Almost all my life I have been hearing people say that everyone has a conscience and that conscience could haunt for a very long time. It is the conscience that makes people confess to crimes; lie awake almost all night and cause people to toss and turn; allow a culprit to return stolen articles and even forces people to apologise, no matter how long it takes.
It was the conscience of the descendants of the slave traders that caused the countries that perpetrated the slave trade to apologise to the victims of slavery. The conscience of the Americans caused them to give a lot back to Japan at the end of the Second World War.
The war was coming to an end and the Americans wanted to hasten that end. The result was that two atomic bombs were dropped on two Japanese cities—Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These were small bombs by today’s standards, but the devastation was horrendous. The effects were equally horrendous to the point that for fifty years the survivors were mocked.
People who wore coloured clothing had the image of the colour scheme etched for life on their skin; the fallout from cancer was mindboggling. The conscience of the Americans caused them to rebuild Japan and today that country is one of the world leaders.
I have had my touches of conscience. I had cause to discipline my children from time to time and on every occasion when they came to me after the episode in all innocence, my conscience would prick me. It is often said that children bear no malice toward parents and to this day, speaking for my children, I firmly believe this.
What brought on this rambling? A friend with whom I had been sharing information on a number of issues told me about an incident in 1986. He was then an activist of the now ruling People’s Progressive Party and he carried deep inside him a naked dislike for the People’s National Congress. The very People’s National Congress had sent him on a medical scholarship but in his mind, Forbes Burnham had done a lot of damage to the country in general and to people of East Indian ancestry in particular.
So it was that when the now dead President Desmond Hoyte walked up to this young man to shake his hand, the young man turned his back on the president and walked away. I cannot say when this happened and this episode might have been unknown to many.
Almost thirty years later, this young man made a simple request of me. He asked me to tell this story and to express his apology to Desmond Hoyte. Why now? The young man said that many things have happened to make him regret his action that day in 1986.
Of course, he remained a valued member of the ruling People’s Progressive Party, working to ensure first of all, that the party assumed the reins of power and then working to ensure that the party remain in power. But a lot changed during the Jagdeo years.
My friend ran into Jagdeo’s friends and his experience was not pleasant. He spoke of an incident when he sought to buy an asset that has been in the news a lot these days. At the same time, Kaieteur News was peeling the veil from the corruption that was wracking the country. The newspaper was highlighting the faulty contracts, the suspicious transactions; the cases of people being paid to do a job and not doing anything except to walk away with the money.
Kaieteur News also focused on the people who seemed to support corrupt activities. Reporters would approach some of the decision-makers with questions to some of the things happening and would be given the royal runaround. And while all this was happening, this one-time activist was taking notice.
Habits die hard. When he came up against one of Jagdeo’s friends, although he was in a better position to close the deal, he was denied because Jagdeo refused to approve of a simple request. This young man’s mind went back to the day he turned his back on Desmond Hoyte.
The elections of 2011 came and went and all eyes were now on the new kid on the block, Donald Ramotar. My publisher, Glenn Lall, was one of the people who expected great things from Ramotar. Just recently, he said that he was disillusioned. He was not alone. He had my young friend right on his heels.
The young man said to me that when Ramotar came into office he, the young man, expected to see some change. Instead, he said that he saw Ramotar install almost the same Cabinet that served Jagdeo and facilitated rampant corruption. He said that such a Cabinet retention is unusual.
When Jagdeo took over from Sam Hinds, who was the transition president when Janet Jagan opted to quit, he made sweeping changes in his administration. He wanted his own people to carry out his programme. Other leaders have always done the same thing.
My friend reminded me that when Desmond Hoyte came to office he swept the Burnham list clean. Among the casualties were the high profile Hamilton Green, Elvin McDavid, Kester Alves and people like Steve Naraine and Ranji Chandisingh. Cammie Ramsaroop was also touched and he opted to resign rather than serve at the political level.
Ramotar has done no such thing, showing that he is prepared to walk in Jagdeo’s shadows. My friend said that he saw Hoyte come after Burnham and try to eradicate some of the negative aspects of the Burnham administration. The absence of any such action by Ramotar pricked my friend’s conscience. He said that he realized that he was unfair to Desmond Hoyte.
A pity his conscience did not allow him to apologise in person to Desmond Hoyte.
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