Dear Editor,As this Black History Month, February of 2018, draws to a close in this the fourth year of the UN-proclaimed decade (2015 to 2024) for “People of African Descent”, I hasten to yield to a challenge to write a letter on this subject.We understand without question that the UN proclamation of this decade is directed at speeding the dissipation of the adverse legacies of that historical period of some 250 years, when tens of millions of black Africans were taken as chattel slaves by Europeans of that era, in their global expansion and dominance, to provide enslaved labour for their plantations in their newly discovered and conquered lands of the Americas and the Caribbean.What should be the attitude today of people of African descent to that period of horrible slavery? That period cannot be erased from the history of Mankind, but in time it ought to become a bald fact of history — much as England, along with a great part of Western, Middle and Eastern Europe, unto the borders of Asia and North Africa, were brought under the dominion of Rome; much as we were taught in our Christian Sunday Schools about Moses leading the people of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt.It was his brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt, but fortune made Joseph, a slave, the right hand man of Pharaoh, and Joseph’s people were afforded a place of honour through that dynasty. However, as happens in the course of time, in the rise and fall of peoples and nations, there arose a new dynasty of Pharaohs who knew not, and would pay no heed to, the special honoured place of the people of Israel in Egypt, and made them slaves.Slavery has been, it can be argued, one of the most common practices amongst Humankind: making forced servants of conquered people. There is probably no one who does not have a number of enslaved as well as slave-holding persons among his ancestors, but the European slavery of black Africans had a number of particularly pernicious features.During a tour of ancient sites in Greece in 1978 (after a bauxite conference), the tour guide pointed out the columns on which the names of erstwhile slaves were enscribed as they were freed. Most of those slaves were from other Greek city states, who had been on the defeated side in one of their frequent battles. In such circumstances, the fact of having been a slave might be lost within a generation with little, if any, adverse effects.My mind turned to that quote from Alex De Tocquville, “the institution of slavery has disgraced the race, and the physiological peculiarities of the race (have) perpetuated the disgrace”. There was an interesting nuance in a quote from a Brazilian (Iberian) author, “the propensity to discriminate is a function of the degree of separation of the ideals of physiological beauty”. For him, however, the ideal of physiological beauty is the physiology of the conqueror, the winner, the successful – and he argued that Iberian people who had seen black Africans in the conquering Moor armies from North Africa saw beauty in the black African physiology, and were less inclined to discriminate against black Africans as absolutely as northern Europeans, many of whom only knew of black Africans as disgraced chattel slaves.There was a lot unconsciously inherent in that cry, in the 1970s, about Angela Davis, “Bright, Beautiful and Black”.I welcome the work being done to make available a history of black Africa before and beyond that of the land from which captive black African slaves came – the emerging stories of ruling families and kingdoms, and intrigue in black Africa, which would be the match of similar ones from Europe.Yours truly,Samuel A A HindsFormer President andFormer PrimeMinister
Dear Editor,It just takes a casual glance at Georgetown’s iconic landmark; the Stabroek Market in its current sorry state, to realise that it mirrors completely the hopeless state of the administration of the Georgetown municipality.At the highest point of this historic structure is a weather vane, wind vane, or weathercock – which ever you want to call it – and which was put there to show citizens the direction and speed of the wind. This does not work.Looking up at the legendary clock so strategically placed in our nation’s capital, and built somewhere between 1880 and 1881, one can see each dial telling a different time, which of course is because the clock is defective and has been so for decades, due to the Council failing to maintain it. More egregious is that more than two years ago, the Council begged a foreign mission and obtained full funding to have the clocks rehabilitated and returned to working order.Regrettably, having received this money, they have failed to fix the clock giving the flimsy excuse that the tower housing the clock needs to be repaired first before the clock could be rehabilitated. Did they not know this before obtaining funds to repair the clock? And why with the passage of more than two years, this modest tower but historical masterpiece could not be repaired? To add insult to injury, they have haphazardly hung a string of lights to further deface the structure and highlight at night, the fact that the clocks are not working. The City Council should be ashamed of itself.Going around to the back of Stabroek Market, one is