Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stella Says…Jagdeo has a big home and size does matter

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 31 October 2007)

President Jagdeo’s new house seems to be a controversial issue in the opinion pages this week. Evidently, when a nation is done with its sitting president nowadays it is supposed to stick that person in a shack to live out the rest of her/his life.

As comical as this discussion is – because in my opinion, it would not hurt Guyana to build a home for a retiring president – this issue is just another boy toy argument. Boys have to have their toys. They have to have the biggest and best everything.

They must have the shiniest bike, the nicest car, the biggest yacht, the bird that whistles the best, the most DVDs, the purest gold – you get the picture.

I think this argument concerning Jagdeo’s new home is more about that age-old male competition to have the biggest “assets.” I will never understand why men have to cock their feathers and strut about as if the whole world revolves around them, but it sure is a ton of fun to watch.

As all of these politicians, with their cocked feathers, show off their new homes, fancy cars and lavish lifestyles, I cannot help but wonder if they are trying to compensate for something else that does not quite measure up.

It is no secret that most men need to have their ego stroked every now and again. Yet there is more to this male competition than an engorged ego. In the male competition, the guy has to make his competition appear to be less threatening and small.

It is not as if anyone is going to compare Jagdeo’s house with other luxury homes recently built in Guyana. Could you just imagine the scene as someone asks Jagdeo about how big his square footage is and after that person comes up short with his own square footage, he then poses a question about how many bathrooms Jagdeo’s new house has?

Male competition is rife with blazing testosterone. I have seen good male friends end up on the floor rolling around in a fistfight during a competition for attention from a female. The best part is the pretence that no competitiveness actually exists even when the rivalry is apparent to everyone.

So what if Jagdeo has a big house? On this account, I do not think it is important who paid for the house because an outgoing president deserves a decent home in which to live. Why be jealous of the man? Why begrudge someone who has served the people for so long a nice home?

I am no Jagdeo fan, not by any stretch of the imagination, but even I would vote to build the man a home he could live in comfortably after he leaves his current abode. Pettiness concerning this issue shows how trivial male competitiveness can be at times.

Sometimes I really think these male politicians are going to line up and have a peeing contest to determine who gets to run the nation next. Honestly now, their methods of distinguishing themselves from each other sometimes amounts to no more than this.

In my opinion this matter should be put to rest. Jagdeo has a big house. Deal with it and just pretend that size does not matter.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stella Says…Guyana is experiencing growing pains

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 28 October 2007)

I can imagine that the new zero tolerance approach to traffic violations will be difficult for a few people to accept, especially since some have become accustomed to a reckless type of behaviour on the roads and now must learn to behave in a different manner.

Everyone knows this crackdown on the driving situation is long overdue, but that will not make it any easier to swallow for those who are used to blasting music, driving at incomprehensible speeds around pedestrians and overstuffing mini buses.

This new reality will be a harsh wake-up call for some and a sigh of relief for others. There will no doubt be letters of outrage in the daily newspapers from drivers who were pulled over by a policeman for speeding. This is to be expected as Guyana’s roads transition from a pathway to carnage to a more civil and orderly conduit to work and home.

It is easy for me – an independent observer – to look on at such major transformations in Guyana and conclude that the nation is just going through growing pains. Also, it makes it all the more easy to see these growing pains since the small city I just moved to a year ago in Texas is going through the very same thing.

When the census was taken in this city in 2000, the population was about 4,500 people. When the next census is taken in 2010, it would be no great shock if the population has doubled – or even tripled. Yet the governing body of my new city, which is very resistant to growth and change, has done very little to accommodate this population explosion.

The result is that one traffic light, which almost everyone in the city must pass through to get to and from the bigger city 20 minutes away, creates a line so long during rush hour that it takes several cycles before a driver gets through the light.

Traffic lights are another type of growing pain Guyana has been experiencing of late. I can imagine it would be difficult to sit through some of those new lights when recent memory pulls up images of intersection passage without the delay of lights. Although the new lights make everyone’s passage through that intersection safer, there is a price to pay for safety – and it is patience.

The crackdown on those who have been acquiring electricity at little or not cost is another way in which Guyana will feel the growing pains. Electricity is not a mango growing on a tree in the yard; it takes money and energy to produce electricity. So why should the electric company be expected to give it away for free?

There might have been a time when cheating the electric company may have been acceptable (though still not right), but the nation is growing up and it is time to realise that like any other developing country, anyone who uses electricity must pay for the usage.

The new “Stamp It Out” consultation paper being promoted by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security to finally address the over abundance of sexual violence is another example of how much Guyana is growing up. The young nation is coming of age and starting to tackle some of the responsibilities of progressive society.

I remember an occasion of grocery shopping years ago when my oldest son was just a toddler. He was sitting in a cart (there was a section for a child to sit) as I did my shopping. An older lady approached me and, after cooing with my son for a bit, told me as she pointed to the store floor, “Never let his feet touch the floor.”

I did not understand what she meant, so I just smiled and accepted her advice like any young mother should respond to advice from an older woman. However, it was just a few weeks later that I allowed my son to get out of the cart while I shopped. He ran here and there and I quickly regretted letting him down.

I picked him up and attempted to put him back in the cart, which proved to be quite a chore since he now knew the freedom of the floor. Every time I went shopping after that and went to put my son in the cart, I found a tantrum waiting for me. This meant I had to take the time to discipline him every time, but I was the one who should have been disciplined for not listening to the advice from the older lady.

My point is now that certain drivers in Guyana have been accustomed to driving like maniacs – to the detriment of so many others – it will not be easy to put the genie back in the bottle and expect them to start behaving like decent drivers who care about the lives of others.

