By Leonard Gildarie
Take a bow Guyana.
The maturity expressed on Friday at Umana Yana has to be lauded and as a people, we have to pat ourselves on the back.
Thirteen parties have submitted lists signaling their intentions to contest the March 2nd General and Regional Elections. There were no major incidents, and parties reported of even receiving handshakes and good-natured ribbing from the other sides.
It was serious business with GECOM’s chair, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh even speaking to reporters, promising a clean election.
The major issue I had was the blatant disrespect that the people that gathered had for the environment. Bottles, food boxes and even party paraphernalia littered the Kingston area. It was a painful sight and grim reminder that we are not learning.
It will by no means be a cakewalk in the park for the parties and the people of Guyana in the coming elections. It will take hard work, money and the convincing of a skeptical populace to change the mindset and a voting pattern that has been entrenched for decades.
There will have to be recognition of the fact that things have changed dramatically since 1992. That was the year that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic entered government after 28 years, riding on a popular wave.
The reign of the PPP/C ended in 2015. It would have been a slide noted in 2011 when the party and its civic partner lost the majority control of the National Assembly for the first time while in power.
Since 2015, things have changed dramatically. Guyana’s landscape is of oil and gas now. Scores of business have opened up. The waterfront properties are being snapped up for prices that were unheard of.
On Regent Street, the workers are mainly Venezuelans.
At the airport, the hundreds of foreigners are freely passing through on their journey to Brazil and other destinations.
Perhaps the biggest development is that ExxonMobil and its partners have announced a major oil discovery and have since managed to start production.
This game-changing development is major bonus for this country.
I have written countless times and will not stop on encouraging our contractor, ExxonMobil, to work with us on this one.
Guyana is blessed with resources. Our people are strong and have endured years of belt-tightening measures. So yes, we do have the staying power when it comes to making do with what we have.
The oil and gas are bonuses and we will have to be wise in how we spend.
Personally, I would like to see David Granger or Irfaan Ali and Bharrat Jagdeo leave a legacy that we can all be proud of.
It is impossible to think that we have no leaders here who would want to commission a natural gas-powered plant or a new Demerara River bridge during their tenure.
I would love to walk in a park that has statues and water fountains and swings and food stands. I would love to see roads that have bicycle paths and benches and bus stops that have lights.
We can dare dream and we can demand our leaders be accountable to us.
So this elections, the citizenry is much more wise and understand they have powers to demand our leaders do much better.
It would be on us to tell the world that we have matured from the days when Regent Street businesses locked their doors and barricaded windows during elections.
Let us send a clear message to the world that we are serious about a good life and that all hands are on deck.
While the preparations for elections would have riveted Guyana and the world to the news, there were a few side events happening that should be roundly criticized.
At the Timehri airport, a ramp attendant was reportedly fired last week, according to Kaieteur News, for delving in the luggage of a female passenger and stealing a large sum of money. The man was seen leaving the airport while he was supposed to be on duty. He reportedly later admitted the offence and was fired, but not before the passenger got back her money.
There were no charges because the passenger did not want to pursue the matter.
I recalled speaking, sometime back, to the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The state has the responsibility of pursuing charges when a crime has been committed. For example, if a driver kills someone, he cannot pay off the family of the victim and think the matter has ended. In fact, that is a separate matter and has no bearings on criminal part. It may be taken in mitigation during the sentencing phase.
We cannot pay off victims in lieu of sentencing. The prosecutors, on behalf of the state, and the DPP, have the responsibility to protect us. I would like to see how this plays out.
We cannot have our workers at the airports slipping items and valuables from bags of the passengers. There are cameras and protocols and I am, frankly, alarmed that it took a complaint before the airport authorities became aware that something happened.
I cannot have one individual or two sully our names. It cannot be par for the course.
We also take note of the Auditor General report for 2018.
There is a report of drugs being purchased in Berbice at more 1600 percent of the price, in one case.
There are reports of officials owning multiple homes and businesses, just after a few years in office at the regional administration.
These are not fly-by-night accusations.
We should be serious how our money is being spent and any attempts to cover it up will not be countenanced. The days when officials believed or knew they were above the law have long gone.
The back door is open and the bandits have taken advantage. Should we stand quietly in the corner because these are powerful people or should we tell them we are the bosses?
(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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