March 7, 2015

Wildlife management

On March 3, Guyana and the rest of the world observed World Wildlife Day (WWD) under the theme: “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime.” The day is set aside by the UN every year for countries and international organisations to reflect on what is being done and plan for the future in terms of sustainable wildlife management and conservation.

The UN took the opportunity recently to renew its commitment in doing all that is necessary to protect wildlife and stop wildlife crimes, such as poaching and trafficking.

According to the UNDP, wildlife trafficking and poaching have ravaged key populations of endangered wildlife, driving many to the brink of extinction. Elephants, rhinos, tigers, lions, sharks and gorillas, among many others, are under serious threat.

The UNDP explains that poaching threatens local livelihoods, and undermines environmental health and ecological integrity, removing species that play important roles in maintaining a natural balance in their respective ecosystems.

All over the world, especially in countries with a huge wildlife population, the call is being repeated for the authorities to take more proactive steps in halting the illegal trade in wildlife and to manage wildlife in a more sustainable manner.

In Guyana, persons are still engaging in the illegal trade in wildlife. This is despite the fact that a number of critical steps were taken by the authorities to bring a halt to the practice. There are even allegations that the illegal trade in wildlife is being done sometimes with the knowledge of the law enforcement authorities who turn a blind eye to it.

Just recently, as part of observances to mark WWD in Guyana, the Government issued a passionate call for citizens here to push for tangible results in the area of sustainable wildlife management and conservation.

The subject Minister Robert Persaud expressed a similar view shared by this newspaper on a previous occasion that collaborative partnerships are crucial in the promotion of innovative initiatives that seek to conserve wildlife and combat illegal activities relating to wildlife management.

On the part of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, he said though the air was clear on all the technicalities of wildlife management such as the implementation of a licensing system for wildlife dealers, and the establishment of quotas for harvesting targeted wildlife species, it was also cognisant of the challenges that must be overcome before these are implemented.

“Some of those challenges include: building capacities of staff within the Wildlife Division and EPA for scientific research, the provision of the requisite training and equipment to detect, investigate and prosecute wildlife offences; and educating the general populace on the importance of wildlife resources and the need to conserve such resources,” he said.

Government has embarked on a number of initiatives that seek to address the issue of wildlife management and conservation. Central among these is the establishment of the Wildlife Management Steering Committee in November 2014.

The Ministry has collaborated with an international NGO – Panthera – to develop a project in the south of Guyana on sustainable hunting practices as a foundation for managing wildlife harvest. It should be stated that when completed, this project will be replicated in other regions of the country.

In an effort to strengthen the regulation and management of the international wildlife trade, a Wildlife Import and Export Bill was tabled in the National Assembly in 2014. This Bill seeks to repeal the Species Protection Regulations and establish the Wildlife Import and Export Authority to replace the Wildlife Division.

These regulations make provisions for among other things, penalising the harvesting of prohibited species of wildlife, exporting, re-exporting or importing wildlife without permits and the use of prohibited devices and methods to hunt wildlife.

Government must be commended for the serious attention it has shown in relation to the manner in which wildlife management is addressed in Guyana. Guyana can only be successful if all communities, NGOs and various State agencies enhance cooperation and work collaboratively in this regard.

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Holi – a reflection of harmony in Guyana

Dear Editor,

Holi/Phagwah is a Hindu Festival, which is celebrated at the end of the winter season, on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalgun (February/March) that usually falls in the month of March or sometimes in late February.

This festival, which holds much significance, marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year as well as thebeginning of spring.

Also, history teaches us that inthe 17th century, it was identified as a festival that celebrated agriculture and commemorated good spring harvests for the farmers and their families, as well as the fertile land.

Hindus believe that it is a time for enjoying spring’s abundant colours and saying farewell to winter.

More importantly, the beginning of a New Year is a perfect time to reset and renew ruptured relationships, end conflicts and accumulated emotional impurities from thepast. This is represented by the bright, beautiful colours that form the celebrations around the world.

Hence, giving it the common name “festival of colours,” these colours overcome the barriers of language and convey true feelings. They also convey a message as the various colours all carry individual meanings.

