October 25, 2014

Sustainable development

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark recently addressed students at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Uzbekistan. She spoke at length on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the challenges faced by countries in meeting key targets, and the current global debate on what should succeed the MDGs at the end of 2015.

Important achievements have been made against the MDGs which Clark alluded to, for example, the proportion of the world’s people living in extreme poverty was reduced by half by 2010 – five years ahead of the 2015 target date. The target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water has also been met.

On average, gender parity in primary education has been achieved, and most children now enrol in primary schools, although completion rates and the quality of education are not high across all countries.

The lives of slum dwellers in urban areas have improved, and levels of infant and child mortality have decreased significantly. There is a downward trend of TB and global malaria deaths.

Guyana has made tremendous gains in achieving key MDGs. This country has advanced in its efforts to reduce hunger, increase access to social services and benefits, improve enrolment in and completion of primary education, increase empowerment of women and achieve environmental sustainability.

Guyana is also well on its way to achieving universal secondary education. However, there is still much work to be done in relation to meeting the other MDGs.

On the global level, there are still many challenges to be confronted. Around one billion people continue to live in extreme poverty. Lack of sanitation leaves many people vulnerable to the rapid spread of disease – particularly in the aftermath of the increasingly frequent and severe climate-related disasters the world is experiencing.

A number of the world’s ecosystems are under serious stress, which threatens the ongoing supply of basic services on which we depend – like water.

The future of all countries is closely linked to global trends, be they economic, environmental, or peace and security. Clark explained that globalisation and interconnectedness bring benefits, but they can also increase vulnerabilities. To seize the benefits and build resilience to global risks is in itself a development journey.

According to Clark, inclusive and sustainable growth and developing institutions with strong policy and delivery capacity, transparent and responsive governance, and civil society – able to advocate for citizens – are all part of that development journey. In her view, to achieve all these objectives, “societies need to develop a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities before them”.

Now that the deadline for achieving the MDGs is coming to a close, discussions around the “Post-2015 Development Agenda” are picking up pace. In 2012, the UN development system began facilitating global consultations to enable people from all walks of life to share their priorities for the Post-2015 Agenda.

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012, UN Member States agreed to establish an Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which would be “coherent and integrated into the UN development agenda beyond 2015”.

And in January last year, by decision of the UN General Assembly, the Open Working Group (OWG) was established and tasked with the preparation of a proposal on the SDGs. This past July, the OWG proposed a set of 17 goals and 169 targets, covering all issues related to sustainable development, and placing poverty eradication as a core objective.

The report builds on the unfinished business of the MDGs with proposed goals on poverty and hunger eradication, health, education, gender equality, and the environment. It also broadens the scope with proposed goals on reducing inequalities, and a focus on infrastructure, energy, peaceful and inclusive societies, and other new areas.

The agenda would be applicable to all countries, and aim to shift the world towards sustainable consumption and production.

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The “light vs dark” conundrum

With the official Diwali celebrations behind us, but with sweetmeats still circulating, it may be time to mull over some of the issues raised by the ancient festival. Incidentally, the word “sweetmeats” for the vegetarian delicacies shared to friends and neighbours sometimes raises eyebrows.

There is a sneaking suspicion that the sweets are possibly used as apologies for meat. Actually the English word “meat” originally signified generic “food” – including vegetables and flesh.

Most Guyanese know that Diwali is associated with “the triumph of light over darkness” – with “light” representing “the good” and “darkness”, “the bad”. This symbolism is very common in many civilisations, but, unfortunately, the West transferred the negative connotations of “darkness” to people who were dark-skinned during the period they enslaved millions of dark-skinned persons from Africa.

This value judgement on a physical characteristic was transmuted into a universal category of thought because of the West’s conquest and domination of most of the world.

In India, for instance, the two major incarnations of God/Vishnu as “Sustainer of the Universe” – Rama and Krishna – are described “as dark as a monsoon’s rain clouds”, and the word “krishna” literally means “black”.

There were no negative connotations to their physical skin’s colour, since their wives were described as “very fair” and the “match” as “perfect”. Yet after a century and a half of British rule, the latter’s equation of dark skin colour and negative qualities have been imbibed into modern Indian thinking.

In Guyana, therefore, there should be a conscious effort made within the education system and in the media to disjuncture the symbolic usage of light vs darkness from the physical colour of persons.

