March 28, 2015

PNC/APNU has difficult time convincing youths on their future plans for Guyana

Dear Editor,
The Opposition PNC/APNU has an awfully difficult time convincing the youths on the futuristic plans for this country. They have no manifesto to highlight anything of a developmental nature that can readily attract youthful confidence in them.  All that I am getting so far is a cacophony of confused lies against the Government but
nothing substantial by way of development. This is why the youths are at a loss as to what these people are talking about. By the way you would have noticed that I recognized the Opposition as PNC because that is effectively what the Opposition is. There is no AFC, no third party to choose from, the next election is a straight race between the arch-enemy PNC and the PPP/C.
And who said anyone wants the PNC back in power? The answer is blowing in the wind. So from the outset this coalition is at a disadvantageous position. This is their problem, this is their living breathing nightmare.
The PNC is on record as the architect behind this nation’s destruction. They destroyed the economy. Do you know at one point during the 1980s Guyana was rated as below Haiti?  According to the United Nations growth index for that period Guyana had dipped below Haiti and was rated as the least developed country in the Caribbean. This was a ghastly period for all Guyanese. It was a time when we were greeted with scorn at all ports of entry especially those close by home judging from the fact that we were seeking asylum in Caribbean neighbours as political and economic refugees. This was a disgraceful decade for us, we were like “cockroaches” seeking after leftovers. This the youths may not know, but there are very many more things they are knowledgeable of, tangible successes all around them made and done for the children of the future.
Take for example my nephew at age 20 visiting home again. Listen to his comment, “Wow! I think I am in New York”. His awestruck comment came about as we passed by on Regent and Camp Streets. My sarcastic answer to him was “all of these things came about as a result of the PPP/C’s backwardness”.  And this is their dilemma, how can they explain away the massive developmental achievements of the PPP/C Government, and as a result convince the youths to vote for them.  It is a herculean task that keeps the PNC thinking and rethinking their next move. Now, seeing they are backed up in a corner and losing ground they are desperately trying to get the youths attention and their vote. They are using the theory of the youngsters being ignorant of the atrocities they committed on this country and its peoples.  They are hoping that with that ignorance of the youth – both the true meaning of the word “not knowing” or “unaware” and the Caribbean version of being “stupid” – they can somehow sneak up on them unsuspectingly to get their vote. Well I have news for them, the youth are not as naive, stupid or dumb as the PNC may think, they are aware of development, lots of it if you please. They are well aware of the developmental achievements of the present Government. They have been looking around and they have been asking questions such as who built that, and that, and which administration was responsible for those achievements.  These are questions to which the Opposition has no answers. It is very easy to lie – that is a natural attribute of the Opposition – however, the question still remains could those lies convince the public.

Neil Adams

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Nauratre is likened to a spiritual lake that we enter for a bath