These are: green – compassion and understanding and a symbol of prosperity; yellow – optimism and it is also regarded as an auspicious colour, and yellow is also associated with Mother Earth; red – the colour of fire, the source of energy and security; blue – loyalty and trust; and pink – love and compassion.

In Guyana, thousands of Guyanese, from all walks of life, come together to observe this auspicious day, celebrating with colourful powders, abeer,abrack and water, spreading cheer and love throughout the land.

This is a representation of the diversity of the country’s people and the harmonious environment that has been created by those in authority.

If we are to look at the world at large, we will see many schisms within regions and between religions, and this cannot help but make mewonder about the Guyanese reality.

Despite disagreements and challenges, the current administration has encouraged religious tolerance and promoted harmony among its population, irrespective of religion, creed, political differences, gender or ethnicity. These are the littlethings forwhich we should be grateful.

When I look at the television, and see thousands of people losing their lives because of their religious beliefs or differences, it saddens me; but, it makes me proud to be a citizen of this beautiful land, where six races live in harmony. Don’t you feel the same way too?

I know we are in a politically crucial time, with the upcoming General and Regional Elections, but despite whom we support, let’s not forget, as our National Motto says, we are “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”

So for this reason, I urge you to get up! Grab your powder and colours, and get out and join the celebrations on March 6! This unity shall forever live on.

Shivanie Rampersaud

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Phagwah in the villages of India and Guyana

Dear Editor,

I experienced pre and post as well as Phagwah Day celebrations in several villages of India and also with distant relatives in a couple of my ancestral villages in the districts of Azamgarh and Ghazipur in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

The celebration of Phagwah in Guyana is not very much different from in the villages of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and other north Indian states. The villages in these states and in Guyana as well as Trinidad, Suriname, Fiji and Mauritius, etc have common cuisine served for the festival and other festivals, as well as in how people play Phagwah.

The celebration of Holi in the villages of Guyana was an almost exact replica of how the festival was/is still celebrated in the villages of India steeped in tradition. In Guyana, Holi has intrinsically become part of Guyanese culture in which every ethnic group participates.

Some individuals are intolerant of others in Guyana and in rejecting the celebration they pay the ultimate price with ostracism. People enjoy the festival together, not to mention the delicacies that go with it. There is no harm done in refusing to celebrate together.

When the indentured laborers came to the overseas territories, they celebrated Holi and other festivals the way they did in their home villages in India. The celebration of Holi, the way it has been carried out in India, soon became institutionalized during early years of indenturedship in Guyana and the other societies where Indians migrated and settled.

The celebration of Holi, Diwali, Eid, and other Indian festivals is pretty much the same in Trinidad, Guyana, and Suriname – suggesting the traditions were the same in the villages of India and transplanted accordingly in the new adopted homelands.

These traditions have been transplanted to the New York area, Orlando and Toronto, etc, in much the same way they are observed in Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname, though it has been almost impossible to retain or transplant some aspects of the celebration in the developed temperate societies.

The weather and the streets, for example, does not permit for house to house playing of Phagwah or street displays of chowtaal singing that is common in Guyana. The festival is not a public holiday in New York; people celebrate on weekends just prior to or after the holiday.

In India, the Holi festival is grand and transcends race, caste and religions, much the same way it is in Guyana. In India, social norms, like caste or religions, are ignored and people come together in one grand fraternity just like how the various racial and religious groups celebrate the festival in Guyana.

Politicians of the various parties or religions also play Phagwah with one another in much the same way it is done in Guyana. In India, groups of celebrants go village to village, street to street, house to house dousing each other with abeer (cow dung or mud water) or smearing faces with gulal – similar to how it is done in Guyana.

In fact, it looks like all the aspects of the celebration in India have been transplanted in Guyana. Baby talc powder is also used in India, as in Guyana, to throw on each other. In the villages of India, as I observed in Guyana and on the Phagwah parade day in New York, the ground was red and the air was misty with varied colors of powered gulal.

Colorful abeer and gulal flew every which way just like in Guyana. No one escapes. A mix of red, pink, magenta, purple, red, yellow, green, blue and, well multi-coloured faces were seen everywhere in the villages in India similar to New York for the Phagwah Parade or at celebrations in Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname. One difference I observed was that in India, it is a tradition to rip apart the shirt of celebrants.