confronted with the broken-down wharf that collapsed several years ago, and for which the Council has failed to even attempt repairs. Instead they have had a grand plan drawn up for a fancy edifice to be put up, using the Central Government’s sources of funding which really means the VAT and other taxes you and I have to pay to the State. Could the Council say what it is doing with all of the stall rents, vendors’ fees and other municipal taxes that they collect that should be used to maintain municipal markets? I hope it is not wasted on foreign trips.Then there is the act of cultural barbarism, impropriety and venality where the Council’s administration has allowed a vendor to build a two-storied structure that adjoins the North-eastern side of the Stabroek Market structure. This ugly projection which incidentally does not have the approval of the Council, nor the National Trust, blemishes significantly this heritage structure and severely hampers the natural airflow of the market. Why does the Communities Ministry, the Council, the National Trust of Guyana or the Guyana Historical and Research Society not awaken from their slumber, and correct this savagery?Venturing inside this dark, dank, rat infested municipal market more often than not, one is either molested by some urchins who will attempt to sell you stolen items, or alternately try to choke and rob you right under the noses of some unconcerned City Constables.But that aside, one is confronted with a most cluttered, untidy and chaotic market that now houses more than a thousand business persons. Long ago stalls were arranged in neat rows with wide passages that allowed the fire tender to drive all the way from the front to the back of the market in the event of a conflagration. Today not even the fire hose could be stretched from the front to the back of the market.How could we the citizens expect our City Council to manage our capital city when they cannot even manage a simple municipal market. How could we expect Georgetown to advance with such corrupt, incompetent and desperate persons at the helm?Sincerely,Jermain Johnson
Dear Editor,Recently, on social media, former Government minister Clement Rohee posited some misinformed views on suicide. Those views need to be addressed.Mr Rohee stated, “It is difficult to detect in advance someone who is prone to suicide. Somehow, prior to committing the act, they manage to elude by means known only to them, their closest relatives and friends who are incapable of spotting any unusual behavior on their part before they take their own life.”Suicide ideation/suicidal mindset is really not difficult for anyone to be ‘incapable of spotting’ if that person knows what to look for. Actually, there are even clear and obvious warning signs that are easily discernible by anyone, but are usually ignored or passed off as ‘jokes’. The media is replete with cases of loved ones saying they never took seriously the strange behaviour of suicide victims, or language clearly stating that they would take their lives, especially if such statements were made before. Thus the need for citizens to be sensitised to the seriousness of these warning signs; and the need for immediate action.Also, the implication that those who attempt suicide ‘elude’ those near and dear to them is an awful attempt to indict people suffering from mental illnesses. The fact is that 90% of people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death, so they are not thinking clearly or logically. In effect, a normal person cannot apply his/her thinking process to label suicide victims or survivors. As one person who lived through depression posted on Facebook recently, “it is unquestionably THE most misunderstood illness and the one most judged and misjudged by “normal” people”.Mr. Rohee wrote, “It’s like assuming a Jekyll and Hyde or split personality just for that particular period prior to committing the act.Their transformation is somewhat ‘magical’ if not amazing!”Like any other illness, there is nothing ‘magical’ or amazing about the suicidal mindset or suicide ideation, and it is certainly not indicative of any transformation. Thus to describe someone in such a state as assuming a Jekyll-and-Hyde or split personality is to victimise the victim. A suicidal mindset or suicide ideation is not reflective of a personality, but a mental illness, especially depression or anxiety. Mr. Rohee must be aware of the negative connotations of the word commit, but may not be aware that the person attempting or dying by suicide is a victim, not a perpetrator on any sort.Also this view of suicide as Atmahaty in the Hindu texts is responsible for many suicides in Hindu families going unreported in a nation where there are hundreds of thousands of reported suicides each year –30% of the estimated one million annual suicides globally. Paradoxically, atmahatya, which means ‘murdering the soul or Self’, is contradicted in the Gita, which emphasises that the soul cannot be harmed in any way whatever. Ironically, suicide has historically been endorsed in India through ‘sati,’ whereby women were forced to jump into the funeral pyre of their dead husbands or collectively burn themselves during an invasion, as exemplified in the recent Bollywood historical dram Padmavati.With respect to Mr Rohee’s reference to community involvement in helping to address suicide and abuse, may we point out that, next year, TCV plans to launch a lay-counselor training programme trained to detect and act on suicide warning signs, emphatic communication, and measures to help abuse victims or deal with abusive situations. Lay counselors/gatekeepers in every community can take proactive preventative actions.Sincerely,The Caribbean Voice