This is why such a crackdown is vital to rein in the mischievous motorists. It might mean that responsible drivers will have to be tolerant of the need for increased police stops, but in time the driving situation will become far more orderly and safer.

The focus on enforcing orderly driving is just one more growing pain for this young nation. The adjustment to traffic lights is also a growing pain. The effort to force people to pay for the electricity they use is a growing pain. And the campaign to keep the streets free from littering is a growing pain.

One could moan and groan that there are too many pains to deal with at one time, but the pains only last for a few short months and – as long as there is equitable enforcement of these expectations – the nation will fall into a new groove with traffic lights, clean streets, and orderly driving.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stella Says…Anyone need to use the toilet?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 26 October 2007)

In the last year there has been a lot of time and effort spent on revamping Guyana’s image. New roads have been built, a modern stadium has been erected and trash has been cleaned up off the streets.

With the same degree of joy many experienced because of the progress taking place, it is now a sentiment of disappointment that is evident as it is discovered that the toilet facilities at the new stadium, which is not yet even a year old, are not being properly maintained.

A country is only as strong as it’s infrastructure. Take the Roman Empire for example; it developed a thriving metropolis, a network of useable roads for the trading routes, beautiful architecture, coliseums, water supply system, etc. However, Rome did not stop at the developmental stage – this great empire continued to properly maintain what they had built.

Guyana and its friends have invested large sums of finances to help the nation overhaul the deteriorating infrastructure – right down to the installation of traffic lights. Everyone had good reason to feel the pride of seeing the glory of the new stadium.

However, development of the national infrastructure is only half of the job. The other half of the job is the maintenance of the new development. For example, a letter in Wednesday’s Stabroek News said the new toilet facilities at the stadium were in such an unsanitary state that “Worms could be seen in the bowls as big as baby fingers.”

One Website dedicated to the stadium ( posted this comment, “Most of the Stadium external toilets behind the Party Mound were closed during the KFC match between Guyana and Trinidad. This led to patrons urinating behind the toilets in public as can be seen at the far end [the blog had a photo of this]. The question is why would these external toilets be closed with a crowd of about 8,000 people in attendance?”

Good question, why? In truth, it would not cost much to hire a team – or even just one person – to maintain these facilities on a regular basis. Though more workers would be required during events with thousands of people in attendance.

It is so disappointing to know that the government has not already taken measures to maintain this stadium that cost so much to build. If money is the problem, I am sure a group of volunteers could be organised to help keep the stadium clean. Civic-minded people or a religious group could create a maintenance schedule to make sure it stays clean.

If that proves to be problematic as well, then perhaps a judicial ruling for community service to clean the toilets could be served to traffic violators. If you speed, then you clean. If you blast loud music while driving, then you clean.

Whatever it takes to properly maintain the new stadium is all that matters on this account. I just do not see the Romans allowing their coliseum to fall into disrepair between gladiator matches. So why should Guyana’s stadium fall into disrepair between cricket matches or other stadium-worthy affairs?

Again, I want to reiterate that development is only half of the job. Maintenance is the other half. It would be a shame to see all of that money, invested to provide toilet facilities for stadium visitors, go down the drain.

With large worms in the toilets, it is only a matter of time before the plumbing needs to be repaired as well, something that could be avoided by cleaning the toilet bowls regularly.

Since the government is collecting so much in taxes from the citizens lately, it seems the people should at least expect to be able to use clean and functioning toilets at the new stadium.

I am not suggesting that the toilet facilities should be like a spa – a fresh smelling soothing atmosphere that is ornately decorated. However, would some new toilet paper, clean bowls and no worms be too much to ask?

I bet if one of those in Jagdeo’s administration had to use those toilets on a regular basis (instead of the nicer facilities reserved for the important people), the worms would be gone and everything would be sparkling clean.

How about it, Mr. President? Need to use the toilet?

Email: StellaSays[at]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stella Says…Corbin is wrong; you should put self before party

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 24 October 2007)

It makes me steam under the collar when politicians use the love that people have for their country to manipulate well-intentioned people into compliant apathy. Such is the case with the PNC.

This was quite evident in an article printed in this newspaper yesterday entitled, “Put party before self, Corbin urges members.” The article reported, “Corbin had no doubt that the present difficulties which the party is experiencing would soon be overcome, but he emphasized that all involved must demonstrate a commitment to put party before self-interest.”

I have never heard such gobbledygook in my entire life. A lack of unity is not what will cure the ailments of the PNC, new leadership would be the best medicine to remedy for what truly ails this party.

The members of the PNC are not what is wrong here (other than those who voted for Corbin to remain in leadership). Yet the leaders are trying to make it seem like any discontentment on part of the members is the cause of everything going wrong with the party.

The discontentment of party members is good and just. They should be upset about how their leaders have failed them. They should be disappointed about the way their leaders have been disregarding democracy. They should never unify themselves with these horrific actions that have been taking place.

Let’s be honest for a minute. Does anyone really think Corbin believes any of his own tripe of party unity before self-interest? If he truly believed in putting party before self-interest, he would have stepped down as party leader a long time ago instead of insisting on his own continued leadership even at the expense what was obviously good for the party.

In the world of reality outside of Corbin’s make believe world where everyone bows and curtsies to him, the members of the PNC should be mad. They have every right to question his actions and decisions without being dragged before a disciplinary committee. That is how true democracy works.

Let me set aside some time here to tutor Mr. Corbin on what constitutes a democratic party since he has obviously forgotten (or he never knew in the first place). Robert Corbin, the party means nothing – absolutely NOTHING – without the people.

You are nothing more than a hired hand who is supposed to be doing their bidding. If even one of them – even one – takes issue with how you are doing your job, it is you who needs to clean up your act, not them.