Diwali is a great time to do this, since the source of the symbolism is being acknowledged. As the period of darkness increased with the approach of winter – which was synonymous with hardships – humans in ancient civilisations interceded with their own attempt to “bring back the light”. It has nothing to do with the colour of people’s skins.

But the origin of the dichotomy in value judgements on the actions of man as “good” and “bad” also signals that the latter should not be allowed to continue without human intercession. To “light a light” in our own lives, we must take into cognisance both our own areas of darkness and those in the society.

It would be very foolish and short-sighted to work only on correcting one’s failures to be better persons while ignoring the structural conditions into which all are imbricated and which play most significant roles in shaping our destinies.

Take for instance our political system and the politics that are being played out right now. The political system is a combination of the written rules encapsulated in documents such as the Constitution, decisions of our Judicial System on pertinent questions, Standing Orders and just as important, the traditions of the various institutions.

The rules of the system must not be used expediently to subvert the goal towards the fulfilment of which they were formulated. This would be an instance of the darkness that we are supposed to counter.

The “no-confidence” motion is a powerful device intended to bring down a sitting government that would have been ushered into office by the rules of the Constitution. The tiny AFC, however, did not see fit to even engage with its major partner in the Opposition, as to whether the latter felt that there were more pressing issues to address before bringing down the government.

In terms of what is “light” and what is “darkness” in the political realm, the former has to be whatever furthers the greater good of the society in the eyes of the majority of the people.

The AFC’s No-Confidence Motion fails this test and must be categorised as “darkness” that must be removed with the light of the people’s intervention.

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Diwali

The ancient festival Diwali has several stories behind it, but all grounded in the messages of the “celebration of light over darkness” and “the triumph of good over evil”. In Guyana, on this auspicious occasion, these messages are preached with great fervour, at temples, schools and other functions.

The occasion, though a Hindu event, because of the celebrations of hope over despair, victory, love, peace and prosperity, is universal in appeal. It is for this reason the ancient festival is a bit more than just a Hindu celebration, as it is also a powerful unifying event.

And here in Guyana, it can be deemed a “celebration of togetherness over ingrained differences” even though the celebrations in most cases are temporary.

This positive trait is an indication that irrespective of differences, Guyanese at all levels can work together for the betterment of themselves, their families, communities and country, if they allow the light of knowledge to prevail over the darkness of ignorance.

What is noticeable is the lack of awakening of the inner light, which is akin to fog or mist in the mind, the resultant effect of which is an impediment to clear vision of elevated thinking and exalted action.

Hindus and non-Hindus alike must guard against these deterrents to progress, and Hindus, in particular, must seek refuge in the wisdom of their scriptures in overcoming these vices.

This is imperative in addressing the spiritual decline of their religion, and the maintenance of their culture.

More than 170 years ago, when their foreparents came to these shores from India, they were deemed “illiterate” and placed on the fringes of society, but yet they maintained their religion and culture against great odds.

It was an integral part of their lives, and they sought comfort to their distress and mistreatment in their spiritual system of beliefs, the virtues of which they imbibed mainly through oral traditions.

The highlight of the celebrations today is marked by a somewhat secular yet spectacular procession, which was instituted years ago.

This effort, which was in keeping with the spirit of the Hindu ancestors to sustain their religion, though commendable, faces the pressures of commercialisation.

So while it has gotten Hindus to better appreciate and to maintain their identity, efforts must be redoubled to transmit the spiritual values of Hinduism.

The latter is one of the cornerstones of the religion, really the oxygen for its survival and should be foremost among the work of all Hindu leaders.

The Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha is worthy of high praise for its invaluable work in keeping the Indian culture alive, and it would be fair to say that Hindus should take it upon themselves to better understand and practise the virtues of their religion.

In this way, the Divine Light within will always be awakened, happiness will abound, arrogance and a sense of false importance will disappear and tranquillity of the mind will prevail.

The stories of Diwali encapsulate these teachings and also emphasise spiritual wealth over material wealth in the worship of Mother Lakshmi, the Divine Mother and bestower of wisdom and happiness.

Oftentimes, the Divine Mother is worshipped for material wealth, but in Hinduism, material wealth without spiritual discipline is the road to an arrogant and self-destructive life.

This is captured in the story of the Demon King Bali, who ignorantly mocked Lord Vishnu, who appeared before him as a dwarf, and was vanquished for his superciliousness.

