They chose me. I’m not alone, my country’s with me.
Last Wednesday evening, I tuned in to channel 9 to see Prime News. The screen screamed; “Up next, Prime News.” But it was taking a few minutes to come on. I used the remote to roam. I clicked to channel 6. I’m glad I did. There was a panel of senior employees from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) discussing taxation. I stood with my mouth and eyes wide open when one of the discussants said that property tax formed three percent of total taxes collected for last year.
The next day, I called Eton London, a former student of mine, and one of the persons on the programme. I wanted to be sure I heard right that it was three percent. He confirmed that she said it was three percent. Something is eerily wrong here.
A few years ago, the GRA bossman, Khurshid Sattaur sent me eight property tax forms with the demand that I had one week in which to submit them. I called him and we spoke. My point was that none of my colleagues at UG got them; in fact none of my friends in the wider society received them. Sattaur was his usual self. He questioned. “You don’t want to pay your taxes?”
Since then I have been paying property tax. Now readers need to know that the term is misleading. It is assets tax you are submitting, not property. You have to value all the assets you have. Important to note is that you cannot vary the value of the cars. If the car was a million dollars in 2000, you have to keep putting that amount each year on the form. For individuals, depreciation is not allowed by law. So when I total up my dead car, my daughter’s old car, my house, my savings in the bank, my books, electronic stuff and furniture, I pay property tax every year, including last week when we sent off our submission.
Now something is deadly wrong here. If I can pay property tax then surely the total intake cannot be three percent. If a poor church mouse like me can have assets whose value causes him to pay property tax then the complete collection cannot be three percent. One of the answers, of course, is that Khurshid Sattaur singled me out. He did not send out his demand to the other thousands that it should be going to.
In choosing to target me, Khurshid Sattaur did what Walter Willis and other public servants did last week outside of Parliament. But poor David Ramnarine is the only person that has to face an inquiry for a statement he made to the press.
Public servants (as we clearly saw last week) can openly picket in the streets but David Ramnarine cannot speak to the press. The head of the airport and Walter Willis were happy to speak to the press while in the picket line. Now if Willis, a senior public servant, can openly denounce the AFC in a street demonstration, why can’t David Ramnarine give a clarification on a police matter to the media?
Of course no one asked Sattaur why no one else at UG was sent the forms except me. But I filled them in and have been doing that every year since. I do it because though I know they have chosen me I will not be deterred. I accepted that a human rights crusade comes with consequences.
They chose only my contract at UG to terminate without reemployment. They chose only my house to leave the weeds in the trench. They chose only me to throw filth on. They chose my wife to hound her out of her public sector job. Jagdeo of course handed me a libel suit. They chose me to keep in the Brickdam lock-ups for three days for two minor traffic offences that carry a nominal fine. They chose me to publish a yearly three hundred letters on in the Chronicle.
Yes they chose me. But I carry on because I am not alone. I have Guyana with me.
I went to Wismar last Thursday to hear about the APNU sell out on the electricity tariff and I was welcomed. I went to join the protestors on the sugar estates last month and I was welcomed. I went to listen to the complaints of the people of Cane Grove on their dust problem, and I was welcomed. I joined the demonstration against the deplorable public road in Glasgow, Berbice, and I was welcomed. I sat with Michael Carrington on the open pavement in the middle of Stabroek Market square drinking a Malta and I was welcomed. Yes they chose me.
But I listen everyday to the Charlie Chaplin song “Smile” and I keep faith with the Guyanese people.