Now let me set you straight, you poor misguided soul, the PNC should be about nothing more than the interests of the people. They are supposed to be looking out for their own self-interests, and so are you and the party!

Corbin, you are so twisted that you have this whole entire thing backward. Party unity is pure hogwash. The party is suppose to be about the people and their interests, not your one man crusade to hold on to what little power that still hasn’t evaporated into thin air.

That you would have the gall to stand in front of party members and tell them to put aside the very interests the party should be championing (like transparency, justice and healthy guidance for the party) is beyond the scope of bad leadership, it is cultish.

Devotion to you and to party purely for the sake of devotion would be masochistic for PNC members – especially given your leadership record. These members are not required to turn a blind eye every time you deny them the quality leadership they deserve just for the sake of “party unity.”

Therefore, it is my recommendation that instead of seeking party unity, as suggested by Robert Corbin, PNC members should instead seek their own self-interests. This is how true disciples of democracy all over the world live their lives. They are not tied down by blind loyalty to a mere man who chases his own self-interests while he preaches group harmony.

I guarantee you today that if each member starts seeking what she or he feels is best for the party, in one years time the PNC will be the party it should have been years ago. How long will PNC members continue to feed one man’s ego while the rest of the party wallows in discontentment?

The PNC is a political party, not a Corbin cult. If you need a god to follow, go to a place of worship. If you want a political leader who cares about your interests, Corbin is obviously not the guy for the job since he just told you to put your interests aside for the party.

If I were a PNC member, I’d have a few choice words to Corbin about what he could do with his “party unity.” This mentality of party unity is what has cornered the people of Guyana into a stagnated political situation for so long.

The people are looking out for their leaders and the leaders are looking out for the leaders, but no one is looking out for the people. How twisted is this?

Email: StellaSays[at]

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stella Says…Why is Guyana’s food so expensive for Guyanese?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 21 October 2007)

I have a question that I am hoping someone can answer for me. I am no economist, but I do know a little bit about how national economies work, which is why I cannot understand why products produced in Guyana cost so much for those who live here.

I have been thinking about this for quite a while now, but I saw a letter printed in the October 17 issue of the Chronicle from Baldeo Persaud that addressed this issue and gave me a reason to write about it.

Persaud said, “Vegetables in Guyana are always expensive except when there is a glut. Some fruits are out of the reach of the small man for example papaya. Fruits that are imported in Guyana tend to be cheaper than locally grown fruits despite mark-up and freight charges for fruits coming from abroad.”

This high cost phenomenon is very interesting to me because although I have never lived in Guyana, I have lived in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama and while living in each of these countries I could buy the locally produced fruits and vegetables for a very, very small sum.

I lived in Panama for several years and got spoilt on the wide array of locally produced bananas, plantains, coconuts, papayas, mangos, avocadoes and many other delectable treats. Many of these I could not get in the U.S. Midwest and if I could, I would pay a high price for very low quality.

Even in Panama, which uses the U.S. dollar for its currency and had no variance in exchange rate from the States, locally produced products were far less expensive than anything imported. I could even buy a wonderfully crafted wood carving for a good price.

In Guatemala I bought hand-woven textiles and in Costa Rica they had small hand painted carts for decoration and those ruffled dresses were adorable on my daughter. In all of these countries I could easily go to the local market and buy what I needed for dinner without breaking the bank.

This was nice since we were living on a very tight budget at the time. Which makes me wonder how those on a tight budget in Guyana manage to survive when even the price of locally produced products cost so much. But what I really wonder is WHY the locally produced products cost so much.

Logic would seem to dictate that Guyanese should be paying very low costs on rice, sugar and locally produced fruits and vegetables. This is the question that is plaguing me. I hope someone can help me understand why those in Guyana have to pay so much for products produced in Guyana.

Perhaps Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud, MBA can use his degree to explain this phenomenon. But I hope if and when he does detail the reason for such high prices on Guyanese product that he does not try to tell me that it is the weather or the increasing global demand that makes Guyana’s papayas so expensive for Guyanese.

Even if the rest of the world wants to pay astronomical prices for papayas, should there not be a reserve for those at home to get papayas for a reasonable price? Surely a socialist party would understand this concept and ensure that the people of the nation are taken care of even in the midst of their own capitalist endeavours?

The people of Guyana should not be expected to pay the same price for Guyanese products as those in other countries who buy Guyana’s food. Moreover, when production of these goods is government run or subsidised, the people should pay very, very low prices since they are the ones who paid to produce it in the first place.

Come on now, you PPP comrades, you have taxed the people so that every pocket is hurting and they already have to pay more for imported products that are not locally produced at present. To make them pay through the nose for fruit and veggies grown in their own backyard is a weight too great to bear.

Why not take a trip to any of your neighbouring countries and see with your own eyes that locally produced goods cost very little. If the government needs to put a cap on the price vendors assign to their local merchandise so that the people are not being overcharged – do it.

I understand the need for taxes. I get that there have been floods that have affected the price of certain products. But my question remains the same – why is Guyana’s food so damn expensive for Guyanese?

Email: StellaSays[at]

Friday, October 19, 2007

Stella Says…An all-woman political party could be the answer for Guyana

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 19 October 2007)

I often wonder what it will take to change the stagnated political climate in Guyana. The AFC stirred things up for a bit when it first formed, but for all of the benefits of this new party, there have been no real shake-ups that would benefit the people of Guyana as a whole.

However, I think I may have found a way to really and truly shake things up in Guyanese politics. This idea is so brilliant that I am ashamed for not having thought of it first.