Ramayan and chowtaal groups go around the villages in India, just like in Guyana, singing chowtaal with its fast moving rhythmic tempo. The beating of the dholak, tarapiti and daantaal and the clanging of the majeera are common in the villages in India as in Guyana.

People danced to the beat in India as they do in Guyana. Decades ago, trucks or tractor trailers would transport celebrants from village to village in Guyana as they sang chowtaals occasionally stopping to throw abeer on people in the villages or on the roads or stopping at peoples’ at a community leader’s home for snacks and drinks.

In India, as in Guyana, unsuspecting passersby are doused with abeer or gulal – people take the wetting in stride accepting it is all part of the fun. Even tourist visitors in India partake in the festivities just as they do in Guyana.

In India the celebration ends mid-day and people go about their routine in the afternoon (some stores open for business) although some people engage in a softer celebration in the afternoon as we do in Guyana (dressed in fresh white clothing) – none of the frolicking revelry like dousing people with lots of abeer or gulal; just a light, gentle smothering of powder as we do in Guyana or Suriname.

As in Guyana, in India, families distribute delicacies to passing guests or those who stop by to celebrate the festival. Lunch and dinners are commonly served; food is strictly vegetarian as in Guyana.

In India, the common snacks served for holi are the usual as in Guyana: dhal, chawal, alou, gobi cauliflower (which is plentiful around this time of the year in India but not served in Guyana), channa, peas roti or regular naan or paratha, a variety of appetizers like bara, phulourie, samosa, sahena, kachowri,curried seasonal vegetables, mithai like goja, gulgula, gulab jamun, ras milai, among others.

In India, certain snacks are served only at the time of holi with ghoja being one of them. In India, ghoja is the most popular delicacy at Holi as in Guyana and each state has its own variety.

The Caribbean’s version is the best tasting. Dhal puri is not commonly served in UP and Bihar as in Guyana; like in Guyana, peas puri is rare dish served during special occasion or for visitors.

Same was experienced during my visits to Mauritius, Durban (South Africa) and Fiji.

In New York, dhal puri is served. In India, people prefer channa or urad grain filled roti as opposed to dhal puri which is more popular in Guyana and the Caribbean; split peas or dal is among the cheapest of all the grains and the other grains (mong, urad, etc) were not readily available in Guyana long before the PNC Government banned them.

Urad and channa puri are quite tasty and nutritious. For drinks, hot sweet chai (tea with milk) is common. Mohanbhog is not commonly served for Holi as in Guyana and in the Caribbean. And as in Guyana, people do make offerings at the mandirs playing Phagwah with the Gods and Goddesses and performing puja at home.

Holi is a marvelous celebration that has brought conflicting groups together and one has to be grateful and thankful to the Indian ancestors for introducing it in Guyana and other Caribbean societies and bringing their unique cuisine with them.

Holi Mubharak Ho!

Vishnu Bisram

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Ramjattan and the Cummingsburg Accord

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a last ditch effort to convince his partners in the United States that they must demand more from Iran as talks continue with the aim of curtailing the latter’s alleged nuclear ambitions and aggression in the Middle East.

He said in his speech to the US Congress, that “for over a year, we’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it”.

Netanyahu’s last comments are no doubt applicable to the situation that the AFC and APNU have found themselves in when one examines both the content and thrust of the Cummingsburg Accord, which they hope will lead to the formation of a Government of national unity.

This sharply conflicts with the principles backing the ideology of former President Cheddi Jagan who believed in building genuine and long lasting alliances on the basis of trust, mutual respect and compromise.

The Accord can never aim to promote inclusionary democracy if did not involve the PPP/C from the onset, labour unions and their constituents, key civil society stakeholders, and non-governmental stakeholders.

It was negotiated by a few persons, and signed and ratified by a few on behalf of a majority because the grassroots supporters of both parties never saw the blueprint, or what was the opportunity cost incurred in return for the coalition.

Consequently, the statements attributed to AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan recently proved that the alliance was brokered on the basis of convenience and to save both the careers and political ambitions of leaders within the AFC. He was quoted as saying that not joining the coalition with APNU could have meant “death” for his party and the loss of a lot of African support.