So as we celebrate another Diwali, Hindus must take it upon themselves to be firm on their religion, but make every effort to shun arrogance and seek elevated knowledge.

And since the message of Diwali is universal in appeal, all Guyanese should seek to do the latter. In this way, we can truly celebrate the “Triumph of darkness over ignorance”.

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Self-proclaimed people’s man

Recent developments in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) have exposed the inability of the current leadership of the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNCR) to manage the affairs of its party in a democratic, inclusive and transparent manner.

As a matter of fact, 2014 marks the first year since the party’s formation back in 1957 that there is so much discord, dissatisfaction, infighting, chaos and bullyism taking place within its ranks at Region 10. The problems which are facing that region did not start this year, but have their genesis in the rigged internal elections of 2011.

Those elections saw a cosmetic brand of democracy at work and David Granger, was catapulted to the seat of power within the hierarchy of the PNCR. But the manner in which the leadership responded to the concerns of Region 10 in 2012 during the period of unrest has exposed its inability to respond to and consistently advocate for the needs of their grassroots constituency.

Granger has used his offices both as PNCR leader and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Chairman to launch barefaced attacks on the integrity of those who oppose either the path that he is taking the party down or his elitist management style. This is evident in the manner in which Vanessa Kissoon, Sharma Solomon, Maurice Butters and Aubrey Norton, among others, have been treated because they chose to stand up for their rights.

It is no secret that several other hard-working and dedicated senior party members who fought side by side with consecutive leaders of the PNC have also been sidelined because they failed to support Granger’s militarisation of the party or his elitist and puerile vision of the country’s political system.

Granger went further when he hand-picked and imposed Sandra Adams on Linden as its coordinator because she is willing to dance to his tune. But the residents of Linden and Region 10 have shown over the past four years that they will not allow themselves to be railroaded by any politician, including their comrade-leader.

It is also clear that Granger had no intention of addressing the concerns of Linden about the Clarke/Kissoon spat, the failed operationalisation of several aspects of the agreement signed between the Government and the Region 10 Administration, his own inability to visit the region more frequently to do field work, the imposition of the docile Linden Coordinator, and the fiasco and shooting which took place at the party’s 18th biennial congress.

He could have avoided the embarrassment of having scores of protesters present at the poorly-attended meeting organised where his leadership was compared with the Ebola and Chikungunya viruses.

It is also shameful Granger was pleading his own cause and begging the public to believe that he was “a man of the people” and was “grassroots oriented”. His rationale for being a self-proclaimed people’s person was that no one really told him otherwise face to face.

No other senior PNCR member with any sort of standing within the ranks of party has come to his rescue with the aim of championing his cause at Linden. The truth is, compared to Forbes Burnham, Desmond Hoyte and Robert Corbin, David Granger is the only leader that the people of Linden is now rejecting so publicly since the new post-independence dispensation.

While Granger continues to be in denial about the shortcomings of the PNCR leadership under his stewardship, support is waning at Linden and in the wider Region 10, and the AFC is on the prowl.

The PNCR has started to save face and is organising a series of interventions that can hopefully serve as a temporary plaster for the lacerations and stab wounds inflicted by Granger and those who do his bidding on a region that already has its share of challenges and struggles.

Maybe, some historians are not meant to be politicians. Maybe self-proclaimed aristocrats were never meant to lead in the Republic. Maybe Plato was wrong.

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AFC and Hong Kong

In a move that surprised most observers of the Hong Kong scene, there have been sustained demonstrations since September 28 against authorities in a city that is frequently cited as a “poster child” of stability and prosperity.

The demonstrators are all young people – mostly university students – who are using the tactics of the “Occupy Movement”. This was launched in the US when students protested the growing inequalities in their country precipitated by the top one per cent of the populace owning most of the wealth.

In Hong Kong, what are the students protesting? After all, they are living in one of the most affluent locales in the world, where obtaining a good job would not be a problem after they graduate, as it would be for their protesting peers in the US. To appreciate their cause, one has to have a grasp of the island’s history.

Founded by the British and Chine after the Opium War of 1839-1842, Hong Kong was governed along British Westminster lines, by a Governor and a legislature, just as Guyana was, during the colonial era.

The British rule voluntarily ended in 1997 and Hong Kong reverted to China under a “dual governance” structure. Democratic rule and governance structures would be maintained in the city even though “mainland China” would have its Communist Party, selecting its political leaders, which would oversee the economy that was run along capitalist lines.

