations of corruption, to avoid a runoff on Oct. 29 with the runner up, Geraldo Alckmin, of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, as reported in the New York Times.

The article said, “Mr. da Silva had seemed assured of coasting to a first round re-election victory until the eruption of the so-called Dossiergate scandal two weeks ago. That was when Workers’ Party operatives were caught trying to pay $792,000 in cash for information they apparently thought would incriminate Mr. Alckmin’s party in a scandal at the Health Ministry involving kickbacks on the purchase of ambulances.” Tsk-tsk.

What do some of the Brazilians think of their president? “I voted for Lula in 2002, but I won’t ever make that mistake again,” said Mr. Mello, a 40-year-old systems analyst. “He hasn’t done what he promised, and all we’ve had is corruption. I’ve lost hope and my faith in him,” said the New York Times article.

Jose Reis, a 39-year-old salesman interviewed in Madureira, a working class neighbourhood, said, “I didn’t vote for Alckmin; I voted against Lula and the corruption around him.” He continued, “There are just too many scandals, and it’s damaging the country.” My sentiments exactly about the last presidential elections held in America!

Why can’t the good guys and gals who we initially vote into office maintain that integrity and honestly throughout their political career? Which brings us to Guyana. Jagdeo is a likeable guy, just like cowboy Bush with his Texan twang, which is why it is so difficult to believe there could be a Hyde personality lurking in the shadows.

There is an old saying that maintains you can take measure a man by the company he keeps. George Bush keeps company with slick Dick Cheney and shifty Donald Rumsfeld. That alone is reason enough to run as fast as possible. Heavens forbid that anything should ever happen to George Bush because I would hate to see what becomes of America with Dick Cheney in the oval office.

Jagdeo has his cronies too. For example, Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, is one character who has had his own cloud of allegations following him around too, yet Jagdeo had no qualms about putting him in yet another high profile position.

In an interview with Stabroek News, Rohee said. "I would be tough on drug lords; I don't have a problem with that. I am not in bed with any drug lord. I am prepared to advance the policy of the government to make it as effective as possible to counter narco-trafficking." I will not hold my breath as I wait for this to happen.

It is a sad thing when a minister of the government, and a servant of the people, has to clarify that he or she is not in bed with drug lords. The very fact that the people are put into the position of making such an assumption in the first place proves how much the government has failed the people. Where is my Lysol spray?

Oh, that we could find leaders who, when presented with temptations of compromise, would unflinchingly maintain their integrity and not sell the trust of the people to the highest bidder. But alas, there is no greater tempter than the lust of power.

Hey, at least Jagdeo has not put his face on the covers of all notebooks used by the school children like certain other world leaders and even a former Guyanese president. Well, not yet anyhow.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Stella Says…A clean house is the sign of a wasted life

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 1 October 2006)

The Internet is such a great concept. It allows us to stay in contact with friends and family who may be scattered all over the world. I do not understand how it works, I just know that if I type a note to a friend from my email account and click "Send," my friend will get that note almost instantaneously.

I get all types of emails. The worst ones are spam or ads. I set these to go to the junk file and somehow my email knows how to sort the good mail from the bad mail. The best emails are from friends. I have friends who are always sending me the latest jokes or an encouraging poem.

This is how I came across an email from a friend who is in her late 60s and lost her husband to a prolonged sickness last year. She is one spunky lady and I have always admired her tenacity for life, even if she is a political conservative.

The email said, "A clean house is the sign of a wasted life." I just could not resist this fantastic phrase and opened the email immediately. It had a cartoon depiction of a 1950s type of woman kneeling at the side of a sparkling tub, cleaning rag in hand, donning a tailored dress, an apron tied in a perfect bow, some sensible heels and big a smile on her face.

Just to the left of her perfectly styled hairdo were the words, "A clean house is the sign of a wasted life." Now I like to keep a clean house as much as the next person. I do not like clutter at all and I cannot stand it when dust starts to gather on my furniture. However, this little cartoon spoke to me more than scores of books on women's issues.

It caused me to ask myself how much of a woman's life is spent cooking, cleaning, laundering, mending and tending to the house? The next obvious question is whether that time could have been better invested in some other endeavour. If women had always invested their energy into other aspects of society, instead of washing dishes, what would the world be like today?

Please understand that this is not by any means an easy concept to embrace. A woman is expected to clean her house first and if she has any time left over, then she can freely go about her other endeavours without a guilty conscience.

In fact, if a woman does not clean her house and someone comes by to visit, she is judged by the cleanliness of the house, not by what she accomplished for society during that day. Moreover, no one would ever think twice about ever scrutinising the husband for that same dirty house even though he lives there too and is just as responsible for its cleanliness.

It is high time women stopped feeling guilty for not maintaining a perfectly clean home and started thinking more about contributing to society outside of the four walls of her house. A clean house is most certainly a sign of a wasted life, if indeed the woman is the only one who is doing the cleaning. There is so much more in life than scrubbing a tub.

I am not saying that families should start living in squalor. I am saying that women should consider their options and if there is something else that requires her attention and it should take priority over mopping her floors, then let the floors stay dirty and get out there and live life to its fullest.

Who knows, if the laundry doesn't get done in a presumably "timely manner," as it is expected, maybe someone else will decide to do it themselves for a change.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com