Discrimination in Guyana
Guyana Journal, February 2009

Recent news in the Guyana press (Guyana Chronicle, 02/10/2009) reported that seven male homosexuals were charged with wearing “female attire for an improper purpose” and loitering. They claimed that they were not loitering but admitted to wearing female clothing as they were going to a show that featured 'cross dressers'.

They were fined $7,500 each for wearing female attire and placed on bail.

In sentencing them Acting Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson-Ogle commented on their lifestyle and told them to 'fulfill their original purpose as men'. The Magistrate chastised them further, “It's a curse on the family. Go to church and give your lives to Christ.”

Two things need to be addressed here. Is the Magistrate acting according to the law of Guyana in respect of gays and lesbians? If so, then the specific law should be amended to keep in line with the accepted civil rights anti-discrimination practices that are internationally accepted, that prohibit discrimination against sex, race or ethnic group, color, national origin, religion, age, disability. This is grudgingly extended to include marital status, political affiliation, and sexual orientation. In the U.S., civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people is a hot issue and is gaining acceptance nationwide, and elsewhere.

Whatever may be our personal likes or dislikes is not the question in hand. In many cultures men wear clothing that appear fitting only for women in the eyes of some, and vice versa. Is it wrong for the Scotsman to wear a skirt or the Bangladeshi man to wear the lungi, or India's hidra to cross-dress?

No one should utilize arbitrariness in making pronouncements that impact the general public. There was a time when it was mandatory to wear a tie (and suit) in Guyana. Is it relevant now? Lawyers had to don the wig and still have to dress “properly”. How relevant? Arbitrariness can betray personal biases and prejudices. Should a woman be allowed to wear pants? Should people dye their hair? What color is acceptable? What kind of hair style is required and accepted? How long? Crew cut? Spike? Clean shaven? Mohawk? How big a sideburn? Is gold teeth good or bad? Is tattoo allowed? How about ear ring, foot ring and nose ring? And how much jewelry is enough? This can get bigger indeed! When and where will it stop? Who will be the arbiter?

Then the magistrate lectured the defendants and literally told them to attend church and become Christians. To say the least this is disingenuous. She overstepped her call of duty. First, she is dictating morality in a highly prejudicial manner. How dare anyone “tell” another person to go to a church, and worse, to force a specific religion on a person - especially in a plural society! This is parochialism at its worse, and reminiscent of colonial and religious imperialism.

This magistrate is guilty of homophobia and religious proselytizing in her court. Religious conversion is anathema! And can (and do) have extreme serious consequences, as observed in many parts of the world.

The motive might have been well-intentioned, but displays cultural naïveté. The magistrate showed prejudice and harbored little latitude in her judgment. My-way-or-no-way lends to narrow-mindedness, subjectivity and poor interpretation of the law, and can lead to skewed judgment.

The poor, the weak, the minority, and those who are 'different' and do not meet our self-centered tastes must be protected by the law, and not be damned by intolerance and bigotry. Some times “the law is an ass”. But laws are not static, and obsolete laws must be changed.

The Magistrate's comments were unwarranted and prejudicial, and reek of basic human rights violation. She is certainly misguided. She should not allow her biases and religious fervor to cloud her judgment as a jurist. She should recuse herself from this case. Further, she should subject herself to sensitivity discipline.

Gary Girdhari

Citizens’ Questionnaire
by Gary Girdhari
Guyana Journal, January 2009

If “Joe-six-pack” and millions of his buddies are losing their jobs, is it reasonable and OK for Laura Bush to acquire china sets worth approximately $567,798.00 just prior to leaving the White House?

Is it reasonable and fair that President-elect Obama holidays in Hawaii while “Main Street” continues to wallow in desperation? Bear in mind that the return trip alone on his chartered Boeing 757 is estimated at about $400,000.00.

Why did Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne spend $235,000.00 of taxpayers money to redo his office bathroom at this time of economic stringency? Are some animals more equal (or dumber) than others?

When foreclosure is up 81 percent nationwide in 2008 and when the average joe is asked to pay more for goods and services, is it logically fair for Congress to continue to give another $350 billion of taxpayer bail-out money to major corporations (and their CEOs) when these are the ones that created the biggest financial mess in living history? Especially when “Eighty-three of the nation's 100 largest corporations, including Citigroup, Bank of America and News Corp., had subsidiaries in offshore tax havens in 2007, and some of the companies received federal bailout funding, ….” – Ken Thomas

The Bush administration has been described as “a sinkhole of corruption, cronyism, incompetence and outright theft that epitomized Bush management at home and abroad” by Frank Rich in reference to only “Iraq reconstruction” where $117 billion has been spent as of mid-2008 – your money. Do you really think that the Democrats are better than the Republicans in terms of approving war money and bail-outs?

What/why is the obsession by network newcasters about which dog is to take up residence in the White House? Our sense of perspective at this time is out of sync.

The algebraic equation is not balancing!

Now most First Ladies like to spruce up their new quarters. Hillary Clinton spent an enormous sum; Nancy Reagan did likewise before. And this is OK to a point. But why the excesses? Is it because it’s not their money? Is it because of arrogance? Or as we say: “neva see, come fo see”?

Economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes estimated that there is more than “$10 trillion in new debt and new obligations piled up by the Bush administration in eight years.” How, when, will this be repaid?

Loose regulations catered to greed in Wall Street and other major institutions. Let’s hope that there will be real reforms. Will there? The new President’s main economic advisors are Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin. (In fact, Summers was a follower of Rubin.) If one looks at the past performance of these advisors one gets the feeling of an ominous portent – business as usual. Summers was Bill Clinton's treasury secretary and he championed deregulation legislation. Robert Rubin recently resigned from Citigroup. (Citigroup received $45 billion bailed out.) He was Clinton's previous treasury secretary. Remember he was Summers’ guru. Rubin has done handsomely for himself – $115 million plus stock options at Citigroup. Rubin was also the proposed new treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner’s guru.

Talk about the fox guarding the coop!

What lies ahead? The new President is surrounded by several individuals whose track records are not consonant with his rhetoric for and promise of change – both domestic and foreign.

The culprits of the economic demise have not been brought to answer for their (mis)deeds. Will they?

Obama said that he plans to move forward not back. The question put by Arianna Huffington: “But … will [he] realize that moving forward and looking backwards are not mutually exclusive [?] … forward while the country avoids falling into the trap of allowing the outrages of the Bush administration to be forgotten or, worse, implicitly sanctioned … allowing high crimes to dissolve into Sunday morning rhetorical squabbles…[!] That's why we can't allow the historical revisionism to stand uncontested.”

Hopefully we can find solace in the words of Dawn Johnson, Obama's choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel: "We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation's past transgressions and reject Bush's corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation's honor be restored without full disclosure." Great words, but as she speaks Obama gives credibility to the very George W. Bush – the presidential dinner refers.

Barack Obama is smart and skillful. So far he has displeased many loyal and deeply concerned people. To be fair he needs his day. Let’s give him a chance. He is inheriting a colossal mess. We will have enough time to judge him. But he must live up to his pre-election promises and be held accountable to the people to whom he made the sacred promises.

Gary Girdhari

Persistence of Poverty
by Gary Girdhari
Guyana Journal, December 2008

Another expert guru, a lady on the TV, most likely in all sincerity and perceived good intentions, offered that at this time we can write a check to our preferred charity – money pooled from our small pocket change. This presumably would make a difference to those in need. What expert naïveté!

Well, this is the time of the year when most do-gooders go about soliciting donations for their cause. Public televisions are experts at this; charities and benevolent organizations solicit by telephone and mail, and the less sophisticated knock on your door with not-so-believable stories. The best (or worst) of all are the religious organizations of dubious intentions that implore in their infomercials with words like “blessed”, “less fortunate”, “poor”, “hungry”, “destitute”, and “homeless”.

Yes, it?s a time for giving or maybe it?s a time for receiving, depending on which side you?re on. The sales pitch always employs a convincing canard!

There is no doubt that at this time of the year many individuals do give because they feel it is their duty to give, or they respond to emotional appeals, or they ‘feel good’ believing they will receive some blessing in return, or they will get a tax write-off.

After the holidays are over (and even during the holidays) people forget about the real problems?. The fact is that despite this so-called generosity there is more poverty in the world today. In the midst of so much wealth there is immense poverty.

Poverty is the primary etiological basis for malnutrition and starvation, diseases and death, poor education and over-population, hunger and homelessness.

It is estimated that at any given point in time there are 750,000 to 1,000,000 homeless in the U.S. In New York City over 38,000 homeless individuals, including children, sleep in the municipal shelter system each night. Over the last 10 years homelessness has increased by 65%. (There are thousands of unrecorded others who sleep on the “streets” and other public places.)

In the U.S. there are “more than 36 million Americans who face the prospects of hunger each day…. A survey of Feeding America Food Banks in May 2008 reported average increases of 15-20% in the number of people seeking emergency food assistance compared to a year prior.” In New York City over 1.5 million people, including the working poor, rely on soup kitchens. Many are not recorded as they are turned away. These figures are old and will undoubtedly be much higher in the current time of economic doom and gloom.

So, if your giving and your charity (apart from making you 'feel good') are not making a difference in reducing hunger and homelessness, are you still going to be blessed? This cynical remark is not intended to be derogatory or harsh; it seeks to draw attention to a system that is failing. Donors, charitable NGOs, and government agencies are trying. Though their efforts are temporary, mildly palliative and stop-gap, they must certainly be lauded for their contribution, for, without them, there would be much more misery to the ?less fortunate?.

The stark reality is that there is persistent poverty, and the salient question is why?

There is need for another approach to address the systemic causes of poverty and provide sustainable remedies. In a so-called civilized world with so much wealth and riches there should not be so much poverty and despair. This goes against all morality and common decency.

It is quite glaring that in the midst of severe poverty there is ruthless, growing and polarizing individualism, and prodigality. We buy more than we need and we consume more than is good for us, while others do not get the mere basics. At the same time there is also extensive institutional extravagant wastefulness. (Some examples of everyday waste: electronic/computer hardware, paper and plastics, electricity, household and restaurant food.) Underlying all of this is the element of wanton greed, disregard and disrespect for the others. And many ?good? people are complacent and apathetic; they say and do nothing, resigning with the weary surrender: it?s not my business!

The ordinary people have been hit on the head so often that they seem mentally paralyzed. In my own backyard a popular flea market, that provides a livelihood to many and a source of affordable merchandise to thousands, is being closed to make way for casino and legalized gambling. This is being done with the blessing of politicians in New York City and Albany, and for furthering moral depravity. No one is crying foul.

The affluence of the rich and their blinkered isolationist club mentality have created a kind of private idiosyncrasy, a malignant cruelty, disguised in Forbes 500 as the epitome of the greatness of the illusive American dream. Sadly the real dream – the goodness and greatness of America, of being your brother?s keeper – has been diminished during the central and formative development of societal and individual evolution. Public discussion on such matters (except occasionally on PBS) is generally skeptical or dismissive rather than proactive – a sort of social dissonance. The morning shows and talk shows are particularly guilty, in that they trivialize, and are insensitive to, bread and butter matters in this time of economic woes.

A poor Boston man was jailed and placed on bond that he can’t afford; his crime, voyeurism. Bernard Madoff was arrested and charged with allegedly running a $50 billion Wall Street "Ponzi scheme", and released after posting a $10 million bond. Other financial and Wall Street CEOs have ruined the lives of untold millions. The Big 3 Auto Execs have been paid millions of dollars over the years – for failing – and they are still kept on the job when at the same time hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs because of these failures. New York City Mayor successfully got an extension of term limits so he could (and most likely would) be in office for another four years. He is now calling for ?budgetary cuts? and raising of property tax.

