Tuesday, November 28, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 28 November 2006)
I have been meaning to write a column in response to Hamilton Green’s letter to the Editor from November 22 entitled, “Preserving special racial identities is not development.” Since last Thursday was a holiday in the U.S., this is the first chance I have been afforded to give this topic the attention it deserves.
Having read about Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s plan to establish racially mixed communities in Trinidad, Mayor Green said in his letter, “I think with my knowledge of the ethnic divide in Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Manning ought to be complimented and supported. It is my conviction that Indian and African descendants have always wanted to live peacefully together.”
Green also said, “There are some, however, both in Trinidad and Guyana, who believe they must preserve as sacrosanct, their specific racial identities. This is not development and what is instructive, is the fact that organisations in Trinidad and other groups elsewhere, have criticised Mr. Manning's initiative.”
I have long been sorrowed by the racial divide in Guyana. I must confess that when my Guyanese husband first explained the situation to me, when I was 15, I simply could not make sense of it. I lived in the middle of America where repulsive racism was between White and Black, so I could not comprehend the thought that Black and Indian would also behave in such a manner toward each other.
I am not sure if it is true or not, but from talk around the Diaspora, I gather that Mayor Green has a racially diverse family. So was my family while growing up, which is why I never fell prey to the deep-seated hate of racism. The tradition of racial diversity carried on when I started my own family despite the protests of racist religious people from my church who could not believe I would marry outside of my race.
After having two absolutely beautiful mixed children (White and Indian), my husband and I continued to expand our diversity to include a little boy from Haiti (Black) and a little girl from Panama (Hispanic). In my estimation, this is how the world should be – a beautiful mix of colours living together as one family.
As I watch the initial stages of an “African Renaissance” in Guyana and the continued propagation of what Mayor Green termed “Indian hegemony,” I cannot help but to be saddened that others do not share my view of what constitutes a beautiful family.
Inevitably, when I write columns about race, I get emails offering justifications for personal racism – as if I do not understand Guyana’s racist history. However, I do understand it and have seen it first hand more times than I care to talk about, I just adamantly refuse to succumb to it.
Moreover, I agree with Mayor Green on this issue. Drawing more distinct lines within each race will do nothing but further exacerbate an already hypersensitive issue. Calling for an African Renaissance is not the way to help the disenfranchised Afro-Guyanese. Such action will only cause further national division. Help will only come by racial unity.
I do understand the difficulties of being stereotyped and marginalised; I am a woman after all. I spend so much time trying to help women established themselves as equals in a world predominantly led by men.
However, it would not serve my gender any good to be told they are better than another gender or that we should be the ones to rule. I do not fight to bring men down; I fight to raise women up. When men and women are on equal footing in every aspect of life, that is when I will rest.
Likewise, an African Renaissance only serves the Afro-Guyanese community if it’s aim is to unite with Indo-Guyanese to bring racial unity and promote national progress. If this renaissance creates further division, then it brings nothing but more harm to the Afro-Guyanese community and the nation as a whole.
The same concept applies to the Indo-Guyanese community. Any movement to band together with the goal of further alienating fellow Guyanese of African decent is counter-productive for the nation.
I am not suggesting that each community sacrifice its cultural heritage. This would be a sad affair. Instead, there is a way to maintain each community’s cultural distinction without further dividing the nation.
When both races can appreciate the heritage of the other race and at the same time embrace unity as one nationality without regard to race, this is when Guyana will begin to heal from its past and move toward a promising future.
As I have mentioned before, the dominant political parties in Guyana have exploited the racial fears of the people for their own selfish ambitions, which is probably the single most prevalent reason the nation remains racially divided today.
This type of behaviour should sicken the voters, but it seems as if every time the nation falls for the schemes of these divisive politicians and in the process tears the country apart one more time. These leaders have always been bad for Guyana, which is why racial unity needs to start with the people first.
Indeed, Douglarization is a damn good thing. I would rather embrace an encompassing racial diversity any day over the racist hate that has crippled this nation for decades. Instead of promoting African pride or Indian pride, how about working toward Guyanese pride for a change?
Sunday, November 26, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 26 November 2006)
If President Jagdeo and his administration had any foresight at all, Guyana would be poised to rake in the big bucks right now as the borders of South American countries become more open for all nationals.
According to a recent article from CNN.com, “Nationals from all 12 South American nations will soon be able to travel throughout the region without visas, regional foreign ministers agreed Friday.”
The article continued, “[Brazilian Minister Celso Amorin] said integration is imperative ‘because in a world that in the future will be a world of large blocs, we will be stronger if we are united’.”
If Guyana had started a road to Brazil five years ago, it could be near completion today and ready to welcome easy trade with this neighbouring country. However, the last we heard about this situation is that Guyana’s president still has reservations about finishing the road to Brazil.
Jagdeo, the educated economist, does not think Guyana will see a return on its investment if the road is built. This proves the PPP has no capacity for vision for a thriving economy or national infrastructure.
Jagdeo does not have the vision to see the towns that could be established along the road, the new businesses that could develop due to increased trade or how current businesses could grow because of increased demand.
A Stabroek News article from October 31 in regards to this subject said, “Jagdeo also mentioned that when he looked at the traffic flow on the road he prefers ‘to keep my money in the bank’.”
It is a communist mentality that thinks only about the money the government has in the bank instead of how the nation as a whole will benefit through individual successes from a project such as this. That money in the bank, if there is even anything there, is not bringing any benefit whatsoever to the local businesses as it just sits there.