He went further by saying that the AFC after tough negotiations got a good deal because whether coalition wins or loses it is guaranteed 12 seats in Parliament, and if they win, they will end up with two Vice Presidents and a an empowered Prime Minister.

Ramjattan expressed fear that the AFC alone may have to wait for a long time before it could become the main Opposition and then Government, so it ceased the opportunity to maximize the open invitation of APNU and the suspected weakness of the PPP/C.

Ramjattan admitted that the AFC put aside the dark and troubling past of the PNC which is the lead APNU partner, its rigging of elections and its excesses, rationalizing that it was time to move on.

He spoke of mechanisms in place to safeguard the spoils of the deal and the AFCs’ rights acknowledging again that the AFC would deliver the numbers and votes the APNU needs to form a majority Government.

All of those reasons put forward by Ramjattan for joining the coalition prove that Mathematics was the only foundation upon which the Accord was brokered. His statements disregard every single position and policy articulated by the AFC back in 2006 when it contested those elections.

Ramjattan has exposed the hypocrisy in the alliance, as no Government of national unity can be formed without proper discussions taking place on the policies that will drive the change desired in society to further transform its developmental path, remove the lack of trust between ethnic groups, and enhance healing and reconciliation through the reorganization and redistribution of socio-economic wealth.

AFC and APNU have not learnt from the experiences of administration of Kamla Persaud Bissessar in Trinidad and Tobago and the political crises that it has found itself in because a lot of consideration was not given to issues that the people want addressed.

Guyanese cannot become united and benefit from the deals which are designed for a few and their ambitions. In the words of Netanyahu “no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal”.

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De Mook give Adumb a long tongue lashin

Most people who know Adumb believe he is a easy goin man. He don’t really trouble no body. He does wuk hard although he gettin on in years and lookin so.

Every body who know Adumb know that he does tell lies fuh a livin. Adumb mek a career, a life time and a livin from lyin. Adumb got de Mook enjoyin livin just by lyin.

Whah people can’t understand is how a man like Adumb could tek so mucha lashin all he life. From Burnt Ham to de Heights Man and now to de Mook. By now Adumb get used to tekkin a good lash.

Burnt Ham and de Heights Man lash Adumb over and over. But de Mook is a warp man, so he does wanna lash Adumb over and under. When yuh lash some body both ways is never a good ting. Dem does feel used and abused.

Ask Lil Johnny and he gon tell yuh every ting bout how he get lash both ways. Uncle Rafeel know too. After all that lashin, Uncle Rafeel use de court to lash Lil Johnny.

At least wid Burnt Ham, Adumb done tek he share of lashin. But Burnt Ham dead and gone. Heights Man never use a whip to lash like Burnt Ham, but Heights Man had a big stick to lash Adumb. Thank God fuh Adumb, Heights Man dead and gone too.

When it come to de Mook, all de lashin gone over every ting and under every ting. Every body who know Adumb seh as big man he should never tek that kinda lashin, especially from de Mook.

A lil gyal who wukkin pun Saffon Street seh even though other people leff de Mook, Adumb gon never leff de Mook. She seh Adumb navel string and some ting below de navel bury deep inside de Mook.

Ting-a-ling-a-ling…friend tell friend…mattie tell mattie! Adumb is no mook, but when de Mook give he a long tongue lashin de other day, he end up feelin worse than a mook!

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Guyanese in chowtaal sammelan in Queens

Dear Editor,

An annual Chowtaal Sammelan was initiated last Sunday at the Prem Bhakti Mandir. A dozen chowtaal groups from the city partook in the singing which ushers in the Hindu celebration of Phagwah or Holi. Participants and the congregation were decked in traditional garb.

The observance of Phagwah was introduced in the West by indentured Indian laborers after 1838. Phagwah was first observed in Guyana and then spread to other colonial territories. The celebration of the Phagwah festival was transplanted to the United States and Canada by immigrants from Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname.

Chowtaal is folk singing that is central to the celebration and in New York on weekends mandirs host chowtaal singing. Chowtaal is a cultural practice of the northern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where most indentured laborers were recruited.

Sunday’s Chowtaal Samellan was organized by the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, USA Prant. The organizers had planned to host a chowtaal singing competition, but they changed plan and made it a sammelan (singing variety presentation). There was also bhajan singing and classical dancing related to Holi by several youngsters.

