EYEWITNESS: Let there be light…

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…for sugar workers

Today is Diwali, or Deepavali, the Festival of Lights brought by Indian immigrants when they were brought to keep the sugar industry going on the pittance the planters insisted on paying. In Guyana today, this year’s Diwali will be commemorated in the midst of the PNC-led Government’s efforts at getting rid of sugar – and therefore sugar workers. For the families of 7000 fired sugar workers – almost 35,000 men, women and children – it will be a very dark time.

Not just dark because of the darkest night of the year — which they cannot do much about, since they will have to cut back, or do away, with lighting “diyas” or clay lamps –

but dark because of the extreme poverty that has started to bite in after almost two years on the breadlines, and there are no jobs in sight. But the lighting of the diyas is only one external manifestation of the light that mankind has to light in this eternal struggle against the force of darkness. There has to be the commitment this Diwali to light the light that is latent inside all of us, but needs to be given that spark.

This is the light that acknowledges our essential oneness, regardless of race, colour or creed. Today, we see groups springing up daily to fight all sorts of social ills. In today’s Chronic, your Eyewitness was intrigued to notice a “Give Another Chance Foundation (GACF)”, which is going to make a push to increase “Emotional Intelligence” in our population. Nothing wrong with that, but isn’t it more than passing strange that not a single group has been formed to deal with the trials, tribulations and social pathologies that define the lives of the fired sugar workers?

Even when they were working, they formed a “precariat” – which Wiki informs us is a “social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare.” They lived from week to week, from paycheck to paycheck…but did not go out to rob and steal or choke-and-rob fellow citizens. They internalised their hurt, and took it out among themselves.

But are they not humans? Do they not bleed? As was asked in another circumstance: are they too, not our brothers? And are we not our brothers’ keepers?  This Diwali, your Eyewitness asks you, dear readers, to throw off the social blinders that have been placed over your eyes. Look at the suffering of these people, whose only fault was to vote for a party of their choice – which they foolishly believed was their civil right – and lend a helping hand.

Tonight, let us light the light of common humanity.

…on corruption

Every year, the Auditor General shines a light on Government spending, and issues his Report. His office is supposed to be a critical one – in both senses of the word – to buttress “good governance”. The citizens of the land, through their taxes, and loans which their taxes will have to repay, fund the spending of the Government, and the AG is their watchdog, who’s looking out to point out when they’re being fleeced.

And every year it’s the same old story of pillage and plunder by officials of the Government – very often by serial pillagers and plunderers. And how do they do their fleecing?? We’ll never be able to count the ways of getting kickbacks in such a limited space; but we all know the tricks by now, don’t we? Contracts to friends and family bypassing the SOPs; contracts to the highest bidders; sole-sourcing; payments to contractors for substandard works, and so on and so forth.

The question is: why aren’t we demanding more accountability from our Ministries?

…on Intellectual Property Rights

Was a time when some slaves were persuaded by the line handed down by their Massas: that slavery was “for their own good”.

Your Eyewitness is reminded of this by some local “artistes” arguing likewise for Copyright legislation.

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