The Stabroek News article also said that according to Former Chief Works and Hydraulics Officer and Chairman of the Transportation Committee of the National Development Strategy, Philip Allsopp, “A feasible plan can be prepared to give an acceptable rate of return to satisfy the economists and vindicate the contention of the engineers.”
Allsopp, who was also a former Guyana ambassador to Brazil, went on to say in the article that “transportation is often credited with initiating development by itself. Examples of such effectiveness were seen in large scale projects such as the transcontinental railroad in the USA, the Trans Amazon highway in Brazil, the Pan American highway in Brazil and the Pan American highway in South and Central America.”
Meanwhile, Brazil is itching to be connected with Guyana because this neighbour has the foresight to see a positive impact on its economy. The Brazilians are ready to take the necessary risks to bring growth, a requisite for all modern day investors as well as 21st century governments.
If Guyana never takes its money out of the bank, how does it expect to graduate from a “developing country” into a “developed country”? In order to be considered developed - a nation must actually spend some money on the concept of developing itself.
Certain economic commentators have even talked about the need to establish a free trade zone in Lethem. This is another brilliant idea that will never see the light of day if the Jagdeo administration cannot grasp the vision of the benefits a road to Brazil could foster for Guyana.
What did Jagdeo learned from his economics degree? To keep his money in the bank? To shy away from promising investments? To be shortsighted in regards to the overall prospectus?
Jagdeo’s approach reminds me of the kindly grandma who stashes her money under her mattress because she cannot even trust a bank to keep it for her. Though it may be endearing for those of us who have a grandma like that, in today’s world this mentality is simply outdated.
Jagdeo might trust a bank with the nation’s money, but like the kindly grandma, he is stuck in an ideological time warp that will not allow him to fully embrace progress. The result of Jagdeo’s apparent pause to economic evolution has been a sloth like advancement for the nation.
India has graduated to economic heights that far surpass any economist’s expectations. Likewise, other Caribbean countries have transitioned from their reliance on colonial industries into contemporary fortunes by capitalising on valuable assets, many of which are also found in Guyana or could be developed – if the government would allow it.
Meanwhile, Jagdeo likes to keep his money in the bank, shies away from foreign investors and does not see the potential of a road that would bridge two countries. It is almost as if he would like to wrap a big bedspread around Guyana and never share her with anyone else.
As South American countries prepare to unite for additional strength in a very competitive world, Guyana still has leaders who would rather stay isolated from its neighbours and who suffer from a foresight deficiency.
Jagdeo’s big bedspread does not protect Guyana from the outside world. It stifles the nation economically and smothers progress so that any growth that does occur is only that which is approved by the very one who pretends to protect the nation.
In China, because the men liked small feet, they used to wrap the feet of little girls to keep them abnormally tiny. This practice was called foot binding and the wrapping for the feet was called “lotus shoes.” Similarly, Jagdeo and the PPP have wrapped Guyana up so tight that it cannot grow beyond what he determines as an acceptable measure.
It is time to take the lotus shoes off of Guyana and allow for proper growth. Otherwise, the rest of South America will continue to develop naturally and only Guyana will remain the stunted irregularity of the continent.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 23 November 2006)
I recently heard a woman say that she allows her daughter to explore the not-so-nice aspects of her personality. With wisdom the mother said it is important to have that stronger side of us - as well as the nice, well-mannered side - since the world can be cruel at times.
Although I never thought to teach my girls this lesson in an overt manner, I could not agree with this lady more. There are times in life when we need to have a thicker skin and be a little stronger, because if we were anything less life would chew us up and spit us out.
As women, we have been told our entire lives that we are made of "sugar and spice and everything nice." So we try to live up to that notion and in the process we can get walked all over. Some women even submit to abusive relationships because they have never been taught to stand up for themselves.
If we teach our daughters to always play nice, what happens when they are confronted with real life? Real life can be so tough some times and it takes a tough woman to handle tough times. As parents we go to great lengths to teach our daughters to be good little girls, but does that instruction alone give them what they need to function effectively in today’s world?
I think one of the reasons some women find it so hard to cope with life is because they have not been taught how to do it effectively. We are taught how to deal with a fantasy life of sugary situations and sheltered from what the world is really like.
Meanwhile, boys are taught to be well mannered, but they are also encouraged to explore the other side of their personality too – the not-so-nice side. In a world where men still rule the roost in most business and political environments, it puts our daughters at a severe disadvantage to force them to be sweet when we all know business and politics can be cutthroat.
Parents go out of their way to “toughen up” their boys, but the girls are not suppose to get dirty or raise their voice. They are not taught to fight for what they want, which is what a person has to do in life sometimes.
I suppose I have allowed my daughters to explore the not-so-nice parts of their personalities to some degree, but I have always brought them back to a place of caring about others too.
Once when my oldest daughter was about 13 years old and still very sweet and innocent, she developed a friendship with another girl who was not so sweet and innocent. The girl would lie, spread rumours and even yell at other people all the time. My daughter had no idea how to deal with someone like this.
She came home crying one day because she was so hurt and so mad over the situation. I told my daughter that she should not back down from a mean person. I told her to stand up to the girl and see what happens. The mean girl backed down and everyone was deeply grateful to my daughter for letting the girl know she would not get away with her nastiness.
Afterwards, I reminded my daughter that it was important to mend the rifts and to try and maintain a civil relationship since they attended school together and had to interact on a daily basis. Balance is key in teaching our daughters how to deal with real life, just as it is when bringing up boys.
