By Leonard Gildarie
I viewed with deep alarm the happenings in recent weeks at our educational institutions. This is the third week that we are forced to delve into this issue.
It started with reports of a gun threat, claimed to be in jest, that led to the immediate expulsion of a student of the School of the Nations.
Immediately, there were other online threats that led to parents panicking and a week-long closure of that school on New Market Street. Some parents started looking for other schools.
It was a huge blow to a private school that offers MBA programmes and caters to parents who want their children in an environment that offers a better quality of education than the public schools. Then the unthinkable happened.
The principal of the school, Dr. Brian O’Toole was ambushed and shot at his home. It is strongly believed that the threats and the shooting were linked.
Following that incident, it appeared that either the same perpetrator(s) or a copycat, threatened on social media to harm persons at Queen’s College and The Bishops’ High. Fortunately, nothing came out of it and the police swept both schools and came up empty handed.
However, the madness did not stop.
Last week, two bomb threats to the University of Guyana led to the institution suspending classes for the rest of the week until improved security measures could be introduced.
On Friday, Guyana learnt that a female student, the niece of a politician, was detained the day before for allegedly making the bomb threats to UG. We will not comment on the investigation as police are still probing the matters. Suffice to say, the actions in the last few weeks are tantamount to terrorism. They should be regarded as such.
UG, I understand, has over 5,000 students plus hundreds of staffers. There are canteens, taxis and minibuses that depend on the operations of UG. It is hub of activities. To shut it down with a simple phone call cannot be a prank. To do it twice, has to be terrorism.
Terrorism is described as the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political or religious aims.
We are a diverse society. We will never be able to agree all the time with each other.
At work, I battle my publisher, my editors and other colleagues all the time on issues. It comes with the territory. I don’t do a bomb threat. We talk or argue. It is what civilized people do.
Something is happening to our people and it is not healthy.
A strong message has to be sent that this country, and its people, are peaceful. We will not tolerate the perpetuation of mass violence, as evident from those threats to the schools and UG.
Wherever the leads go, the police have to solve them.
In recent weeks also, there is news of an aggressive buying up of properties across the land.
The oil and gas activities are steaming forward and we are likely preparing for production before year-end. Several companies have started collaboration with overseas ones. These are strategic links to offer service for oil production.
ExxonMobil has acquired lands at Ogle for a local office, complete with amenities, including helipads.
Schlumberger is here and has bought over the Gafoors’ wharf at Houston, settling up its tanks.
At McDoom, Mohamed’s Trading has entered into a partnership to offer storage services. A huge swath of land has been cleared and developed for this.
There are reports of lands being purchased in an aggressive manner by Middle Eastern concerns.
There is a major problem here. Our capital city is fast running out of space. It has been recommended that we move to higher ground to counter the rising sea levels, due to climate change. However, that is easier said than done. We don’t have the money.
A significant swath of our wharfing areas has been sold for oil activities. Soon, despite our coming oil monies, there will be little left. We are planning to build another Demerara River Bridge. We need the legroom for the expansions that will be needed.
It is a fact that many countries are careful about how lands are being utilized. We are moving in that direction. However, while we are talking about it, things are happening on the ground.
You can’t head to China and buy up lands like that. Neither is it that easy for foreigners to own properties in Trinidad and Tobago.
I lived in Sint Maarten, a part-Dutch Caribbean island where migrants are jostling for space with locals. The locals have had the wisdom to largely hold on to their properties, using them to rent to migrants. It worked out nicely.
The point is that many countries have developed policies to protect against exploitation. There is absolutely nothing wrong in it. It should be considered part of local content.
From all indications, ExxonMobil will not be the only one finding oil. Other investors will come.
We welcome them, but there has to be a clear policy that will ensure that our legacies are protected and we get the bang for our buck.
The ideal scenario is more partnerships and other forms of strategic alliances.
We have much work to do and this current political turmoil, as brought on by the no-confidence vote, has not been helping.
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