More specifically, 20 years after 1997, that is 2017, there would be elections to choose the leaders of Hong Kong. And this is what the protests are all about.

The rulers in Beijing are insisting that candidates for the elections must be vetted by a Committee that is dominated by individuals who, though from Hong Kong, have shown themselves loyal to Beijing.

The students, inspired by the tenets of liberal democracy imbibed by the traditions of their city, insist that the candidates must be chosen by a method that is much more open in this inaugural democratic election. It would be a farce, they insist, if all the seven million citizens of Hong Kong were to rubber stamp the candidates chosen by Beijing.

Where would be the “democratic” content of such a process? It would be a “selection” rather than an election. The students would have none of this.

And this is where the Alliance For Change (AFC) should come into the picture, to Guyanese following the protests of the students in Hong Kong. The AFC has consistently boasted about its “liberal democratic” credentials – but when it comes to putting their words into action, they fail ignominiously.

Let us take the selection of their presidential candidate who will lead them into the next elections. If the party were actually democratic, the members should reject, like the students of Hong Kong that the leaders present a pre-selected slate for them to choose from.

But this is precisely what has happened in the AFC. When first asked, two of their younger members, Patterson and Williams, opined that they would be proud to be able to compete to be selected as their party’s Presidential Candidate. However, even before the ink was dry on their opinion being quoted in the press, the now solitary leader Khemraj Ramjattan (upon the departure of Raphael Trotman) announced that his choice was his old “friend” from his PPP days, Moses Nagamootoo.

Nagamootoo, the Vice Chairman, was immediately endorsed by the lame-duck Chairman Nigel Hughes, who willingly accepted Ramjattan reneging on the AFC’s foundational ethnic alternation of candidates. What this did is exactly what the students in Hong Kong are protesting – making a farce of the essence of democracy by presenting a fait accompli to the voters to “choose” who would be their leaders.

The AFC is fond of encouraging Guyanese to protest for their “democratic rights”. We wonder whether AFC members would show the courage of the Hong Kong students.

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Death of a dictator

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who ruled Haiti between 1971 and 1986, died and was buried earlier this month. He was only 19 when he became President of Haiti on the death of his father “Papa Doc”, who held power from 1957.

Between 1957 and 1986, 29 years, Haiti was under the dictatorship of the Duvaliers, just one year longer than the PNC dictatorship, which controlled Guyana for 28 years. Some may see the passing of the dictator in Haiti as the passing of the age of dictators in the Caribbean – but this must be analysed within the context of the history of the Caribbean.

The US, under its bootstrapping “Monroe Doctrine”, occupied Haiti with its marines for 25 years between 1915 and 1934 – but controlled and bled its treasury until 1941 to ensure its “debts” were repaid.

A period of great instability and turmoil followed, which saw Dr Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier being elected President. He subsequently rigged elections and ruled through his private army of goons called the “Tonton Macoutes” or “Bogeymen”, who killed more than 30,000 Haitians and exiled hundreds of thousands.

“Papa Doc” had started out as an advocate of negritude and Black Consciousness and had used his popularity with the Black masses to vote out the entrenched Mulatto elite. Duvalier’s consolidation of power started with his massive rigging of elections in 1963 and his subsequent “President-for-Life referendum” the following year that gave him a 99.9 per cent approval.

It is very likely that he was the model for Burnham who rigged Guyana’s 1968 elections and then the referendum of 1978, with Duvalier-like percentages.

Like Burnham, Duvalier was also supported by the US, because of ideology. Duvalier was used by the US to attack Castro in various fora, a role he was only too willing to play because of Castro’s principled position against his excesses.

Corruption became rampant and endemic because Duvalier played his Black supporters against the Mulatto elite whose wealth and properties were coveted. Burnham did the same in Guyana, with his African-Guyanese support manipulated against the Indian Guyanese, who generally supported the PPP.

However, while Duvalier, like Burnham revived the traditional voodoo rites among the African population, the latter did not become a priest or venerated figures of the religion, as the former did.

“Baby Doc”’s accession to office was also encouraged by the US, even as he continued with the brutal repression of his political opponents. He continued to utilise US aid for personal gain as with the US$2 million for his wedding in 1980.

While, as with Burnham, US relations cooled somewhat under the Carter regime (1976-1980), the latter’s successor, Reagan, welcomed him and his style of rule with open arms as a “bulwark against communism”.

