March 5, 2015

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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IDB should be commended for showing confidence in Guyana

Dear Editor,

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has reportedly took offence over the IDB continuing to honour financial commitments to the Guyana Government on the ground that elections are due to be held shortly and therefore there is an absence of parliamentary oversight over financial expenditures over resources provided by the Bank.

This argument is at best specious and lacking in any understanding on how the IDB and for that matter in other international financial institution conduct their business.

The first point to note is that loans and grants are not given to promote partisan interests, but to advance the overall good regardless of which political party is elected to Government.

This is why there can be no hiatus in the operations of the Bank, whose modus operandi is based on predictability, political stability and continuity, and not on considerations based on narrow partisan self interests as is being suggested by the WPA.

The WPA ought to be aware that even during the days of PNC dictatorial and minority rule both the IDB and the IMF did business with the then regime even though significant sums of money were spent on ill conceived projects many of which never saw the light of day.

One consequence of such reckless financial management by the PNC regime was a crippling foreign debt burden which at one time consumed over ninety per cent of the country’s revenues.

I think the IDB ought to be commended for the confidence it has displayed in the country rather than the unwarranted attacks it has been receiving from the WPA and the political opposition as a whole.

Hydar Ally

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AFC leaders are bent on power grabbing

Dear Editor,

The AFC’s programme, “Alliance on the move”, is now being used to incite racial strife among Indians and Afro-Guyanese in Berbice.

On a weekly basis, AFC’s Executive Dr Veersammy Ramayya has been telling viewers in Berbice that the Indians do not want a “Blackman” to rule over them, but they are going to the USA, a “Blackman country”, and they are going to Barbados, a “Blackman country”.

This is a wicked and racist statement since the Indians in this country are not against the Afro-Guyanese, but they are against the PNC which destroyed this country, not only from 1964, but they had stymied development since 1961.

The 1961-64 period was a period of strikes and strife, civil unrest, burning, looting, murder and mayhem and this was orchestrated by the PNC under Forbes Burnham and the UF under Peter D’Auigar and the CIA. This is no secret!

Therefore, the PNC has been systematically destroying this country since 1961. The people of this country do not want a return of the PNC and that has nothing to do with the Afro-Guyanese.

On February 28, Ramayya attacked the people of Black Bush Polder and called them racists. He repeatedly told Berbicians that the people in Black Bush do not want a “Blackman” to rule them, but they are carrying their greens to Georgetown for the “Black” people to buy them in Georgetown.

He angrily told them that they should sell their produce at the Port Mourant Market. He concluded that the “Black” people are assisting Indians to live by buying their fish, rice and greens and therefore Indians should vote for David Granger as President.

The programme was filled with racist remarks, which he attributed to the Indians of Berbice. This is a wicked lie which is meant to ignite racial hatred. Ramayya has now realised that many AFC members and supporters are moving back to the PPP/C, so he is now getting desperate!

He then resorted to ad hominem attacks on Sixtus Edwards and Balwant Persaud. He claimed that Mr Edwards lost his position as General Secretary and that is the reason why he was in Berbice exposing the lies and corruption of the AFC .

What Ramayya needs to understand is that Mr Edwards was replaced by David Patterson in a rigged election since 2012 and that the ex-General Secretary only resigned a month ago.

Is it reasonable to suggest that Mr Edwards took over two years to resign and attack the AFC because he lost his position? Mr Edwards finally resigned because of the coalition with the PNC/APNU-AFC. It was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

He further claimed Persaud’s Canadian visa was revoked because he was involved in visa irregularities. Now the facts are clear. Mr Persaud only resigned from the AFC two weeks ago and until then he was a good man of reputable character!

Why is it that two weeks after resigning Mr Persaud is now a bad and characterless man? The fact is that he resigned because of the coalition with PNC/APNU-AFC and, like Edwards, it was the last straw. These people have had enough of the lies, deception and corruption of the AFC ‘fat cats’.

I am appealing to the Ethnic Relations Commission and related organisations to investigate the racist statements made by the AFC executive members before it is too late. We cannot afford a replay of the 1961-1964 period.

The AFC leaders are so bent on power grabbing that they do not care about the negative and disastrous consequences of their utterances in public and since the coalition they are desperate to stop the exodus of their members and supporters back to the PPP/C and that is the main reason why they are now playing the race card.

Haseef Yusuf

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What moving forward means to the youths of Guyana

Dear Editor

There is a lot of chatter taking place on social media about the need to move forward and in most cases, it is perpetuated by young people who are eligible to vote, and who have not experienced any other Government but the PPP/C. The main points being made are: let’s think ahead, the Government is flawed and they want a change.

I beg to differ from this and encourage young people to take a minute and look at the bigger picture. Let’s separate sensationalism and false propaganda from facts. Not because you were born after 1992, means that the past does not matter.

We all know as basic practice that before we make any critical decisions, we should understand the history of the issue and look at the progression of it – not from a linear standpoint, but from a multi-faceted lens.