If the ordinary worker performs badly he is laid off. But now en masse termination of tens of thousands is occurring regardless, to cut costs. Those who can least afford are left to fend for themselves! By contrast, the rich and powerful are rewarded for their failures!

Isn’t it strange that everyone pontificates and wants to end poverty; yet poverty is growing! It’s lip service. In the present social, economic and political arrangement, will poverty ever end? Go figure! It’s the System, Stupid!

Gary Girdhari

Barack Obama
by Gary Girdhari
Guyana Journal, November 2008

"A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance.” Jawaharlal Nehru's utterances are so appropriate in defining what can only be seen as a major paradigm shift in the political/social landscape in the United States of America.

The recent presidential election in the US making a Black man the next President is pre-eminently a historical turning point in the American story. This country has seen many dirty, evil, bigoted episodes, nay, deliberate ingrained policies, in race, political and economic relations.

Many have questioned whether America was ready for a black president this time round. Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton tested the waters, and they were politely condignly tolerated, even humored by some. Yet, a predominantly white population (over 75%) elected a black man to be President of the nation. The nation is liberating itself internally. There is obvious catharsis and awakening of the quintessential true spirit of humankind.

In postmodern times one may recall Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. This is not to say that others have not paved the path to make things happen!

The election of Barack Obama is one of those “moments … in history” that will give new direction in human relations – race, tribal, religious. There is now a tremendous sense of hope and pride, optimism and confidence, faith and determination in America and elsewhere. Martin Luther King Jr. must be smiling to see his dream coming through – getting to the Promised Land – that man should be “judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin.”

Analysts have dissected this election ad nauseam. But it is appropriate still to make some salient observations. Obama is genetically 50% black/50% white, but regarded as black in the context of America. The ‘one drop of blood’ tells us to think like this. Obama is not the typical black person (although he looks it) because his mother is white and his paternal lineage has never been slaves. His upbringing is not typical, being brought up in a white household of a caring single mother and loving grandparents, and sheltered in Hawaii and Indonesia, away from continental USA. Thus his early nurture and socio-psychological constructs have determinedly formed his mind-set. Obama probably does not see himself and others as hyphenated human beings. And this is fundamentally a good thing – “character rather than color”.

Barack Obama certainly has a brilliant mind. He did not come from the money or landed class, and probably this is another reason why lots of people empathize with him. He earned his academic laurels in the best institutions of learning by dint of hard work and determination, telling us that money alone is not all that matters.

Looking and listening to him one cannot but help to note calm and reason, level headedness and healing, and hopeful uplifting aspirations and resilience. He is young and not quite yet tainted with Washington. He talks of change, not things as usual. Maybe this is why many young people gravitate to him and his kind of politics.

There is a ring of truthfulness and sober determination in him to deal with the enormous issues facing the nation and the world, that he is inheriting. Never before have so many major problems confronted a nation simultaneously – the wars, Wall Street, housing market, unemployment, bankruptcies, uncertainty and diplomatic obstinacy. There are also the other domestic matters of health care, education, environment and energy alternatives, not to mention issues of catastrophic dimension in Africa.

Will he be able ?to put up?? Barack Obama has to be wary and extremely careful in selecting his advisors and cabinet. Names like Rahm Israel Emmanuel, Larry Summers and Paul Volker have been hitting the airwaves, and these have not been resonating favorably in some quarters.

Washington is full of “knaves and rogues”, fossilized stewed prunes and opportunists. And the permanent government – the lobbyists – is ever ready, able and willing to pounce. Caveat emptor!

Gary Girdhari

The Crash of 2008
By Gary Girdhari and Gokarran Sukhdeo
Guyana Journal, October 2008

Greed is a very powerful vice, a great motivator to commit base acts in the furtherance of accessing material goods by any means necessary. It is the ‘mother’ of the seven cardinal sins. Wikipedia defines Greed as “the selfish desire for or pursuit of money, wealth, power, food, or other possessions, especially when this denies the same goods to others.”

What is happening now in this variously described economic crisis in the United States is, in a profound sense and in a final analysis, based on greed – the lust for more and more and more….

Indeed, America is replete with this kind of behavior since its early frontier days. In ideological terminology it is euphemized as ‘individualism’ and ‘freedom’ to attain the ‘American dream’, ‘only in America’ – ‘whatever it takes’ and ‘at all costs’.

This is capitalism as described and practiced by western society. A system inherently characterized by ruthless exploitation, individualism and competition (or to be more exact, elimination of the competition). These inherent characteristics are what enable capitalism to attain steady growth rates. Unfortunately, because of these characteristics, growth is attained at the tremendous cost of real development, the latter generally indicated by an increasing standard of living of the entire population.

Even before the idea of an America there was this excruciating greed in Columbus’ exploits – for gold and empire – and in his death, he grieved for not enabling his personal wealth.

But in America, and elsewhere, there is no pure capitalism. Over the course of time the noble idea of an egalitarian society became inevitably corrupted because the nature of capitalism is such that businesses must increase their exploitation in order to remain viable. In other words, for capitalism (businesses) to survive they must not just increase their profitability, but also the rate of their profitability. Thus, the quintessence of America being the land of the free changed to freedom for a few in real means. The Trail of Tears, for example, demonstrated how quickly the greed for land and wealth overcame the archetypal principle. Similarly the abhorrent African slave business expanded the rich planter class.

America the land of the free is being transformed into a land of greed; it is run on the code of greed and is being consumed by this unfettered greed. The common good is an airy-fairy notion. The essence of civilization is being negated while social classes are trenchantly defined. The role of the media and the total education system facilitates a brainwashing process – to engender a mindset; to worship money, wealth and the lust for these. At the same time the process instills into the collective psyche one’s station in the society: ‘this is where you belong and this is where you stay’.

The rich continues to get richer, and the poor poorer!

Post-modern America is busy spreading freedom but flouts justice, and is apathetic towards true democracy for the everyday “Joe six-pack”. The super rich individuals and corporations have created drastic economic inequalities through worker exploitation; unfathomable debt through credit cards; high interest loans; artificial super inflation of real estate values so that banks can disburse large loans, the collateral for which are corruptly created (Freddie Mac, Fannie May, Indy Mac, AIG come readily to mind); Wall Street brokers pocketing the cream of their investors' returns, leaving only bits of crumbs for investors whose investments comprise mainly of their retirement funds.… All these and more have produced an ongoing dependency and an underclass well below the poverty line, resulting in the ruin of millions of families.

The current economic woes have devastated main street America and have sent shock waves across the world. Many are losing their homes as a consequence of the sub-prime practice and many more are losing their jobs.

The inverse operation of the multiplier effect is that for every dollar or job lost, the economy, GDP and employment shrink by five times; in other words, when one person loses his job, five others will follow. We are in a worse situation than any politician is prattling. Only some economists understand (or are willing speak out) how dangerously close the American empire has come to destruction by this financial tsunami, and they cannot disclose this to the world. Yet Mr. Bush only four weeks ago told Americans, "Our economy is undergoing some adjustment..." only to admit two days later, "we are in an economic crisis…."

To emphasize, the poorer stratum suffer disproportionately in their meager investments, and 401K. Their little nest egg is lost or reduced significantly. At the same time the white-collar criminals, many of whom are employing Hollywood accounting to “cook their books”, get away with golden handshakes. Even lesser petty crimes are subjected to criminal prosecution!

We need more than a so-called "socialist" band-aid of seven hundred billion dollars to rehabilitate this wreck. This band-aid only further punishes the poor taxpayer, particularly the middle class whose retirement funds have vaporized, while the real culprits get off scot-free. We need a more high-handed approach that (1) demands a repatriation of all bonuses received by the culprits over the years; (2) links real estate inflation to the cost of living inflation or national minimum wage increase; (3) levies a twenty percent tax on all individuals and companies that sold properties in excess of a million dollars over the past five years.

These are the drastic actions that will check the decline in Wall Street. The average American can clearly see that justice has definitely not been done nor appears to have been done. There is no perceived credibility in those who handle our financial, political and judicial processes. And so long as this perception remains the economy will continue to slip.

The battle must be fought on several fronts – financial, political and judicial. And neither the democrats nor republicans have the courage or nerve to do so. Indeed the democrats have been in control of Congress for two years, while the republicans have held the presidency for eight; yet they all failed to do something, even though the writing has been on the wall for at least five years.

Thus this freedom that is so cherished, this happiness that we all pursue, the American dream, is like an illusion because it is difficult to reflect on and attain happiness when we are deluged with so many negative experiences. The huddled masses yearning to breathe free is now scared. Hope is fogged up by looming fear.

The era of laissez-faire (including Reagan’s supply-side trickle-down economics) has dominated the thinking of the think tanks and the corporate world, and has spiraled out of control. Excessive materialism, the concept and practice of free market and the dominance of globalization – basically the same ideology – have created huge economic disparities domestically with ripple effects worldwide, eroding core human values in the process.

These different tags do not present a human face. Human beings are seen as another commodity that can be exploited and traded ad lib without limits while executive compensations have climbed to indecently high levels. Forbes publish their list of the richest people in the world and expects all and sundry to worship them.

The intention here is not to broad-brush everything and everybody. But it is still fair to observe that the mainstream media have engaged in ‘dumbing down’ a brainwashed population that is weakened and made gullible.

Of course the politicians are adept at evasiveness, but they do respond to their pipers’ bidding. They have voted for the wars, approved excessive spending, remained silent or acquiesced to runaway deregulation, providing ‘golden parachutes’, giving ‘golden handshakes’, and facilitating bailout for the rich who were the perpetrators of the financial crisis. Now they pretend innocence!

While deregulation gave way to untrammeled shady practices that made a few very rich, it is ‘Joe six-pack’ who is hurting most of all in the economic crises, and who is asked to provide the US$700 billion bailout. The move of Government intervention is not socialism as some falsely allude to; this is corporate welfare. Why are the ordinary working people, who can least afford their loss, not getting a bailout? Is this fair and reasonable?

The system has seen several episodic crises: the Great Depression of 1929-1935; dot com stock market crash; Asian financial crisis of 1997. The Great Depression did see the introduction of certain positive social changes to buffer unemployment, hunger and homelessness. But the landscape is scarred indelibly with ‘shelters’ and ‘soup kitchens’! Do we need crises to spur us on to act for the greater good of society? Already there are signs of the fox being asked to guard the coop.

Working people across the board must say no to the system of social Darwinism. The system is broken! It is time to wake up and mend it. Historically, whatever freedoms the masses have achieved, from slavery or financial bondage, have never been granted by the politicians and power brokers, but wrested from them.

Gary Girdhari

Bad Habits
by Gary Girdhari
Guyana Journal, September 2008

In the development of the human personality there are many behavioral patterns that become observable from birth. These behaviors are repeated with a constancy and regularity and without any apparent conscious input. Many are instinctive, fulfilling natural biological functions or responding to innate urges, as evidenced in all living things – the acts of eating, evacuating the bowels and bladder, scratching, rubbing the eyes, picking one’s nose, et cetera.

During the slow process of maturity and maturation there are other automatic behaviors that may appear to be instinctive, but are not. These are learned and become routines in one’s life, occurring with a fair degree of regularity. With the passing of time the behaviors become more entrenched and are practiced without any apparent awareness. Many behaviors eventually overpower the body physiologically and psychologically, like alcoholism, smoking and drugs, and sears into the personality even to the extent of personal and societal detriment.