Maybe it is time for us to teach our daughters to be both naughty and nice – after all that is what real life will be like when we are not there to protect them from it anymore. There are some scoundrels in every community who love to prey on weak women, which is exactly why we need to raise strong women.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported, “Unipolar depression, predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden by 2020, is twice as common in women.” If we gave our daughters all the available tools to effectively deal with life, perhaps this depression rate would decrease.
The more strong women there are in society, the fewer victims there will be for scoundrels. None of us want our daughters to be a scoundrel’s victim or a mean person’s doormat.
So the next time your daughter fights for a toy that someone just took from her, let her explore that part of her personality. It just might teach her to fight for something more important later on in life.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 21 November 2006)
With a lot of help from Webster Dictionary and a little help from the AFC’s columns, I will introduce the newest phrases used in Guyanese political speak to help the readers to disseminate what the hell we are all talking about.
Ramotarian Dialect: As defined by an AFC column, is language that “shrouds out reason and truth for the grander glorification of the [PPP/C] Party and its leaders.” For further clarification, Ramotarian Dialect is used to create a false or misleading impression, which is considered morally appropriate as long as the PPP/C appears to genuinely care about the well being of the nation and its citizens.
In fact, Khemraj Ramjattan accused this columnist of Ramotarian Dialect because I chose to tangled with a few sensitive issues plaguing the AFC. I do not believe he knew the full definition of the phrase at the time, but his most recent column proves that he now has a firm grasp on its meaning.
Use of phrase in context – Ramjattan to Stella Ramsaroop on November 9, “The earlier you start to appreciate and discover these distinctions, the better prepared will you be to avoid the Ramoutarian dialectic, which clouds out sense, disseminates nonsense, and is the reason for so much unreason.”
Persaudian Hyperbole: Extravagant exaggeration that represents something as much greater or less, better or worse, or more intense than it really is or that depicts the impossible as actual, especially as it pertains to the actions and intentions of the PPP/C.
When a person uses Persaudian Hyperbole, there is an element of exaggeration that far surpasses normal everyday usage when making a strong point in debate. This style of argument reaches beyond tall stories to the point of mere fantasy, perhaps compensating for other shortcomings.
In fact, we may soon learn that Guyana is now the leading exporter of agricultural products in the entire known universe.
Use of the phrase in context - In typical Persaudian Hyperbole, Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud, MBA declared that the PPP/C has “ultra democratic tendencies” despite the radical communism practiced by party leadership, the party’s refusal to privatise state controlled media and allow non-government controlled radio stations and despite the fact that Guyanese are now being granted political asylum by Canada to protect them from government persecution.
Ramsaroopian Grandstanding: To play to spectators or to an audience: act or conduct oneself with a view to impressing onlookers by writing controversial columns, letters to the editor, placing divisive ads in the dailies and doing whatever it takes to get into the limelight.
A Ramsaroopian Grandstander enjoys being in the public eye regardless of the method by which the attention is received. It does not matter if the Ramsaroopian Grandstander receives bad press or good press, as long as the world knows this person exists.
Use of the phrase in context - Eric Phillips has been Ramsaroopian Grandstanding as he tries to gain control of the ACDA and possibly the PNC to position himself for a presidential run in 2011. Peter Ramsaroop himself has been off the radar lately, but I am sure he would not disappoint us by staying out of sight for too long. Lucky us.
Roheean Ranting: Wordy, drawn-out and tediously long in speaking or writing with a distinct omission of rational thought and without making the intended point.
Many pro-PPP/C letter writers employ Roheean Rantings as they attempt to convince the nation and the world that their party is in fact competent. On November 14, John Da Silva sent a Roheean Ranting to Kaieteur News in the form of a letter to the Editor entitled, “The PPP has a credible record.”
I have often wondered if there are training sessions at Freedom House on Roheean Rantings. I have also wondered if many of the reporters from The Chronicle have graduated from this class.
Use of phrase in context – Stabroek News is asking readers who send letters to the Editor to please refrain from Roheean Rantings if they wish for their letters to be considered for publication. The statement placed in the newspaper’s Saturday edition said, “We have asked our letter writers on several occasions to keep their letters as short as possible. Recently some very long letters have been submitted. We repeat that in any other newspaper we are familiar with these would not be considered for publication.”
Guyana political speak grows exponentially on a daily basis and I promise to do my best to keep you updated as often as possible.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 19 November 2006)
If one read certain letters to the Editor this week, it would seem as if Guyana’s newest political party, the Alliance for Change, is being held to a far higher standard than those other two parties that have been around since the dawn of time.
One letter from a group of three Diaspora printed on November 12 in Kaieteur News entitled, “The deceitful conduct of the AFC leadership,” displayed profound disappointment at the performance of the AFC from the very people who helped it to make a splash onto the political scene.
One would think it was too early to make such a drastic judgement, but as the letter pointed out, the AFC has been shrouded in scandal since the beginning, has not been financially accountable and the trust it managed to gather from hopeful Guyanese has been all but destroyed.
Of course, the actions of the AFC are no different than what the PPP and the PNC have been doing for decades and still manage to somehow get votes every time. So what is the big deal with such naughty behaviour from the newest party?
The AFC campaigned on a platform of change and accountability, a standard to which it is now being held – and rightfully so. Constituents of the AFC voted for change and they voted for governmental accountability. Those who voted for the AFC were the most hopeful of Guyana that perhaps this new party would be the catalyst of a new way of life.
Therefore, when AFC supporters see their new party acting like those stale politicians who refuse to change for the good of the country, it is frustrating to say the least and they feel as if they have been duped once again by yet another group of Guyana’s politicians.
