By Ralph Seeram
My cell phone beeped and the text message flashed across the screen “great New Amsterdam article, Kaieteur News, New York edition”. This text message surprised me, not because of the comment from the reader, but rather because it was sent to my cell phone.
As far as I knew I only gave my email address to readers of Kaieteur News. Someone obviously made an effort to obtain my cell phone number, and really any one who is a little savvy on the internet can easily get this information.
It turns out that it was my old friend, Jack, with whom I have lost contact with for quite a numbers of years. Jack and I were very close back in Guyana. Speaking to Jack on the phone the conversation quickly turned to Guyana. Now I left Guyana some thirty years ago and Jack, maybe about twenty-five years ago.
Now that’s a very long absence from the country. We practically lived more than half of our lives abroad but we still refer to Guyana as our country. It is always “back home”. After migrating so long one wonders why should we in the Diaspora care what happens in Guyana.
This topic came up due to a visit to my office by a friend of mine who said he came to give me a “cuss down” for some of my articles. Now my friend is a well connected PPP supporter, in fact he is highly connected to the PPP and its Government.
It would appear that the perception is I do not write favorably about the Government. My friend questioned who in the Diaspora I represent, who I am speaking for in the Diaspora. Funny thing was I was sitting in front my computer reading some email responses from readers in the Diaspora.
Readers not only express their views on my pieces but go to give their take on the situation in Guyana, and the majority of those Guyanese are not happy with the way things are in Guyana.
Now I would like to reiterate that I have no position or allegiance to any political party in Guyana. I don’t live in Guyana and I don’t vote in Guyana. In fact, the last two elections held while I was in Guyana, I did not vote. It would have been a waste of my time, because I knew that the election was a complete farce.
I do not even support the idea that Guyanese abroad should vote. That should be left to the people who reside in the country. However, while we should not have a vote, it should not preclude us from not having a say. After all, the image of Guyana abroad, be it negative or positive reflects on us as Guyanese.
Coming back to the “cuss down” from my friend. He pointed out all the positive things the PPP Government has done, and for which I have given the Jagdeo administration credit in previous columns. You cannot take away the economic progress the country has made.
The currency has been stable, there has been remarkable progress in housing and infrastructure, and roads etc. And let us not forget my favourite, the Berbice River Bridge.
I agreed with Jack and my PPP supporter, with all the above mentioned progress. And by the way my PPP friend has demonstrated his confidence in the Government by making substantial investments in Guyana.
A senior Guyanese politician told me that despite what progress the government makes, if the Diaspora should stop sending remittances, the entire Guyanese economy will collapse.
The fact that Guyanese abroad sends enormous sums of money to Guyana, shows that they are concerned about the country, after all who are they sending the funds to? For the most part it’s their relatives who they care for. Therefore it should be no surprise to those in power when they are criticized by the Diaspora for what they (Diaspora) perceive to be irregularities within the Government.
Despite all the great things the PPP Government can boast about, the party’s inherent weakness can be summed up in three overused words” transparency and accountability”, three word that are the mains ingredients in a functioning democracy.
We in the Diaspora are exposed to democracy that some of us never experienced, and we look for the same standard in Guyana, especially when a Government boasts of democracy in Guyana.
Where I live in Florida, there is something called “The Sunshine Law”. Simply stated it means that no politician be it at state, county or local government level, can discuss any “backroom deals”. It gives the public the right to inspect and copy all public documents, and it is the duty of that agency to make those documents available.
If an official refuses to give access to the documents he or she could be jailed for up to a year. Some politicians who attempted “backroom deals” have been jailed.
This law basically states that Government must be accountable to the people. The public has a right to know how Government officials at all levels, spend tax payers dollars, and make decisions affecting their lives.
As such the principles of open Government must guide everything done in Government for its public.
So when persons like me express our thoughts and beliefs on what we think is right or wrong in Guyana, it is because we feel as the American Civil Liberties Union said, “a transparent Government is an honest Government”.
As a parting thought I leave you readers with this quote from James Madison “a popular Government without popular information or means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both”.
Powerful words. Do you know how long ago Madison uttered those words? Over two hundred years ago.
Ralph Seeram can be reached at email: [email protected]
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