I can distinctly remember that hot night back in May 1966. The mood was festive. Practically all the citizens of New Amsterdam were heading to the compound of the then District Commissioner Office at Republic Road (Backdam Road as it was more known) to witness the lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the Golden Arrowhead.
It was a proud moment for Berbicians who travelled from distant towns and villages to witness the symbolic severing of the chains from the British. On my approach to the flag site I could hear this very rich pan music in the air which I thought was coming from a juke box (for the youths that was what it was called then).
Up close I saw it was a large steel band playing some of the sweetest pan music I have ever heard. The Band was from Trinidad, a gift from the Trinidad Government to help celebrate Guyana’s Independence. Today I still associate Guyana’s Independence with rich music of that band.
Guyanese in the Diaspora will be celebrating Guyana’s 45th Independence Anniversary in various parts of the U.S.A. Celebrations are being held in Orlando, Florida; Atlanta Georgia as well as New York. This celebration is also an opportune time to reflect on the progress the country has made.
There is little doubt in my mind and I am sure to a great number of Guyanese in the Diaspora that the country went backwards under the some 27 years of P.N.C rule. Some may want to argue otherwise but the record of the PNC was one of a total collapse of the economy, the infrastructure as well as the sugar and rice industry, not to mention the devaluation of the Guyana dollar which when the PNC came to power was at the exchange rate of USD$1 to G$2.50.
President Bharrat Jagdeo, in an address to the nation on the 45th anniversary of Independence, highlighted the strides the country has made under his leadership and from the PPP as a whole for the past 19 years.
Some achievements by the PPP are indisputable, to quote the President “over the past five years, our transportation network has been enriched by the Berbice, the Takutu Bridge, an international airport at Ogle, stellings, roads and canals”.
With elections due in the coming months, Mr. Jagdeo made a pitch for the reelection of a PPP Government. He stated, “We are poised for the next era if we choose to create it; that means staying the course.” Translated, you need to reelect the PPP if progress is to continue.
There are parts of his speech that many Guyanese will take issue with, which comes down to if the PPP practices what it preaches. He felt that a Government should only be elected by democratic means, true, but democracy does not end there, when elected Guyanese expect the government to function in a democratic way, which some feel is a shortcoming of the PPP.
“The economy is one of the strongest in the Caribbean,” he said. This might be so, but at the rate Guyanese are trying to migrate one would hardly notice. “Most up to date health standards in the world,” the President said.
Why then do so many people flock to private hospitals, including Government Ministers?
When I visit Guyana I make it a point to have travel insurance to MediVac me out of Guyana if necessary. Travel advisory sites also suggest travelers to Guyana take out travel insurance.
What got my attention in the President’s speech was his reference to the media. “The media should be the scourge of the corrupt, the lazy, and those who break the law.” Really? Is the President serious? I thought that is what Kaieteur News has been doing all along, and get “cussing down” by the President for doing so. How ironic.
People who criticize the government (which is their democratic right) are sometimes subject to vindictiveness from some in the government. Kaieteur News has done its part to expose “the corrupt, the lazy and those who break the law”. The larger question is whether the Jagdeo has enforced the law against the corrupt officials who break the law? It’s back to the old Guyanese saying. “Mouth-R and guitar ah two different ting.”
For the younger folks it means you do not practice what you preach.
One of the issues I would have liked the President to emphasize on was the question of the racial divide. True, he spoke about “artificial divisions of ethnicity” and that “no Guyanese should be judged because of their race, religion or the way they live their lives.”
I may tend to agree that the racial divide is not as deep-rooted as some may claim, but the question is, “How far has the Guyanese society come to close this gap in the last 45 yrs of Independence?”
There is no easy answer; views will go the full spectrum on this topic.
Beside making superficial statements no Guyanese politician be it PPP or PNC has made any serious attempt to bridge this gap. Come election time they all retreat to their base which is based on race. An exception to this might be the AFC.
I have said before that regardless of all the progress the government has made it the little matters that affect the daily lives of the ordinary people that matters. This is especially true when it comes to service to the public from Government agencies.
PPP presidential candidate, Donald Ramotar, apparently recognized this when he spoke to business leaders recently. He promised that a “future PPP/C government will work towards eliminating most of the bureaucratic logjams”
A future PPP government? I should remind Mr. Ramotar that the PPP has been in power for some 19 years, enough time to improve service to the Guyanese public.
I would like to point to the registration of motor vehicles. Now who is the fool that came up with this idiotic system of renewing motor vehicles only on a few days of the year, not to mention the great distances people have to travel in order to do so?
Guyana has tens of thousands of motor vehicles. One does not have to be a “rocket scientist” to know that it a stupid system.
This is the kind of problem the PPP can address now, and not a future PPP Government. These are the little frustrations in life that the government throws at its citizens, that can make a difference when the public get its opportunity to elect a government.
By the way, I can renew my vehicle registration in Florida in less than a minute.
Ralph Seeram can be reached at email: [email protected]
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