This feeling provoked the aforementioned letter, which said, “Tremendous goodwill from the Diaspora and from Guyanese at home had been extended to the AFC, but the leadership has messed up. Every member of the AFC has a right to ask questions and to demand honest answers. We in the Diaspora will have to re-examine our role as regards the AFC.”
These are some very unhappy Diaspora, most of whom now live in countries where accountability is not only expected in governmental affairs, it is demanded and politicians suspected of corruption are simply voted out of office, like what just happened in America during its Midterm elections.
I have believed for a long time that one of the primary reasons the PPP does not do more to bring Guyana’s Diaspora back home, most of whom are eager to do so, is because the government knows that if they did come back home, they would hold the nation to a higher standard regarding democracy, economic accountability, fiscal development and yes, even corruption.
Guyana’s politicians have been allowed to get away with so much that would not be tolerated in many democratic states, such as refusing to allow radio stations that are not run by the government and the fact that Guyana still flounders economically.
Corruption of any sort would not be tolerated and if a government could not contain the crime situation within a reasonable frame of time, it would voted out of office and replaced by a new government that could get the job done.
It seems to me that this is the standard to which the AFC’s supporters hold it. The new party has been expected to demonstrate a new brand of politics in Guyana, an expectation that has so far been out of their reach.
Another letter carried by Stabroek News listed seven actions that should be taken by the AFC to make good on its campaign promise of change and to redeem itself to those who voted for the new party.
It is good to see a swing in the mood of Guyanese politics that expects something better than what they have been receiving from the PPP and PNC. It seems there are some who have opened their eyes and realised they have been fed slop for decades when they should have been receiving the best of the banquet table.
Those who have opened their eyes now refuse to go back to the slop, which is why they are pushing the AFC so earnestly to rise to the occasion and be the party they promised the country they would be. Grassroots groups are the ones who put the AFC into power and if the AFC does not comply with their wishes, these groups will not think twice about removing them from power.
For the AFC, they have no choice but to fulfil the wishes of their constituents because these visionaries will accept nothing less. If the AFC does not deliver, it will be gone after the next elections – again, rightfully so.
I hope this new tone grows exponentially over the next few years and is acted upon in the next general elections when it should be applied the PPP and the PNC as well. When every Guyanese catches the vision of a government of the people, by the people and for the people – and refuses to settle for anything less – that is when things will truly begin to change for Guyana.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 16 November 2006)
According to a Toronto Sun article published yesterday, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has released a report this week showing that Ontario taxpayers forked over an astronomical $34 billion in 2000 for mental disorders and substance abuse.
The article said, “The province suffered $28.7 billion in productivity losses and $5.1 billion was spent on hospitalization, community mental health and substance abuse programs, law enforcement, and research and education, the report said.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental illness is still under diagnosed despite being very common. In fact, I believe my own mother suffered from some form of mental illness, which contributed greatly to her abusive tendencies. I am not a doctor, but I think my mother might have been bi-polar.
However, back then there was no one to help her and there was still a stigma attached to anyone who had to take an anti-depressant much less any other drugs that would help those with mental disorders.
People are more informed today though, and with the stress of life combined with a lack of proper nutrition and sleep, people are becoming more inclined to seek professional help when they need it.
In recent years, the medical community has found that mental illnesses can lead to physical problems that can affect a person’s overall health and even something as unassuming as depression can lead to suicide if not treated.
Moreover, it has also been found that some mental disorders are caused by physical problems, such as a chemical imbalance that can be remedied with medication. A sick person with money simply needs to visit their family doctor to receive the necessary help, but what about the poor?
Even mild forms of mental illness left untreated can impact so many people. For example, my mother may have suffered from a mild mental disorder, but her illness produced tragic consequences for her children. Those who suffer from more severe mental disorders can cause tragic consequences for society as a whole.
Guyana has a large amount of mentally ill people who live on the streets. These people simply need some medical attention, but left on their own are a danger to others and to themselves. It is too easy to hurry past them on the street and not care about their plight, but that will never resolve this situation.
You might see some of these mentally ill people on the streets rant and rave to hallucinated figures, some are unclothed and some are even catatonic. These abnormal states cause fear and anger in most passer-bys, but does anyone stop for a moment to contemplate what that person would be like if he or she received some proper medical treatment?
It is possible that many of the mentally ill homeless could be productive members of society if they receive the proper medication and counselling. Even those who suffer from the most extreme cases of mental illness do not belong on the streets. They should be in a medical facility under the care of a doctor.
I am not suggesting that Guyana’s government spend the billions of dollars that Ontario spent in 2000, but the issue will not simply go away by being ignored either. I have seen letters that point out that the sight of Guyana’s mentally ill homeless might frighten visitors for the World Cup and reflect poorly upon the country.
This statement is true and it is also a viable concern, but Guyana needs to worry about these people simply because they are Guyanese who need help. There are some homeless who do not suffer from mental disorders too, but that is a whole other column. This column’s focus is to point out that with the right medical attention, these people could be contributing to the community in positive ways.
Churches and charity groups can only offer so much to a mental ill person who is homeless. These organisations do not have the ability treat the physical aspects of mental illness that require medical attention.
Even if a church does help a mentally ill person get cleaned up and off the street, if that person needs medication and does not receive it, a relapse is imminent. A comprehensive strategy needs to be implemented that addresses the medical needs of this small portion of society.