Dear Editor,
Theology is only a base (sometimes in story) from which springs the cosmic view and philosophy in systems wherein there is the ever presence of tendencies of creation/evolution and destruction.  Life flourishes where there is cooperation and harmony, while the opposite results in destruction. These two positive and negative principles are represented by Devas (God) and Davies (Goddess) and asura (evil) – that which has the power to cause danger and disrupt natural order.
The story of the different manifestation of the Goddess Durga is being narrated and worshiped during the period of ‘navretre’. Although God does not have any form, many forms are attributed in as both mother and father.
During this period good will is worshiped as mother (shakti) since in different ages she assumed different forms to establish order and remove suffering. The devotees meditate upon her divine forms and attain union with her. They transcend the material world and enjoy everlasting bliss. Many ask the question: Can God really take a body or bodily identity? Well, I will answer yes! Since we accept that the body that we have was made by God, then why can he not make a body for himself? We say that nothing is impossible for God. Therefore, he can assume any form he chooses.
Humans are affected by a choice of two paths, each paved with impurities that keep the mind deluded. These delusions are the demonic impurities of raga (attachment) and dwesha (hatred). It is from these to impurities that other demonic qualities arise.
It is because of this delusive nature that all living beings behave in strange ways. A mother hawk tenderly feeds her young ones. When they grow up she has nothing more to do with them. Much in the same manner humans develop attachment and hatred and continue to pass through cycles of birth and death by maintaining karmic bondage.
The art of breaking the chain of successive re-births and karmic reaction is to seek shelter at the feet of the divine mother. This is the essence of navratre.
“Navratre Puja depicts the long course of spiritual  evolution in the life of a spiritual aspirant and reveals the way in which the Divine mother leads the soul to ultimate victory over the demonic qualities which present countless obstacles  on the spiritual path” (Swami Jyotimayananda).
In the life of every person, the forces of evil manifest as desire, pride, hatred, anger, greed, malice, envy etc. On the other hand the forces of goodness are visualized as forgiveness, compassion, love, charity, mercy, etc.
Life is the battlefield for the forces of good and evil and puja to the divine mother is the sure way to victory in life’s struggles.
The essence of worship is to enhance the powers of goodness whereby we achieve control of the mind and senses and overcoming the negative desires rising from the base self which prevents us from discovering the glories of spirituality and purpose. The Durga Sapta Shati – a scripture devoted to God as Mother presents the art of worshiping  her in different forms and how the demonic impediments in the path towards spiritual life are destroyed. Then having successfully taken the devotee on to enlightment she becomes one – the absolute reality.
The blue print for moving from the night of confusion to a state of satisfaction and happiness is outlined in the worship of the mother. The dense darkness on the night of inertia, confusion and ignorance in represented by Kali or Durga. The movement towards action, knowledge and change of circumstances  is like the arrival of the golden rays of the sun at dawn, bringing hope.  This is the Saraswatie.
Then both the night and dawn vanishes when they merge into the beauty of the day. This is the time for Lakshmi – the delivery of a store house of virtues. This is the mystical period of victory.  Sometime ago I was asked by persons to be more active on matters of Hindu culture. At that time I did indicate that I need time to discover myself. Not surprisingly, everyone laughed at me. They shower scorn at me because they felt that I did not know myself.  When will we understand that self realization is God realization? We recite like parrots “ya Devi satva butayshu” – that the Goddess resides in all of us. Yet we cannot find that divine spark within ourselves.
Individuals identify themselves as belonging to certain families, by status, wealth, occupation or by the place of residence. Nor once do persons identify themselves with humility and compassion. Charity now is a vehicle for Business opportunities which is given a fancy name like cooperate responsibility.  Nauratre is likened to a spiritual lake that we enter for a bath.  Very of the when en enter a creek or lake we put on the same garments when we emerge from the water.
However during the spiritual bath of nauratre, we must stand naked before the mother.  Drop the garments of impurities and she will decorate us with the beautiful garments of purity. Of love, compassion, forgiveness and selfless service.