This week in India a group of women, who were tired of waiting for the men to get down to business, started an all-woman political party to offer an alternative to the traditionally male-dominated political parties in India.

The United Women Front (UWF) party intends to give special attention to issues affecting women like dowries (because the bride is such a burden on her husband even though she will clean, cook and bear children for him for the rest of her life) and abortion of female foetuses (kill the girl because a boy is far more valuable).

It is about time the women stood up for themselves. For example, there is bill in India’s Parliament requiring at least 33 percent of federal and state legislatures be reserved for women. This bill, called the Women’s Reservation Bill, has been pending in Parliament for over a decade!

According to, UWF President, Suman Krishan, said, “Despite having the second highest population in the world, of which women constitute 50 percent, the average representation of women in Parliament is a dismal low of just 8.8 per cent.” The world average is 17 percent, which is still pretty pathetic.

Krishan, who is also the wife of former Vice President Krishan Kant, continued, “Women in the country are discriminated against and are insecure. And through this front we want to ensure that the issues of priority concerning half the country's population come to the forefront in India's national agenda.”

The UWF says it thinks women are more “honest, more capable and more hardworking.” Well, you certainly won’t get a fight from me on that account. What a wonderfully proactive way for women to finally (after thousands of years of oppression) take things into their own hands instead of waiting for men to decide to care about the best interests of women.

This new development in India this week inspired me to consider all of the wonderful possibilities of an all-woman political party in Guyana. I am already convinced that some of the best leaders in Guyana are the female politicians. My mind simply cannot help but consider how a joint female effort could completely revamp the entire nation.

There is not a week that goes by that Guyana’s women are not begging for someone to do something about the violence against them. The educational system is in ruins and I would bet my bottom dollar that a bunch of women would take this issues far more seriously than it currently being taken.

The Red Thread continues to cry out for help for impoverished women and single mothers. Yet it seems these cries for help fall on the deaf ears of the male-dominated PPP administration. Sexual abuse against the nation’s children is another issue that would no doubt be on the forefront of an all-woman political party.

In fact, I believe if that if anyone can overcome the racial divide in Guyana – it is the women. When you get right down to the nitty-gritty, for a true demographic representation of the population, women should rightfully hold 50 percent of the seats in Parliament anyhow.

It seems to me that an all-woman political party in Guyana would help solve many of the nations social ills since many of those ills stem from the mal-treatment of women and the total disregard concerning the issues that most effect women.

Do not get me wrong; I emphatically do not want an all-woman dominated world. If history has proven anything, it is that humans need to have the benefit of both genders in leadership. However, at this point in time perhaps an all-woman political party would help to remedy the dreadful lack of female representation in government.

Let’s be honest for a brief moment. Men alone are just not doing a good job running the world. The world is in shambles and the future does not look very bright. On the recent MTV Video Music Awards in September, Sally Fields made a statement that got censored before airing on television.

She said, “If mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place.” This type of mentality is desperately needed at all levels of governmental leadership to curb the male appetite for aggression and domination that emerges from time to time.

One of the very few times anyone will see truly aggressive behaviour from a woman is when she is protecting her children, which is why a woman would rather use diplomatic efforts to settle an issue than to resort to armed conflict.

For centuries upon centuries it has been said that women have no place in government because their makeup is different from that of men. It is precisely for this reason that women should be in government. The feminine brings balance to masculine and vice versa.

Male leadership alone does not encompass all that is needed in governing humankind. Female leadership, with all of those wonderful feminine qualities, provide certain attributes and wisdom in which men have typically been found wanting.

There is no doubt that men and women are different on various levels. However, those differences do not make one gender better than the other. Rather, the differences provide humankind with even more unique possibilities by which to solve our problems.

An all-woman’s political party in Guyana could help jump start this process of joint leadership that should have existed throughout our entire existence. I can think of several qualified candidates to get this party up and running with the expectation that other female leaders would jump in as well.

Really, girls, how much longer will you sit around and wait for the men to care about the issues that effect Guyana’s women? India’s women waited for over a decade for a bill that still has not passed just to have 33 percent representation in Parliament (not 50 percent, as it should be).

Email: StellaSays[at]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Stella Says…Alright, alright. I think Oprah is gorgeous.

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 17 October 2007)

A few years ago I felt good about the direction humans were going as it seemed various forms of hatred toward other humans was on the decline. I watched as those around me found it easier to accept my bi-racial marriage and my children of several different races.

It seemed as if humans were finally finding ways to celebrate racial and religious diversity instead of using these differences between us to create fear and mistrust. I had hope that wars would become less frequent and I saw whole nations as moving toward a more tolerant approach when dealing with other nations and cultures.

However, the last few days have made it clear to me that my dreams of a more tolerant approach to each other is now further away than a decade ago.

I was browsing a Guyanese Website over the past weekend and saw a comment that caught my interest. A writer said he felt the letter pages of the Guyana daily newspapers was demonstrating a trend of drawing distinct lines along a racial divide.

I do notice these types of letters from time to time, but to be honest, I seldom read them. In my own life, when I come across a person who makes racial distinctions in a negative manner, I take quick steps to remove that person from my life. Likewise, I give no time to racially charged letters either.

It is not that am blind to reality, but I simply see no point in allowing any type of hatred to fester in me. I have faced plenty of racial remarks because of my diverse family and could easily fall into the trap of stereotyping every single race that has ever acted badly toward me – which would be every single race.

Yet I would rather believe that if I have the capacity to see a person for who they really are and celebrate their racial and cultural makeup, so can everyone else. This was the positive direction America was moving until 9/11. Now there is fear and mistrust around every corner again.

