Let me adumbrate my philosophy about society which I cling to inflexibly. A society’s people must be concerned first and foremost with the existence of the comprehensive package of rights, freedoms and justice and the frequency with which people have these values.
All other dimensions of society are of lesser importance than this holistic picture. One can tell if a society is philosophically dead and spiritually bankrupt by the silence that greets the non-existence of these values or the violations of rights and freedoms.
I read an editorial in the Stabroek News last Sunday about civil society, and after reading it, I wondered if the person that wrote it is a dentist or botanist or lives outside of Guyana. The person who wrote it cannot be someone familiar with the following areas in the study of Guyanese society – sociology, history and political economy.
Here is the part of that editorial that literally stunned me. I have studied this country since I was a 16-year-old kid working in the Michael Forde Bookstore, stealing philosophy books like Plato’s The Republic and going home to read till my eyes popped out of my forehead. I was 16 years old a long, long, long time ago and have been studying the countless dimensions of my country since then, yet there are things in Guyana that I should know and don’t know.
It was not until Sunday, October 25, in the year 2020 in a Stabroek News editorial, I was made aware that there is a coalition of 20 civil society groups with the name Policy Forum Guyana (PFG). I know there is a group named Policy Forum Guyana which was initiated by that perennial fellow, Mike Mc Cormack from the Guyana Human Right Association (GHRA), a body that I honestly think exists only on paper. I read where PFG held a symposium at Moray House.
I sincerely did not know PFG consists of 20 civil society entities. If one umbrella group alone has 20 civil society entities, then there must be other non-government organizations (NGO) in this country making Guyana to be a country with highest numbers of NGO per capita. Can someone out there please identify these 19 entities for me apart from the GHRA? I need this type of information for my work as a columnist. My cell number is 614-5927. My home numbers are 222-1615/6 and my email address is [email protected]
If Guyana has this huge number of civil society groups then this is the largest contradictions in Guyanese sociology, mind you not one of, but the largest. What do these entities do in relation to rights, freedom and justice? This country for a population of just under 800,000 souls have per capita the highest levels of rights violations in the world.
Dissect the spheres of functionalism in Guyana and on, in each one of those compartments, the abuse of people is horrible. Let’s name some – the judicial system; the police force and its arms that include immigration, traffic; CANU; UG; NIS; public medical institutions, private hospitals; exploitative doctors and lawyers; the private sector, private security guard services; the general public sector, Central Housing and Planning Authority; Lands and Survey; GPL; GWI; GTT; trade union leadership; the National Parks Commission; I could go but let’s make the essential point.
Where are these civil society groups and NGOs in a country where the abuse is more extensive than in countries with mountainous populations? Several times, I wrote in these columns that I was a student in a university (University of Toronto) where the student population was 28,000 compared to UG with 5,000 yet students complaints were almost non-existent at Toronto while at UG, most students hated the place because of mistreatment.
I doubt the social bestialities that take place here exist in other countries. Do you know a judge sentenced the son of one of Guyana’s most prominent politicians to 45 consecutive years in jail for the insertion of his fingers into the vagina of an under-aged girl? No birth certificate was tendered in court. The semi-literate guy defended himself. I asked Madan Kissoon (no relation) to file an appeal. It cannot be filed because five years now, the judge is still to write her decision. A man is sentenced to three years for possession of a spent shell he found on the parapet.
Where are the voices of civil society that Stabroek News believes exist in Guyana? Where was this vibrant, dynamic civil society when for five months the world was appalled at election rigging in this country? Give me some politicians any day some of the clowns who masquerade as civil society like several of our women’s groups.
(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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