Pt Chrishna
Persaud

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The legendary Bhagat Singh

Dear Editor,
The story of Bhagat Singh started long before he was born. His father Kishan Singh and his uncle Ajit Singh were members of the Gadhar party formed in the US in 1913 with an aim to liberate India from British rule.
His grandfather Arjune Singh was a follower of Dayanand Saraswati, founder of the Arya Samaj, and he became deeply inspired by his message of swaraj (self-rule), and call for efforts aimed at social reforms.
At the initiation ceremony of his two grandsons, he declared, “Today I gave these two grandsons to be sacrificed at the altar of the Goddess of liberty so that freedom maybe attained. They were Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Jagat Singh, both of whom died in the revolutionary struggle for India.
In 1919, Arjune Singh enrolled Bhagat, aged 12, at the Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School, an Arya Samaj institution. His teachers were some of the most enlightened, dedicated and patriotic men who were influenced by the works of Dyanand Saraswatie, one being Bhai Parmanand, a nationalist who visited British Guiana in 1910 and institutionalized Vedic Hindu religion.
That same year, Bhagat visited Jaliawalia Bag, hours after the massacre of thousands of unarmed Indians who had gathered for a public meeting; had been killed by the British. Bhagat collected some of that sacred soil which he kept as a memento. He was deeply disturbed – the massacre strengthened his resolve to remove the British from India. Bhagat then joined the National College, another Arya Samaj institution in Lahore, now Pakistan, which was founded by Lala Lajpat Rai, the most powerful leader in the state of Punjab.
This college was the axis of revolutionary teachings and activities in India. This was where Bhagat met Sukhdev and other revolutionaries.
Bhagat then coordinated and established a union of revolutionaries called the India Youth Society, spreading his message of revolution for self-rule. In 1926, Bhagat joined the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), which had prominent leaders such as Rampersad Bismil, Chandrashekar Azad and others.  Bhagat Singh rose to prominence and became one of HRA top leaders. He was associated with numerous revolutionary organizations giving them a new direction. Through his indomitable courage and inspiration he infused life into youths of India who hailed him as their hero.
Police became concerned with Singh’s influence on youths, and arrested him on May 1927, on the pretext of him, having been involved in a bombing that took place in Lahore, in the month of October the previous year. He was released five weeks later on Rs 60,000 bond.
Bhagat Singh wrote and edited for Urdu, Punjab and other newspapers.
He contributed to inexpensive “Call for Freedom” pamphlets, and also wrote for “Workers and Peasants” party. He was an avid reader of the teachings of Mikhail BIkun, Karl Marx, Vladmir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, which attracted to anarchist and Marxist ideologies.  He did not believe in Gandhi’s ideology which advocated ahimsa (nonviolence) after seeing the atrocities committed by the British against the people of India. He was also dissatisfied with foreigners destroying India’s industry and commerce. Bhagat envisioned overthrowing the British and having a socialist reconstruction of Indian society where political power should be in the hands of the workers. In 1928, the British Government set up the Simon Commission to report on the political situation in India and to access how much political freedom and responsibility India could be given.
The Indian political parties boycotted the Commission because there were no Indian in its membership; this led to a country wide protest.
When the commission visited Lahore on the October 30, 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai led a silent march in protest against the Commission.
Police attempted to disperse the large crowed which resulted in tremendous violence. The Superintendent of Police James A Scott ordered the Police to lathi (stick) charge the protestors. They targeted and personally assaulted Rai, who was fatally injured and later succumbed to his injuries on November 17, 1928.
When the matter was raised in the British Parliament, the Government denied any role in Rai’s death. Bhagat vowed to take revenge and enjoined other revolutionaries, Rajguru, Sukhdev and Chandrashekhar Azad, in a plot to kill Scott.
However, in a case of mistaken identity, Singh received a signal to shoot on the appearance of John P Saunders, an Assistant Commissioner of Police. He was shot by Rajguru and Bhagat Singh while leaving the District Police Headquarters in Lahore on December 17, 1928.  Bhagat and his comrades evaded the Police.
On April 8,1929, Bhagat and B K  Dutt threw a bomb into the corridors of the Central Legislative Assembly Hall, which was not meant to kill anyone, but to draw the attention of the Government that suppression could no longer be tolerated. The two remained on scene and deliberately courted arrest.
Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were later charged with the shooting death of Saunders. To expedite the trial the Viceroy, Lord Erwin set up a special tribunal, consisting of three high court judges. On October 7, 1930, the tribunal delivered its guilty verdict in the Saunders case. All three of these heroes were sentenced to be hanged until death.
On March, 23, 1931, at 19.30h, the execution took place in Lahore. All three were cremated on the banks of Sutlej River. These heroes demonstrated the ultimate and supreme love for their Motherland and fearlessly accepted the death penalty.
Mourning for Bhagat was spontaneous and widespread.
Homage is still being paid to him for his sterling character and sacrifice. Bhagat Singh was given the honorary title shaheed (martyr) by the people of India.
Let us take inspiration from Bhagat Singh.

Annand Persaud

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Weapon deliveries to Ukraine threaten solution to conflict

Dear Editor,
The Kiev’s appeals to the West to step up weapon deliveries to the Ukrainian military threaten solution of the conflict in the southeastern Ukraine by peaceful measures. It is alarming that the US House of Representatives has recently passed a resolution calling on President Obama to send lethal weapons to Ukraine. We believe that the overwhelming majority of Europeans still consider the plan to supply weapons to Ukraine highly dangerous, although there are EU officials who are nudging whoever can be nudged to start such arms supplies.
This approach is aimed at undermining the Minsk Agreements and violates unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolution calling on parties to implement this accord aimed at peaceful settlement in Eastern Ukraine.
Claims that Russia supplies weapons to the Southeastern Ukrainian self-defense forces as well as its involvement in the crash of MH17 Malaysia Airlines in July 2014 have not been proven.
Sanctions of Western countries against Russia due to the so called “annexing” Crimea are illegitimate. Crimea became part of Russia according to the free and fair referendum of the Crimeans, where more than 96.7 per cent voted in favor of joining Russia.
It is a double standard on the part of our Western partners to recognize referendums, for example in Kosovo, and to deny other people of the same right for self-determination, which is enshrined in the UN Charter. Such referendums are conducted all over the world, like in 1995 in Quebec (Canada) in 2014 in Scotland (Britain).  The Ukrainian authorities continue to intensify the blockade of the Southeastern territories, ruthlessly restricting the contacts between residents of areas controlled by the self-defense forces and the rest of Ukraine as well as their trans-border ties with regions of the Russian Federation in direct violation of provisions fixed in the Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
Attempts of Kiev to resolve the conflict by force led to heavy casualties among civilians as a result of shelling of residential areas, schools, hospitals, kindergartens and other facilities with multiple launch rocket systems. Observers even claim that in some cases illegal dispenser weapons were used. During the conflict more than 5,000 people were killed, including 65 children.
The UN rightly recognizes the situation as a humanitarian catastrophe in the Southeastern Ukraine. The situation is further aggravated by Kiev’s policy of economic isolation, the non-payment of pensions and other social benefits, which is in fact in conflict with Ukraine’s international commitments.
The Russian Federation has sent 22 humanitarian convoys under the supervision of the OSCE to the Southeastern Ukraine delivering more than 27 tons of different humanitarian goods, food and medicines.
We call on the relevant international organizations, including UN, OSCE to urge the Kiev authorities to end the inhuman policy toward socially vulnerable Ukranian population.