There are stories in the news about racial conflict in Louisiana, Middle-Easterners in America cannot board a flight without being watched carefully, and the fear and mistrust of 9/11 has many wanting to take drastic measures to close the borders. There are now even raids to find illegal immigrants and send them back to their homeland.

This is all nonsense to me. A person’s race is no determinant for whether she or he has strong moral character and a good heart. Just like there are good people of all skin colours, there are also bad people of all skin colours. It is ridiculous to pick out a couple bad eggs and subsequently pronounce that all people from that country or that race cannot be trusted.

This is what happens every time I write about Buxton, too. There has not been one time that I have written about the plight of those in Buxton that I have not been told that I am wasting my time. I refuse to succumb to such blind hatred simply because others live with that darkness in their hearts.

Last Sunday I wrote on three women who are some of the richest people in the world. One was an heiress from China, one was an author from England and one was a television host from America. I mentioned that the television host, Oprah, made it big regardless of the fact that she was “not overly aesthetically pleasing.”

This statement upset some who read my column and it was somehow misconstrued that my statement was because she was of African decent when in fact my statement was because she was the only one I wrote about who was in the entertainment business, which is known for only wanting the most beautiful women in front of a camera.

My point was that Oprah made it big using her brains and despite a constant fight with her weight. Oprah is no Halle Berry, but she made her mark despite the superficial expectations placed on all women in the entertainment business. This opens doors for more women to follow in her footsteps.

That my remark was somehow twisted to be a racial insult is beyond me. I simply do not think that way at all. I believe there is beauty to be found in every race. In fact, by my own standards, Oprah is drop dead gorgeous because she is a strong woman with a generous heart who is not afraid to put her intelligence on proud display.

Like Oprah, I will never be a size two. I have a round face – not that square face that Hollywood loves so much. However, I am a strong woman with a generous heart who is not afraid of being intelligent.

It seems there are some who cannot comprehend that race does not factor into the thinking of certain people. One reader who emailed me suggested that I should be more sensitive to the racially charged atmosphere in Guyana. While I understand this person’s point, I also believe my racial blindness could help others better accept each other.

What good does it do to react to a racist with more racism? At the end of the day there is just more entrenched hatred. If we shun such actions and walk away from those who are racists, surely at the end of the day goodwill and acceptance will overshadow the hatred.

Moreover, what good does it do to focus on those things that make us different and separate us? I prefer to focus on those things that bring us together and to celebrate our beautiful diversity.

I do not focus on racial differences because it simply does not factor into my determination of a person’s character. When humanity as a whole can reach beyond its differences – be it racial, religious, geographical, gender or financial – that is when we can focus on the truly important things in life.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Stella Says…Who is Guyana’s richest woman?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 14 October 2007)

Humans always seem enamoured when they encounter people with money, power or fame. It usually takes a lot to impress me, but when I am impressed by someone it is not normally because that person has money, power or fame. A sharp mind and a good heart are what usually impress me instead.

However, I have to admit that I was impressed by money this week when I read that the richest person in China is a woman. Yang Huiyan, the 26-year-old daughter of a self-made real estate tycoon, is worth a US$16 billion fortune.

In a nation where it is still desirable to have a boy instead of a girl so the family can depend on the male to care for the parents later in life (China has a one child policy for population control), this is a remarkable accomplishment for a woman to achieve the position of a billion dollar heiress.

Perhaps I am so impressed because we just do not read much about rich Asian women and I suppose my ignorant assumption has always been that we do not hear about them because there are none. Then bam, the richest person in China is a woman. Way to go, girl!

The British author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, is another woman who has recently made her mark on the world as one of the richest people in England. Rowling was a poor single mother who used her fantastically creative mind make her filthy rich.

Oprah Winfrey has been on the rich list for a few years now. Winfrey made her money on television and although she is not overly aesthetically pleasing, she used her “womanly” attributes to express a caring and nurturing persona that won over millions of women around the world.

Women are the ones who made Oprah rich. A majority of those who watch her show and buy her magazines are female. Women trust her to be open and honest about her struggles in life – as well as her triumphs. Women can identify with her. Oprah has now moved into a philanthropic phase with her money.

I remember when I first heard about Oprah’s wealth. I was surprised because women just did not make that kind of money. However, things have changed and when I heard about Rowling’s wealth I was not the least bit surprised, just highly pleased. There are rich women galore nowadays.

So why should I care about a rich heiress in China? Because this is history in the making. It was not too long ago when women did not get inheritances. The sons got the family money. Even if a woman received an inheritance from her father, she was not allowed to oversee the money. Her husband was the one to make all the legal decisions about the woman’s inheritance.

In fact, this demeaning custom is still practiced in far too many cultures today. However, I have hope that if China, a nation where female foetuses are killed every day simply for not being male, has the capacity to allow the richest person in that nation to be a woman, there is certainly hope for the rest of the world as well.

It is only a matter of time now before women begin to top the list of the world’s richest people. This year, Forbes Magazine named the richest person in the world to be a man from Mexico who made his money in the telecom business. He is worth US$59 billion.

I was mildly impressed with this man’s story simply because he is from Mexico and because someone had finally taken Bill Gates spot at the top of the list. However, I was far more impressed with China’s richest person.

I have no desire to make tons of money. If I did, I certainly would not be a columnist. No one ever goes into journalism to be rich because this career does not pay the big bucks it takes to become a tycoon. However, I do have one great desire that never seems to fade – to one day see gender equality as a norm worldwide.

When a Chinese woman becomes the richest person in her nation, I know my dream of gender equality is getting closer to coming true.

Still, I do wonder where the richest woman in Guyana would fall on a list of the nation’s wealthiest people. Would she be five on the list? Would she be 50 on the list? Or would she be 500 on the list?