Dear Editor,Since the President is arrogating unto himself morality as the justification for his actions toward nomination of Public Officials, I find it instructive to examine the President’s actions with respect to the whole drug bond scenario.Dr George Norton, as Hon Minister of Public Health, lied to Parliament and was involved in a corrupt negotiation, and yet he is still fit and proper, intelligent, impartial, and with the integrity to run the Ministry of Social Cohesion. Former Acting Commissioner of Police Mr David Ramnarine was heavily criticised for transferring fallen Police officers, yet it is okay to transfer a corrupt Minister of Government to a new Ministry. Worse yet, Dr. George Norton is now the Vice-Chairman of the PNCR.Contrast the actions of Kamla Persaud-Bissessar, who fired eleven Ministers in four years while she was Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago.It has become clear that posturing by the President about ‘fit and proper’ and integrity and decency has no deep moral centre. It is all an act put on to penetrate the independence of the Guyana Public Service and to insert his choices into strategic positions.The AFC also asked the people of this nation to lynch the corrupt PPP officials, but forgive the AFC officials. We must still put our trust and faith in Nigel and Cathy Hughes after the entire Sithe-Global conflict of interest fiasco. I reiterate that double standards imply no standards.And this is a very sad situation for the People of this nation. A lot of us feel saddened, but we must arise from this depression.What we have in Government is a set of opportunists pursuing an agenda that the people of this country did not set. The single member of the administration who has voiced genuine concern for the wishes of the people is the Hon Jaipaul Sharma. The actions of this Government, including the breaches of the constitution, the contempt for the Carter Process, and recent calls for the National Assembly to appoint Commissioners, must be interpreted in the context of the double standards they have shown us. An alarm has been sounded throughout the nation. It has become clear to me that the citizens of this country have a problem of dictatorship on their hands, and the potential for electoral malpractice is evident.Can we, the citizens of this nation, do more than just shake our heads in disbelief at our unfortunate circumstances?As a child, I lived through the PNC dictatorship, and was at home hearing the wailing from the funeral procession of Dr Walter Rodney, who gave his life for this country. As a child, adults fought and paid with their lives for me to enjoy free and fair elections and an independent press. As an adult, I inherited a democracy that was hard earned. Now, as an adult, I am shocked to see a reversal and a callous trampling of the democratic values and practices that were so hard earned.Adults of today have a responsibility to create a stable political future, so that our children’s tomorrow may be free of this blight of dictatorship, corruption and political instability.While I was a graduate student at the Royal Holloway University in the UK, our backyard and playground were the fields of Runnymede, where the historic Magna Carta was sealed in 1215. We have inherited a British political infrastructure, but we did not endure the centuries-long struggle of the British people, nor have we endured the struggles of the American people for freedom. Let us be clear that our struggle is not one of PPP vs PNC politics. It is a relatively young struggle for a democratic political culture, an ideal that Government should be of the people, for the people and by the people.When we are governed by ideals, our politics can be graceful. Statesmen and women are elevated into politics by their virtues, not their greed and ambition and gerrymandering. Politics is an act of servant leadership, not to be engaged in for personal remuneration. While the politicians reveal to us daily who they are, we, the people of this country, must hold onto our centre and be the source of light in the darkness.Our struggle for democracy in this country continues, and as we stay calm and press on with it, when we feel afraid to voice our opinions and we feel oppressed by legislation, we must remember that people must not be afraid of their Governments, but Governments must be afraid of their people.Sincerely,Sandra Khan
