EYEWITNESS: Doppelganger…


…of Ghana

In addition to our similar-sounding name, we’ve got so many things in common with Ghana – whose President is visiting – you’d think we’re “doppelgangers” – you know, real-life doubles. As your Eyewitness mentioned yesterday, the resemblance goes as old and deep as our geological formation, 140 million years ago – including giving us oil today. During the colonial period, Ghana was known as the “Gold Coast” and we were the “Mosquito Coast” – but with El Dorado in our interior!!

Starting with Cuffy/Kofi/Coffy, our 1763 revolutionary slave, scads of us are descended from the Akan people of Ghana. While the first Prime Minister of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, was a decade older than our first Prime Minister Cheddi Jagan, both of them were students in the US at the same time…and both were radicalised by their experience to become Marxists. Both were removed from office by CIA machinations in the sixties as victims of the “Cold War” (!) between the USA and USSR!!

Jagan was succeeded by Burnham and his PNC dictatorship which lasted till 1992 while Nkrumah was succeeded by a series of military-dominated, one-party governments that were changed through coups, and putsches till 1992. During those years, while both countries were filled to the brim with “potential”, their people barely eked out a living. Democratic “free and fair” elections to choose governments then returned in 1992 and have remained so since then – even though the PNC here looks like it’s planning on changing that record. There will be elections in both countries next year.

Ghana struck oil in 2007 – their Jubilee Anniversary year – while we did so in 2015, a year ahead of our Jubilee Anniversary year. In both instances, great expectations were engendered in their long-suffering populace about improving their miserable lot. But with Ghana a decade ahead of us in oil production maybe their doppelganger experience can offer us a clue of what’s ahead? Their first oil contracts were negotiated by some expatriate Ghanaians with a US oil company, but the incoming administration later accused them of corruption and re-examined the contracts.

The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation formed to oversee the nation’s oil interests is regularly overshadowed by the Energy Ministry – especially when oil contracts are to be signed!! Contracts are regularly doled out to politically connected persons, but because the Government changes with regularity between the two major parties, there’s a continuous disruption of sustained development.

The one major positive development, as mentioned yesterday, has been the creation of an urban swing vote bloc which undermines ethnic control of the government – even though ethnicity still plays a big role in politics.

Sadly, then, Ghana still hasn’t fulfilled its potential. Will Guyana?

…protests in Hong Kong

Last week was the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China, when thousands of Chinese civilians were literally mowed down by Chinese Army tanks for demanding democratic reforms. Some say the West was behind the protests – to replicate the “colour revolutions” that toppled Communist Governments all across Eastern Europe. China, however, imperturbably moved on and with their incredible economic gains which dragged half-a-billion persons out of poverty, not many have questioned their institutions of governance. Tiananmen was erased from the national memory.

Hong Kong had been a British colony like us and developing institutions patterned on Liberal British values. However, it reverted to China in 1997 – with agreement that certain institutions weren’t to be touched. Suddenly, out of the blue, the Chinese Government decided to change the law to allow the extradition of some charged persons to mainland China.

In scenes reminiscent of Tiananmen Square, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers, distrustful of the Chinese legal system, have come out into the streets to protest the proposal.

Will China send in the tanks?

…in GPSU

Patrick Yarde says Public Servants never had it so good than under the PNC. Yet, his doppelganger head of the GPSU had allowed their real wages to fall 75 per cent between 1980 and 1990 under the PNC!

He wants a repeat?