Although it is a small portion, it significantly affects the overall population on a daily basis. There is an obligation that society assumes when it comes to those who cannot care for themselves. This is one thing that makes us different from the rest of the animals on earth - that we have the capacity to care about the difficulties of others and to act on that compassion.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 14 November 2006)
Last week, in a news conference to congratulate the new Democratic Speaker of the House on her party’s victory and welcome her to her new position, the President of the United States said he had sent her "the names of some Republican interior decorators who can help her pick out the new drapes in her new offices."
Maybe this was partisan jesting, which is how Nancy Pelosi – now third in line to the presidency – took it. Or maybe it was Bush's sexism peaking through. One has to wonder if he would have made such a statement if Pelosi were a man.
Sexism is still far too prevalent in today's culture, as is obvious from a photograph promoting a Digicel cause in last week's newspapers. This was brought to my attention by a letter to the Editor from Vidyaratha Kissoon on November 9 when he scolded Digicel for “commodifying the human body, especially women's bodies.”
The photo in question, as described by Kissoon, displayed scantily dressed women next to men who were fully clothed. He said in his letter, “It is insulting that the newest investor in Guyana believes that Guyanese society must be so depraved that women's flesh must also be used to sell cell phones.”
Had this photo opportunity included men who were also in beach apparel and this group of people were at Splashmin's to have a day of fun, it would have been appropriate for the women to be dressed as they were.
However, since the men were completely dressed and the women were not, one can only conclude, as Vidyaratha had concluded, “The women were Digicel girls, only there to provide enjoyment (to heterosexual men and lesbian women?) it seems.”
I agree completely with Vidyaratha. However, I am going to go one step further and say that any newspaper that printed this material is just as guilty of advancing its sexist statement as the company promoting it.
Apart from laws that safeguard against libel and slander, journalists often work by a self-imposed code of ethics that expects them to seek truth and report it, minimise harm to sources, subjects and colleagues, act independently by being free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know and to be accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.
Newspapers usually have predetermined filters to weed out the most offensive material. However, the level of offensiveness is often based on the reader.
For example, I would be highly offended at an item that objectifies women, as was Vidyaratha. It is my belief that this type of material does a great amount of harm to society and should not be printed in newspapers or magazines.
If a company or a person wanted to publish material that promoted racism, the newspaper staff would reject the material without a second thought. So why are photographs that promote sexism allowed in these newspapers that have female readers?
Moreover, why is it that the only protest I encountered against this affront came from a man?
Don't get me wrong, I am glad to see there are men who will stand up for women, but where are all the women who are outraged at this blatant sexism?
It is my belief that the one and only reason women have been treated as second-class citizens – or worse – for so many centuries is because they have done nothing to stop it.
When women started to stand up for themselves and declare that they wanted the right to vote, they got that right. When women said they wanted to get an education, they fought for that right and got it. The question still remains about when women will demand that society put a complete halt to its sexist ways and treat women with the respect they deserve.
Newspapers are the backbone of society. It is irresponsible to continue to allow chauvinistic “advertisements” to permeate a culture where domestic abuse abounds while the women struggle to take their rightful place as citizens.
Moreover, it is simply duplicitous to print columns and editorials that speak out against sexism in the same newspaper that carries material that promotes chauvinism.
The print media cannot have it both ways, either sexism is wrong and should be rejected completely or it is right and should be allowed to saturate society. Which is it?
Sunday, November 12, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 12 November 2006)
Just like the AFC’s party leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, knew that I would have to write something about his party’s current parliament seat controversy, I knew he would probably have something to say about my reaction. Don’t you just hate it when life becomes so predictable?
In a letter to the Editor from Khemraj last Thursday entitled, “Avoid the Ramoutarian dialectic, Stella,” he said that he does not think I ever understood his reasons for refusing to relinquish the seats he and his cohorts nabbed from other political parties while forming the baby AFC.
In truth, I do know his reasoning, but I have always found it to be lacking enough substance to cause the newbie party to position itself for early scandal and in the process make the people wonder about whether they could trust the AFC or if it was just like the rest of Guyana’s political parties.
In the long run, it seems time has proven that I was right. If they had simply risen above the nastiness of Guyana politics and set a new standard for such issues, they may not have to fight so hard for a seat that is rightfully theirs today.
Khemraj, Khemraj, Khemraj. If only you had listened to me from the start, then you might have been able to save yourself a lot of trouble today.
This situation is much like when I suggested that you should campaign with a clean-shaven face. You did not listen to that suggestion either and consequently you brought very little votes from the very same demography you fought so hard to continue representing.
The AFC did fairly well in the elections, but if it had relinquished those seats to set a higher standard and avoid a scandalous appearance, and if you had shaven your face, I bet your party could have easily appealed to the nearly third of Guyana’s citizens who just stayed home on Election Day.
I do have good news though, Khemraj, we do agree on two items. You mentioned in your letter that cheese and chalk are different; therefore, I decided to put your statement to the test and indeed, the two items are very different. I tasted some chalk and it was yucky. Then I tried to write on a chalkboard with some cheese, which was very messy.
Khemraj, you also said Ramoutarian dialect, “clouds out sense, disseminates nonsense, and is the reason for so much unreason.” I could not agree with you more, dear friend. Moreover, Ramoutarian dialect sounds like some sort of nasty, incurable disease.
I feel as a friend that I must ask if it is it possible that you caught this disease while hanging around Freedom House. Don’t get upset now, I just feel that it is better to have an early intervention now and get you cured before the AFC begins sounding too much like the PPP.
At least you have the legal mumbo jumbo to toss about. The PPP only had Mr. MBA to twist reality into something that more resembles a child’s storybook. Sigh, I do miss those days. But it seems as if you are going to give me plenty of fun times in the next five years, Khemraj.