Dear Editor,The Alliance for Change (AFC) has now invented an innovative and creative campaign strategy, which reproduces the inherent lies and deceit, but in another form.It was claimed by Mr Khemraj Ramjattan, on the Alliance on the Move programme, that PPP supporters are intimidating people from putting their names on the AFC candidates’ list. He further said the Guyana Police Force will be called in to deal with these PPP supporters. This is hard to believe, since no one can stop anyone from backing any candidate, that being an entirely private matter; unless these would-be AFC backers made a public proclamation to the effect.However, this is just a prefabricated excuse, or more like a good defence when the AFC fails at the LGE polls, which they are bound to!It must be recalled that, not so long ago, Mr Ramjattan lambasted and insulted the residents of the Upper Corentyne, accusing them of sitting down and drinking rum, and only waiting for the ‘lawyer boy’ to come and buy rum for them. Now he wants them to vote for him! He should apologise, and then ask for their support. Mr Ramjattan has always opined that Berbicians are illiterate and stupid, but he needs to understand that they have excellent long-term memories, and can recall insults verbatim.Moreover, the AFC is now promising roads, land, street lights, gun licences, and other favours once residents support them by signing on the LGE backers form. This is not only deceitful, but illegal. No political party can promise state resources in return for support and votes.Another ploy is their going into NDC areas where work was done by the Regional Democratic Council and taking credit for the work. This was done in the Kilcoy/Hampshire NDC, where I am the Chairman. This was raised at the last RDC statutory meeting.Furthermore, someone (named) told the viewers on the Alliance on the Move programme that only if the residents put their names on the AFC’s List can they gain access to the AFC Ministers, such as Mr Ramjattan and Mr Patterson, to ventilate their issues. This is a new form of corruption, holding the people at ransom to vote for the AFC. This is what should be investigated by SOCU and the GPF, not legal Cabinet decisions!Never in the history of this country has a political party been so barefaced and corrupted. Our State resources are being used to openly bargain for votes.Let the people beware of these illegal and nasty manoeuvrings of the AFC! The AFC’s ghost is now on the haunting!Yours sincerely,Haseef Yusuf
Dear Editor,While I do not support the proposed toll increases by the Berbice Bridge Company Ltd, with regards to the Berbice River Bridge I contend that the move by the PNC-led APNU/AFC Government of President David Granger to take control of the Berbice Bridge is draconian.How does this Government justify increasing rates and prices, including VAT on electricity and water which brings hardships to thousands of Guyanese, while refusing to allow BBCI to increase tolls? I do not support a huge increase in tolls, but a company has income and it has expenses. The Government must demonstrate that BBCI was profiteering with the proposed increase in tolls before taking such archaic draconian measures.Yours faithfully,Sean Ori
Dear Editor,What is wrong with placing cameras in police station lockups? I find this to be very necessary because some of the real criminals are found there.There are cameras that are placed in some locations to capture traffic offenders, I am not sure that there is any in police stations so that authorities can really review what takes place there.It is a sad situation and less than coincidence that alleged healthy individuals die after being placed in Police custody. Can it be surmised that at some police stations there are certain ranks who are specialists in assaulting hapless prisoners by placing them in separate cells?It baffles sensible minds; some of the explanations that originate from the police stations regarding such deaths as recently highlighted in the media. People will now be reluctant to make reports to police stations unless they wish the worse to those whom they will report on.The Human Rights body should note these instances.The relevant authorities need to address this disturbing issue that has been reigning for too long.The police, it appears, have been protecting themselves. They always cover for their colleague’s excesses in the majority of cases. When a few policemen are convicted, it is because hundreds are not brought to book.We, the common public, can only hope that sometime in the future we will really enjoy the protection of the police as their motto states. Presently, some stations are places of torture and even death. What a contrast!Yours faithfully,R Udho
GTT will today launch two additional 4G data plans to suit the varied needs of its customers.The plans are the Daily Social Plan which provides unlimited access to Facebook and WhatsApp for just 0 for a period of 24 hours, and a shared data plan which allows up to five persons to share one data plan of three Gigabytes of data for only 99 monthly.“We continue to lead the market with our competitive new offers which comes just a month after we introduced “Free Basic Mobile Data Services” and free Facebook and WhatsApp with every data plan,” GTT Chief Commercial Officer Gert Post stated.GTT’s new Daily Social Plan allows customers to use the most popular social network apps at the most affordable prices. It can be activated or disabled by dialling *100#. The shared data plan is an excellent option that can be easily used among friends and family.GTT says its data plans provide great ways to stay in contact with loved ones via WhatsApp and/or Facebook. Customers can continue to dial *100# to activate any data plan.