Dave Thakordeen, one of the key organizers, formerly of Tain, described it as a success for attracting over a dozen Chowtaal gaols (singing groups) to entertain the large gathering. He lauded the participants of all age groups, both males and females.

He said it was encouraging to see so many youngsters (from Prem Bhakti, Sanatan Mandir, and Shanti Bhavan Mandir engaged in chowtaal singing in America. Separately, Dr Satish Prakash expounded on the meaning of Holi during his updesh on Sunday. The lone Indo-Caribbean radio station in the city aired Phagwah songs and local chowtaal over the last several days.

Weekend TV programmes also focused on the festival with Bollywood filmi clippings on Phagwah. Indo-Caribbean newspapers carry special stories on the festival and businesses sponsored ads with Phagwah Greetings as is the custom in Guyana.

On Liberty Avenue, stores are heavily stacked with talc powder. Outside are displays of water guns and stacks of powdered abeer and gulal of varied colors. The stores aired loud chowtaal music to attract shoppers.

Even Chinese and Korean vegetable and fruit markets aired Phagwah related music. People shopped for new items and white clothing for the festival. Certain seasonal foods are prepared for the occasion.

The official observance of Holi is Thursday in the West and Friday in India because of the positioning of the full moon. Holi is observed on the full moon generally in the month of March.

Although primarily a Hindu festival, it is observed by non-Indians and non-Hindus in multi-ethnic, multi-religious New York and New Jersey. Members of other ethnic groups always get involved in the public celebration – even if it is to just watch and admire as those participating douse each other with abeer, powder and gulal.

Each of the individual mandirs will celebrate Phagwah on Wednesday evening with Holika Dahan (burning of the effigy of the evil Holika) as well as on Thursday.

Phagwah will be celebrated at the Trimurthi Mandir in the nearby Woodhaven by a group of mandirs on Saturday afternoon.

It will also be observed in New York on Saturday with a sammelan in Richmond Hill and parades in the Bronx and Jersey City on Saturday and Sunday. The following Sunday, March 15, will be the big parade on Liberty Avenue.

Vishnu Bisram

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Opposition is only trying to create a facade of national unity

Dear Editor,

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) is amused by a full page advertisement published on March 3. The advertisement which read, “Guyana is ready for a Government of National Unity”, has no political brand name even though from all appearance it seems to be the work of the APNU/AFC merger.

As to why the APNU/AFC coalition would seek to conceal their identity is most bewildering and speaks more to their shadowy nature, rather to any genuine concern for national unity.

Indeed, it was the PNC, now APNU that spurned all reasonable attempts by the PPP/C during the 1960s and during the entire period of authoritarian to forge a Government of national uity on the spurious ground that the PNC was the “Bolshevik” or “majority” party, and the PPP/C the “Menchevik” or “minority” party, and therefore could not negotiate on equal terms. And is it not the same PNC, now APNU, that kicked out its junior coalition partner from the PNC-UF coalition Government after just a mere three years into the life of the coalition?

So much for Granger’s and his APNU-AFC national unity credentials, which is nothing short of an attempt to deceive the Guyanese people about its newly found commitment to a Government of national unity. The fact of the matter is that the APNU is only trying to create a facade of national unity by cosmetic means when in actuality it is simply a case of old wine in new bottle.

This attempt by APNU to reconstruct its image will not succeed especially when seen against past experiences of the PNC on the question of a national unity Government.

The PPP/C calls on the PNC to explain why it refused to enter into a Government of national unity with the PPP during the 1960s and again in the 1970s when it refused to become party to a National Front Government proposed by the PPP.

Merely talking about a Government of national unity, but doing everything possible to undermine and stand in the way of unity and reconciliation will not sell as the advertisement is attempting to do. The PPP/C remains committed to a Government in which there is genuine partnership of all those who subscribe to the ideals of a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Guyana.

People’s Progressive

Party/Civic

Freedom House

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The PNC Government ruled Guyana with an iron fist

Dear Editor,

The PNC/APNU and AFC because of their lust for power deliberately cheated the PPP/C Government of its five-year term of office.