In fact, it might be more fun to deal with a tightly-wound legal type like yourself than someone like Smart and Sharp Robert, who lived in a whole other dimension of reality.
Lest we forget those who really matter, tell me Khemraj, with all of the bickering going on between Guyana’s various parties, has the AFC (or anyone else) been able to accomplish anything substantial for the people of Guyana yet? What exactly is the AFC doing for Guyana right now? What plans does it have for the next year?
By the way, have you shaved that beard off yet?
Friday, November 10, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 09 November 2006)
I have been exceptionally tough on crime, on criminals and on the government for not being more vigilant in the apprehension and prosecution of criminals and the delivery of just sentences. Likewise, I have been an ever-vigilant advocate for crimes against women and children.
There is no one who can doubt my obstinate stance on the crime situation in Guyana. Having said as much, I also understand the position of a letter writer who disagrees with my belief that every criminal should have his or her day in court.
T. King wrote a letter to the Editor in Wednesday’s edition of the Kaieteur News explaining another point of view – a view in which many people share. King does not believe certain criminals should be afforded the right of a trial to determine their fate and has no problem with law enforcement officers taking the lives of such individuals.
It is not as though I do not sympathise with King’s position. In fact, there are times when I have wanted to take justice into my own hands. When I read the heartbreaking article in Kaieteur News about a boy who was molested by his own stepfather, I wanted to take justice into my own hands.
When a young girl was brutally gang raped by men who invaded her home, I wanted to take justice into my own hands. When four colleagues from this newspaper were murdered in cold blood, I would have loved to have found a way to ensure justice for them outside of the law enforcement and judicial system.
But who am I? I have no right to decide the fate of these murderers and rapists. The judicial system has been entrusted with this responsibility by the community and for me to act as judge and jury would make me no less culpable than the criminals themselves.
What King is suggesting, that it is better to kill these criminals before they can find a way to escape justice, positions every Guyanese to become the very criminals they hate. If a person murders a murderer outside of the law, that person becomes a murderer as well because he or she is subject to the same laws of the land as the criminal.
It is chilling to think of what could happen to the nation if everyone assumes the same position as King. I know the frustration is exasperating. I know the crime situation seems insurmountable. I know the righteous fury to see justice burns inside every good and upright citizen.
Every single nation on earth has the right to expect justice and it is the responsibility of their respective governments to deliver that justice. Still, it is difficult to trust this profound responsibility to Guyana’s current government, especially when its pathetic corruption index just released by Transparency International clearly proves once again that it cannot be trusted.
However, if the law of the land is treated with such contempt and dismissed by even the decent, then Guyana is truly lost and chaos will reign as the lines of right and wrong become less distinguishable.
Decent folks must continue to demand that the law be upheld, even when frustration and righteous fury abounds. The law of the land must remain the rallying point upon which Guyanese band together to stave off the rampant crime and build a democratic nation.
King posited this question to me, “Do killers and drug dealers respect the laws and constitution of any country?” No friend, they do not, which is exactly why we must - and why we must insist that our law enforcement officers do as well.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Avoid the Ramoutarian dialectic, StellaMy Response
I knew that Stella, among others, would have been uncomplimentary to me after the AFC's press conference concerning the Region Ten Geographic seat.
What emanates from her piece last Sunday, though, — and this is unfortunate — is that she never did understand my arguments for holding on to my seat during the life of the last Parliament.
And worse, still, is her inability to distinguish what happened then as against what is the position now concerning the Region Ten seat; and, hence, her equating one with the other.
I wish not to repeat my arguments as to my retention then of my Region Six seat in the last Parliament. They are very well known, and would remain good on constitutional, legal, conventional and moral grounds.
That is why neither the PPP/C nor its representative could have done anything to take it away from me. Hence, my recent demand that the PPP/C give up the Region Ten Geographic seat is not inconsistent with my conduct of keeping mine in the 8th Parliament.
Rather, it is wholly unconstitutional, illegal, against convention and totally immoral for a Parliamentarian and/or a party to hold on to a seat which was not validly and legally won by a sufficiency of votes at an election.
So, the two instances, which Stella is making indistinguishable, are as different as chalk is to cheese. I assure you, Stella, that if the list of candidates for the PPP/C had not procured enough votes to win that Region Six seat last Parliament, I would have resigned.
That would have been the decent thing to do; because the electorate did not will it.
Similarly, if the electorate in Region Ten did not so will that seat to one of the members of the PPP/C list of candidates — in this case Mr. Hinds – then, is it not the decent thing for the Parliamentarian and the PPP/C to give it up?
Should not the AFC demand that it be given back this seat which on proper arithmetic it duly won? By your argumentation, it does appear that you want the AFC to remain silent on the issue.
It is argued in your column that “if the AFC never acquires that seat, it will only have itself to blame for not setting a higher standard when it had a chance”. I fail to see the logic here, Stella.
What right does the PPP/C have to keep a seat which GECOM's own Statements of Poll, and so too the PPP/C's, are revealing that the AFC won? It surely could not be because Ramjattan did not give up his, when he was requested so to do last year?
In any event, I want to repeat that Ramjattan's was duly won! Not so with Mr. Hinds.
I want you to appreciate, Stella, that I did set a higher standard by remaining in Parliament after being so outrageously expelled by the PPP/C.
To stay and fight right from the inside, rather than run away and do so from a distance, is always an act of bravery. Don't be taken by what Ramoutar spouts.