Russian Embassy

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Granger is no Lee Kwan Yew

Dear Editor,
“I’ve told the Cabinet, when I’m dead, demolish it.”
“Why?” the interviewer asked. The Prime Minister replied his house would cost taxpayers too much to maintain. It would become a shambles when tourist “people trudge through it”, came the reply.
Recently, Singaporeans were plunged into nationwide mourning with the passing of Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew, 91. He ruled for five decades as a dictator. But by “a mix of semi-authoritarian, one-party rule, meticulous urban planning, laissez-faire economic policies, low taxes and selective wooing of imported foreign talent, the former British colony became a tidy, gleaming Asian metropolis”(NYT).
Whether his house survives or fulfills economic expediency is not important right now. Today, the Chinese leader’s death finds him getting a reverential send off by all citizens in nationwide grief. Singaporeans do not ask or expect any apology for his dictatorship.
Lee Kwan made Singapore and its citizens rich, industrious and ensured them a safe place for all to live.
Before independence Singapore had a GDP of about $1 billion. After Lee Kwan ruled for five decades, the GDP rose to some $300 billion! While the Chinese Lee Kwan was a similar ruler to the African Forbes Burnham, their legacies are in sharp contrast by all the abundant evidence.
Burnham’s dictatorship became a national nightmare long before his PNC was democratically removed after its three decades in power. But that party’s historic violent ownership of Guyana’s habitual destruction with its rigid sanctimonious shape shifting deflection, keeps insisting that no PNC election rigging occurred.
While the GDF seizure and murder of 1973 Berbicians election martyrs Jagan Ramessar and Bholanath Parmanand is history, it is repugnant as it is transparent, even today. An apology will serve no good purposes right now. In due time genuine remorse and the necessary reparations will suffice.
What is now more important is whether the APNU-AFC coalition can emulate and surpass Singapore’s success miracle.
Any wonder why there was more national relief even worldwide celebration at the PNC founder leader’s departure? His successor Desmond Hoyte quickly changed course but it was too little and too late.
His own state funeral became a national disgrace of worldwide shame. After Burnham’s legendary game changer PNC took over from Guyana’s booming economy vacated by Dr Cheddi Jagan’s PPP in 1964, the country quickly became bankrupt as the PNC easily destroyed the breadbasket of the Caribbean.
Guyana became a blighted country with its people in mass starvation and in rushing exodus. Whereas Guyanese only migrated for education and returned to serve, the PNC’s policy drove away citizens, frightened away investors and shackled its remaining citizens both economically and politically.
There was no freedom of the press and letters critical of the PNC, as occurs today, were not published or lost their ambience in editing. PNC corruption and their lavish public lifestyles were no confidence builders for victory against poverty.
Guyanese can elect the PNC to repeat its same disasters again in May 2015 as it did in 1964 with another similar coalition partner in its amorous bosom embrace.

With the country now rebuilt by the PPP/C since 1992, will Guyanese also risk gambling on whether the PNC’s touting of Granger as their game changer, ever cleaver, disguised and fully calibrated, is less a considered and ominous danger?
What makes him less a stranger but instead angelize him a healing messiah, reborn among the animals in a manger as best equipped to move us forward? Will Africans vote straight race loyalties unlike their Indian countrymen who are reminded race does not matter?
When Singapore mourners filed past their Prime Minister’s body they spoke in unity about him with a zeal and adoration usually reserved for sainthood candidates. “We are deeply indebted to him,” said Irene Yeo, a saleswoman who brought a bouquet of flowers.
She listed the reasons for her gratitude for Lee Qwan: “My life, my housing, my family, the good environment, the good transportation and medical care,” are all due to him she said. Vasuki Thirupathi, a Singapore Indian engineer said he sobbed uncontrollably for two minutes when he heard the news.
“He is my idol, and not a day passes without my saying it,” Mr Thirupathi emphasised. “Security, law and order, truth, honesty — all of this requires vision and boils down to leadership.”he said.
Contrast both Singapore and Guyana with their two  sharply different post independence dictators.  The Chinese have a saying: “When drinking water, always remember the source.” One dictator skyrocketed Singapore “From  the third world to the first world” (his book) with its economic successes.
The Afro Guyanese “other” destroyed his country with his unchecked ambition and incompetence. Nothing in Granger’s background nevertheless proclaims any economic expertise to continue building on the PPP/C’s current and massive economic development of today’s Guyana.
Absolutely nothing. Granger’s resume has nothing positive, just blood on his hands.
The PPP/C’s problem is not that it has failed Guyana. But its economic successes have galvanized national expectations for more accelerated dispensation. All Guyanese correctly seek to become rich and beneficiaries of the national wealth. To expect it will happen by overnight entitlement and handed on a platter is however unrealistic.
Which party is best equipped to deliver the goods is the big question at the  May elections. To expect the PNC to be less corrupt in power is foolish considering all its anticipatory salivation which abounds.
Its either Guyana becomes better than Singapore or we get an improved militarized PNC with its aged, outdated leadership desperately struggling to remain relevant and solve problems for which they are not equipped.
Can’t we get along after Rodney? If not, what are the alternatives?