The PPP/C Government has only served for three years with actually two more years remaining as a result of the November 2011 elections. But this is the dirty work of the PNC/APNU and AFC in the 10th Parliament where in combination they misused and abused their one-seat majority. But come May 11, there will be General and Regional elections and I am appealing to all Guyanese in our 10 administrative regions to let Guyana’s development agenda continue under the PPP/C Government, for it is better to be safe than sorry. The people of Guyana must therefore know that prior to and on elections day that a vote for the AFC is a vote for the PNC/APNU. In this regard, the AFC-PNC/APNU alliance of power hungry seekers must be rejected at the upcoming elections so as to stop Guyana from being placed in the wrong hands.

So my fellow Guyanese, it is important for us not to forget the past, or else we shall be condemned to repeat it.

Can you remember when the illegal PNC Government ruled Guyana with an iron fist? When many of our people were starved to death because basic food items were banned and long lines all over the country just to purchase soap, rice, sugar, salt and fuel, etc?

Can you remember when we were jailed by the Police when they found wheaten flour, split peas, English potatoes, sardines, etc in our homes? Can you remember the ugly days when the members of Opposition political parties were murdered and killed, such as Dr Walter Rodney, a nationally and internationally known historian and politician? Do you want Guyana’s horrible past to return to our beautiful country? Let us all as patriotic Guyanese say no to the AFC-PNC/APNU coalition on elections day. Let us therefore cast this alliance into the dustbin of Guyana’s political history.

But what is important to note is that the AFC leaders in their power hungry habit have betrayed their Berbice supporters. They boasted that the votes of their Berbice supporters will be handed over to the PNC/APNU.

The question here is would the AFC Berbice supporters give their votes to the AFC-PNC/APNU alliance? I hope not, for it is better to be safe than sorry. The PPP/C is currently on course to a landslide victory.

Peter Persaud

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The Guyana Prize for Literature needs to be a prize worth winning

Dear Editor,

Someone dubbed the recent exchange between myself and Ruel Johnson as “the duel with Ruel”.

The duel was good in that it uncovered the Guyana Prize as a mediocre and corrupt award that needs to be scrapped and/or reconstituted as a prize worth winning, and that writers should not be writing in order to win a prize. It also uncovered that Johnson’s criticisms of the current Government is not based on a principled stand that all Governments must be held accountable, since he expects to become part of the establishment if his party wins at the polls. But, all in all, it was a good exchange.

About any public policy, cultural or otherwise, the history of our Governments since independence is one in which policy statements are nice words on paper that are meaningless, since successive Governments have used their office to marginalize and disempower whole groups, including their own supporters, appease their detractors and, during a period of authoritarianism and victimization, imprison, brutalize and even kill their critics.

If the public has a healthy distrust of public officials promoting their lovely policies, this is as it should be. Johnson dispatched himself very well during the duel and given what is expected of a public functionary in Guyana, he has proven himself worthy of such a position if his party wins. I wish him well.

Ryhaan Shah

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Guyana today is by far more developed, more prosperous, more respected

Dear Editor,

I can give a hundred reasons why I support President Ramotar and the PPP/C, but the letter would be much too long for publication and no Editor would carry it.

Guyana today is by far more developed, more prosperous and more respected than it ever was under previous PNC Administrations. The quality of life that Guyanese now enjoy and take for granted was only made possible through the brilliant financial management of our nation’s resources.

In 1992 when the PPP/C took office, not even Dr Cheddi Jagan knew just how bankrupt the country was, and the vast sums of monies owing to foreign Governments and financial institutions.

Corruption within the former PNC Government was commonplace, but no one dared speak up against it, not even Freddie Kissoon who now uses the freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution to criticize the very PPP/C Government that protects his rights to do so.

According to a columnist in another section of the press: “An Integrity Commission Act was first passed under the Desmond Hoyte (PNC) regime in 1991 following concerns about pervasive corruption under the PNC regime.

“In those days, things moved within sections of the bureaucracy in relation to the amount of grease applied. For almost all public services, there were underhand dealings believed to be taking place.

“In the face of concerns that reining in excesses by public officials with access to the public purse was fast becoming impossible, the Hoyte regime passed an Integrity Commission Act. This Bill was however seen as tepid and unable to curb the excesses taking place. It never did. No one was ever indicted, sanctioned, investigated or prosecuted under that Act.”