Behaviors as described – instinctive or learned – may be termed habits, (or addiction as in extreme cases).

It is quite obvious that there are good habits and bad ones depending, of course, on the norms of the specific (closed) environment. So that what may be regarded as acceptable behavior in one society may be scorned in another.

There are some natural repetitive processes that by definition are common to everyone, like bowel and bladder release, clearing the throat and spitting. A baby will perform such acts (duties) any time and anywhere without sanction. But would these be appropriate in older individuals? No. We unlearn some habits because society “tells” us!

In our daily lives all of us perform our rituals, such as scratching and itching, picking the nose and teeth, and so on. In the privacy of our home they may be innocuous, depending on the company present. In the public or in company of others the same routine (and necessary) behavior may be deemed socially offensive and unacceptable. Would you, for example, scratch your private parts in the public view? Scratching another part of the body may be less disagreeable, depending on which part. So that there are levels of acceptable habitual behaviors, conditional on the social context. The old saying: “There is a time and place for everything” is apt; and, to some extent “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”.

Which brings me into focus. Daily one sees many antisocial habits in the public, habits that are not regarded as harmful enough…. For example, the mindless use of foul cuss words in speech, which is becoming a new norm; littering of public streets and parks; loud music; and spitting in the public. These are seen among all ages, social groups, national backgrounds, and ethnicities. The handsome couple walking, holding hands, chatting, smiling and laughing, he smoking a cigarette, and, in the midst of the conversation or smile, spews out a stream of spittle on the sidewalk, preceded by an expressive disagreeable hack. They continue, she and he, as though it is the most natural and okay thing to do! The youngish mother walking with her young child (nearly teenage) having a casual chat, saying “I have a lot of f---ing thing to do today,” and “hold the fr--ging thing properly”.

And note, I’m not speaking about grammar and cell phone use and abuse.

Most people have good habits (like not doing those bad ones), grooming themselves well, common courtesies, cleaning their space, and so on. It’s the bad habits that are so repulsive – the bad apples and the bad herrings.

“Manners maketh man. Show me your company and I’ll tell you who you are. A stitch in time saves nine. Cleanliness is next to godliness.” These are sayings that many have grown up hearing. I am wagering that the culprits of bad habits do not do the same in their homes; or do they?

What does one do, and what does society do? In the first place we know that habits are learned, character is formed, and personality is constructed. Therefore, it is necessary to unlearn and deconstruct bad habits. Beginning with the home and the school, there must a consciousness about where we are taking society – ourselves along the way. “As you make your bed, so must you lie on it. You reap what you sow.” It is our – all of us – civic responsibility to sow the right seeds. Create simple “do’s and don’ts” rules, and keep them. We must develop a sense of pride and elevate our self-esteem.
Is there need for punitive measures? Be your own watch dog.

Gary Girdhari

The World of Plastics – and You!
by Gary Girdhari
Guyana Journal, August 2008

Have you ever taken a moment to think about the excessive packaging of goods and materials bought in stores and online? Well, I have, and I’m sure many others have thought about this also. For some others, it doesn’t matter because it is of no concern – only because it has not yet come up into their realization. They accept it, like most others things, as a way of life, because they/we are being “told” it’s the way to go!

As an example: after returning from a supermarket you will find that you will have twice as many plastic bags as the number of items purchased, thanks to ‘double’ bagging. Or if you buy a small gadget online, you will find amazingly that the small item is in a box (plastic sometimes) which is placed in another much larger shipping box filled with Styrofoam and/or bubblewrap.

Look around and try to assess the bags, packaging, the varieties of plastic wrappings, the so-called modern amenities that are supposed to make your life easier. A quick look: coffee and soup cups, pre-packaged sandwiches and salads, the ubiquitous soda and water (plastic) bottles, plastic milk bottles, packaged fruits and meats in polystyrene trays, take-away foods containers, plastic knives, forks and spoons, plastic wrappings of bread, containers for ice cream, yoghurt, potato chips and Doritos. If you have a baby, include the many pampers and containers for the wipes. And then you may utilize a plastic bag for each of these items. This is a quick look, and we are all ‘guilty’.

In Britain alone it is estimated that people discard 58 billion items – 1.5 million tonnes – of household plastic packaging a year, not to mention other plastic items. I have visited my local flea market at the end-of-day operation and I was startled to observe the large quantity of plastics strewn on the tarmac – this does not include the plastic bags of customers.

It is indeed startling and worrisome: how in a short time we have been lured into a false sense of what is good for us. Gone are the days of the re-usable and washable bags. Yes, we now live in a disposable society.

Already there are scary announcements of a ‘doomsday’ as a consequence of rapid climate change – manmade global warming. Our disregard for our natural world has obviously been for short-term benefit for a few. We have indulged in unnecessary excesses in over-consumption, improper utilization of land and water, deforestation and plunder of global resources. And for the ordinary person who has been indoctrinated into accepting “what is good for you’, his behavior is now knee-jerk, unconscious and habituated.

Human life and indeed all life may face an apocalypse of man’s own making ahead of the biblical forewarning. It is imperative to change direction; to modify our behavior; to unlearn bad practices. Some businesses and special interest groups will continue to peddle their goods for mere money and profits. But the future of our planet – the earth, water and air – with all life on it, is in jeopardy unless we collectively make a conscious action plan to change our relationship with the world around us – soon. The seek-and-find, the frontier man’s spirit of brutal capture, the hunter instinct, have all led to plunder for selfish gain. Let us be reminded that Nature is not inexhaustible. There has to be an attitudinal change to embrace the natural world, to nurture it rather than destroy it. (I was so pleased this past week or so when I taught a 3-year old and a 5-year old the three R’s – reduce reuse recycle.) They are too young to grasp the concept, but, by example and repeated counsel, guidance and encouragement, the ideas will be reinforced and the buzz words may become practical routines.

Do we need government to make rules and laws to change lifestyles and attitudes? Yes, we do. But often, government is the problem. The people are the government! And we the people have to be active – to participate and agitate for meaningful change – to tell government what must be done.

Let us be clear in the recognition that modern invention has benefited humanity enormously. Plastics has greatly advanced the quality of life in many instances. But it is the unwise and excessive usage that is creating problems. Plastics are non-biodegradable. Generally, there are poor recyclable practices. They form toxic landfills. They also kill many marine life forms by entanglement and suffocation.

We have to think sagaciously not only for short-term economic gains and feigned comfort, but also acknowledge that unabated exploitation of our natural world and injudicious excesses will certainly and exponentially further eat away the essential natural support systems on which all life depend.

We are all in this together. We either swim together or sink together.

Gary Girdhari

Community Neglect
by Gary Girdhari
Guyana Journal, July 2008

Our elected officials in New York City and those in charge of certain essential infrastructures and services most likely do not ride the subway in South Queens, New York, or, if they do, they do not pay adequate attention, or they don’t care about the residents.

When I do take the subway I usually start at 104 Street/Oxford on the A line. The old decrepit stairways, then mezzanine/waiting area, and the second set of stairs to the platform greet me with a stench – an admixture of decay, rot, and plain dirtiness. The cracks and holes, the peelings and rust on the ceiling and walls are a disgrace to basic quality of life. It must take years to deteriorate to this state – reminiscent of conditions in many Third World countries. At the same time, one can find oftentimes all of the lights supplying the (open) platform on, well into the bright hours of the day. Similar conditions are seen at other locations, at least along the A line. Many other subway lines have received good beautification. But here at Oxford, 88 Street, Euclid one can certainly make the case of low maintenance and deliberate neglect.

Another example of neglect is road maintenance. Last year I took pictures of several streets where holes had worsened to the state where a couple of car tires could fit in easily, and this was actually done by someone as a temporary fix. Eventually these were filled in and repaired, but in about a year or less they (the same ones) began to sink in again. It is like papering over cracks. (And if perchance there is a small hole nearby, this would be left for another time!) One may conclude that poor workmanship is the reason. But repeated occurrences suggest otherwise. A more likely explanation is that the contractors are employing shoddy practices to ensure future contracts, in perpetuity – but at the expense of taxpayers’ dollars and as a serious hazard to life and property.

It is amazing to find relative peace and quiet, and cleanliness away from the main thoroughfares such as Liberty Avenue. I speak of Liberty Avenue because I see it every day. I see people of all ages, gender, national background and ethnicity, many nonchalantly strewing the sidewalk and street with diverse garbage, overstuffing street corner bins with household garbage. I see many hacking and spitting on the sidewalk, sometimes in front of my doorstep, in my presence, as though it is the correct and accepted thing to do. I see new and old faces, a few of whom are chronic alcoholics, woefully pitiful to conjecture their dilemma. I listen to the foulest cuss words, loud and resonant, with a discernable accent – in the public, as though such language is the norm.

Why is it that a community is allowed to progressively deteriorate? This community has been taking blows sitting down. There is no combativeness, no active aggressiveness to demand action from the authorities. It is not unusual that those with limited economic and political clout – the poor – are selectively and collectively sidelined.

Some times it is the individual’s choice that counts – to question and make complaints, and to question one’s own behavior, so that on an individual basis he/she can self-regulate his/her own behavior. But in the end it is the orchestra that plays the fine music. The don’t-care-it’s-not-my-business attitude must give way to it’s-my-community-and-yours-too. As concerned citizens we must not only respond to things in our community, we must also deliberately and forcefully make it the way we want it. Sometimes we may find ourselves at a disadvantage because our political capacity is comparatively inadequate; but we are smart enough – we can advocate, we can make tough, legitimate and fair demands in an uncompromising manner. Or we can be selfish and insular, and submissively accept our presumed limitations, and continue to receive the wrong end of the stick.

If the recent G8 meeting is a guide to global economic relationship, we have to think again, hard. According to a BBC report: “And on the poverty agenda, aid agencies feared that - far from any new help for the needy in Africa - the G8 leaders were no longer in a mood to be generous, and might not even commit themselves to stumping up the money owed on previous aid pledges.” While they gave lip service on poverty in the distressed world, they were gorging on eight-course twenty-five dish meal prepared by twenty chefs.

The point is you have to do it for yourselves, to agitate for your just rights – individually and collectively. There is no benevolent dictator!

If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
(Eldridge Cleaver)

Gary Girdhari

The Biting Question of Food in the Caribbean
by Seopaul Singh
Guyana Journal, June 2008

On May 22, 2008 Robert Persaud, Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture, spoke out at the twenty-seventh special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Agriculture and Food Security decrying CARICOM leaders for their tardiness in implementing agriculture policies in the Caribbean.

The Jamaican Minister of Agriculture, Christopher Tufton, joined Mr. Persaud and promptly called for production, not merely trade, to improve the situation.

It appears that some CARICOM partners do not like the toil and hard work involved to provide food for the Caribbean people!

After twenty-six meetings, they are still in a discussion phase. CARICOM only dialogues with Guyana because Guyana is presumed to have the food producers, who, despite the devastating coastal floods, are ready to gamble their savings on rice production and diverse crops.

Guyana was once referred to as the breadbasket of the West Indies. It seems that the partnership with the West Indies has always been an affair of convenience in favor of the islands (now CARICOM). When opposition forces in Guyana protested, CARICOM comes down on the Guyana government. Since the fifties, some of Caribbean leaders opposed Dr. Cheddi Jagan and the PPP government, some actually petitioned the Colonial Office to bar Jagan from Parliament in 1953. (The British Guiana Constitution was suspended and Jagan was jailed. He was restricted entry to certain key Caribbean Islands.)