Vassan Ramracha

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Something’s wrong with people who think they’re always right

Dear Editor,
It is interesting to note that the Opposition politicians are commenting on the GECOM list of electors as inaccurate.
However, when Clement Rohee made a similar claim, these same people wanted to tar and feather him. What hyprocrisy! There is definitely something wrong with people who always think that they are correct and others are wrong. This again is hyprocrisy.
These very politicians claim that Indians vote based on race. What about African Guyanese? Don’t they also vote according to race? Every day that comes makes the former President statement (that Indians are being targeted in this country) seems so true.
Courtney Crum-Ewing’s death is used for political gains. Every Opposition element is suddenly alive and kicking about his death. I have nothing against the late Courtney.
However what about Sheema Mangar and the scores of Indians who have been senselessly massacred? Are they not human beings too? Don’t they have the right to enjoy Guyana like all other races?
These very people who prefer for their own are the people who are aspiring for the Government of this country. What will happen to Indians and others then?

Rakesh Singh

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An opulent lifestyle is not an indication of corruption

Dear Editor,

Do we really have to live in logies or fetch water from standpipes to show that we are simple, frugal, principled and modest? I would readily give you an emphatic no! Because one’s lifestyle is but a miniature view of someone’s integrity.

Another searching factor is, lifestyles are not always what they appear to be, there are very many more important and searching facts to consider when such statements are made. If you say one’s opulent lifestyle is an indication of corrupt practices then I might be tempted to engage in a discussion and my first question would be show me the evidence to back-up your claim.

We can go about a serious discussion when facts can be tabled. Now this is the nonsensical argument the Opposition is bringing to the public, and a few in the PPP/C realm have be dragged into this foolishness.

At the centre of discussions is the comparison of former President Bharrat Jagdeo and Dr and Mrs Jagan. A comparison of lifestyles that just isn’t there. There is no comparison of the two because they are from a different background with different experiences and people of a totally different era.

One writer Sadie Amin even made the horrific comment that Dr Jagan died rather than taking from the national treasury for his medical expenses. Outrageous! Dr Jagan might have been a little stubborn and maybe, just maybe a hint of eccentricity, those of us who are dear to old people know the way they behave at times.

But to say he wanted to die rather than taking from the national treasury (which he is entitled to) is sad. I am absolutely sure Dr Jagan would have liked to live a few more years to continue the good work. He lived for this country.

I used raw coconut oil as skin lotion and went to school bare-footed until such time when my parents could have afforded a flip flop and later a pair of “Buckman Clarks”. There were other pupils at school who could have gone to school with a nice pair of shoes, should they be called “corrupt” because of the way they lived?

They lived a life to their estate and I mine there should be no ill will on either part. I look back at those days with nostalgia. Now, should I demand that my nephew dress the same frugal way I did?

The answer is so obvious. However, I would advise him of matters of frugality and modesty even in better times. Then I am prompted to ask the question, should all members of the PPP/C go to work with bicycles? Must they live in hovels or in logies as the former President suggested?

Former President Jagdeo merited every cent earned during and after his time in office, it goes with the office. We must study the word modest and see if the use of the word matches the action on the ground.

Modesty does not always turn out to be what it is, the word might well be used as a facade. Take for example, Burnham. He was modest, Castellani House is modest dwelling, yet we know of the treasure he amassed in Swiss bank accounts.

Hitler and Idi Amin were vegetarians and could be considered deeply religious people yet when you look at the atrocities they committed pales in comparison to their apparent modesty.

The real problem with some Opposition forces is that they would like to get back into power and commit those same crimes they are accusing Dr Jagdeo of. I can tell you many true stories of persons who squandered their ill-gotten wealth under the PNC rule because of their corrupt practices.