Email: StellaSays[at]

Friday, October 12, 2007

Stella Says…A Marriott hotel could be very good for Guyana

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 12 October 2007)

I have always loved to travel, but when I travel it is important to me to find a hotel that has a familiar name. At this point in my life I am more of a Hilton girl than a Marriott girl, but if there is no Hilton hotel where I am going, a Marriott hotel will do just fine in a pinch.

Even though I have an adventurous spirit, there is something very comforting about staying in a hotel that has a familiar name, which is why I am pleased with the news of a Marriott hotel being built in Guyana.

Moreover, I can say with full confidence that many people from the U.S. and Europe will feel the same comforting feeling when they search for accommodations in Guyana and find a five-star Marriott on the list.

I have travelled to many states in the U.S. and to other countries and I’ve stayed in some really nice hotels and some really raunchy hotels. Those bad hotel experiences – with bugs in the bed, sticky floors and nasty bathrooms – are the reason I have learned to seek out hotels with familiar names.

Marriott has an international reputation for maintaining a certain standard of excellence, not only in cleanliness and top-notch facilities, but also in customer service. In fact, customer service is the second most important aspect I expect from any hotel, restaurant or store – after cleanliness.

So why am I giving the readers in Guyana an American view of the Marriott? Because the fact that a Marriott is being built in Guyana is a gigantic step toward boosting tourism. The introduction of a major hotel chain in Guyana is a definite sign of good things to come.

When I visit Guyana, if I do not stay with family I stay at the Pegasus. I have enjoyed my time at this fine establishment and I will probably stay there again on my next visit. Like I said, I like a familiar face. However, my desire for familiarity does not in the least negate the wonderful prospects of an introducing an international hotel chain to Guyana.

Trinidad has a Marriott, St. Kitts has a Marriott, Aruba has a Marriott, Curacao has a Marriott, and so does the Grand Caymans and St. Thomas. I also read about a Marriott opening in Barbados this year. These are all very serious tourist spots, so just imagine what it could do for Guyana’s tourism sector to be added to this fun-in-the-sun Caribbean vacation list.

I do, of course, have some reservations about building yet another hotel in Guyana when it does not seem as if the established hotels – just built in the last year – can keep their rooms filled. However, this is one time when I am going to hold my tongue concerning my reservations because I know how good this can be for Guyana.

Perhaps the next five years will see a growing tourism sector and even more hotels will come to Guyana. Maybe next time a Hilton. I know it is uncharacteristic of me to be so optimistic, but even in the U.S. it is very promising to see a Marriott come to a community. It means money will soon come to the community too.

Typically, when a Marriott opens in an area, it spawns several other businesses too, like restaurants, retail stores and tourist spots. Dozens of jobs are created and the community thrives financially.

It is heartening to see the government make some wise financial decisions for a change. Now the only question remaining is whether the government can protect these new businesses from the money laundering drug lords, whimsical politicians and crooked government officials.

If the government is serious about letting the world know that Guyana is a tourist friendly country, then it time to start genuinely cracking down on crime. It is obvious that several measures have been taken to spruce Guyana up, repair some of the roads and open interesting tourist spots – like the new mall.

These will all attract tourists, but will those tourists be safe once they get here? The Marriott will attract even more tourists, which is what we all want and hope. We want the tourists to come – and to bring lots of money with them.

Here’s hoping someone in the government is giving at least a little thought as to how to protect the tourists and the tourism businesses or all of this hard work will be for naught.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stella Says…Another Guyanese family gets protection from Canada, not from Jagdeo

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 10 October 2007)

Yet another family from Guyana was recently granted protective asylum in Canada. It seems President Jagdeo could not protect this family from his whimsical politicians, corrupt government officials or nasty drug lords after the man was approached with an offer of a bribe last June to use his position as a wharf manager to allow drug shipments to pass through in rice shipments headed for the U.S.

This is how the situation was described in a article from yesterday, “In his affidavit, the claimant said that when he refused the bribe, he was verbally abused and threatened. Five days later, he said he received a cell phone call telling him he knew too much and would be eliminated.”

The article continued, “Subsequently, the Guyanese national claimed he was forced to flee a group of apparent kidnappers and later the windows at his home were shot out. He said police did nothing despite several reports and alleged that the police and “senior politicians” are being paid off by drug dealers in his homeland.”

I don’t mean to nit-pick, but this does not sound like the business friendly atmosphere the President portrayed at GuyExpo just a few days ago.

I do realise that this promise of protection extended to businesses by the President may indeed be a new policy that would not have been in effect in June. I also acknowledge the fact that Jagdeo did not promise protection from the drug lords. On the other hand, surely this is something that can and must be addressed.

I am sure President Jagdeo meant to include those nasty drug lords when he said he would protect the businesses in Guyana. Likewise, I am also quite sure he meant to include protection from the government officials who work hand-in-hand with the drug dealers. Yep, I’m sure he did.

The article said, “The [Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada] ruled that the ‘claimant’ along with his wife and five-year-old daughter is in need of protection by authorities [in Canada] since Guyana police did not give him the protection he needed from drug barons, whom he had refused to work with.”

It really makes me mad when I hear that upstanding citizens like this family are chased out of Guyana by criminals because they were not protected after taking a stand for doing the right thing. This man made the difficult choice to make the right decisions for Guyana and as a repayment of sorts, Guyana’s authorities turned their back on him.

This situation makes me wonder what would have happened if this man had just accepted the bribe of US$20,0000 per shipment of cocaine allowed through the wharf. Would the police then have protected him? Would his family be safe? Would he still have the life he built in Guyana instead of being chased off to another country?