For twenty-eight years (1964-1992), these Caribbean leaders did not lift a finger against Forbes Burnham and the atrocities of the PNC dictatorship. In 1997, they took away two years of the Janet Jagan’s government, when the PNC opposition protested the PPP victory in the 1997 elections. Robert Corbin and others are again knocking at the doors of CARICOM leaders to restrict the governance of the current PPP administration. Is this indicative of “kit and kin” sympathies at work?

The acknowledged looming worldwide “shortage” of food is fast catching up with human reality. This is due mainly to the curtailment of the once dependable wheat production in Australia and the diversion of corn and other agricultural produce toward the production of bio-fuel. Mankind is now paradoxically competing with the machines of his creation for energy to keep going. In the circumstance, man has created a virtual artificial food shortage that now threatens the human race.

With the shortfall of wheat production and the utilization of corn and other agricultural produce to create bio-fuel, rice is on greater demand. Rice is the staple of more than two thirds of the world population (China, India, Philippines, Malaya, most of Latin America and the Caribbean). The bulging world population has sent out special warning signs to world leaders a long time ago. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization did not miss the threat facing the human race.

Numerous reports heralded the present scramble to find solutions for cheap bio-fuels. The generation of bio-fuels as is now experienced is not cheap? With droughts as in Australia, and other forms of natural disasters like the recent cyclone in Myanmar, the CARICOM states are now driven into partnerships with financial institutions to facilitate more food production.

The threatening worldwide food shortage, which is already a scourge over an underfed multitude of 850 million in densely populated underdeveloped nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America, asks the question if our world leaders, CARICOM, Energy Gurus and Agricultural Economists were asleep.

Very often politicians spend more money to gain or re-gain power than they spend to alleviate hunger on the planet. The current food scenario has escalated too far into the foreign policies of super powers. A meager fraction of the money spent on bombs and guns could provide for the starving masses of the poor. The “free developed” world, motivated by a “new world order” is bent with a worldview of establishing “democracy” everywhere, as in Iraq, but at what expense to the emerging nation’s economy.

In the pursuit of such foreign policies, humanity has missed the mark on what their priorities ought to be. One wonders what the big fuss over democracy is all about, considering that the embrace of these high ideals in the final analysis are/would only benefit the multinationals, and power brokers! In the process, they trample on the rights of the masses.

The rich and seemingly secure wallow in their affluence and excesses, while within and without their arcane seclusion, the hungry masses rummage in garbage dumps for a livelihood. Only this weekend (May 24, 2008) the National Geographic aired the most indicting assessment on the per capita over-consumption of natural resources in the USA. The statistics are overwhelming, and the criminal waste perpetrated in the US alone on the natural resources of the planet is unbelievable.

During the eighties, ‘Guylines’ became daily fixtures at the K.S.I.’s and shopping centers in Guyana. A parallel economy competed with the commercial sector of the nation to make scarce items available. The authorities attributed the shortages to scarce Foreign Exchange. What they did not give prominence to back then was the wastage and squandering which bedeviled the tottering economy coupled with unseasonal weather patterns (droughts and floods) that impacted food production negatively. By this time, the PNC regime had brought the rice industry to a state of virtual bankruptcy.

The food crises did not come suddenly upon Guyana. The 1996, 2005 and 2006 floods in Guyana were wake-up calls, but did not teach the necessary lesson about the loss in food production in the Guyana, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Floods and droughts would be an inevitable regular feature of Global Warming. What is needed is to focus on addressing action now on the ground to bolster production in a sustainable manner.

– Seopaul Singh, CEM CHS (Contributing Editor), former Chief Allocation and Distribution Officer, Ministry of Trade and Former Deputy Executive Officer, Civil Defence Commission in Guyana.

The Polygamous Pedophiliac Cult in Texas
by Gokarran Sukhdeo
Guyana Journal, May 2008

THE coming to light of a polygamous pedophiliac cult in Texas has thrown the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in another one of its multitude of historical controversies. It is therefore good for our intelligent public who thirst for truth and knowledge that the President of the Georgetown Guyana District, Mr. Wayne W. Barrow, representing the public affairs office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has come out with a public explanation in seeking to distance (his version of) the LDS Church from that Texas version called the Fundamental Latter-day Saints (FLDS) Church, which Barrow and (current) LDS doctrines claim to be a “small polygamous sect”, one of many “splinter groups that broke away from the mainstream church.”

The Mormon Church was started by Joseph Smith in upstate New York in the 1820s. Smith claimed to have been visited by an angel named Moroni who told him not to follow any other church, but to start his own in accordance with revelations he was going to receive. Despite Saint Paul’s admonition in Galatians 1:8, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” this angel Moroni provided Smith with the materials to start his new church. The first set of materials were the golden plates on which were written a record of a remnant of a tribe of Abraham that came to America, and whose present descendants are dogmatically taught to be the native Indians of North, Central and South America; and the second set of materials, two magic rocks (which Smith called Urim and Thummim) that would help him translate the language written on the plates.

The very existence and authenticity of these plates were to be later denied and disputed by most of the twelve people to whom Smith claimed he had shown – all of whom eventually left the church. In addition, modern DNA science has disproved by 99.8 percent any genetic relationship between the native Indians of the Americas and the Jewish people. In producing the doctrines called the Book of Mormon, scholars claim that Smith extrapolated heavily from the Bible, mostly from the New Testament, and from the unpublished manuscripts of a novel written by one, Spalding.

Concerning the later denial of the authenticity of the plates by all twelve of the people who had previously endorsed it, the Church’s response is not to disclose this truth to its membership. About DNA disproving the genetic relationship between the Jews and the native Indians of North, Central and South America (including the Amerindians in Guyana), the past president and prophet of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley who died recently, when confronted with the evidence, stated that science was wrong. On the issue of plagiarism, the Church rationalizes that there is only a lot of circumstantial evidence that Smith stole the manuscripts from Spalding, with no hard proof.

The above statements are made just to give some examples to show the extent to which this church is mired in controversy. There are hundreds more, and I mean hundreds! Let me now dwell on the issue of polygamy or more appropriately, in this case, polygyny. In the early days of the church, Smith did not believe in polygamy. His early writing condemns polygamy. (See in the Book of Mormon, Jacob 1:15; 2:23, 24, 27, 31; 3:5; Mosiah 11:2, 4; Esther 10:5, 7.) But something happened. Like any Tower of Babel, something happened to dumbfound the builders. (If you ask me, I believe God threw in a monkey wrench into the operation.) You see, God made him reveal his true self in the doctrines. Like all false prophets, Smith began to meddle in clairvoyance, in violence and in wholesale sex. He became so power hungry – he held positions as mayor, governor and even candidacy for the presidency of the United States.

In his sexual mania Smith became the greatest pedophile and bigamist in the known history of the world, with over fifty wives, half of them under sixteen. Even his wife, Emma, personally witnessed Smith in an act of infidelity with 19-year-old Fanny Alger, and in many other sexual indiscretions. Smith became so obsessed with sex that he started to concoct elaborate doctrinal justifications (called revelations) for the violation of the monogamous marriage bed.

These justifications appear in the later writing in the Doctrines and Covenants and in the Book of Abraham. These justifications which strongly contradict Smith’s earlier teachings are not really seen as contradictions by Mormons, but replacement and upgrading of the previous policy, for the greatest boast of this church is that they are the only complete church, having a living prophet and they are constantly upgrading their doctrines through revelations received by their living prophets directly from God. That is why their present Book of Mormon has over three thousand changes from the original book written by Smith. That is why they have upgraded their policy to now accommodate blacks in the Church. To Mormons, God is constantly changing his mind.

So the present upgraded teachings of the Mormon church (and this includes ALL the Mormon groups – those that broke away and those that didn’t, Mr. Barrow’s group and the Texas group) are that God himself is a polygamist, living near a planet called Kolob with countless wives. He was also an adulterer, having had physical sex with Mary, another man’s fiancée, to produce Jesus (who incidentally is taught by them as the brother of Satan...), while he, himself, this Mormon God was living with his own wives. The scriptures further teach that all Mormon men, if they faithfully obey the Mormon doctrines, will eventually be made gods and given their own planets to live on with countless wives, just like their God who himself was once a man, but because he was obedient to the doctrines, progressed into a god. And even he, this Mormon God, had a mother and father.… (It’s a real anancy story!) Until there is a new revelation nullifying the above teachings, they remain current and in force. Mormon women are only supposed to be baby machines, producing as many spirit-children as possible; the more they do, the more they progress and advance to the celestial kingdom. There are three levels of heaven, the highest is the celestial kingdom, and ONLY polygamists can reach there.

To explain the difference between Mr. Barrow’s church called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and the Texas church called the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), the latter led by Warren Jeffs, one must go back to 1896, the year Utah became accepted as a State, and fifty years prior to that, during which Utah was consistently blockaded from becoming a state because of the practice of polygamy. Then, as Utah was surrounded by federal troops, the church received a sudden revelation to abandon polygamy, just like it received a sudden revelation to abandon its apartheid practices as a result of its inability to distinguish between Whites and Blacks in Brazil in the sixties, and immense pressure resulting from Black Power activities in the country and on its Brigham Young University campus in Utah.

But here comes the real problem. Polygamy and pedophilia have been so strongly entrenched into the doctrines by Smith that it has become the cornerstone of the religion. The whole religion would crumble if this cornerstone were to be removed. Removing these meant removing major portions of the scriptures and re-writing the entire religion. Many of the earlier prophets, including Smith’s successor, Brigham Young refused to accept this new revelation. Young, himself, had about fifty-five wives. (By the way, Brigham Young was also responsible for the third largest slaughter of Americans by Americans on American soil the Mountain Meadows Massacre – the first was the Civil War, the second, the bombing of the Oklahoma Federal building.) Thus, a real dilemma arose: abandon polygamy, abandon the true doctrine and be accepted as a state; remain true to the doctrine, remain a polygamist and a pedophile and be outlawed. Those that remained true and continued to practice polygamy as it is written by Joseph Smith now call themselves the FLDS, and the real break-away group, the LDS.

The LDS church today cannot remove polygamy and pedophilia from its doctrines, nor can they practice it. They therefore choose to stay quiet. But these teachings are there now, today, as plain as the sun and just as current. Just read and study for yourself. And while you are researching this religion, research the comedy of their Book of Abraham which was translated from classical Egyptian to English by Joseph Smith and which turned out to be the biggest fraud and farce of the twentieth century.

Gokarran Sukhdeo, Contributing Editor

Entrepreneurship and Investment in Guyana
by Gary Girdhari
Guyana Journal, April 2008

"Wind farm backers looking for investors." So it was reported way back in 2003.

Some of my colleagues have talked about wind farm and about other sustainable economic enterprises. In particular, we argued strongly for the capture of overseas markets for a variety of agricultural and processed products which the overseas Guyanese are consuming everyday – but products imported from other countries and falsely advertised "from Guyana".

Alternative energy source is widely advocated amidst alarming climate change, and makes good sense for a country like Guyana. With accessible and cheaper energy, more cottage industries can be established to target market for agricultural and processed products.

