By Leonard Gildarie
For a long time, our people shied away from debate about racism. It was a tongue-in-cheek thing in whispered breaths. We refused to acknowledge that there is a problem. We acknowledged, though, that our people largely vote along racial lines when it comes to politics, and we left it there.
A recent incident involving a teen at the University of Guyana has awoken deep anger. The good thing is, it is coming from all sides.
I looked at it with deep disgust and the apology that came was a frightened one from the teen.
In the video, he hid money under a leaf and was waiting to see the first African Guyanese to pick it up. He said that Indian Guyanese do not do that.
The Facebook video went viral as the teen came in for a deluge from an angry populace. He attempted to apologise.
The University of Guyana criticized the video and, under pressure, there are attempts for the student to be sanctioned with suspension.
While the academics will have their takes, I will say this…there has to be a national conversation. We cannot afford to bury our head in the sand and pretend it is not happening.
Our populace is emerging as one that is very much aware and there is an awakening.
People are speaking out more and more now and the emergence of new parties, led by prominent persons, is testimony of how far we have come in talking about the issues.
Kaieteur News is a fiercely independent newspaper that is bothered not by who is in power. I have come in for my share of the blows. I take it all in stride.
We have wars being declared in the newsroom on issues and woe be unto a reporter that fouls up. I love the battleground.
I see changes in the way of thinking and some to our systems that tell me that we are maturing, albeit slowly. But the change is slow in some quarters in society.
There is still, on both sides of the political divide, the old guard who feel that they can control the minds of a few with a fiery speech.
Social media has thrown a big spanner in the works and the young, between 15-45, I would say, are now making choices for themselves.
That, to me, has changed the political ball game. People are slowly waking up to the fact that they have choices.
Those choices have to do with a better life with issues being dealt with, instead of which party my mother or father voted for.
As I looked at the UG teen, I could not but help wonder what sort of environment he is in that would think it cool to record then broadcast such a video.
There is a feeling that there are many more like that teen. That is frightening.
At a time when we should band together and make this country great, we allow ourselves to be distracted by these issues that should never have been.
I would like to talk to that teen to have an understanding, and I do hope he makes contact and we start the healing.
Suffice to say, we have to have a national conversation. This should never be who we are. We have resources bountiful and we should be preparing to reap our rewards and cater for our future generations.
For too long, we allowed a few to dictate to us while they lined their pockets or turned a blind eye to a few companies who have taken our wealth, leaving us with a pittance.
I cannot reconcile the fact we refuse to understand that we are in the drivers’ seat, and we are very much in control.
This brings us to another issue. For a while now, we have raising the glaring lapses of our national revenues. A country is managed with the taxes and other revenues raised from industries and sectors.
We receive income from gold; timber; sale of licences; payment of income, property, capital gains taxes, and now from oil and gas. The Government of the day has the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that the revenues are collected. When we bring a foreign investor to Guyana, the deal always has to close with the interest of Guyana in mind.
Why would you give billions of dollars in tax waivers and holidays and duty free concessions when our take is a mere few millions? There must be balance.
Why would you give concessions and not monitor them to ensure that there is no abuse. One company is reportedly abusing its fuel concessions. It is said to be selling to loggers and others, competing with Guyoil.
Are we sheep?
Natural resources in a country are not unlimited. They have to finish sometime.
When we look at the Middle East and other places where the dependency of revenues is pronounced, the checks and balances and monitoring mechanisms are there.
The US jails persons who evade taxes.
In Guyana, we have been careful of treating with our local and foreign investors who evade paying us our share because we are afraid of the employment that could be lost. We are threatened with pullouts. Nobody leaves a gold mine that is producing.
So yes, this is a chorus that will be played over and again until we realize that there is money here for us to use. We only have to collect it. It will pay for our roads and a new Demerara Bridge. It will pay for a more stable electricity system and better benefits for our pensioners. It will see better pay for public servants, teachers and nurses.
Yes, we cannot stop the preaching when it comes to demanding our fair share.
Our leaders must understand that we must benefit from our resources. The buck stops at them.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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