Ironically, by this time Burnham had shifted leftwards with his “cooperative socialism” and was on Reagan’s bad books. Not enough, however to provoke regime change, as Maurice Bishop did in Grenada by 1983. Carter’s insistence that Haiti destroy all pigs on the island because of a 1978 swine flu epidemic, however, had already devastated most small farmers, for whom pigs were a staple.

Conditions continued to deteriorate on the island, even as “Baby Doc” and his wife lived on a scale so luxuriously, it placed the European royalty they imitated, to shame. A popular uprising in 1986 persuaded the Reagan Administration that it was time to cut “Baby Doc” loose. He was flown to exile in France on a US army plane.

Since that time, the US has interceded time and again in Haiti, to control its governance. It is not coincidental that when “Baby Doc” died, the present US-friendly Haitian President Michel Martelly declared that he would have a state funeral. Discretion proved the better part of valour, however, and the ex-dictator was buried privately by his family.

Burnham, on the other hand, received a state funeral here.

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Politics as guerrilla warfare

Most people would accept Lasswell’s definition of politics as “who gets what, when and how”. Ultimately, then, politics is supposed to authorise allocative decisions within a framework that is agreed on by the people of a country. Normally, that framework is described in the country’s Constitution – even if the latter is “unwritten”, as in the two lonely exceptions of Britain and Israel.

In democracies, of which Guyana is one, political parties are supposed to mobilise and aggregate votes at general elections so as to secure the authority to make those allocative decisions as the “Executive” or “government”. The premise, is that since the rules were agreed by all the players “in the game” they would accept the “voice of the people”.

In Guyana, the Constitutional rules determined – following general elections in 2011 – that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) would control the Government.

And this is where the rules of our local competitive politics have been traduced by the Opposition and reduced to guerrilla warfare against the legitimate government of the day. That Opposition – comprised of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) entered those elections as separate bodies fully cognisant that they could not coalesce afterwards in the event that they had a greater total number of seats than the PPP/C.

Yet, when the latter eventuality became reality, they immediately signalled their refusal to accept the political framework encompassed in the Constitution and dubbed the administration as a “Minority Government”. In the context of our history this was not an accidental nomenclatural choice.

Under the old Burnhamite Constitution, the word “minority” was used to describe the PPP/C, which had been rigged out of its majority, to emphasise the latter’s powerlessness. In our context, the phrase “Minority Government” is an oxymoron, since the Executive was separated from the Legislature in its powers by the Constitution.

And the Opposition then launched a vicious guerrilla campaign against it from both within their redoubt in the National Assembly and from without. After the pitched battles of Linden and Agricola, in which lives were lost, billions went up in smoke and thousands of ordinary citizens were traumatised, the Opposition fell back to the National Assembly, where they launched one attack to another – each designed to bring Guyana to its knees.

This “scorched earth” policy was callously intended to alienate the people from the Government by creating hardships through strangulation of the economy.

The terrain of the guerrilla warfare was established when the Opposition seized control of the all important Speaker and Deputy Speakerships as well as of all Parliamentary Committees. They went for the jugular in their first Parliamentary foray – the annual Budget Estimates of the Government. This is the feature within the political framework of democratic governance in which the essential question of politics, as adumbrated above – who gets what, where, and how – is answered.

They insisted on crudely chopping sections of the Budget, evidently just to prove the PPP/C was a “minority Government” and could not govern. The Government, however, sagely resorted to the procedure spelled out in the Constitution, and went to the arbiter of that document – the courts. That institution ruled that the Budget could only be denied in its entirety – in which case it acts as a “no confidence vote” and the government falls – or it cannot be cut at all.

But the Opposition did not confine its guerrilla war to the Budget, it also refused to pass critical legislation such as the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill which precipitated the blacklisting of our country with the global financial system. Right now the two parties are split on whether to censure the Finance Minister for performing his spending function, or moving a “no confidence” motion.

It would appear that this falling out might finally allow the Government to get on with the business of developing Guyana.

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The Ebola crisis

The Ebola outbreak is sending fear throughout the world with governments and international organisations taking all the necessary steps in ensuring that the disease is contained. Recently, a top US health official, Dr Thomas Frieden was quoted in the media as saying that Ebola is the biggest world health crisis since HIV/AIDS.

Frieden, who leads the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, predicted the fight to wipe out the disease will be a long one because the virus keeps changing. He said the only outbreak he has seen resembling the current one is AIDS.