Late last year Stabroek News ran an article about 67 Guyanese who were granted asylum in Canada during the years of 2005-06. The article said, “According to Mamann and Associates Immigration lawyers, the majority of Guyanese seeking refugee status in Canada, do so because of the criminalisation of the Guyanese society and the fear that they are victims of criminal gangs with political associations as well as for a number of political reasons including assassination, reprisals, victimisation and discrimination.”

Note the interesting trend of the reasoning for the Guyanese who seek asylum in Canada. These people are not just running from the overt criminal elements, but from the “criminal gangs with political associations.”

There is no doubt the drug lords, murderers and thieves instil fear into these good people, but it is those whimsical politicians and shady government officials who really scare people. Criminals can be expected to behave in an unlawful manner, but we expect more from the leaders of a nation and it is a terrifying thing when they behave just like the criminals.

What a joke that the world is informed of a family that needed protective asylum from Guyana at almost the same time the President is promising protection. Obviously the President needs to try a lot (lot, lot, lot, lot) harder if he expects any business to take his promises seriously.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Friday, October 05, 2007

Stella Says…Guyana’s leaders need to leave the young women alone

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 07 October 2007)

I wonder if those who sexually molest young women ever ponder the consequences of their actions. Surely the humanity inside even these monsters would force them to contemplate the lifelong damage inflicted upon their young victims.

For whatever reason, even if there is a fleeting tinge of remorse, sexual predators disregard the severity of their injurious ways and choose to instead cause great physical, mental and emotional harm to these young women (and sometimes young men as well).

Which is why it is quite comforting to see the Ministry of Human Services take proactive steps to protect society from sexual deviants by initiating research that would provide the foundation to revamp the nation’s sexual offence legislation and violence against women and children.

A Stabroek News article from Friday stated, “The research found that a level of male violence is widely tolerated, reducing support for women who might otherwise report the criminal offences against them.” I saw a sample of this tolerance first hand this week in the letter pages of Kaieteur News.

In this newspaper’s Thursday edition, letter writer S.A. Peters was attempting to make a point that law enforcement response to shootouts does not come close to the response for lesser criminal acts.

Peters said, “Mr. Editor, this is Guyana, and riding without a bicycle light, riding a motorbike without a helmet, a drunken man slapping his wife for dinner, cussing the next door neighbour, fetching out dirt from a vacant plot of land, among other petty offences, will see the police in their numbers, armed with SLRs and other weapons, ready to slap the law book in the faces of folks who just deserve a warning, a traffic offender's ticket, or made to pay a little fine before the court.”

Please note that Peters likened a drunken man slapping his wife around because he wants dinner to trivial acts like riding a bicycle without a light, cussing out a neighbour or fetching dirt from a vacant lot. This statement is a perfect example of the tolerance society has concerning violence toward women.

In my opinion, if that husband wants dinner so badly – he can cook it himself or starve, but don’t dare hit that woman.

A huge victory was recently made for women in America when Warren Jeffs, a leader of a polygamist cult group, was convicted of two counts of being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl by forcing the young woman into marriage and to have sex with her first cousin.

It is about time these twisted leaders were held accountable for the damage they inflict on young women. Last year someone told me about a Guyanese politician who had young women in and out of his house on a constant basis. I have also heard stories about a national leader with several young women on his lap at one time in a public place.

Albeit, these are just rumours and the girls involved were seemed to be above the age of consent, yet if this is true to any degree I cannot help but think that about the damage being inflicted on these girls that will last for the rest of their lives.

Do these leaders ever put their penises on hold long enough to consider the long-term ramifications of their actions? Those young women may think they are having a good time hanging out with “powerful” men, but one day it will dawn on them that they are being used and abused just to satiate the sexual appetite of an adult who should be helping them and knows better than to behave in such a distasteful manner.

These young women should be receiving worthwhile guidance from these leaders – not be expected to service their sexual desires. Legally these men may not be doing anything wrong since these girls would be old enough to consent to their actions, but morally these men are simply deplorable for what they are doing to these girls.

These are not the type of leaders Guyana needs. For heaven’s sake, I have daughters of my own and if I found they were being used by one of these perverted politicians I would make sure the entire nation knew exactly what had transpired and expose that “leader” for what he really is.

Any new sexual offence legislation being considered by the Ministry of Human Services may not be able to protect Guyana’s young women from these community leaders and oft times the girls do not listen to their parents’ good advice to stay away from such filth.

However, the people can demand a higher level of moral conduct from these leaders by exposing them at every turn until they are too embarrassed to show their face in public or to expect sexual favours from another young woman.

If society continues to turn a blind eye to this type of behaviour from leaders in the community – whether businessmen, politicians or other leaders – these young women will continue to be damaged just so a man can feed his ego.

If these men are so bent on their sexual satisfaction and they cannot get an intelligent woman who is their own age to listen to their nonsense for two seconds, let them get well acquainted with their own hand to find satisfaction – but leave those young women alone!

Email: StellaSays[at]

Stella Says... Religion and politics aside, family values is about valuing the family

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 05 October 2007)

This week someone who reads my columns sent me an email suggesting, “Perhaps you may consider writing on family values as a change from your usual socio/political polemics.”

Obviously this reader hasn’t a clue as to how dicey a term like “family values” can become in my hands, but it sounded like so much fun to take this reader up on their suggestion that I just could not resist.

The term “family values” is actually very fluid in that it does not assign itself to simply one set of moral codes. In the U.S. the conservative religious right uses the term to define their own moral code while at the very same time very liberal groups also use it to describe their moral agenda. England, Australia and China all have their own definition as well.

