By Leonard Gildarie
One has got to love this country. A little more than 50 years old, young still, it is pushing itself to the limits. We have grown remarkably as a people in commerce and eking out a living from little. The ‘70s and ‘80s were not kind, but it built a resistance in us that made what came after a bonus.
When we look to Trinidad and Tobago, a country that is so similar to us in many respects, we have to be thankful. It is way smaller, but boasts a population that is about 90 percent more than us. Its love for soca and chutney, dance and steel-pan is mirrored by us too.
However, that country has grown leaps and bounds because of its century-old oil and gas industry. Using the proceeds, it has built up the infrastructure, with modern highways and even hotels. It has invested in the arts and culture.
Today, T&T has run out of oil and is short on foreign currency. Its companies are coming to Guyana for work and even the precious foreign exchange. Crime has reached the highest per capita in this part of the world.
I was told on Friday that several lawyers from that country were sworn in, in Guyana, to practise. They want a piece of the oil and gas action. The tables have turned and we may have to be thankful and indeed T&T has the experience.
Guyana, on the other hand, thanks to relentless warnings from local media, led by Kaieteur News, has been attempting to make the right moves, including learning from best p
ractices from other countries.
However, while the country is head on track for production in offshore wells later this year, a major game-changer for our fortunes, it has all been overshadowed by happenings, especially in the local political arena.
On December 21st, Charrandass Persaud, a parliamentarian for the Coalition Government went down in the history books when he decided to join with the Opposition and say yes in a no-confidence motion. That vote was challenged in the High Court and deemed to have been valid. It then went to the Court of Appeal where three judges – two of them women – were given the tough decision to determine that vote.
On Friday, it went down to the wire. Two women decided that the vote was not carried properly.
Guyana knows the situation. For three months, our country stood at a standstill in a battle between two forces that would have had no winners, except leaving a hapless Guyana.
We still have not learnt what it is that matters most.
The People’s Progressive Party, in Opposition, has another shot of having the matter reviewed – at the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Here is the thing. The Government will be operating business as usual, to use their words.
There will be a Cabinet of Ministers which has authority to make decisions. We will have to assume that the current status quo will continue until we have another elections, Constitutionally scheduled for next year. So the big question will have to be: what happens in the interim?
We have a golden opportunity to attempt to hold one head to ensure we make the right decisions. The world must see a unified Guyana. The diplomatic community has been calling for it. The Carter Center has urged it. The developments in the courts must not be seen in a negative light.
We have two women – a Chief Justice and the Chancellor – both not confirmed as yet, but both have been placed in the positions by the current Coalition Government. The CJ decided that vote was carried. The Chancellor did not agree.
Before that, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland, ruled that the vote was passed. At the Court of Appeal, the decisions were split.
For me, these are heartening times. We have people who are thinking independently and not afraid to do so. This is the maturity we have been talking about. We don’t have to agree with the decisions. Our leaders have to grab these opportunities and rise above the fray.
In other news, in the Upper Berbice area, Rusal workers are also celebrating. They have taken on a giant of a company and won…well in some ways.
For five weeks, they dug in their heels and refused to move from Rusal’s Aroaima premises as a standoff over a one-percent pay took a turn for the worse. While government attempted to diffuse the situation and Rusal would not budge, the workers placed barriers across the Berbice River to prevent any of the bauxite ships from leaving or entering. The standoff effectively blocked other economic activities including logging along the river.
There are some wins also to take away from this.
The government has planted its feet squarely on the ground and demanded that a bully of a company respect our laws.
Rusal has to understand it can lose from what has been a lucrative arrangement for them.
The momentum has shifted to the Guyana side and Rusal has to play ball. For the workers on Friday, the victory was bittersweet. Some 91 of them will get back their jobs, but without pay for the five weeks they have been off.
For the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers’ Union, which was derecognized by Rusal a decade ago, the reinstatement of the workers and the decision by the company to sit at table would also be seen as a major accomplishment.
So there you have it. Two different situations – one political and one labour – that have reset the history books. We will have to decide if it was the better or the worse.
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