The earlier you start to appreciate and discover these distinctions, the better prepared will you be to avoid the Ramoutarian dialectic, which clouds out sense, disseminates nonsense, and is the reason for so much unreason.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 07 November 2006)
I do not speak on American politics very much in this column at all. I may touch on the topic from time to time with a couple sentences that jab at the flagrant arrogance of the current administration, but the focus of this column has always been Guyanese politics – which provides plenty on which to speak.
However, since the people in the U.S. will go to the polls today for their midterm elections, I decided it would be appropriate to lend today’s column to my analysis of the development of American governance since George W. Bush took office in 2000, or more specifically, since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Since that fateful day over five years ago, there has been a tug-of-war in America between those who do not mind giving up certain elements of their freedom if it means they will feel more secure and those who are not willing to sacrifice their freedoms for promises of a safer nation.
I fall in the latter category and have watched carefully from the very beginning as the Bush administration has systematically infringed on the freedoms of the American citizens, but we were told it was for our own good.
Immediately after the tragic events of 9/11, there was a surge of patriotism in America. People expressed this patriotism in various ways. American flags could be spotted from almost every house and car in the country. Blood and money donations were in ample supply to help the families of the victims and those who survived the attacks.
Race and class distinction briefly fell away as a selfish nation put aside its hunger for money and gain long enough to care about the victims of this horrid attack. However, after a few months, the feel-good emotions of patriotism seemed to slowly fade as the nation went back to business as usual.
Americans trusted their government to have the best interests of the nation at heart, so the people stepped back to allow their elected officials to do their jobs. At the request of the president, the country went back to “life as usual,” and in turn, the government was entrusted to protect the freedom of the nation.
However, instead of protecting the freedoms of the people, at the request of the President, Congress passed legislation that violated and decimated those freedoms. This is when true patriotism stepped onto the stage and some citizens started to cry foul and question the government's need to invade their private lives.
Those patriots again took notice when the president decided it was time to drag the nation to war against the better judgment of the United Nations and most of the world. Anti-war protests, which included tens of thousands of people, sprang up throughout the nation. However, when this voice of American dissent was raised, the loyalty of these patriots was called into question.
It seems the President believed it was unity - not morality - that would keep the nation together. However, patriotism should never assume the position of naiveté. So in true patriotic colour, Americans are finally doing exactly what Americans have always done - putting their freedom of speech to good use and questioning their government.
They are questioning the President’s motives for starting an unprovoked war with false information. They are questioning the shift of focus from the leader of the known terrorist organisation that caused the 9/11 attacks to a leader of a country that had no ties to the attacks that could be substantiated.
Americans are questioning the tapped phone lines and the infringement on private records without the proper legal privilege. On and on the questions are finally flowing and now many Americans are allowing themselves to see the gravity of the situation.
Since Bush took office, the focus of American politics has shifted from diplomacy to pre-emptive strikes and from developing a relationship with North Korea to freezing that nation out of talks until it took drastic measures to get America’s attention.
Before Bush, the U.S. was focused on developing meaningful relationships with its geographic neighbours, now it barely cares about anything except guarding its borders. The U.S. has even changed its policy on how it interprets the Geneva Convention and the treatment of prisoners of war. In short, America’s foreign relationships are in shambles thanks to its cowboy president.
Not many were keen on questioning the judgement of the President after the 9/11 crisis, and some were willing to unconditionally trust this shifty administration with their precious freedoms and the all important role of developing good relationships with other countries.
Even the American media backed down from the Bush administration’s bullying tactics. However, the winds are changing and a nation that was blind for so long has opened its eyes once more.
I have a difficult time swallowing all of the atrocities committed by this current American administration. Some of these are acts of commission, like the war in Iraq, and some are acts of omission, like the total disregard meted out to nations in need. Likewise, I despise the fact that it was done under the pretence of spreading democracy.
Even now, some of those who are changing their minds about Bush and his administration are not doing so because they see the wickedness of these actions, but because the war is taking an economic and emotional toll on the nation.
Some are even being swayed away from their dogmatic support of Bush and his cronies by reasons altogether unrelated to the war or their freedoms, like sex scandals in Congress.
At this point, I do not care about the reasons for their change of heart, all I want is to see Americans finally wake up from their slumber and see what is really going on in the world. U.S. citizens can be so ignorant of the role they play in America’s relationships with other countries.
Indeed, some Americans do not care at all about such things as the economic development of Latin America or whether civil war will eventually destroy Iraq because their President did not have the foresight to develop a comprehensive post-war plan.
Moreover, many Americans do not care how other countries view the U.S. as long as their semi-charmed lives are not interrupted by the inconvenience of poverty in Africa or the plight of the Russians since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Today will determine the future course of American politics, which will impact millions upon millions of people worldwide. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain – or some of my fellow citizens might choose to stay in their warm, dry homes instead of doing their part to help the world.
Sometimes I truly believe decadent Rome had nothing on America.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 05 November 2006)
It is all very ironic that the AFC is now demanding a parliamentary seat they feel rightfully belongs to their party; yet it’s earnest pleas for justice seem to be making no headwind at all. Ironic indeed.
It seems like just yesterday that the AFC was the one that had hijacked some seats that rightfully belonged to other parties and refused to give them back when asked for the return of those seats.
And here we are today and the AFC is expecting the PPP to be magnanimous enough to hand over a seat it claims belongs to the new party when it showed no such generosity in very similar circumstances.
The AFC has staked its claim on a parliamentary seat given to the PPP from Region 10 after recounting the votes of that region to include some polling stations that seem to have been omitted during the official tally. It determined that the PPP had received 3,273 votes in this region and the AFC received 3,321.