The other day someone asked my husband if he had seen something I had written (it was as if they were trying to snitch on me for saying something that obviously offended this person’s conservative leaning). I suppose this person thought my husband would be just as offended, but instead his frank reply was, “Yes, I saw what she wrote. I was there when she wrote it.”

I am not sure if this person assumed my husband would somehow chastise me for writing something offensive, but that is not how things work in my marriage. I do not interfere in my husband’s decisions concerning his company and he does not interfere with my job as a columnist.

We may ask each other for advice about certain decisions, bounce ideas off of each other and encourage each other when needed – as it should be any healthy relationship – but we do not interfere in each other’s jobs. This is how I would define one of my own family values: being there to support other family members while allowing each person to reach their fullest potential uninhibited by superfluous critique.

My definition of family values would not include such trivial issues as sexual preference or abortion rights. Instead, my definition would centre on values that strengthen the family and bond the family unit together regardless of political, social or biological inclinations.

Likewise, my definition of a family does not need to include both a mother and a father either. Since there are millions of mothers around the world raising children on their own (and some fathers doing the same), it is obvious that both parents are not compulsory to facilitate a family. In my opinion, anywhere there is a group of people living together and sharing their lives with each other – that is a family.

I should point out that my ideas on family values are not mandated by any religious code. Although I understand there are some who feel there can be no family values if there is no religious code, I find that religion is oft times opposed to certain family values I hold dear – like the equality of women.

The same person who suggested I write about family values attached one of those cutesy email sermonettes in the correspondence. The latter part of the sermonette said, “Are you aware that if we died tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days. But the family we left behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives?”

It continued, “And come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into work than into our own family, an unwise investment indeed, don't you think?” This brings me to one of my other family values – fathers who stick it out with their families no matter what.

I have seen so many fathers walk away from their families for any number of lesser prizes in life – a mistress, a job, a fleeting dream, etc. The only real prize worth anything in life is our children, the rest is just fluff.

One day that mistress will be gone, that job will be done and that dream may or may not be realised – but none of it will matter one iota. The only thing that will matter is whether those children had a father. Not a fly-by-night father who is here today and gone tomorrow, but a real daddy who is there everyday through thick and thin.

I bet my friend who suggested I write about family values had no idea what my definition would be. Putting religion and politics aside, family values is all about valuing the family.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Stella Says…Can Jagdeo protect businesses from his own whimsical politicians?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 03 October 2007)

Guyexpo 2007 is officially over. The booths are being disassembled, the merchandise is being hauled back to the places of business and the Sophia Exhibition Site will soon return to its normal state.

From all reports, the expo was a success and even better than in former years. It is encouraging news that this showcase of local (and international) businesses was such a hit even though there is a segment of society that I’s suffering financially.

However, of late it would be difficult to ignore the frustrated tone emanating from the business community due to any number of unresolved issues – including the large number of crimes targeting businesses.

Another of the many problems always causing frustration for the private sector is the red tape and endless bureaucracy standing in the way of creating a healthy business environment. As such, it was quite encouraging to hear President Jagdeo reinforce the fact that he intends to stand up for the business community.

At the opening of this year’s Guyexpo, the President said, “I want all investors to know that if you obey the law and practice good corporate governance, my government will not stand in your way. Your investments will be protected by law and not subject to the whim of politicians, and you will be supported by economic policies that are unambiguously pro-business, pro-profit and pro-growth.”

Putting aside my sarcastic whit long enough to be highly impressed by the President’s acknowledgement that there is indeed corruption amongst those in his administration, still this statement begs a few questions of which no one has yet to ask.

The very first question the President’s statement stirred in my ever-churning brain is regarding those “economic policies that are unambiguously pro-business, pro-profit and pro-growth.” Since this sentence was preceded by a sentence that gives the impression that the President is going to protect businesses from his whimsical politicians, can we expect new legislation to be introduced that will send crooked politicians to jail for demands of bribes, kickbacks and other corrupt practices?

Also, should businesses only expect the President to protect them from whimsical politicians or does this protection also extend to the various shady officials all the way down the governmental food chain? Surely the President is well aware that corruption and whimsical ways are evident in more than just his politicians.

The next question has to do with the phrasing of the first sentence in this short quote, “I want all investors to know that if you obey the law and practice good corporate governance, my government will not stand in your way.” Firstly, I can see a million ways in which this statement could be used to give the government a reason to stand in a business’ way on nothing more than a whim – which counteracts the next sentence.

It is not as if people have not been unjustly accused before. I am quite sure it has happened on an occasion or two – or more. Again, does the President intend to implement a fair and unbiased process in which an accused party can appeal an accusation made by whimsical politicians or shady government officials?

You see, when a businesswoman or businessman attempts to create jobs and help the local economy, there is also an element of wanting to make money for personal gain. However, if the President cannot assure these investors that they are no throwing their money down the drain, Guyana will continue to suffer economically.

The President’s assurance of protection is heartening if it is indeed genuine and not just more hot air. After all, let us not forget that he promised the very same thing two years ago and yet those pesky whimsical politicians and shady government officials still run the show. They have made the President look foolish by practicing their corruption right under his nose.

Which brings me to the last question I have concerning this short quote from the President. Does President Jagdeo actually have the power to protect the business community from the whimsical politicians in his own administration? Up until now it does not appear that he does.

Until new legislation is in firmly in place that prosecutes corrupt government officials for their whimsical ways, the President will not be able to protect the business community. The funny thing is that the President must persuade some of the very whimsical politicians themselves to pass this legislation.

In short, the President spoke some very powerful words that could mean a promising future for business in Guyana if he has the capability of carrying them out. But does he have the power to protect businesses from his own administration? Let’s all sit back and watch the show.

Email: StellaSays[at]