Jan 09, 2022 The GHK Lall Column
By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – I am hoping that Guyana’s President is well, that he is not sick from anything, be it what comes out from below the seabed, or what is airborne, or the heaviness of his office. Those were the first thoughts that came, because even by his own staggeringly low leadership standards, he outdid himself with the incredible that made the news on Thursday. It all involved the alarming spiral in COVID-19 cases. We are now in stormy seas, indeed.
The reports were of so many hundreds of positive tests in the span of a couple of days. Then a pattern set in with 788 new cases recorded in a single day. Then, another section of the media sharing 1264 infections in two days, of which some 200 health workers could have caught the virus. At first, I thought I got that wrong; surely somewhere else, and not here. My second thought was that we have enough diseased leaders and political people now to be visited with what was still unknown, as of midweek. Are these many hundreds of new cases due to the highly contagious omicron variant? But even if they were not, the numbers were/are sufficiently troubling to say: let us roll up our sleeves, let us get down to the serious business of confronting a still fully unknown viral pandemic.
It was what I expect any serious and responsible leader would do. Instead of that, what Guyanese had to come to grips with was what I think rises to the level of the stupefying. And of all the places and parties for that to emerge from, it came from this country’s head of state. The way I see it, it boils down to this: there is the dangerous, then there is the duty to rise to the occasion. The circumstances surrounding the sudden surge(s) in virus numbers demanded the latter, which is rising to the crisis demands of the moment. This is the worst time to play politics and to pretend there is “control” over the situation; that is thoughtless and of no comfort to anyone at a time like this. The President has a duty to lead, and to do so wisely, no matter how demanding that may be for him. What will it take for leadership in this society? Do people have to die?
Now, when I speak of leadership, it’s not of the usual kneejerk and simpleminded that now is a standard feature of political leadership at the national level. Or the panic-stricken disappearing acts of other frightened leaders. Because if those numbers do not necessitate urgent action, then what will? I wish not for Brazilian-type leadership recklessness and failure here. What is helpful is to have clearheaded and open minded appreciation of what we are dealing with, what are our vulnerabilities, and how we narrow the gap. That is, the gap between what is dangerous, and what could be deadly.
With all of this as backdrop, it boggles the mind that Guyana’s President could go public and say schools will remain open. We should all be thankful that he did not hide, make a secret tape recording, and share with friendly, helpful media. What will it take to get action? The schools themselves recorded 65 teachers and 44 students infected. Where was the always politicking Minister of Education? As for the Minister of Health, he had to be and must be in the forefront with assurance. Face it: the President is ill-equipped and over his head. To be brutally frank, this is not the time for the usual leadership pussyfooting, which is what I detected in the latter part of the last week.
The one moment of sanity in a sea of insanity came from the unlikeliest of places, with no word of whether it had any infections. It came from the Georgetown High Courts, which made the wise decision to shut down for five days, if only to sanitise and take a deep sounding of the situation. I discern the sensible at work, which I applaud. In this country, I have learned to be thankful for small mercies.
Wishes for a healthy and constructive 2022 to all Guyanese.
(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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