A former Minister of mobilization readily comes to mind. Yet others, two regional ministers of Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) that I can remember never owned property because they were too busy running after women, a characteristic signature of the PNC.

In fact, what is most revealing is that the two former ministers only acquired property during the PPP/C administration. Talk about corruption, that was corruption and yet for all they could not show anything tangible for it.

This is really their gripe, try to raise suspicion in the minds of people with the legitimate gains of the present politicians and cry corruption. Is it corrupt practice to invest one’s legal emoluments?

Jagdeo did that so what’s the charge? I close by saying stop comparing the life styles of the revered statesman and his wife to those of our modern era. There is no comparison and that is what it should be.

Leave it there. Once we cannot prove that what they acquired was ill gotten gain or misappropriation of funds while in political office, then we must refrain from making these outrageous statements.

 

Neil Adams

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The 1970s and 80s: decades of misery on Guyana

Dear Editor,

I read Hydar Ally’s letter about ordinary Guyanese not owning homes under the PNC and could relate to that, as my own situation in those dreadful years showed. During the dark days of the PNC regime in the 1970s and 1980s, the political environment was extremely hostile to members of the various professions including business and accounting.

I was an Audit Leader and subsequently a Management Accountant at GuySuCo in those years after successfully completing my ACIS and ACMA exams on my own (having been refused a scholarship three times by the Public Service Ministry).

My salary in 1981 was $1400 or US$545 (G$2.5659 = US$1 back then). With my spouse’s income of $120 per month, and after taxes, we netted $1,135. Twice a week, I had to line up at a KSI in Goed Fortuin, run by a fierce-looking PNC thug, for basic food items like cooking oil, sugar, salt, soap, butter, cheese, and flour.

That was the level of degeneracy and indignity that ordinary hard-working Guyanese were brought to.

My monthly expenses amounted to $825 and were made up of groceries, rent, babysitting, electricity, transportation clothes, helping our aged parents and siblings who were not working, giving a little to the church, and saving what was left (if any at all).

Rent was $120 for a two-room downstairs flat at Vreed-en-Hoop and that was considered cheap. When all the deductions were made, we were left with $300. All my savings from the past years were spent towards books, fees, and examination costs to earn the ACIS and ACMA.

I still remember writing to publishers in both the UK and US asking to send pro-forma invoices for textbooks and past examination questions and answers booklets in order to take to the Bank of Guyana for approval to buy bank drafts at a commercial bank, as foreign exchange was strictly controlled.

As a result, I had very little equity as a down payment for a house which was, but a dream then as Mr Ally so well articulated in his piece yesterday. To compound the problem, inflation and interest rate were running in the double digits.

Here is a scenario of an uphill battle  I faced. An executive from GuySuCo was willing to sell me his home at Nandy Park for $65,000 or US$25,000 in 1981 as he was moving overseas, like so many back then.

The monthly mortgage payment would have been $900 plus home insurance of $200, totalling $1100, which was impossible to sustain with a monthly saving of $420 (if you add back the rent). And my remuneration was considered top of the line at that time.

Realizing that it was hopeless and I could never own a home in Guyana, I turned my energies to helping others who were far worse off than me. I pitied those who were earning far below me and who wanted to pursue business and accounting badly but did not have the resources, self-motivation and guidance.

My father had desks, benches, and a blackboard at his house in Goed Fortuin as he taught Hindi and Sanskrit classes. So, I used those facilities and gave free lessons and student counselling under that very house (which still stands today) to anyone (regardless of party affiliation, ethnicity, or religion) studying for the LCC, AAT (now CAT), and the foundation levels of the professional accounting programmes.

There are a few fully qualified accountants still in Guyana who could attest to this.  Even a top civil servant (a die-hard PNC) from the Ministry of Home Affairs got wind of my generous offer and came all the way from Georgetown to attend my sessions.I trust he is reading this letter.

Today in Guyana, in an open market economy where there is so much freedom we take for granted, ordinary Guyanese can easily afford their own homes. Also, there are business and accounting students who can afford attending private schools or pursue correspondence courses not only the UK programmes but those from the US and Canada as well and there are no restrictions over foreign exchange.

But despite the hardships back in the 1970s and 1980s, I never discounted nor denied the country of my birth and I am still devoted to helping my poorer countrymen and feel proud to continue to serve Guyana from Toronto through my publications and to make frequent donations to the Libraries.

Of noteworthy is the local chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors I established in 2000 which continues to grow and professionalize internal auditing to contribute towards risk, control, and governance throughout the country. Could this have happened prior to October 1992? The answer is a resounding NO.