Alluding that some persons were of the misconception that they could be awarded contracts because of a ministerial or political connection, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson on Friday set the record straight by stating that there should be no distrust in the system because the Ministry would be interrogating every contract.Patterson made this declaration at the opening of the Procurement Symposium at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, East Coast Demerara. He stated that when they took office they were approached by persons with contracts for employment but when they interviewed them it was disclosed that “these people” never submitted a tender.He stated it is because of this distorted system that persons ended up having “complete distrust in our procurement system” and were under the impression that the process was there to empower “certain contractors,” while the other entrants did not stand a chance.Labelling it as a misapprehension, Patterson affirmed that his Ministry, along with the Finance Ministry would not allow it to live on. He indicated that the Public Infrastructure Ministry had started to interrogate the tenders received, and what they found were some glaring omissions.Public Infrastructure Minister David PattersonHe stated that persons were not completing their forms or providing sufficient information for them to be awarded the contracts. He added that his Ministry is guided by procurement laws and they cannot subvert them, so if proper tenders are not submitted then contractors would not “stand a chance” at getting contracts.Indicating that some persons were expressing frustration with the government and declaring that “this is not what they voted for,” Patterson stated that if they voted for law and order, then they should not expect anything less; thus the path to acquiring contracts would be transparent and open.“Not because you voted for change means that automatically you have voted yourself a contract. We stand for law and order…and I’m sure you would not want us to go down a path that is not open and transparent,” he said.Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson stated that the objective of the symposium is to educate the existing and new suppliers of civil works and services on the procurement requirements legislations.She stated that public procurement is a very critical issue for the government since more than 70 per cent of the National Budget accounts for public procurement, approximately $160B annually. The Ministry of Finance estimates that public procurement accounts for 27 per cent of the country’s GDP.Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran contended that as a result of weaknesses in the system of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), the government loses approximately $28B annually due to corrupt behaviour in public procurement, which includes sole servicing of drug contracts, contract splitting, inflated engineer estimates, evaluation bias on behalf of favoured contractors, the use of inexperienced contractors, the absence of competitive bidding in some cases and over-payments to contractors.This has raised significant concerns within the Ministry, Ferguson said, adding that the symposium is thus “timely and pushes to increase transparency and fairness and eliminate corruption throughout education of the procurement act and regulations.”She stated that the Ministry anticipates that from this symposium they will attract more suppliers of works and services to enhance the competitive bidding process: “We hope that new suppliers with the requisite education and qualifications will be able to qualify and produce quality works and services.”She indicated that it will advance the reputation of contractors and “the government will get value for money, the citizens are happy and there is less financial burden on the treasury”.At the symposium new entrants were educated on the National Procurement Act and the prequalification for contracts, as well as how to become compliant with the Guyana Revenue Authority, National Insurance Scheme, and local insurance companies.They were able to learn about the bid evaluation process and were privy to a simulation bid submission. This simulation highlighted the “dos and don’ts” of bid submissions and provided participants with realistic examples. Moreover, focus was placed on informing participants on the contract award process, as well as the protest process.
With suicide still very much prevalent in Guyanese society, President David Granger believes that a more close-knit approach is needed to tackle the scourge that is plaguing the country.He explained that before any step can be taken to develop solutions to this phenomenon, the causation first needs to be determined.“I am confident (that with) greater emphasis on community life and cultural life, we will be able to overcome those (suicidal) problems. The cultural life of a country is very important… if our culture is one of violence that we saw during that drug war during 2002 to 2010, you find a lot of people don’t want to move on. But I think the tide is turning and people want that good life,” the President told reporters on the weekly televised programme – The Public Interest.According to the Head of State, suicide is a very complex phenomenon, as such Government is conducting studies and is aiming at decriminalising suicide since it believes that the scourged can be resolved if proper measures are implemented.He pointed out that persons can look for signs of depression and other examples in the communities, which he noted can be clustered at times.The President explained that in some communities, you see several persons who over a period of time taking their lives because suicide is so prevalent that they feel that is the only way: “Some communities are not bothered by suicide at all but other communities display a high susceptibility to suicide so there could be the copy cat element.”Moreover, the Head of State went on to say that emphasis needs to be placed on what is taking place in families, what is causing this depression or alienation; we need to see what is taking place with children, what they are saying on their phones and ask whether adults could intervene earlier.“That is why I say we need to look at the community. I am convinced that if those children had the opportunity to go to plays or participate in plays or dramas or dance or choirs; opportunity to go into sport, then they would realise that they are not isolated and they are not by themselves but they are part of a group and part of a team and they will have a greater will to live,” he remarked.President Granger further posited that he has asked for studies to be done and this is being dealt with by both the Ministries of Public Health and Public Security, while adding that by next year, he is hoping that there can be more definitive investigations and answers to these questions.Currently, Guyana is infamously known as the suicide capital of the world, with a rate of 44.2 per every 100,000 persons. It is estimated that some 200 persons die on average from suicide every year in Guyana. In fact, a Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) report that was released in 2014 had identified Guyana as having the highest rate of suicide in the world in 2012. Only last week Friday, two suicides rocked the country. Alleia Khandhai, 16, of Lot 3 Palmyra Village, Berbice, succumbed after consuming a poisonous substance on August 12, shortly after meeting her boyfriend.And Mahendra Singh, 30, of Number 64 Village, Corentyne, succumbed the same day after he too consumed a poisonous substance out of fear that he would be jailed for a wounding charge that he was before the court for.In efforts to curb the societal scourge, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) opposition had tabled a motion to urgently address suicide in Guyana but this motion was defeated on August 4 following hours of debate in the National Assembly.