Biogas production is simple technology that can be easily adopted in any home; wind power is a little expensive but can run villages and towns; solar is somewhat expensive but still feasible and affordable, and can be individualized. All of these will make dependency on foreign oil less demanding, and will conserve as well as add to the nation’s foreign exchange reserve. The long overdue (strong) economic linkage with India (and neighboring Latin American countries) presaged with many official visits should be considered necessary since these technologies are readily available in India, and relatively cheap. There is no need to re-invent the wheel.

Guyana can boast of the best pineapple, but this is not available in the stores of New York City and elsewhere! What of starapple, spice mangoes and the many delicious fruits and vegetables! It never ceases to amaze me to observe the teeming numbers of Guyanese shopping in mostly non-Guyanese markets overseas, buying produce that are quite familiar – but alas – not from Guyana.

Yes, fresh, canned or bottled pineapple, coconut water or coconut ‘milk’, mango, papaw, tamarind, jamoon, guava, carambola, passion fruit, etc. for local and export markets are doable, and harnessing alternative energy (wind, water, solar, biogas) is good in any manner of speaking. Individually some projects may be modest, but collectively they can add up. It should be remembered that the longest journey begins with a small step.

The benefits of small industries are obvious – employment and exports are prime. The export of raw and value-added products is vital to Guyana's economy; thus it is debauched stupidity not to secure the available markets in New York City and Toronto. Such mini industries (helped with small soft incentive-oriented loans like Grameen) can also be a boost for diversification in other areas. In the U.S. it is a well-known fact that small businesses account for the most employment (in addition to tax revenue to local, state and federal governments.)

I am tempted to comment disparagingly about certain big projects which may be deemed white elephants. The Berbice River bridge, Takutu bridge and many large hotels come to mind readily. Impressive as these may be, and certainly not without some advantages, one questions their cost benefit returns compared with many neglected mini businesses throughout the country through which gainful employment all year round can be guaranteed, and for a profit.

What is also disturbing is that most of the major undertakings are under the control of foreigners. This occurred under the PNC era and continues in the current administration. For a start, the Berbice River bridge funding and ‘creative’ ‘Hollywood’ accounting and management, presumably a BOOT agreement, needs to be scrutinized beyond what the press releases say. Some bad deals are deliberate – to make some very rich while cheating the nation. Think Barama! Is this the new trend for Guyana?

For a start, the Berbice River bridge funding and ‘creative’ ‘Hollywood’ accounting and management, presumably a BOOT agreement, needs to be scrutinized beyond what the press releases say. Some bad deals are deliberate – to make some very rich while cheating the nation. Think Barama! Is this the new trend for Guyana?

Investments are necessary, both foreign and local, for growth and development. But any investment must be measured well before the country is stuck with it. There must be an overall benefit to the development of the country – economically and culturally, as well as sound environmental, social and health policies. Economics growth and development must not only make the rich investor richer, but must also benefit the people for their common good – human development. They must be environmentally sustainable, culturally temperate and accommodating. We have 'always' had Pepsi and Coke; thus we are culturally dependent on these as second-nature essentials in our daily lives, as in our social relaxation with "rum and ...." Did we really need KFC? And the junk food culture that seems to be having a foothold?

For many years now we note the overpowering and awesome presence of GT&T, Omai, Barama (with their foreign and local advocacy). Are there any exceptional benefits to the coffers of the treasury from these companies? Indeed, in some instances, the devastating environmental impact is daunting to contemplate and is yet to be fully identified and realized! Government officials (for whatever reasons) seem to be easily suckered into making bad and clumsy deals. Does the Beal deal ring a bell?

The power of big companies is analogous to the "sharks and the sardines". Is this what free market means for the Guyanese nation? Free trade and globalization are already heavily weighted against poor countries. Shouldn't open-door policy be more guarded? This speaks to sound and moral economics. Cultural domination and imperialism are even more profound but very subtle, being masked by an invisible veneer and made popular, believable, palatable and acceptable by steam rolling advertisement and high-speed global communication.

In his New Global Human Order, Cheddi Jagan wisely said: “The ‘trickle down’ is not working. We now have phenomena such as ‘jobless growth’ and ‘jobless recovery’ and ‘aid fatigue’ and ‘donor fatigue’.”
“The globalization of poverty is a reflection of underdevelopment, mounting population pressures, relentless environmental degradation, injustice and intolerance.”

“[We should be] more concerned with social and human factors than with statistics. We need structural adjustment with a human face.”

“Market-driven economic globalisation and unbridled modernisation, coupled with inhumane and ill-designed structural adjustment programmes, are leading to a spiral of marginalisation and exclusion. The gap in living standards between the rich and the poor in both the North and the South is getting wider: the rich, ‘the included’, ‘the Haves’, are getting richer at the expense of the poor, the ‘excluded’, the ‘Havenots’.”

Must we say thank you because anything is better than nothing, even when it is patently obvious that something is fishy!
Gary Girdhari

There is Fear in the Land
by Gary Girdhari
Guyana Journal, March 2008

Nowadays when one reads the news about Guyana the predominant reports are about crime. For a country with the population size of Guyana the crime rate is relatively high. Some may rant, albeit apologetically and diffidently, that though crime is occurring often, the overall criminality of the nation is small since the crimes are conducted repeatedly only by a small group of individuals. But the nature and gravity however do not give peace of mind to the citizens. Nor does it cover up the negative perception and reality at home and abroad. The situation engenders a growing fear – fear to move freely, fear to do business, fear of overseas tourists and holiday-makers, and investors to visit. (See Guyana: Politicians failing their people) This can impact seriously the growth of the nation – in all spheres of activities – as indeed it has done. Note the travel advisories already sent out!

Crime and violence besmirch Guyana, and like a stinking cancerous canker, a festering sore, blemish the good name of Guyana and all respectable and caring Guyanese. Crime and violence can spread and consume the entire nation, and mushroom beyond. Thank you Caricom for speaking out.

Yet, some people in office and business continue as though everything is OK. Notice the carrying on of Mash just before the “day of national mourning” and shortly after the Bartica and Lusignan massacres! But what is frightening and worrying is the impression and stark realization that the Police (the Joint Services) are ineffective and unable to cope with the situation. Citizens are feeling a sense of loss, uncertainty and despair. Such scenario can develop into vigilante action! Which can result in counter attacks....

Some people argue that the crime that is being committed is ethnically motivated; some claim that it is politically motivated; while others say that it is just criminal activity, pure and simple. All have some validity. During and after the last general elections there was a spate of violence directed predominantly towards East Indians, which lends some credence to the first argument. Political motivation for favoring crime is well documented in the opposition PNC X-13 Plan since the 1960s, the “kick-down-the-door” banditry in the 1980s (which may also be considered ethnic) and more recently with the PNC’s glorification of the dangerous criminal Linden ‘Blackie’ London. The “Gang of Five” was similarly baptized and admired as heroes and referred to as “freedom fighters” when in fact they were experienced robbers and killers. The implied notion circulated by some opposition elements that some criminal activities are in retaliation to the “extra-judicial” killings by the Police (and marginization) is specious and highly inflammatory. These criminals are “professionals” who conduct criminal activities as a business – a very lucrative business – and nothing gets in their way! They are seemingly motivated by (or used for) a warped political agenda. Their weaponry, dress and strategy suggest that their ‘business’ is not just for money. Their success and their ability to be one step ahead are consistent with the suggestion that they have and maintain inside contacts.
Incidentally, one should note also that many deportees (criminals) flooded Guyana from the U.S., took their criminal savvy and have been implementing their know-how since then. (An embarrassing situation where the Guyana government was told to accept the deportees, or else....) The government buckled under a little pressure and threat from the U.S. and had to accept the deportees.

There is no doubt that some crimes are personal, and some occur among warring groups involved in illicit activities such as drug deals that go sour.

However, based on the methods of operation and the sophistication of weaponry and communication, other questions are prompted. The question arises again: Is there any link between some criminals and institutions that possess the weaponry? Many believe there are rogue cops and military men who aid and abet criminal activities in providing military hardware and information. The porous borders also allow easy smuggling from Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil.

Guyanese across the political and ethnic spectrum are criticizing the government for their rather slapdash manner in dealing with the crime situation, which has spawned too much laxity. The government and the Joint Services hope by their inaction it would “go away”. Now we are all praying!

In Guyana there are only a few main highways and very few arteries. Why is it then that the criminals are able to escape after robberies and murders? Under normal conditions, Police operate with proscribed due diligence. But under extra-ordinary conditions the Police must adopt other strategies and actions as dictated by the prevailing conditions.

Unquestionably, some in the Police do not maintain professionalism, meaning that they are not impartial and unfettered from political and ethnic alliances. Some fail to perform their duties diligently and according to their oath of office. Often public relations are confrontational, which do not generate public confidence and support. Community relations is sadly poor. The open secret of bribery and corruption, and arrogance in displaying police power do not build confidence. In some cases there is blatant disregard to respond; in others there is ineptitude.

There should be no excuse for the lack of proper coordinated communication systems to mobilize the forces, to set up roadblocks, and to have aerial surveillance.

Separate and apart from the conduct of the Joint Services, in addition, as an immediate re-structuring, government must decentralize the police and military, with full autonomous recruitment and training, and deployment in the counties.

Criminals should not escape in a country where the transportation network in simple and minimal. Citizens must regain their trust in the police, the military and their government.
Gary Girdhari

The Lusignan Murders
Guyana Journal, February 2008

1978 witnessed the Jonestown engineered mass suicide. January 26 2008 saw the slaughter of 11 innocent individuals at Lusignan. Both of these gave the little insignificant Guyana worldwide attention in news media – from China to Texas. Guyana was even given dishonorable mention in The Economist as being among the top Caribbean nations plagued with violent crime – four times the United States and fifteen times Europe per capita. What a crying shame it is that Guyana is only highlighted internationally because of such notoriety!

All Guyanese are aggrieved and pained by the heinous and shameful carnage on January 26, which has thrown the dear land of Guyana back into the dark ages. This unprovoked onslaught on innocent people was not done by one person alone, but also by all those who regularly fan the fire of hatred – those who are the ethnic entrepreneurs, those whose hands are not necessarily soiled with spent gunpowder, those white-collared Pontius Pilates whose hands are not visibly tainted with fresh blood of the victims.

The seeds of what played out in Lusignan were sown decades ago….

As we empathize with the somberness of the nation we are mindful of the current agonizing conflict among ‘blood’ brothers and sisters in Kenya…. The ethnic/tribal conflict in Kenya has sent that nation on the brink – with death and destruction, homelessness and hunger, displacement and psychological injury, beyond foreseeable repair – at the personal level. And economically the country is reeling in a backward tailspin out of control. The violence has resulted in sending most tourists packing, leaving the blue waters and beautiful beaches, and hotels empty. (Tourism in Kenya is a major foreign currency earner bringing in about $1bn annually.) Thousands upon thousands are adversely affected by the precipitous decline in tourism. Agriculture is also affected because of transportation problems causing harvestable crops to rot in the fields. Another major foreign currency earner is in horticulture, and now the export of vegetable and flowers is being hampered in the domino effect. Overall the country stands to lose near $4 bn this year as a consequence of the tribal conflict.

Here is an alarming and unsavory lesson for Guyana!

There is widespread righteous condemnation of the security forces for their lethargic approach in putting an end to the unabated crimes in general and their ineffectiveness in dealing with the hardcore criminal elements hiding out in Buxton in particular. The security forces have had bigger shares of the national budget and should not make more excuses. They need the will and they need to do the job they are paid to do – to protect the nation. The government could have done better, but took its eye from the ball and lacked focus on the crime problem. The anger of the people is the new command for government to act – or be judged. The government must take full responsibility. The buck stops with the President and the Cabinet! The time for fancy speeches and coffee and mild palliatives at wakes has become irrelevant. Both the security services and government must take a step back and re-examine their roles vis-à-vis the security of the citizens. Corruption must be weeded out and if ‘heads must roll’, so be it.

