May 11, 2021 Letters
Dear Mr. President,
I am writing this letter to H.E and your Government in my capacity as a Guyanese Citizen/stakeholder and General Secretary of the Guyana United Artists (GUA). As a Guyanese Citizen, since my return to Guyana in the late 1970s, I have been actively involved in the struggle for the democratisation of Guyana and the return of Free and Fair Elections.
The burning issue that faces our nation is how do we go about promoting National Unity when every five years the electoral campaigns focus on resuscitating racial sentiments and hatred in order to elect either the PPP or the PNC coalition of parties to Government. The task of promoting National Unity remains the duty of all Guyanese who are not shackled to the narrow, domestic politics of race.
As an artist, I have invested my savings which I earned working as an English Teacher in Cali, Colombia, and the sale of my artworks along with the support of businessmen, Messrs. Hemraj Kissoon and the late Gobin Dwarka, making possible the construction of The National Unity Monument located on the lawns of Castellani House. Mrs. Janet Jagan, the then Chairman of the Management Committee of Castellani House donated the site. The National Unity Monument is an embodiment of Guyanese History and colorfully painted in acrylic, representing our diverse cultures. At the summit is a Pre-Colombian symbol of goodwill and prosperity.
Unfortunately, since 2011 three concrete walls have been constructed around the monument and a cluster of trees have hidden the monument from public view. Maybe President Ali who said in his inaugural address to the nation that his government is committed to National Unity would do something to preserve this historic landmark.
After 19 months of titanic struggle between the PPP/C and the APNU+AFC in the aftermath of the December 21, 2019 No Confidence Motion (NCM), race relations have seriously deteriorated – the issue of race is delicate and sensitive. The events of Sunday September 6, 2020, that followed the brutal murder of the two teenagers from Cotton Tree, West Berbice, though not of a political nature was dangerously exploited by the APNU+AFC opposition for petty political mileage. It rocked the country for four days, changed people’s attitude and behaviour towards one another, scores of passersby and commuters were beaten, robbed, vehicles and houses burnt. Such hatred and rage a young generation of Guyanese became exposed to and this is not yet the end.
This year marks the 55th Anniversary since Guyana was granted Independence from Britain. Since then half of our population has migrated to North America, the Caribbean, Europe and other parts of the world because of political instability, insecurity, and the very few opportunities available are given to party loyalists.
Over 60% of our population do not own land or have transport for their land due to the cancerous corruption that has taken hold of the Registry. Of the 780,000 – the estimated number of people living in Guyana – 2/3 live on the narrow strip of the Coastland and 1/3 in Georgetown and its environment is crowded, homes, apartments and squatting areas. This in itself is responsible for the spread of the deadly Covid-19 and the increasing number of deaths.
Land has been used as a political weapon of our Post-Colonial rule to keep the ordinary working-class Guyanese impoverished and in a state of dependency. The wealth generated over the past 55 years has benefitted only the Political elites, their families, friends, supporters, financial backers and the Giant Capitalist Consortiums.
Two sizable budgets have been passed since the PPP/C has taken office on August 2, 2020. After 9 months, no effort has been made by the new Minister of Culture to meet with the leading members of the Artist community. No inquiry as to how the Covid-19 lockdown has affected the lives of the artist and their families.
Artists are still producing works of art under these unprecedented harsh economic realities but we need to sell our works in order to better serve the nation. The Covid-19 must not be used as a smokescreen or an excuse for not meeting with the artists or even in the case of National Development.
I have written numerous letters to the editors of Kaieteur News and Stabroek News concerning the hardship faced by our small artist community since 2009. The number of senior Guyanese artists who have served our country with distinction given their golden years yet, in the end, died from a lack of proper medical care grounded in poverty.
I conclude that if President Irfaan Ali possesses the political will to turn over a new leaf to bring the hundreds of thousands of Guyanese who are living in poverty and despair, he can do so with accountability and transparency. The wise use of our oil and gas wealth can accelerate Guyana’s economic growth and bring prosperity to all. While the ABC+E, Commonwealth and Caribbean Countries have played a decisive role in safeguarding Guyana’s democracy they need to continue to support initiatives and the reform of Guyana’s constitution to safeguard our fragile democracy.
I wish to thank H.E, President Irfaan Ali in advance for acknowledging receipt of my letter which is an exercise of my constitutional right and duty as a citizen of Guyana. The affirmation that National Reconciliation can only be achieved by truth, a just political dispensation and respect for the fundamental rights of all Guyanese.
Desmond Alli (General Secretary, Guyana United Artists [GUA])
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