Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stella Says…Guyana needs its naysayers as much as it needs its government

by Stella Ramsaroop

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

Note: I write this column for the benefit of my fellow naysayers. Enjoy.

I have absolutely nothing against what the government terms as “naysayers.” Hell, I am a naysayer myself and I know many other naysayers. However, honesty demands that there comes a time when even the most rabid naysayer should stop for just a brief moment and take stock of the situation.

I recently did just that and found that many of the issues about which I have taken the government to task have been addressed. Mind you, there is still a long road ahead, but one cannot ignore the fact that Jagdeo and his administration are actually doing some very good things for the country.

I know my fellow naysayers will spit and holler over my last statement, but unless my fellow naysayers walk about the country blindfolded, any objective person would have to acknowledge the progress of the last couple of years.

I am not saying life in Guyana has yet to reach the point where the common citizen can live at ease. With sporadic water and electricity availability, climbing food prices and crime still prohibiting the peaceful state of mind that all Guyanese should have – those in the government still have their work cut out for them.

However, it would be disingenuous to overlook the many issues the government has addressed. In fact, two chief issues have both been addressed very recently. The first is the introduction of a consultation paper regarding sexual violence. This move, for which the people have earnestly pleaded, has been a long time in coming, but it is finally here.

Of course, I am not so naïve as to believe a consultation paper does any good if the finally outcome does not lead to stricter laws, the enforcement of those laws (which continues to allude the nation) and the implementation of those laws by the judicial system (which has been known to give rapists a slap on the wrist).

However, I have been encouraged to see that the Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, seems to be quite serious about this issue, as is evident by the fact that she is travelling around the country speaking on the value of her consultation paper.

As such, I am hopeful that Guyana will soon be better equipped to protect its citizens against sexual predators. This issue has long been number one on my naysayer agenda. When I see a marked improvement in this area, I will be able to check this one off of my naysayer list.

The second chief issue that has been addressed by the government recently is the out-of-control driving situation. This is another matter that has flooded the letter pages for months with petitions for help from the government. It took them long enough to finally do something, but a crackdown is currently in effect.

I do hope the crackdown will not be so short lived that the road madness returns by the start of the New Year. Oops, there is the cynical naysayer in me popping out again. Regardless, the fact that the government actually took action should be acknowledged.

The government could have easily continued to ignore the situation, as it has for years, and go on its merry way while people died on the roads. It has finally done something about the situation and that is commendable.

Surely my fellow naysayers have to see the new roads, the new stadium, the new mall, the (briefly) cleaned up streets and the improved airport. To simply dismiss these improvements, the effort to end sexual violence and the attempt to bring order to the roads would be intellectually dishonest and compromise the integrity of our objectivity.

Naysayers can get so caught up in their nay saying that they cannot allow themselves to see the good even when it does happen. Likewise, the government can get so lost in the details of an issue that it cannot plot an effective course of action. Wouldn’t it be just wonderful if both of these groups could lay down their swords and work together for once?

I know this is not going to happen – and it shouldn’t either. The naysayer plays a vital role in the democracy of a nation. These are the ones who speak up when the rest of society has fallen into complacency. Yet I imagine these two groups (the naysayers and the government) could work miracles if ever the two formed an alliance.

Yes, it is important to recognise the efforts of the government to address the issues brought to light by the naysayers. It is useful to take stock and re-adjust the nay saying agenda so as to allow for progress.

This allows the public to see that naysayers are not inflexible or unable to be gracious. It also keeps the naysayers honest to themselves and to everyone within their reach.

If care is not taken to protect the naysayers from falling into a rut of rigid closed-mindedness, the voice of dissent could become obsolete as the public dismisses the naysayers as incapable of objectivity.

This would be a tragedy, because Guyana needs its naysayers as much as it needs its government.

Email: StellaSays[at]

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