However, those difficulties in the 1970s and 80s should not be forgotten or easily discounted.  Instead, case studies should be researched, documented, articulated, and be a reminder of the living hell that existed in Guyana before October 1992.

Alluding to the misery in living under the dreadful PNC in the 70s and 80s, here is an appropriate quote from music icon Paul Simon’s “Peace Like a River”: “You can beat us with wires; You can beat us with chain; You can run lots of rules; But you know you can’t outrun the history train….”

Lal Balkaran

Toronto

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Navratri: festival of Dussera

Dear Editor,

Navratri is celebrated in a large number of Indian communities. The mother Goddess is said to appear in nine forms, and each one is worshipped for a day. These nine forms signify various traits that the Goddess influences us with.

It is said, according to the Devi Mahatmya and other texts invoking the Goddess who vanquished demons are cited. For followers of Shaktism, it represents the victory of the goddess Parvati.  In Hindu mythology, the demon Mahishasura had created terror in the devaloka (the world where gods live) but Durga killed him .

Several legends are attributed to the Vijaya Dasami, the 10th day, a victory of Mother Durga over the buffalo-demon Mahishasura. It is said that it was on this day that Rama won over Ravan by invoking the grace of Goddess Durga.

Dussera is interpreted as “Das-hara”, that is, cutting of the 10 heads of Ravana, symbolically meaning overcoming passion, pride, anger, greed, infatuation, lust, hatred, jealousy, selfishness and wickedness of our demon, the ego.

Again  it  is said  that the  five Pandavas,  after  completing their  year’s  service  in Virata’s palace, took their arms from their hiding place in the sami tree (mimosa suma) on this day, fought against the Kauravas’ finally defeating  them  as  a triumph  of  good  over evil.

On these legendary moments, Mahisharsura was given special Boon of immortality by Lord Brahma.  The demon Mahishasura obtained a boon from Lord Brahma indicating that no man will kill him. He gathered strong powers from Lord Brahma as a reward for his penance.

Eventually, he became so powerful that he wanted to rule over heaven. Mahisharsua was misusing his powers by antagonizing these Devtas and Deities in Devaloka. In Hindu mythology, the demon Mahishasura had created terror in the devaloka but Mata Durga killed him.

Ravana did penance to Lord Shiva for many years of which Lord Shiva was pleased with his austerity, appeared after his 10th decapitation and offered him a boon. Ravana asked for immortality, which Shiva refused to give, but gave him the celestial nectar of immortality. The nectar of immortality, stored under his navel, dictated that he could not be vanquished for as long as it lasted.

Ravana and his brother, Kumbhakarran were said to be reincarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, were gatekeepers at vikuntha (heaven), the abode of Lord Vishnu and were cursed by the monk Sanatha Kumara to be born on Earth for their insolence.

Lord Vishnu agreed that they should be punished. They were given two choices, that they could be born about seven times as normal mortals and devotees of Vishnu, or three times as powerful and strong people, but as enemies of Vishnu.

Eager to be back with the Lord, they choose the latter one. Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna were born to fulfill the curse on the second birth as enemies of Vishnu in the Treta-Yug.

This celebration (Navratri) Dasara (India) is performed, which is the festival of dance. Dasara is celebrated in different ways in various parts of India. For the Bengalis, it is a time when Goddess Durga is pampered, praised and worshiped during the ten-days-long festival.

Various cultural societies and social groups set up beautifully embellished  mantaps to enjoy the festival.

In north India, Vijayadasami also known as Dusshera is the 10th day following Navratri. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and marks the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana. Huge effigies of Ravana are burnt on this day.

In eastern India and in the Bengali diaspora, during the last six nights of Navratri, the Goddess Durga is worshipped in a grand manner. She is venerated in the form of a fierce, but kind goddess riding atop a lion or a tiger, and stamping on the demon Mahishashura.

On the 10th day following Navratri, the statue of the goddess Durga is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with singing and dancing to be immersed in a river or the sea.

On this occasion, many Hindus take the opportunity to do their religious ceremonies  asking God  for  His  Blessing. Effigies of the 10-headed  Ravana  are burnt  on Vijaya  Dasami emulating the killing of Ravana by Rama.

Again, it is said that the five Pandavas  after  completing their year’s service in Virata’s palace, took their arms from their hiding place in the sami tree (mimosa suma) on this day, fought against the Kauravas and finally defeating  them.

The joyous Navratri gets over with Goddess Durga’s Shakti (power) and wisdom being instilled in every devotee to courageously overcome our difficulties and sufferings facing life with her grace.

