Wednesday, September 22, 2010

All hail the Great Computer Donator!

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 22 September 2010)

While in Guyana a couple weeks ago, I was watching a newscast on the television as Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, was speaking about something concerning the flooding situation. The television was turned down in the public area, so I was reading the news ticker at the bottom of the screen. It said something about the Ministry of Agriculture donating equipment to help deal with the flood.

I thought to myself about how demeaning it was to use the word, “donate.” As if the Ministry of Agriculture, or Robert Persaud himself, were providing this equipment out of the goodness of their hearts with the money from their own personal bank accounts to the people of Guyana as an act of charity. I mentioned this to my husband and decided to write on it later.

I decided to search the Guyana Chronicle for the word donate and found this phrase is used for such events like the President “donating” computers to the village of Buxton. How so very kind of the President to donate to the people something the people themselves bought.

Just last week the generosity of the Agriculture Ministry was on grand display again. It “donated $18M worth of furniture and laboratory and field testing equipment to the Food and Drug Department of the Health Ministry.” Let me get this straight; one Ministry developed by the people gave furniture and equipment to another Ministry developed by the people to help further service the people – and all purchased with money from the people?

I am struggling to see how this action qualifies as a donation. It is nothing more than one part of the government working with another part of the government to do exactly what the government is paid to do – work for the people. Why must there be accolades? Why must the people be made to feel as if they should bow and curtsy in appreciation?

While in proper curtsy mode, one must remember that these leaders cannot stomach a dissenting voice. Sometimes I truly just want to say, “Get a backbone and understand this is part of the job.” In fact, it is a job the President – who does not like “sour” people – and his party ardently campaigned to get. Seriously now, the government barely gets any resistance from the opposition parties at all, and yet still it whines about the mere handful of dissenting voices left in the country. Poor babies. So fragile. Such tender sensitivities.

It seems as if those who lead Guyana think of themselves as Monarchs with a King and lots of little princes and princesses, lords and ladies, who expect to be worshipped, feared and adored. All hail The Donators! All hail The Great Computer Donator! Bend your knee to The Furniture and Equipment Donator!

During my search on the word donate, I found Lincoln Lewis had already briefly expressed my sentiments on this topic (not that that will stop me from speaking my mind as well – the more voices, the better).

In a September 19 letter to the Kaieteur News Editor, Lewis said, “The nation read that the President donated computers and steel pans to Buxton, instead of the State issued computers and steel pans. These things were bought from taxpayers’ money, not the President’s personal money; therefore the recipients are entitled, as any other, without having to feel that the Government is being benevolent. In fact, as taxpayers, they are the ones paying for the things they receive, funding the Government and paying the salaries of President Jagdeo, his ministers and advisers.”

A reality check is definitely in order. Both for the government who believes it actually owns the money entrusted to it by the people to serve the people – and for the people themselves who sit by and allow the government to treat them like lowly minions required to pander to the mercy of a fickle court of royals just to get a measly handout here and there.

Another reality check is further needed to clarify the fact that every single person in Guyana has the right to complain and be “sour” if they are not happy with the way the government performs the job it was hired by the people to perform. How on earth did the system get so absolutely askew? I thought Guyana left Monarchs long behind when it won independence from England. Someone should really send that memo to the sitting government.

Yes, public service is a demanding job and those who serve the public honourably deserve the esteem of the people. However, these public servants hold paying jobs (paid for by the people) and knew full well when they took the job that it would entail long hours and underappreciated labour. Almost every job is the same way, but you do not see the taxi driver or the food vendor or the security guard getting in front of a group of graduates complaining about unsatisfied customers. They suck it up and try harder. Shouldn’t that same standard apply to those who work for the people?

Allow me to summarise this column; firstly, there is no such thing as a donation from the government to the people when the people pay for it and, secondly, the people can complain all day long and the government must not only be able to stomach it, it is the one that must pander to the people.

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