The death rate continues to climb at a rapid rate. The United Nation’s most recent estimate is that over 4400 persons have lost their lives as a result of contracting the deadly virus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) sounded a warning, stating that if the response to the Ebola crisis isn’t stepped up, many more persons will die.

WHO and partner organisations earlier this week agreed on a range of core actions to support countries unaffected by the disease in strengthening their preparedness in the event of an outbreak. Building on national and international existing preparedness efforts, a set of tools is being developed to help any country to intensify and accelerate their readiness.

One of these tools is a comprehensive checklist of core principles, standards, capacities and practices, which all countries should have or meet. The checklist can be used by countries to assess their level of preparedness, guide their efforts to strengthen themselves and to request assistance. Items on the checklist include infection prevention control, contact tracing, case management, surveillance, laboratory capacity, safe burial, public awareness and community engagement and national legislation and regulation to support country readiness.

The initial focus of support by WHO and partners will be on “highest priority countries – Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal – followed by “high priority countries” – Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia,  Ghana, Mauritania, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Togo. Criteria used to prioritise countries include geographical proximity to affected countries, trade and migration patterns and strength of health systems.

Health officials in the Region are taking no chances, many of them have already put systems in place to deal with any eventuality of an outbreak. Guyana has announced a series of measures to deal with the disease, for example, some 1600 medical professionals are soon to commence training on dealing with the virus, and the necessary approach towards administering care to persons who have become infected. Emphasis will be placed on safety and precautionary measures for health care providers, who may come into contact with an infected person or environment, as the Ebola is highly contagious and spreads rapidly through direct or indirect contact with bodily fluids.

It was announced that the Health Ministry is soon to set up its first ever isolation unit and tent at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) in an effort to prevent the disease from entering the country. Based on information provided, doctors have been positioned at Guyana’s main Port of Entry to conduct surveillance activities on passengers coming into the country.

There were some criticisms levelled against the authorities here by Nigerian students returning to Guyana after the summer break. They claimed that even though they were returning here from Nigeria (an affected country), they were not subjected to the level of scrutiny they experienced in other countries, while in transit, when they were being processed at the CJIA. They believe that much more should be done by the authorities at the Ports of Entry to ensure that persons who may have the disease, or show signs of having the symptoms, do not slip though the system without being detected.

Now that the Health Ministry has announced a series of measures as part of its action plan to deal with the Ebola crisis gripping the world, it is hoped that such issues will be addressed forthwith.

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“Domination and vindictiveness…”

…by PNC

According to the Muckraker, Carl Greenidge says that there’s a “poisonous political atmosphere” in Guyana because of “domination and vindictiveness”. Now if the Muckraker says Carl said this, then you can’t doubt it, can you?

Hey, the PNC and the Muckraker are like the proverbial “batty and po”. The thing is, however, that since the glue holding them all together is a hatred of the PPP/C, they have to always blame the PPP/C. And that’s why Greenidge pretended he was talking about the PPP/C.

But anyone who’s been around would know Greenidge was actually addressing his nemesis David Granger. Granger’s the man who rigged him out of the leadership of the PNC – and Greenidge would never forgive him for that.

After all, Granger was a mere lackey in the Army, tasked with having his troops marching up and down village streets to keep the Opposition PPP in line, when Greenidge was a Minister in the Government of the Kabaka himself!! You can’t ask for more pedigree than that!

What also earns Greenidge’s ire – and causes him to hit out, albeit elliptically – is that Granger’s a creature of Corbin – who was just a hoodlum back in the days of Burnham. He could burn down buildings, beat up unarmed persons, and rig elections – but please…you don’t invite him to dinner. And if Granger’s a fruit of THAT poisoned tree – then as far as Greenidge is concerned, he’s just pure, unadulterated gramoxone.

So when Greenidge talks about “domination and vindictiveness”, he’s simply referring to the petulance and nastiness Granger’s shown, not only to him, but to every other true-blue PNCite who opposed his seizure of the party’s machinery. Now the Muckraker bleated that Greenidge’s position was “strongly supported” by Nagamootoo. Well, why the heck wouldn’t Nagamootoo support Greenidge – when he knows the object of Greenidge’s venom is Granger??