There is mounting frustration and disgust among sober thinking Guyanese with respect to the spate of unsolved crimes plaguing the nation especially since the infamous February 2002 jailbreak. The leaders, both political and civic, have failed the people. More and more there is distrust, deepening tension and fear. In the end it is the poor who suffer the most.

The government should stop sending "boy scouts" into Buxton; stop pussy-footing with the lives of the villagers around Buxton; and use the $50 million offer of reward to set up a SWAT team and hire well-trained, high-tech professionals to go after the perpetrators of the crimes. The people want results, and NOW.

We of the Guyana Journal sincerely wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed, and we pray that peace, hope and comfort will dwell in the hearts of the bereaved. We pray also that the heartless and senseless few, who find consolation in this massacre and who, with twisted logic, rationalize (and connect) the murder of innocent sleeping children to alleged maladministration by the police, army and government, will also find peace and enlightenment.

We appeal for calm, sanity and objectivity. We hope that good sense will prevail and that workable policies can be set in motion for the common good of the nation.
by Gary Girdhari & others

Hopes and Wishes
Guyana Journal, January 2008

In the beginning of the new year we are greeted with the horrific news of continued ethnic violence in Kenya resulting from election malpractices. Mwai Kibaki, the president (Kikuyu tribe) and Raila Odinga, the opposition leader (Luo tribe), in heightened confrontation have continued their role-play for real while over 300,000 individuals are left homeless – desperate and hungry – and hundreds killed.

Kenya, the land of Jomo Kenyatta, with over 40 tribes, is still poor, but is one of Africa’s most stable countries. The people “cook, eat, play, read, listen to the radio, chat, are ill, get better, laugh and cry in this cramped place.” Yet, such sickening ethnic tribal violence, killings and suffering resurface.

In Orissa, India, there is ongoing communal violence between some Hindus and Christians, the former (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) wanting to preserve their way of life, making claims of coercive Christian conversion by the latter among “tribal people and low-caste Hindus”. The state of Orissa has witnessed many such extreme tensions over the years, and there is no apparent end to this very sensitive issue of conversion.

On 01/10/2008 the New York Times carried graphic pictures of vandalizing and desecration of the Jewish Poile Zedek Cemetery in New Jersey where more than 75% of the tombstones were toppled. “The question is why,” one resident said. “Why did this happen? In this day and age, it just shouldn’t exist.” But racial conflicts do happen “in this day and age” (recently right in my backyard of Hamilton/Howard Beach, Queens, New York, between a Guyanese family and a local resident), and too often.

In the midst of all the negatives that greeted us in 2008 there is a bright ray of hope. Op-Ed columnist Bob Herbert described this as the “The Obama Phenomenon”. Senator Barack Obama, democrat presidential hopeful, won the election in Iowa. Iowa’s population is about 96% white, and Obama is black! This is highly significant in American politics and may be a signal for change here as well as globally. It shows a paradigmatic evolution in the changing attitudes – a predominantly white conservative state voting approvingly for a black man. It shows that America has matured and is rising above various forms of parochialism. Race and ethnicity, faith and religious thoughts are not in the forefront of people’s thinking (although lurking); it shows that the people’s concern is for what is good for the common good of the ordinary citizens and the country as a whole.

This ray of hope speaks for a new analysis (or rather a renewed analysis) in regard to human behavior and relationships. It beckons for the humanism of the spirit. It may be the dawn of a new era, a shift, a new direction – for fairness and justice, for humanity (not one-sidedness) – in short, the transformation from narrow mindedness to the broadened human factor. Regardless of the final outcome of the elections, Barack Obama’s (and a few others like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich) clean “fight” and issues-oriented approach has brought new meaning to the old politics, and hopefully will energize the process away from apathy and malaise.

Some colleagues have also ventilated their wishes for us all:

“Great health, contentment, care and prosperity,” – Janet Naidu, Toronto

Your contract of friendship for the New Year 2008!

May peace break into your house and may thieves come to steal your debts. May the pockets of your jeans become a magnet of $100 bills. May love stick to your face like Vaseline and may laughter assault your lips! May your clothes smell of success like smoking tires and may happiness slap you across the face.

May your tears be that of joy. May the problems you had forget your home address! In simple words ... May 2008 be the best year of your life!!!

It was a very hard decision to make. So try not to screw it up!

Love and Best wishes.” – Bhaggi Bhagwandin, Queens, New York

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, has said, "Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and Nations are free." Let us pray to the Lord to bless the world and its inhabitants with lasting peace. May the Almighty show us the path to righteousness and wellbeing.

A Peaceful mind, a Peaceful soul, a Joyful spirit, a Healthy body and a Heart full of love. All of these are my heartiest wishes. This New Year let us vow to uphold humanism above everything else.

2008 Resolutions Poem

I wish in 2008 I had a magic wand
Wave it and let others understand
Only love can stop the bleeding
To stave off war and suffering

I wave it at the despots
And the army crackpots
To stop the darn raping of mothers
And send home the child soldiers

Wave it over some very loose screws
To halt child labor and female abuse
And eradicate child prostitution
Save the poor from exploitation

Let the rich share their wealth
For most got it all by stealth
For after all how many more millions
You want for you and your minions.”
Naraine Datt, Toronto, Canada

And to this, we say amen.

by Gary Girdhari

We must act in environmentally responsible ways
Guyana Journal, December 2007

The nature of world politics has deteriorated to the point that whenever powerful countries (like the US) sneeze the rest of the world get the sniffles. The present US administration has been in overdrive in denial of climate change brought about mainly by excessive logging and CO2 emission. And it is only now that there is some semblance of enlightenment since the exemplary exposé by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. (There are still many on the extreme right fringe that adamantly live in denial and who hold immense political clout through their church.)

But "Climate change is an all encompassing threat - threat to health, security, food production and to our ecosystems. The scientific evidence is compelling and alarming," observed former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Most people would like to conduct their day-to-day affairs without undue interference from anyone, including government. They prefer not to be bothered by red tapes and big burdensome bureaucracies. However, since it is always the people’s government, they have the inherent right to know and to be involved in matters that affect them personally, and their communities generally. And with this in mind, we the people must have a make-over from the ingrown malaise of intransigence to positivism and activism. By the same token and by extension, there are certain basic responsibilities of government to the citizenry.

Yet, under careful examination, one is left with the distinct impression that those in government take the rank and file citizens for granted, ignore their wishes and, instead, do the bidding of their financial sponsors. This is dreadfully glaring in this great democracy – the USA – by those who already hold political office and those aspiring to high office. It is the reason why there is a widespread cloud of cynicism about politicians.

These same individuals who cajole the ordinary people (those who shake your hands and hug your babies) before an election become remade when they are elected. Even by appointment you are unable to meet with them personally. Hubris! They are now leaders, not representatives. Noli me tangere! They inculcate the expert art of Orwellian newspeak and tautological bunkum. Their rubric is guided by the political pipers who demand pay-back-time. Their behavior is not unlike The Distinguished Gentleman. For sure, there has been a subtle shift in the political fiduciary paradigm! And we the people are failing to effectively object to the cozy hush-hush modus operandi of those in charge.

There have been many instances where government deliberately go against the wishes or best interest of the people – in education of the young, health and health insurance, social security, care of the elderly, and other social services. Money and attention are denied for these services that matter most to families, and money is shunted disproportionately for war. As Bob Herbert of the New York Times puts it: “
Priorities don’t get much more twisted. A country that can’t find the money to provide health coverage for its children, or to rebuild the city of New Orleans, or to create a first-class public school system, is flushing whole generations worth of cash into the bottomless pit of a failed and endless war.”

There is extraordinary obstinacy in dealing with certain matters – that commonsense tells should not be the case. One such is the matter of climate change. All the evidence and hard science point to the enormity and gravity of this Inconvenient Truth. Climate change is nothing new, but man-made technologies have resulted in marked (exponentially) deviation from what is expected naturally. Such obstinacy, such behavioral slackness and laxity by those who wield power are not aberrations.

Some of the leaders prefer to listen to the lobbyists or to others who pass judgment preemptively and admonish that the ultimate effects of climate change is the inevitable apocalypse coming to pass. The former would be happy in the short run, but would be consumed like the others because of their stupidity that helped the consuming process. The latter would also be happy in an illusory rapture, but would be delusional in la-la land.

If politicians, leaders or representatives do not listen to the people and do not espouse basic responsibilities of government, it is left to the people to take action on their own. The people may promise not to re-elect them. (But there are too many, and they operate in diverse and covert ways!)

Citizens therefore have to embrace the commonsense approach. They can adopt a minimalist attitude, recognizing that too much is not necessarily good. Do we need ten or twenty pairs of shoes, and an ever-growing wardrobe? Do we need to eat all we can eat at the buffet-style restaurants? Do we need to throw away so much leftovers, especially when millions are starving? Do we need to shower for 15-30 minutes with a full blast of water when there is alarming water shortage elsewhere? Do we really need all the newer gadgets such as Palm Pilots, iPods, iPhone, etc.? Do we always have to upgrade or get the latest models of cars, computers, printers, scanners, cameras, phones, etc., etc.? Aren’t we not lazily succumbing to slick advertising, making companies and individuals rich beyond imagination, and making us poorer? And what effects do all these junk (yes, they all become junk in a few short years) have on the environment and global warming?

Yes, we have fallen prey to mis-education and indoctrination, and lured into a new kind of addictive consumerism. For example, how many of us have taken time to figure out the number of plastic bags used daily in supermarkets and stores? Every item that is purchased has plastic wrappings and is packaged in plastic material. Can we contemplate what happens to all the plastic materials – from computers to shopping bags – in the course of one day? Then think about one year, two, three… years! Consider also that plastics are non-biodegradable – they remain in the earth forever!

This time of the year is the busiest for shopping, a time when we will see most of the wastes and environmental detritus. It is up to us – all of us – to decide how we make amends for the damage done to our planet. We have to make decisive resolve!

Most countries have already agreed in principle by signing the Kyoto Protocol which is regarded as merely symbolic. The U.S. is the only one that has not, now that Australia (with its new Prime Minister) has followed suit.

There is now a broad scientific consensus that we need to prevent temperatures from rising by more than 2C above their pre-industrial level. Beyond that point, the Greenland ice sheet could go into irreversible meltdown, some ecosystems collapse, billions suffer from water stress, and droughts start to threaten global food supplies.” (Commentary by George Monbiot.)

Then inevitably, there will be mass migration and unimaginable conflicts to access the limited space and needed resources. This is essentially why Al Gore received the Nobel Prize for Peace – to offset large-scale foreseeable violent conflicts.

Another United Nations Climate Change Conference is under way in Bali. “The real issues in Bali are not technical or economic. The crisis we face demands a profound philosophical discussion, a reappraisal of who we are and what progress means. Debating these matters makes us neither saints nor communists; it shows only that we have understood the science.”

When we understand and develop the political conscientiousness and will, only then we can hope for measured success to reverse this distressing logarithmic trend.

In the meantime, while we knit our brows at official emollient appeasement, we can do the right things individually; then collectively these can amount to a lot. We must act in environmentally responsible ways.