S N Singh

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Faith and culture are two different entities

Dear Editor,
I welcome the conversation roused by the letters Pt R Balbadar and and Shivanie Rampersaud in the Guyana Times.
Both letter writers were correct to state that I should have focused more on the Guyana scenario in addressing religious and cultural concerns, so I shall attempt to do so in this missive.
I’d like to raise some issues in those letters. Pt Balbadar stated: “Every Guyanese Hindu knows that Phagwah marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year” and “the Pandit mentions this name when reciting the samkalpa (resolution) before commencing every ritual”.
If one were to do a random sample of Hindus in Guyana, I doubt if five percent of them would know when the Hindu New Year begins, and the name of this New Year – even though the Pandit recites this samkalpa before commencing each ritual. It is rather whimsical and bizarre in noting the way Pt Balbadar defined religion and culture, as it pertained to the topic being addressed. It appears as if the Pandit pulled these definitions out of internet sites without considering the germaneness of the issues at hand.  The Pandit, for example, chose to garner the meaning of “culture” as it relates to Biology and Agriculture, rather than the Cultural Anthropology discipline. Instead, the Pandit Ji ought to have defined “religion” and “culture” as it pertains to the Phagwah discussion.
Simply put, “religion” refers to a set of beliefs as they relate to the worship of a God or a sacred entity; “culture”, on the other hand, refers to one’s social patterns – in terms of communication, festivals, music, the arts, customs, and a group’s unique cognitive constructs.
Religion and culture are not one and the same; they are two different entities. One group may have a different set of religious beliefs from another, but both parties may share a similar custom or culture.  In Guyana, for example, Christians and Hindus often clasp their hands when they pray, whereas Muslims often pray with their hands open.
(In India, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists generally take off their shoes before entering their holy places of worship. Also, Hindus and Buddhists often clasp their hands and bow towards their temple as they pass by, whether they travel by foot or by vehicle.)
Pt Balbadar has assumed what is popularly believed – that Christians in Guyana – irrespective of race or cultural background, should embrace the culture of the West.
I am grateful that missionaries have shared the Good News about Prabhu Yesu Masih (the Lord Jesus Christ). Unfortunately, these missionaries brought with them their cultural baggage, and imposed them on those who responded to the Good News.  So people in Guyana still think (like I did at one time) that to be a legitimate Christian, one has to worship Jesus Christ in the English language, wear a shirt and tie, and sing along with a guitar, steel pan and ‘rock’ drums.
(One must commend the Canadian Presbyterians in the 1950s and 60s – who were sensitive to the culture of the Indians with whom they worked. Consequently, the many Indians in British Guiana were ministered to in the Hindi language, and singing of bhajans was encouraged). I am not an expert on Islam, but I believe that Muslims are required to pray to Allah in the Arabic language, towards the Eastern direction, and with certain types of attire. The Christian faith does not have that type of restriction.
Though I’ve had the privilege of being exposed to a variety of music from the West, I feel most exhilarated worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ with a simple harmonium and dholak, or tabla.
I am ethnically and culturally Indian (I am not ashamed of it!), and I love to express my faith in God in a culture that I enjoy and am comfortable with. Some Christians, unfortunately, despise virtually everything Indian, and perceive every aspect of Indian culture as depraved or reprehensible.
Others, however, recognize that they do not need to throw out the baby with the bath water, and therefore could appreciate aspects of the Indian culture, including the spring festival, Phagwah, or the Hindustani (“Indian”) tradition of Raksha Bhandan (the celebration of brother/sister day).
It would be helpful in this conversation if the afore-mentioned letter writers could take time to define who (or what) is a Hindu. Also, how does one define Hinduism – where does it start, and where does it finish – in the realm of sanatan dharma? What sanskars of sanatan dharma are relevant and necessary for today’s Hindus in the South American continent?  What makes a good Hindu in Guyana? Does one need to “sing chautaals (praise of God), attend mandir (prayer) …visit homes and partake of sweetmeats (expression of love), smearing each other with colours” and read a religious story, as alluded by Pt Balbadar? And what makes for a categorical or consummate Hindu? Does one need to one need to read, write and speak in Hindi and sing bhajans? It is necessary to read and chant shlokas in Sanskrit?
Is it significant to pray some of the age-old Hindu prayers (from the Upanishad), or worship God with Indian instruments such as the harmonium, dholak, manjeera (used for chautaals), tabla and the sitar? I’ve done all of the above, th-ough none of it is absolutely necessary to actualize my Christian faith. So… am I not a Hindu? Is it, then, viable to be a Hindustani (Indian) Christian, and express one’s faith in a Hindustani comportment?
I look forward to answers to these questions.

Devanand Bhagwan

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