Many of the major actors of that regime are still active members of the Opposition PNC-APNU. The main culprit, whose policies left Guyana’s economy devastated in 1992, PNC-APNU Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge will return as the PNC-APNU-AFC Finance Minister if (God forbid) that party wins the election… that is a frightening thought indeed.

We’ve come too far to go back now. Under the PNC, most Guyanese lived below the poverty line. There was no foreign exchange to import anything. Parents kept their children home from school to stand in long lines to buy a loaf of bread, a pint of cooking oil, or two rolls of toilet paper whenever these items were available.

And if you were one of the fortunate few that owned a vehicle, you were restricted to a few gallons when gas was available, but only after waiting for hours in long lines at the gas station.

New tyres and spare parts for cars were impossible to get on the local market. Everything was rationed by the PNC Government, and the daily shortages of food supply and spare parts gave birth of the Traders.

Today, almost anything you need and in any quantity is readily available in stores and supermarkets. Almost anything you can get in New York is available right here in Guyana, often a lot cheaper. Guyanese now travel freely to other countries without the hassle of having to waste the entire day at the Inland Revenue Department to get an income-tax clearance before they were allowed to travel. And Guyanese are free to buy any amount of the readily available US dollars under US$10,000 without Government interference.

In the dark days of the PNC, Guyanese were only allowed to leave the country with the equivalent of US$100.

In Guyana today, more families own a car, a home or house lot, something they never thought was possible before. Today, regardless of ethnicity or political affiation, any contractor can secure a contract with Government as long as the criteria are met as advertised. The integrity of the bidding process is protected by public scrutiny through advertising, very different from the days when only supporters of the PNC Government were given contracts without public knowledge.

There was never a period during the entire 28-year reign of the PNC when contracts were awarded with the frequency they’re being done now. Of course, in those days, there was hardly any money in the treasury to build anything, and I cannot recall seeing advertising in the local media for projects up for tender.

Isn’t it hilarious that Greenidge is the one now crying foul, and demanding transparency in the bidding process? How many Indian businessmen do you believe got lucrative contracts from the PNC Government in those days? I don’t know of any.

In fact, if a Guyanese did not have a PNC party card, he/she was very unlikely to get a job in the public sector, much less be given Government contracts.

Guyana is fortunate to have a leader like Donald Ramotar at this moment in our nation’s history. Contrary to the image the Opposition paints of him, this man does not have one gram of racist blood running through his veins. He is truly a man of the people who is constantly working to improve race relations and to mold us all as one people, one nation.

I’ve said before, and will repeat it here again… Afro-Guyanese in traditional PNC strongholds have benefitted a lot more from PPP/C Administrations than they ever did under the PNC, and that’s an undisputed fact.

What have David Granger and the APNU done for Black people in Guyana and specifically those who voted PNC-APNU last election? Nothing!

All the cheap electricity his supporters enjoy in Linden is subsidized by this Government. Linden has new roads, new reliable water supply, new schools, new sports facilities, and thousands of Black families all over Guyana now own homes and house lots…a dream that was once Forbes Burnham’s, but now a reality under this PPP/C Government.

There are more Blacks working in Government Ministries than any other race. Yet if you believe the rhetoric spewed by the Opposition, Black people are being denied jobs.

I frankly expect to be accused of race-baiting by some in the Opposition, but it is time someone has the courage to tell it like it is without having to be politically correct for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

The truth is, most Blacks enjoy a better quality of life under this PPP/C Government but the younger generation doesn’t see it that way. They are constantly demanding more.

Perhaps if they knew from whence we came – the tremendous sufferings of the Guyanese people under the dictatorial PNC, and the atrocities committed by that regime, the youths of today would be less demanding and more appreciative of having the good fortune of growing up under the PPP/C.

It is imperative that President Ramotar and the PPP/C be re-elected to continue the modernization of Guyana, and to regain our leadership role in the Caribbean.

But if there is one reason why women in particular should turn out in droves to re-elect the PPP/C regardless of their political affiliation, it is because the PPP/C has passed laws with teeth to protect women and their children from the scourge of abuse, and to empower them in the work force.

I am confident that our next Prime Minister Elizabeth Harper, a strong and dynamic woman, will ensure this trend continues!

Harry Gill

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