When you take that minute to assess what to do next or make the next big decision, you will begin to see what moving forward really means.

Moving forward – that we are now a country of freedoms: to information, to choose our sources of entertainment, to form our own political views, and access to education. These very basic freedoms that we now have to express ourselves did not come easy. It took 28 years of bloodshed and perseverance against an oppressive Opposition. Now it is dangerously ironic that the same members of that oppressive Opposition are using my young brothers and sisters to fight their frontline battle, knowing very well that they are misguiding you. They are still the same oppressive folks that the PPP/C struggled so hard to remove from office, so that we can now enjoy the benefits of a progressive Guyana.

Moving forward – that foreign investment is flooding to Guyana and is quickly becoming one of the country’slargest employers of young people. Another irony here is that we are not able to produce enough young skilled people to fill these positions, even though we have achieved universal primary education and are close to achieving universal secondary education.

Moving forward – that the PPP/C has educated more youths than any other time in this country’s history to become doctors, engineers, teachers and other leaders through aggressive bilateral and multilateral partnerships with countries and organizations. These young Guyanese specialists are now serving their country and bringing pride to their community and family. I can see the father sitting in his hammock with a smile on his face thinking that he would never have seen the day his kids would become great in this country.

Moving forward – that the PPP/C understands the history of Guyana and will take the time to educate the young people to make the right decisions.

I am confident that the PPP/C also understands that moving forward is only a natural part of our country’s path and we also know that the youths will take us forward in this path.

I am truly happy to see my fellow young generation proudly voicing their opinions and taking a stand for something, but is it something we can achieve through the Opposition? Do you fully understand what you are fighting for? And have you heard any tangible solution coming from the Opposition? I challenge the youths to ask the Opposition what moving forward means to them and how are they going to take you forward from where you already are with the PPP/C.

Malcolm Watkins

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Freddie longs to visit the land of his forefathers

Dear Editor,

In his veritable daily column, “I’m ashamed of my country, my President, myself “, on March 1, I noticed that I’ve made it to Freddie’s top five notorious “East Indian supremacists” list!

What have I done to be bestowed that dubious honour?!

I am presently residing in India (where I’ve lived for most of the past two decades), and someone should tell Freddie that I’ve never been bored once since taking up residence here.

This land of contrasts, smells, colours and adventure presents no time or opportunity to be bored! (Wished Freddie could check out Holi in India – to be celebrated on March 6; it’s a wild (and also beautiful) experience!

Freddie longs to visit the land of his forefathers. I’d love to show him (his expense!) some of the modern Indian city life, somewhat ancient village life, let him sample vegetarian biriyani with his hand if he so chooses, and experience the arts – including (classical) dance, and simple music with tabla or dholak.

After this indulgence, I am sure that Freddie could snap out of his shame – and might also become a ‘proud’ Indian (like his hero, Eusi – a proud African!)

Devanand Bhagwan

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Guyana became economically bankrupt prior to 1992

Dear Editor,

I read a recent article in another section of the media, saying that financial lawlessness at NICIL, GRA, GFC, GGMC, etc will be dealt with by the APNU-AFC. In the article, Carl Greenidge in vain efforts at mischievous political propaganda, succinctly nailed himself for being an alien to transparency and accountability, since it was he who never lived up to these management qualities.

When he was the Minister of Finance in the PNC’s illegal Government prior to 1992, which caused Guyana to collapse both socially and economically. Greenidge should have been jailed.

Let me ask Greenidge a question: when he was a Minister of Finance, how many sector reports did he present to Parliament? In fact during the illegal PNC’s Government reign, reports by the state agencies were never submitted to Parliament which demonstrated the financial lawlessness, lack of transparency, lack of accountability and incompetence of the past illegal PNC regime.

No wonder Guyana was destroyed by Greenidge who is now the financial spokesman for the PNC/APNU-AFC Coalition.

But the so-called “economic plan” by the PNC/APNU-AFC coalition itself needs cleaning since its crafters, including Greenidge, practiced financial lawlessness when he was Minister of Finance.

The PNC/APNU-AFC’s “economic plan” is therefore basically a sham or a hoax designed to fool the people. But the Guyanese people will not be fooled.

Greenidge said that the PNC/APNU-AFC’s coalition “economic plan” is for “much needed transparency and accountability can be returned”. Is Greenidge suffering from amnesia or is simply being asinine?

The fact that Guyana became economically bankrupt prior to 1992 when Greenidge was the Finance Minister is ample evidence to prove that “transparency and accountability” were never recognised by Greenidge himself and his illegal PNC regime which rigged elections from 1968-1985. But today under the PPP/C Government, Guyana bounced back to an economically healthy nation with continued economic growth.

But it is the national Treasury, which Greenidge and the other Opposition vultures want badly to put their hands into. The Guyanese People will never allow this to happen.

Peter Persaud

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