Not so long ago I remember people taking their own bags to the store or market. Within decades we were all seduced, nay, duped into using plastic bags – billions everyday. (We were similarly fooled into wearing nylon and Terylene clothing in preference to natural products, just like we are unwittingly fooled into using the antibacterial Triclosan in our detergents, toothpaste, soaps, etc.) Remember, plastic bags choke landfills and kill aquatic animals in rivers, oceans and lakes.

Prior to leaving for Bali, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain pledged to eliminate wasteful plastic bags in Britain. This is a good sign.

Trader Joe’s, which recently opened its doors in Queens, NY, is a good example of an environmentally friendly and “green” supermarket. Trader Joe’s offers reusable bags and encourages people to bring their own bags.

What are the incentives for being environmentally responsible? There should be no kickback as incentives! We should all do the right thing simply because it is right to do so and it makes good sense. The speeches at Kyoto and Bali are meaningless if there is no action. Charity begins at home and that is where the people should begin. Wear an extra layer rather than turn up the thermostat. Fix dripping faucets. Turn off unnecessary lights and machines. Drive less. Reclaim your right. Reuse. Reduce. Recycle. Be reasonable.

by Gary Girdhari

Guyanese in the Diaspora are Still Guyanese
Guyana Journal, November 2007

Estimates vary (because there are no accurate statistics) on the number of Guyanese living outside of Guyana. Depending on who the responder is, the number may range from 300,000 to near 1 million, but a rough estimate would put it closer to 800,000. This approximates the population of Guyana. The Guyanese diaspora (in Venezuela, the Caribbean including Suriname, United States, United Kingdom, and Canada) may be sardonically equated as Regions 1 to 10 all rolled in one – Region 11.

The reasons for this disproportionate high number in the diaspora are several and varied as many have left at different times under different circumstances. (Scholars may explore this further for their own esoteric purposes.) What is obvious, but not given right and proper recognition, is that the Guyanese diaspora can be of tremendous importance to, and a forceful impetus for, the healthy growth of Guyana.

Many in the diaspora have now implanted deep roots in their adopted countries; some yearn to repatriate, but this is more an emotional yearning than a practical reality; others would love to go only for a visit, for good memories and for old-time sake. And some simply want to have a good time – to enjoy the natural beauties, the delicious fruits, fishes, Guyana rum, and the overall freshness of the unalloyed clean air – “if the place na had so much crime and shooting up”.

One may also consider the thousands of children born outside Guyana, of Guyanese parentage, who consider themselves Guyanese, and rightly so, and who may wish to visit Guyana from time to time to re-member their parents’ nostalgic memories.

Money remittance to Guyana in 2006 was GUY$93.2 billion (US$466M) according to a report by the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. This is approximately one-fifth of Guyana's GDP! (And does not include the ‘barrel’ economy.) If “the place na had so much crime and shooting up”, many more in the diaspora would trek there for vacation. Overseas investments would increase. In addition, the diaspora consumer population can absorb most if not all the agriculture produce (which currently is largely provided by other countries like the Philippines, Dominican Republic, and Latin America), gold and precious stones.

Add these up. The potential is enormous, realistic and worthy of due consideration. It makes pragmatic sense to embrace the diaspora because of the potentiality for its continuing and increasing contribution to Guyana. Why go with outstretched bowls to the garroting claws of financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank when the solution is right at home! It is doable. It creates employment. It is quick closure with much desired hard foreign currency. It makes good sense.

Which brings me to the unwarranted estrangement between some in Guyana and the Guyanese diaspora. Cute cynical remarks are often made chiding those in the diaspora. Dr. Seelochan Beharry, a concerned Guyanese living in Canada, and a regular contributor to debates in the letter section of the local press, received a dressing-down after one such letter, titled “Why is the testing for lead in toys to be outsourced?”, was published. (Stabroek News, October 19, 2007) The harsh response came from the Head of the Analytical Division of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology, Ms. Lana Lawrence BSc. In part, she said: "It is unfortunate that Dr. Beharry, from his comfort in Canada, sees fit to attack the IAST about lack of trained staff. Surely, as a trained scientist, Dr. Beharry is part of the brain drain that affects our science and technology sector. Furthermore, I am too busy with my work at the IAST to spend time responding to someone who criticizes from far away, does not pay Guyanese taxes, but yet somehow thinks he can speak on behalf of Guyanese taxpayers. I will do so this once, but in the future, Dr. Beharry can pick up the telephone and call us, just like all the other normal, native Guyanese who choose to live here and work here and contribute to our future. … It is now the IAST's declared policy to ignore the nonsense being propagated by Dr. Beharry and his cohorts. They do not deserve my time and those of the Guyanese taxpayers. And, they are rude and obnoxious.” (my emphasis)

The merits/demerits of the arguments in the letters are not now relevant to the issues at hand. Such vituperation is uncalled for; they may be understandable (as a knee-jerk rebuttal to the piercing tone of Beharry’s questions), but not excusable, especially from a professional. Ms. Lawrence’s admonition to Beharry “to attend a class on etiquette” may likewise apply to her, and she may be well advised to adhere to her declared policy of not responding to ‘critics’ like Beharry and leave public pronouncements to others with public relations finesse.

Ms. Lawrence highlights the arrogance of many in the public service; yea, even some political figures who think themselves masters rather than elected servants of the people.

One blogger (D2) observed that there is no need for Lawrence “to be so nasty in her response about the personal experience of this man. It would be sufficient for her to answer the scientific competency questions in a few words, inform him and the public where there was insufficiency, that has been remedied and all needs for similar testing services are being adequately met. That would have ended the matter. Her irate, ingratiating response will surely cause further investigation as to her truthfulness.

This manner of response tells us she needs some public relations training and also an update that Guyanese abroad may not pay taxes but account for 1/5 of Guyana's GDP and so are entitled to talk (if money is the measure of such liberties!). She needs to be reminded that Guyanese anywhere in the world can and will question because that is a right.”

Another individual (L.A. Camacho) noted: “I feel violated and offended by Ms Lawrence categorising and lambasting us as if we have no rights in Guyana because we are over here. It begs the question of the other report in Friday's paper as to the millions (billions) we contribute as inflows home, and the previous contributions we, and our foreparents made, and benefited from in the development of the Guyanese society while we lived, went to school and worked there. Further, many of us still have homes and other ties there, many of us travel there frequently, many of us contribute to the development of our villages, our communities and individuals, and I dare say that some of us pay more taxes than some living there presently.

I (and others) have more than a passing interest and right to comment on how the economy is managed, how our money is distributed, what developments take place, and, yes, who manages our investments.”

It is naïve and myopic to see migration only as an outflow of human resources and ignore the massive inflows which, together with their multiplier effect, effectively buttress the economy far more (about five times) than is actually estimated. It is the inflows with their multiplier and spread-off effects that afford many families some comfort they live in, while many in the diaspora are pinching every penny to send home.

Ignoring the potentialities and refusing the contribution of the diaspora is a very foolish thing to do. It is like refusing to harness the mighty Niagara Falls to generate hydro-electricity. Guyana should watch closely how India is making full use of its NRIs and learn a few valuable lessons.

Rudeness, uncouthness and insensitivity are common traits in many people (Guyanese included) anywhere – in Guyana and of course in the diaspora. How to deal with the public is a measure of one’s ability and/or desirability to occupy public space and position. Pettiness and disparagement can inflict pain or exacerbate pain on open wounds, especially on the frail personality. These are not always counterintuitive but can be counterproductive to objectivity and to the bigger question – to work towards and for the common good.
by Gary Girdhari

Exploitation of Guyana’s Resources
Post-Colonial scenarios
Guyana Journal, October 2007

Many years ago John Wesley said:

"Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can."

These words are so simple, yet very profound, and enduring for all time and place! The question however is unresolved as regards the idea of “good”. What is good? Good for whom? Whose good? And so on. Because of this equivocation many the world over rationalize their action with justification palatable to their own self interest. Thus the commitment to the ideology of the “common good” seems rather perfunctory and fleeting; we are less adherent to honesty and sincerity, and more susceptible to cover-up as a convenience for expediency and self-indulgence. The truth (and here again the issue of definition arises) is now generally accessible but only to those who do not seek protective sanctuary in denial.

This preamble fits any society in any part of the world.

Guyana is a small country, a society in ferment, eager to move on, but it is still difficult to figure out to what end and for whose benefit. And so debates continue in the public forum – the press – some intelligent, some bitter, but all presumably with lofty intentions.

During the period of the PNC, the government placed many business entities under state control. And after the passing of Forbes Burnham massive privatization followed, this being initiated by Desmond Hoyte having been spurred on by the IMF. (See Odeen Ishmael article). Many of the privatized deals were plainly bad, i.e., not in the best interest of the country and/or skewed against Guyanese investors.

In addition, the PNC government entered into contracts with companies that many believed were detrimental to the nation – Barama and Omai being the most notable. (Read more)

With respect to Barama, many questions are being asked regularly: Why and how is it that the company is continually working at a loss? Why is it that Barama pays approximately $1.2 million to Guyana in taxes, and approximately $37 million to the Malaysian government? Why is it that Amerindian employees are paid less than US$3 per day compared to US$40 per day for Malaysian employees? Why are there only foreign office workers? How is it that Barama can sub-lease forestry land? How is it that a logging company such as Barama gets sub-surface rights? And why does Barama log on titled land of indigenous (Akawini) people? A sweetheart deal – 40-year tax break and very little or no revenue to the government! – why are local businesses not given a fairer break? (Fishermen pay more than Barama and account for approximately 3% of the economy.)

The Minister of Agriculture and the Commissioner of Forestry have recently acknowledged “breaches”. But forestry has been fraught with many diverse problems, many corrupt and inimical to the people and country, and the environment. So far the repartees have been mainly superficial (or so it seems), and only mild palliative measures have been adopted to paper over deep cracks that are decades old. Why aren’t the problems addressed comprehensively and thoroughly? Why would government act against its own interest!

The PNC government made several bad deals – Demerara Woods Ltd., Guyana Timbers Ltd., National Paint Company Ltd., GRMMA complexes, Guyana Telecommunication Corporation, Rainforest concessions (Venezuelan Palmaven and South Korean-Malaysian Barama), to name a few, which the PPP criticized then. What has gone wrong between then and now? (A few years ago this government was attempting to make its own big blunder with the Beal deal.)

If these deals were bad under the PNC, surely they (and others) are bad now! Therefore, the government must act (and the people must know) responsibly and fairly in major developments. Government alone must never act on major issues. There must be oversight by the people or their representatives. This brings to mind the proposed Berbice River bridge. How many people have been dislocated from their properties, and have they been compensated? If not, why not? And by how much? Also, in recent oil explorations and negotiations Exxon appears to have received a sizeable cut of the pie – a company that is alleged to have very poor environmental record. In this vein, one may also ask who the investors are in the proposed refinery to be built on Crab Island?

Currently Guyana reportedly is on the verge of another venture with Brazilian investors from the State of Roraima where the investors would be given 50,000 acres of land in the Rupununi and intermediate savannahs for livestock farming. While investments are always welcome, the public needs to know the details of the terms. Further, the public needs to know if this proposal was discussed in any way, place or form with Guyanese investors.

The current PPP government must not betray the people and the land, but should stand tall and steadfast to the principle of good governance. In recent months Janette Bulkan seems to be the lone frontrunner fighting in the dark to expose and stem the tide of bad logging practice, and to call for a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach. Right on, Janette: “As long as ever you can.”
by Gary Girdhari

Hypocrisy with a halo
Guyana Journal, September 2007

Not so long ago the American public were treated to an object lesson: ‘Smoke but don’t inhale’. The raconteur of these words went on to become one of America’s most popular Presidents. Later, he was under impeachment proceedings for allegedly having committed immoral acts – an illicit sexual liaison with a young staffer – which he denied. While this latter gained soap opera attention, America was no weaker and the presidency was not jeopardized.