AFC Party Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, said, “The AFC believes that the PPP/C should give up that which it does not deserve, both by law and by the will of the Electorate. This is the only decent thing to do.”
Oh, this is rich. Is this the same Khemraj Ramjattan who refused to turn over the seat he hijacked from the PPP just a few short months ago? Yep, this is the one in the same. Now he wants the PPP to hand over the Region 10 seat with a smile on its face? I am truly giddy with the irony of it all.
Ramjattan says the relinquishment of this parliamentary seat to the AFC would be the “decent thing to do.” I wonder why he did not do the “decent thing” last year at the appeal of many of those who supported his party to give up those seats he and his colleagues slyly commandeered.
How convenient that Ramjattan, and for that matter, the AFC as a whole, only now recognise the decency of such an act. Likewise, how politically typical to only grow a conscience now when it serves the party.
This is why I insisted at the start of the seat controversy last year that if the AFC wanted to rise above the rest of the political scum, it needed to relinquish its hijacked seats and prove it had the integrity the Guyanese people needed and deserved. Only Raphael Trotman gave up his seat.
That said so much about the “decency” of the AFC. A Christian teaching maintains that a person will reap what he or she sows in life. If a man sows joy and happiness, then he will reap joy and happiness in his own life. If he sows discord and strife, then he will reap discord and strife. It would seem this teaching has found its embodiment in Guyana’s political parties. The AFC has truly reaped its just rewards over this seat issue – and in short time.
Of course the PPP should give the AFC their rightful seat, just as the AFC should have done the same thing. If the people of Region 10 did indeed cast more votes for the AFC, then they deserve the proper representation of this party.
The people are the ones who should determine their representation, just like last year when they deserved to be represented by the political parties for which they voted and not a brand new AFC that did not even exist during the previous election, but hijacked its seats when parliamentarians from various other parties, including Ramjattan, joined to form another party.
Therefore, if the people did indeed cast these votes for the AFC, then the PPP should relinquish the seat.
Having said that, if the AFC never does acquire that seat, it will only have itself to blame for not setting a higher standard when it had the chance. Really now, no one truly expects the PPP to be the bigger person in this situation and just hand over the seat. The PPP is simply not known for such benevolence.
The AFC could not be the bigger person last year concerning the seat hullabaloo and the PPP will likely abstain from such a generous position in this situation as well. Which makes me wonder whether there is a bigger person at all in Guyanese politics.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 02 November 2006)
I wish I take ownership of the phrase, “sexism can be cured” since it is absolutely genius. However, I only just saw it for the first time last week when browsing an antique store with my mother-in-law and stumbled upon a green field jacket with several appliqués strategically placed on it.
I am a sucker for historical items, especially if that item seems to reflect my personal taste. As I was admiring the field jacket the proprietor of the shop approached and told me the jacket belonged to a woman who had previously served in the military.
As I checked over the jacket for quality and defects, I noticed the tags in the well made pockets said it had been made in 1951, which sparked my interest even more. However, I would have never given this jacket a second glance had it not been for the appliqués.
There were a couple of unassuming patches, one was a small apple and the other appeared to be a medical symbol, which made me think the previous owner was a military nurse. However, my supposed nurse converted her jacket into a fighter’s garb with the statements covering the rest of the jacket.
On the upper part of the right arm, one red-stencilled statement simply said, “Woman Power.” On top of the back, across the shoulder blade, another red-stencilled statement said, “Equal Rights For Women.”
The other arm had a patched that appeared to be military related, but easily fit the general aura of the strong woman’s jacket. It read, “Hell On Wheels.” All of these statements alone made this jacket extremely interesting to me, but it was the declaration stencilled in big fading black letters across the bottom of the back that truly transformed it into an item that spoke to me.
The statement read, “Sexism Can Be Cured.”
This single statement said so much. It implied that sexism is a sickness and something that is not good for society. It inferred that it was not normal to be a sexist. It also explicitly said there was cure for this sickness.
I was sold and although I did not want to fork out the cost of the jacket, my husband insisted that I buy it. I haggled with the shop’s owner and talked her into a more reasonable price and proudly walked out with my new antique jacket.
I do not know the real story of the jacket, but in my imagination, the previous owner was a military woman who returned to the states after her overseas tour during the mid-century and became an activist for women’s rights, thus transforming her field jacket into a militant statement for all women.
I bought the jacket last week and have since been thinking about the ways sexism can be cured when I read the front page story of the Chronicle yesterday entitled, “Death sentence for butcher who butchered wife.”
After a jury of his peers unanimously found him guilty following a brief two-hour deliberation, the article said, “Demerara Assize Court Judge Yonette Cummings-Edwards yesterday sentenced Buxton Side Line Dam butcher, Vaughn Barth, 41, to death for butchering his 38-year old wife Ronin Chester-Barth.”
This is one of the many ways sexism can be cured. When men begin to realise that society will not allow them to kill, rape and abuse women, those who suffer from the sickness of sexism will find healing.
When women realise that society will indeed defend them, they too will finally begin to heal from millennia of sexism and victimisation. Judge Cummings-Edwards’ court made a strong statement by finding this killer guilty and giving him such a severe sentence.
This is one time Guyana has stood up for the women instead of flagrantly dismissing their plight. It is my hope that these types of incidents become more frequent until they are the norm; replacing the current norm of turning a blind eye when a woman is harassed, beaten, raped or killed by a man.
Indeed, sexism can be cured and this week a Guyanese jury and judge gave us hope that society may yet one day be restored to complete health.