Eyewitness: Passages…


…and moving on

Next Saturday will be 24 years since Cheddi Jagan passed away. At that time, most conceded that the event marked the end of an era. Born of indentured immigrant parents who’d been brought as children from India, Jagan was born just the year after that system of exploitive labour was abolished. His life trajectory encapsulated the history writ large of Indentured labourers’ struggle to rise above the plantation drudgery that cribbed – if not crippled – the human potential.

Unlike most who entered the professional middle class that was the dream of the society, Jagan attempted to do something about improving the lot of those at the bottom. We may disagree with the ideological path he chose to do so, but we cannot disagree with his intentions and the probity in his actions. He could’ve easily followed the beaten path and enjoyed life as a dentist in Georgetown. But he didn’t. His entry into politics certainly wasn’t because he wanted to earn bigger bucks. In fact throughout his life, he never earned a salary that being a full-time dentist would’ve brought in!

For good, bad or indifferent, it’s clear that the type of idealism Jagan represented is long gone from our country. The new idealism is to work creatively, become a millionaire – or better yet a billionaire like Bill Gates – and then engage in philanthropic activities! When Jagan returned to office in 1992, he told overseas Guyanese who’d picked up skills that Guyana needed to return home and work for GY$1 annually!! Surprisingly, he did get a few takers!

He didn’t live long enough to see the new millennium and the changes it has ushered in. But one thing his life has taught us is to never say “never”! So will we be seeing some of our overseas sisters and brothers returning? Well, maybe…but certainly not at GY$1/annually! Think US$13,000/annually! So is it “idealism” if returnees insist on matching their salary and living conditions in “foreign”? Good thing Jagan was cremated or he’d be turning in his grave!

With the recent disgraceful carryings-on in Parliament, several writers have cited Jagan’s “bad behaviour” when he once knocked down the Mace in protest as he walked out. But this is a totally inappropriate comparison to the kind of personalised epithets that were hurled in the Budget Debate. Jagan was making a point against the POWER of the State as represented by the Mace.

The point of the matter is that we’re in a new era and there will be new norms. But those norms have to help us achieve the goals for our country that will never change.
A Guyana where we can live in peace and happiness.

…and restraint

There was a big hullabaloo raised last December when 26 Haitians were held by the Police after they’d been apprehended at a city hotel – evidently on their way to Brazil or Suriname. The cry was that they weren’t going to remain in Guyana and were merely seeking a better life than in the hellhole that Haiti has been for most of its populace in the past two centuries. But the point our Attorney General was making was that it was clear that this was an organised transportation system for years and could be violating the UN Protocol against smuggling of immigrants!

In January the Courts decided that the Haitians should be released – which was a moot point by then since they’d vanished into Brazil. Well, the matter has now resurfaced because another 26 Haitians and 1 Cuban were nabbed after they crossed into Brazil and they’ll most likely be returned to Guyana.
So, what will we be doing since the Courts say we can’t hold them?

…and venality

Up to now, there’s been only “he seh, dem seh” on the ERC’s December giveaways. Now, there’s proof that the Chair, Rev Bishop Dr John Smith, lied.

Minutes show a Howard “proposed”, a Braithwaite “seconded” and a Smith accepted a $150,000 “honorarium”!