Oct 20, 2020 Letters
As an old man and a citizen of Guyana in self-exile, I still feel that I ought to comment on certain tendencies in Guyanese society and its governance as they appear to me. I write always, subject to correction and the fair judgment of those living in the situation at home. I give notice that my next letter will be a partly critical review of the investigation into the killings in Berbice between September 6 and 10, 2020.
It seems that certain individuals were recently charged with offences relating to the March 2nd General and Regional elections. My first comment is somewhat self-serving. A certain journalist began calling on me from about the 2nd week of March 2020 to condemn certain electoral officials suspected of committing electoral offences. This journalist did not understand why I will not allow myself the liberty of condemning persons on the basis of facts and allegations best known to persons dealing with them. I am glad that I did not fall for the flattery of the journalist. If I had, I may have been summoned as a witness. Today, after seven months, the Police, the aggrieved parties and prosecuting agencies are still making final and refining charges against the persons concerned or suspected to be involved. I note that the word “conspiracy” has been mentioned in connection with the charges.
Voices have been raised against the type of treatment handed down to the women seen by the authorities as suspects. Without any idea of their involvement, I see the treatment these women have received from the police as a version of that received by women recently brutalized and killed almost as some kind of pastime.
I listened to a complaint or protest by the current Leader of the Opposition in Parliament who named two Ministers as “inserting themselves” into the Police investigation process in order to intimidate women suspects and put them under duress when they exercise their right not to make statements. The Ministers named have not responded to the accusations by the Leader of the Opposition. However, they should know that what they have been accused of is abuse of power that is in conflict with the responsibilities of the office they hold. I hope that those who speak and write publicly in Guyana and profess an interest in democracy and “the rule of law” will not allow these Ministers to remain silent and unaccountable. The calypsonian and reggae artists would not be silent at such an abuse of power. More recently, the Head of State speaking at an official teach-in, uttered an appeal to “brothers and sisters of Success” engaged in squatting on lands which he claimed to be the property of Guysuco. The Head of State appealed to them to “do things the right way.” He assured them that if they applied in the proper way they would, by the end of the PPP’s five-year term of office, be awarded land of their own with bankable documents. These brothers and sisters are among those who have had their squatters’ holdings flooded out by Guysuco. I leave aside the question whether, as Minister of Housing, the President had done things right in creating Pradoville 2. Those who think that he had not done things the right way took measures which included personal humiliation of former office holders, but which did not include the flooding out of Pradoville 2. I recall also that Guysuco itself had squatted on lands since the 1840s belonging to the villagers of Sparendaam.
If the landless brothers and sisters of Success, as people without status, seized unoccupied land for housing without depriving individual plot holders, they were in good company. The people of Bachelors Adventure know that, for over one hundred years, the sugar companies have squatted on their land and left them without the typical backdam for farming.
Finally, listening to the exchanges between public service workers in the frontline of the Health Ministry’s effort to contain Covid-19, I heard the Head of State, to whom I listened attentively, question – for the first time – the “affordability” of any item he has discussed. He warned the workers that their demands would have to pass the test of affordability. It is good to know.
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