Jan 04, 2021 Letters
It was a night when all the signs favoured a listening Guyanese nation; I say so even though I didn’t share in the grand moment. Guyanese received a message from their president, in which he was part meteorologist, economist, religious analyst, cheerleader in chief, part-time Chinese philosopher, and historian. And as I read His Excellency, President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s New Year’s message, I congratulate him for being on the right track and singing the right tunes. Everything aligned smoothly: From the goat’s entrails to the waiting sacrificial white fowls to the red lavender -the stars and spirits speak well.
His Excellency struck some good notes, some better than some, none bad. I cherry-pick a few: COVID-19 Phase II (who can argue with that, and please don’t forget the audit of cash, especially, now that the AG has found footing); working to heal a divided country (more than necessary, actually mandatory and non-negotiably so); insisting all should benefit from progress (wishful thinking sir! And I am thinking of filing copyright infringement suit on the use of ‘all Guyanese’ repeatedly). If his speech has to be compared to a musical equivalent, then I nominate Franz Schubert Symphony No. 8 in B Minor. It is not called Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony for the sake of a lark. And like the Austrian master composer, our own Guyanese head of state has ways to go on some of the scores he identified in his text.
Now it is time for me to be both respectfully frank and unflinchingly realistic with President Ali. By this time next year, the president will confirm his arrival at one of two places. The first is that he has or is well on his way to delivering tangibly on most counts specified in his speech. Remember this one: the strength of the drink is the liquor, and the strength of the liquor is the mixer. The only way His Excellency delivers is by fulfilling well (no absolutes) on his promises. If he doesn’t then he will confirm the second position in the minds of most, including some of his supporters: it is that he is a disappointment, not the real McCoy, but a pretender of a leader heading quickly for the welcome of outer darkness. Or as I prefer to put in kindlier fashion: he has a solid speechwriter in the stable; speechwriting, however, only goes so far in this ruptured, hateful society. Remember also: this is not in any manner to be construed as judgment at this early hour; all I am doing is merely laying out the territory. I give him this one: race relations in Guyana is a long-haul proposition. Yet if I detect that the president has made a sincere start through initiating the first hard step(s), which he himself quoted from Lao Tzu, then I would do more than applaud; I would support also. But only if the genuine is in the works.
I remind the president and his people that last year I gave President Ali, the benefit of the doubt, though I recognize that what he presented from August 2020 were more of canned scripts unfulfilled in glaring spots. In my book, he has succeeded in being a hedger. Examine his speeches carefully, where the words are in place and largely soothing, then reconcile them with delivery and he has failed. Because of his only five-month presidential role, which I agree is way too short, His Excellency is due another go at the grand prize, which I keep hammering away at is this: delivery! Delivery! Delivery. Thus, Guyana presents him with a new slate and the vast opportunities embedded in this second chance to make good. I hope he does, not so much for his record; but for the sake of all Guyanese who cannot absorb another conspirator against their interests or another disappointment disadvantaging their future. In other words, I humbly caution President Ali: it is better to leave those things alone that are known beforehand will not be touched, because they will compete with the visions of his own people, including financiers.
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