Wasn’t it Granger who wanted “domination” and exhibited “vindictiveness” when he nixed the AFC’s nomination of Nagamootoo as Speaker?? And for whom?? Trotman, who’d just sworn to the AFC that he had a “fatal illness” – so he couldn’t campaign for Ramjattan, who was the AFC’s Presidential candidate. But like Greenidge, Nagamootoo’s too cowardly to come out and “tell it like it is” on Granger’s “domination and vindictiveness”.

He’s more comfortable “jooking” the eyes of his ex-comrades in the PPP/C, who bid him “sayonara” because they knew he was all talk and no action.

…on paedophilia

Did you notice the protest against rapes in the interior by Red Thread and [Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination] SASOD and a host of NGOs? We fully support the action. Hey!! We’ll support protests against sexual violence, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. But as we’ve asked before, why aren’t these groups protesting against paedophilia???

Just because the child mightn’t have complained at the time – as this young man, Welshman didn’t – aren’t the sexual acts by the adult – in this case, allegedly by Trotman – violence?? In our estimation, it’s violence beyond the physical act.

Can you imagine what happens to a young child when a figure he was told to honour and respect commits this sexual perversion?? Think of the psychological damage as the child grows up and starts blaming himself by thinking he had a role in the degradation.

And Trotman, Benschop and all his defenders have the nerve to say that Welshman is “troubled”!! Of course, he’s troubled! If he weren’t troubled something would’ve been seriously wrong with him to begin with.

It isn’t too late in the day for our rights group to begin speaking truth to power.

…against PNC/APNU

But we have to say, this domination and vindictiveness is not only from the big one to the minnows. Look at how the AFC’s treating APNU on the parliamentary agenda. Just because they brought up the big, sexy “no-confidence” vote, the AFC’s rubbing APNU’s face in it!

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Disaster Risk Reduction 2014

Last Wednesday was “International Day for Disaster Reduction”. As in most other years, it was not a day that most Guyanese took seriously. In fact, we boast about being spared most of the natural disasters that strike so many other countries. Like hurricanes and earthquakes that devastate our Caricom neighbours with alarming regularity.

But it appears that such smugness might be coming to an end – with a vengeance. The Region and Guyana are beginning to show signs they appreciate the risks the Ebola epidemic poses to our very survival. While this might sound hyperbolic to some, it is our sincere hope that they are a tiny minority. Let us face the facts: We are dealing with a viral threat that is clearly beyond any we have seen before.

Our bottom line has to be this: If the US, with the most sophisticated medical system in the world, can fail to contain this virus, what hope can we with our comparatively rudimentary equipment and trained manpower. From the Texas experience, the virus was able to penetrate even the most airtight protective gear and stringent regimen – within very sophisticated isolation rooms. Do we in Guyana really believe that we can do better?

The countries bordering the epicentre of this epidemic have all resorted to mass isolation of their population from infected victims, by closing their borders to visitors from the latter. Yesterday, two countries in Caricom – St Vincent and St Lucia followed suit.

We have just been informed that Guyana has just done the same. In times of war, it is said, “discretion is the better part of valour” and right now in the war against Ebola, we are very pleased that the Government has opted to use discretion. We are sure that it was not an easy decision to close our borders to the epicentric West African countries, but it had to be done.

This course of action, we are sure, will seem hard and heartless – but desperate times call for desperate measures. To answer the question posed above on our capacity to handle an Ebola infected patient, there is no shame in admitting that we can in no way, shape or form do better than the Americans. This does not mean that we should not continue with the preparations that are already under way. In fact, they must be intensified.

Even though we will now block arrivals from the epicentre in West Africa, there is always the possibility that soon, there will be individuals infected in a large number of countries in other continents. We can then have secondary migration of the virus into our country.

There will also be Guyanese – who are one of the most highly distributed populations in the world, returning with the virus. What the closing of our borders means is that we lessen significantly the chances of the virus entering our population. Up to now, even though this strain of the virus known as Ebola has been around for almost 40 years, robust isolation of its infected victims has been the only way to control its spread.

This closure might hopefully not have to be of long duration since we have been informed that there are several vaccines that might be brought on stream in the near future from the US, UK, Canada, and the USSR. It is not entirely a coincidence that after 40 years of not having a vaccine, suddenly there are several potential candidates. It all has to do with spending the money to conduct the research.

When it was just a case of people dying in a far-off Third World country, no Pharma company would deploy the resources. But now that it has literally hit where there are “deep pockets”, it now makes business sense to go all out.

Without being too cynical, as with AIDS, we might be the beneficiary of this unexpected largesse.

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