By Leonard Gildarie
Over the years, I have had a growing fondness for my passport. I always saw it as a blank cheque to a piece of this country – a stake. I jealously guard it.
As the days go and years roll on, the thoughts about my mortality and achievements would surface every so often. I am never more convinced than now, that I want to spend my last days here. This country is mine.
My work at Kaieteur News has not been easy. I swear it is becoming more challenging.
By asking the hard questions, we have made some good friends and closed some doors that once were open. People are upset. But that comes with the territory and I have long recognized this.
We have a serious problem with skills and discipline in this country when it comes to work ethics. While we have been complaining of jobs not being available, the rice folks will tell you of a shortage in labour. GuySuCo will tell you of the turnout at the estates – about 60 percent.
All of the media houses will tell you of the difficulties in finding reporters and editors.
The complaints will extend to almost all of Guyana. I heard one rice miller complaining bitterly and contemplating whether to apply for labour to be brought in.
I was in Trinidad between July and August, and the oil folks there had one bit of advice…for us to pressure our government for money to be plunged into training to improve our capacity.
The oil era is upon us. We have to change, very quickly, for us to be on par with the rest of the world. We have to strive for the highest quality of customer service.
I will tell you a story that happened Friday. I am contemplating calling the Police Commander.
A Diamond resident called me and demanded I visit his home. I have known him for a long time and he was angry. I went across. The businessman was upset that his father, in his 70s, was harassed by the police. Police ranks are stopping drivers who are turning at the Diamond intersection, just north of the DSL branch. They are insisting that it is a no turning zone. The problem is that there is no sign and no one can recall a sign ever being there.
The senior citizen was stopped while turning. He lives a block away and has been turning that area for years now. He was told by police that he had turned at a no turning area and was ordered to the police station.
I recalled all too distinctly the Traffic Chief and the Commissioner of Police making it clear that all drivers who breach the road laws, and can be issued a ticket, should be issued one. There is no need to go to the station.
Why would you ask a 78-year-old man to go to the station and sit on a bench? What are we doing to our people?
Needless to say, I was told that his family came and “spoke” to the officers and he was let go. You can define what “spoke” entailed.
I called the police station and spoke to a female inspector and expressed my deep displeasure. I told her that police ranks should not escort drivers to the station for ticketing offences.
It was clear the inspector was hurrying to get me off the phone. She was convinced that nothing like that happened. So the question is: did she work a full 72 hours in the last few days? Because that was when the alleged incident happened.
From all I have said there, it was the tone of the inspector that upset me the most. People are scared to speak up, and a few rogue cops have been taking advantage of this. When complaints are made to the authorities and that sort of condescending tone seeps in, it is time to start some shake-ups in the Police Force.
The need for our people to start looking out for this country cannot be underscored enough.
This week I sat and listened to Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge, meeting with editors on the Venezuela territorial controversy. I agree with him. Patriotism has to be shown. We have to hold one head and show Venezuela that we are not afraid. We may not have war planes or nukes, but our voices are loud.
This past week, my phone was ringing off the hook. Kaieteur News and Stabroek News published an advertisement. It was discouraging businesses from investing in Guyana. That advertisement struck a deep chord and my heart soared after hearing the anger from the private sector and a few ministers.
I spoke to management of Kaieteur News as I too was worried. I am being told that both newspapers faced a dilemma – to refuse the ad and face a possible legal action – or carry it. The issue is one of freedom of expression versus patriotism.
The timing of the ad was deliberate – to embarrass GO-Invest with the current hosting of oil and gas summit.
GO-Invest on Friday said that it was aware of the identity of the businessman. He allegedly threatened them last week to publish the ad. Apparently the businessman was not too happy with his treatment at GO-Invest. I gather too, he is not from here.
The fact is that GO-Invest and this government have been reading the riot act when it comes to adhering to regulations. We can’t give out tax and other concessions willy nilly. The laws are clear. There are checks and balances in place to monitor what is happening.
We can recall the issues with a few investors, including Chinese-owned BaiShanLin, and others.
Concessions, taxes and otherwise, are important to attract investments. However, countries have to be careful that in granting these concessions, we don’t give away our benefits.
In other words, every investment must bring some benefit to the country and these must be granted in an even-handed manner.
GO-Invest is convinced that the businessman was seeking to blackmail it – economic sabotage was how it was described. If it is indeed true that the businessman was attempting to blackmail GO-Invest for concessions, then it is a sad day. This is not how our country operates. The time is different now. There is new breeze blowing. There is no place for people like this in the business arena.
The placement of that ad has served to galvanize us. We do have hope.
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