Human beings have always ‘sinned’ – commoners, leaders, religious or otherwise. In the U.S., televangelist Jimmy Swaggart proclaimed that he had sinned for cohabiting with a prostitute, but he rebounded, and now he is heartily back on the job. Rep. Mark Foley had to quit Congress as a result of a sexual scandal involving a Page, but he also is well after the fact. Evangelist Rev. Ted Haggard confessed to sexual immorality and he was later ‘cured’ after a brief counseling intervention. The DC madam, who is alleged to have provided $300-an-hour prostitutes, caused Deputy Secretary of State R. Tobias to resign after the madam began to reveal her list of “more than 15,000 telephone record of her clients”, one of which apparently was that of Sen. David Vitter who apologized for his indiscretions.

I am not privy to this list but it seems clear that there is more going on behind the façade of genteel respectability and assumed piety.

Now, Senator Larry Craig has become the latest of high profile sex scandals. Although he adamantly denies any wrong, loudly proclaiming that he is not gay, he has nevertheless promised to resign (but probably may not after being prompted by a colleague).

The news thrive on these candid stories, disturbing serene gentleness and early morning tranquil. For some, it is sadomasochistic, and pleasurable to witness the revelations, the minute and flawless dissection of fire-and-brimstone preachers and holier-than-thou politicians. And the public, like demented zombies, are addicted to the mind-bending wretched and depressing episodic dramas – like fools. But all of these are probably designed, as Mark Twain perspicaciously discerned: “Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.

Although the imageries are distasteful, it is more painful to see human frailty and resultant tearing of families. But worse is the dishonesty, the unalloyed Teflon veneer of the supporters and defenders of the malfeasance. Worst, they more often get away with it! And thus, the psyche of the public is trained, unwillingly and against their better judgment, to bow to such behavior as new and acceptable norms. Too many of these people today have developed an intensified polarized impulse to follow-the-leader – blindly.

To these leaders, the followers are naive or stupid. Their minds can be molded to suit the fancies of the leader. The leaders are driven to their role (or role-play) not by altruism and generosity of service, but by greed and longing for power – cold and cruel. They become blind to their oath of loyalty and service to those whom they represent, and they are uncompromising in the pursuit of goals for self-interest. Even the uninitiated neophytes soon get infected by the virus of greed and power. Thus, brainwashing is integral to the modus operandi – an ongoing process that has gained new direction and momentum after the philosophical design of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947. This is not happenstance!

There is a “reframing [of] our political language” – full of euphemisms and new juxtaposed phrases that make the unpalatable easy to digest, the media being the prime facilitator in the subtle process.

In the 1960s the slogan was ‘make love not war’. Has Larry Craig done more harm than waging war in distant lands or living in denial of the misery in places like Darfur, or is he yet another victim of the hypocritical stance of the fringe right?

Is Larry Craig more harmful and dangerous than the siphoning of billions of taxpayers dollars (all legally) by legitimate entities such as Halliburton, Bechtel, SAIC and others of the industrial military complex? Isn’t depriving over 47 million Americans health insurance more of a crime than toe-tapping?

Craig’s sin is not that he allegedly engaged in immoral sexual behavior, but that he exposed the hypocrisy of the GOP by being caught. The GOP parades as a self-righteous, bible-thumping bunch bent on ridding the world of non-christian heathens either by war or by the imposition on them of western democracy (arguably another form of hypocrisy).

One must also consider the cost to society of this promiscuous political behavior by both Republicans and Democrats, not just in Congress but also at gubernatorial and mayoral levels. How much is it costing taxpayers in dollar value to have these guys indulge in the luxury of immoral behavior? What are the social consequences? What about political – remember how the John Profumo affair rocked and brought down the Tory in the UK in the early sixties? And that was even during the Woodstock days of free for all sex.

Well, these are not appetizing for the soap opera drama that charged, tried and convicted the Larry Craigs of this world on the airwaves.

It is time that the public wake up from the halcyon induced stupor and see, on balance, where the real dangers lie.
by Gary Girdhari

Do as I tell you to do
Guyana Journal, August 2007

It is amazing that a bill to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program was recently passed amidst controversy in both the House and the Senate with voting mostly along party lines, and after being threatened with presidential veto – bitching a program that offers health insurance to children in the low income bracket. The same partisan politics is observed in dealing with matters that apparently do not or should not entail political wrangling such as clean air, deforestation and global warming.

To the esoteric insider, it may well be asked: what else is new? To the uninitiated, there would be furrowing of brows and the puzzled question: isn’t it obvious to do the right thing? Surely, it is not naïveté to demand the stance for political equanimity; it is commonsense.

The fact is that the professional politician engages in an ongoing game – some you win, some you lose, then you start over again, and again. Generally, this game is played by both the Republicans and Democrats with varying degrees of abstruse and nasty rules, depending on who is slinging the mud. Ideology aside, most if not all politicians know the facts and the rules, but bend them, or ignore them for expediency – political and/or financial favors, and personal gains.

For example, the hard facts on global warming and deforestation, the scourge of diseases such as malaria and Aids, of unrelenting poverty, of the prolonged deteriorating state of affairs in the Darfur genocide are carried in the news on a daily basis; yet there is wanton and culpable neglect by those who profess concern, and who are able to do something to make positive changes, but do not. Define them by their actions – hypocrites.

Don’t we all know now that some major corporations are engaging in deforestation? Don’t we all know that most of our fancy clothing and footwear are/were made with child labor in guarded locations in poor countries? Don’t we know that “12.3 million people are enslaved worldwide… 2.4 million of them are victims of trafficking, and their labour generates profits of over $30bn (approximately 350,000 of whom are forced laborers in the industrialized world)?” (according to the International Labour Organization). And while many of the poor are pushed aside to make room for the affluent, some of the wealthiest are engaged in a 'new vulgarity', as in the case of Mukesh Ambani of India who is building his “£500m Mumbai tower block palace for [his] family of six and 600 staff”. And there are many others!

Unfortunately, the all-important media are in the center of these activities by providing game shows and reality shows to occupy the prime times of most of the population who are for the most part unable to make informed judgment so as to challenge their political representatives – to do the right thing.

One of the most critical, insidious, secretive operations is the sale of arms. Yet, most people are unaware because it is not splashed on the news. How many people (including the so-called intelligent) know of the recent United States deal to supply twenty billions of dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies of the United States? How many are aware of the recent deal that France will sell Libya $405m in anti-tank missiles and other hardware?

Over the years the United States has been ranked No. 1 in the sale of arms (including high-tech) to developing countries, with Russia and Britain jockeying for second place. India has consistently been among the largest purchaser of military hardware. It is to be noted that more than half of the arms sales go to unstable military governments and where there are conflicts. So the purveyors of the trade are indeed, like Pilate, washing their hands after committing the grave sin. It is further most disconcerting to note that military regimes and conflicts are feeding the industrial-military corporations in the producing countries.

The industrial-military economies of the developed countries are huge. The alleged payment of £1bn by BAE (Britain's biggest arms company) to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia to ‘facilitate’ arms sales indicates the enormity of these operations.

It is difficult to advocate for global peace while simultaneously providing the instruments of war! Do-as-I-tell-you-to-do… is the mantra that is touted.

Many are calling these people who live in glass houses hypocrites and shysters, just like Al Gore who advocates reducing carbon emission while his lifestyle is reportedly based on high energy consumption. Similarly, celebrities who pontificate about climate change, species loss, et cetera will not save the earth while jet-setting.

Do-as-I-do must replace “Do as I tell you to do”.
by Gary Girdhari

Keeping Earth Alive
Guyana Journal July 2007

It’s like an echo in the background – with the cynical refrain – here we go again. Then, there was Live Aid, and later it was Live 8. Now it’s Live Earth. There was the Millennium Development Goal and the Kyoto Protocol in Kyoto, Japan (1997) followed up by the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi, Kenya (2006). They all remind one of club meetings where the initiated gather to have a good time, beat their breasts, pat one another on the back, then go home, and return repeatedly to renew acquaintances and have more good time.

Sadly, not much has been gained in practical terms. Poverty, malnutrition and backwardness – hunger and thirst, preventable, communicable and other diseases, especially HIV, are decimating huge sections of populations in many countries. War is devastating countries like Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Dafur. The inhabitants of the poverty-stricken and war-torn countries are faring no better with or without these “Live” activities because their days are already numbered anyway. The magnanimous efforts are stonewalled by the intransigence of governments and their friends. The result of Live Earth is awaited.

Al Gore with evangelical zeal is urging the battle against global warming moving with gas guzzling jet speed, literally, according to some detractors. Like those before him his objectives are laudable, worthwhile, and important. The vexing question remains: how will this major earth-shattering concert make a difference in reversing the trend of global warming? Sure, together with An Inconvenient Truth, Live Earth will make a massive impact in creating more awareness about global warming. In concrete terms there will be no difference to the problems of malnutrition, lack of water, malaria, HIV, et cetera, and war. If the promises of Kyoto and of the G8 are to be our guide, then our hope for positive outcomes are dismal.

Many rich governments and big corporations couldn’t care less about poverty and global warming. In fact and indeed many thrive because of these conditions because the economic system is designed to exploit one another and plunder the earth, which together make consumer products quicker and quicker, with more technological efficiency – and concurrently causing and perpetuating global pollution and increased poverty.

There has to develop a moral indignation paradigmatically to change direction; otherwise we are spitting in the wind. Already, a few countries and corporations are seeing the light. The conscience of the masses of the people worldwide (at home, in school, in the workplace, on the street, and everywhere) must be awakened – a moral conversion – to get a grasp of the causes of and reasons for persistent poverty and disease, and global warming. Such moral conversion will replace insularity and parochialism with a worldview of these issues, recognizing that our planet is a global village with consequential ripple effects of our actions – all of us! When the theory behind Live Earth grips the conscience of the global citizens, they will individually and collectively do the right thing, based on a true understanding of the issues, to preserve the earth and its people. Then they will have the to ability to challenge the status quo through debates and the power of the vote to tell governments and corporations to follow suit. Essentially, this is government by the people, for the people – at the grassroots level.

Why is such grassroots activism important? Because special interests and power do not concede their base. Because there are detractors who deliberately distort facts or live in denial of proven scientific facts, especially many Republicans (including President GW Bush) and big business. And because certain ‘celebrities’ who perform at the concert can compromise the worthy objectives by their hypocritical unconscionable and morally indecent and extravagant lifestyles. Defenders of people like Bono, Sting, Madonna and others who are crowd-drawers but who fit some of the descriptions point out that ‘you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs’ and that ‘you should not throw out the baby with the bath water’. But it is difficult to reconcile the fine performance of an artiste at Live Earth with his or her flipside daily routines, such as for example doing advertising for a humongous gas-guzzling car! Or a performer at this concert who owns several homes and cars, private jet, helicopter, and a personal wealth in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Certainly it is counterproductive to tell others to do the right things to save the earth while at the same time traveling around in a Hummer or a private jet. “Do as I tell you to do and not what I do” should be replaced by “Don’t tell me, show me”. Or as Mahatma Gandhi entreated: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
by Gary Girdhari

More Editorials

Links to other