In my column of Tuesday, June 11, headlined, “Two incidents in one week tell the story of Guyana’s demise,” I argued that we will never have a future, because “party politics, ethnic loyalty and personal friendship have dominated the exercise of power from Independence right up to this moment in time.” This malady becomes frightening when one adds to it the psychic disintegration of the population.
My continuous contestation in thirty years of being a newspaper columnist is that there is a psychic breakdown in the citizenry of Guyana, which I date from the Burnham-Rodney confrontation in the seventies, and the society has failed pathetically in attempts at psychological resuscitation. The people of this country have been permanently damaged. The eradication of the soul is complete in this society. The psychic affliction cuts across age, culture, religion, party politics and race.
Guyanese conceptualization of life and its meaning is tragically flawed. Out of this psychic miasma comes a fixed nihilism that is coterminous with mental resignation, mediocre vision, arid imagination, and human insensitivity. There are everyday attitudes in Guyana across the population that are simply incomprehensible. In trying to make an efficacious comparison with other barren countries, Guyana’s nihilism and irrationality simply have no parallel in international society.
For me, one of the situations that developed in this country over the past three years has left me in no doubt whatsoever, that this society is beyond redemption.
I refer to the University of Guyana under the post-2015 Vice Chancellor (VC), Ivelaw Griffith. Dr. Griffith is gone. He declined renewal of contract after torrid confrontations (one can say exposures) with the unions. But the story of Griffith and Guyana is a sad one that tells a tragic tale of a society that lacks the capacity to think for itself and to think as a modern nation. The Ivelaw Griffith/UG situation simply has no parallel elsewhere on Planet Earth.
During the debate on contract renewal for Griffith and after his departure, there were and there are statements in defence of Griffith in the face of oceans of facts of maladministration and financial recklessness that bring into sharp focus the psychically destructive people we have become. Mr. Christopher Ram described in a letter to the press how he was appointed chairman of the UG audit committee, but the VC undermined the committee’s work, and it never was allowed to do an audit of the three years that Griffith was VC. Ram said there was no audit of UG’s business under Griffith.
The unions reported that the UG administration refused its call for a forensic audit after they claimed dozens and dozens of millions were wasted on extravagant spending while the university facilities were shockingly deficient. The chairman of Transparency International Guyana Inc., Dr. Troy Thomas, said on television that when Griffith undertook to rent a high-rise building for UG at a cost of six million monthly, Griffith named a commercial bank that would rent two levels, but no research could provide information on the bank.
Yet there were business representatives and governmental appointees on the UG council that voted to retain Griffith amidst these allegations. When the allegations were to be investigated in an audit approved by the Ministry of Education, these very business and government members of the UG council, voted to retain Griffith. They also voted to renew Griffith’s contract while an official evaluation of his three-year tenure was being prepared.
Is this the way these private sector people and governmental officials administer their respective spheres? What kind of society is Guyana in the 21st century, when a state institution invested with billions and billions of taxpayers’ money can have a CEO facing an audit and an evaluation process, and his contract is to be renewed before the audit and evaluation are done? Is this Guyana in the 21st century? Isn’t this a violation of commonsense? Isn’t it normal in all countries that the head of an institution will have to wait to see how his work was assessed and what the audit into his administration reveals before he is allowed to continue?
I never met Ivelaw Griffith, even when we were students at UG in the seventies. I never met with or spoke to Dr. Griffith while he was VC, but I have always taken a keen interest in what takes place at UG, and I was convinced in my mind that something was deadly wrong with his approach to UG, which to my mind was extremely dangerous and destructive.
To think we are a poor country, yet UG has an administrative/bureaucratic structure that per capita is the largest among universities worldwide. And eminent folks were happy with that. God has deserted this land!
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