Aug 24, 2013 Editorial
There are some things that make a country look bad to people on the inside. In some countries there are myriad beggars—so many that people visiting those countries or reading about them conclude that it is a nation of beggars.
India is the world’s largest democracy; it is a rich country and has more millionaires than even the United States, has some of the richest sportsmen in the world and some of the most spectacular pieces of architecture in the world, including the Taj Mahal. But for all this, the reports of widespread poverty and the numerous beggars in some cities give the impression that India is really poor.
Africa cannot escape the reputation of a nation of loin-clothed people running around in the desert, largely because of the image perpetrated by the various movies on the continent. More recently, Nigeria has been presented as a nation of crooks. There have been those scammers who use the electronic media to invite people to share non-existent unclaimed millions.
Guyana is developing the reputation as a country with some of the most violent people. Scarcely a day goes by without the local media reporting some crime. In recent weeks there have been at least three murders per week; a robbery every day and some other form of violence against innocent people. To make the situation even more sinister, the country has less than one million people.
Indeed there are other countries that report an even higher level of violence. Trinidad for example, has seen nearly three times as many murders as Guyana in the same period of reporting. However, Trinidad is not seen as a violent place because its politicians clampdown heavily on these indicators that determine the perception of the country.
This may sound strange but it is true. People respond to the manner the state deals with important issues. Take corruption for example. Just recently, the media latched on to the irregularities of a leading politician, Jack Warner, and the government took action. Indeed there were people who wanted this politician to remain in office so they promptly voted overwhelmingly for him in a recent by-election.
But even before this, Trinidad caused some leading politicians to be charged with a major scam involving the airport. Indeed, the country even permitted the extradition of these men to stand trial in the United States, but they appealed and avoided being extradited.
But the world noticed the government’s efforts to deal with corruption in its midst and therefore saw the country in an amazing light. There are no known diplomatic warnings to citizens travelling to the twin-island republic.
Shift to Guyana and suddenly the diplomatic missions are warning their people to avoid certain parts of the capital. From time to time, the heads of the missions have had to intervene in political issues, to comment on corrupt practices and to make money available for some routine things. Just this past week the world saw people from inside the United States embassy removing garbage.
In any country the task of clearing garbage is the responsibility of the country. These things therefore add up to give the country a negative image. To make matters worse, no one has even been prosecuted for acts of corruption.
People took note and voted to avoid Guyana. Of course the government blamed the media for highlighting the crime situation. Perhaps the government was saying that visitors may come and be preyed upon.
Then people begin to see the wanton killings and the stupid road accidents. A minibus with family members is piloted by an idiot. He opts to speed, then to challenge anyone who would pass him on the streets. He crashes and one of his passengers dies. The world sits up and takes notice.
Forget the armed robberies and the lack of arrests and Guyana’s image is still lower than many other countries. And one cannot forget the reaction to politicians who go against the law. They are untouchable and this does nothing to aid the reputation of the country.
Guyana needs a total revamp.
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