Please allow me some space in order to correct and clarify some misunderstandings on the part of Mr. Abel Seetaram, Chairman, Alliance for Change (AFC), RMC – Region 5, as expressed in his letter entitled “The Prime Minister and the Political Circus in Berbice”, and published in the August 22, 2014 editions of the Kaieteur News and Stabroek News newspapers, respectively.
Yes, I have been in Berbice, helping to draw attention to the need for every Guyanese to take note of the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) issued by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), in preparation for likely national elections which might be held in the second half of January 2015, following the recent submission of a “No Confidence” motion to the National Assembly, by the AFC. It is important that all political parties, and all Guyanese, work together to ensure that there is a clean and complete Official List of Electors (OLE). We of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), have already published our concerns about the astonishing increase in the number of potential voters listed on the PLE 2014, compared to the OLE 2011, and have pointed to some extremely suspicious, apparent errors.
I do recall someone calling in on the ‘Live Television’ programme, with questions somewhat like those related by Mr. Seetaram in his newspaper article – evidently, my responses were not understood!
I did, and continue to, maintain that there was, and has been, noticeable improvements in the general standard of living in our country during the 1957-to-1964 period, and from 1992 to the present, and, also, that the 1964-to-1992 period was characterized by an inflation of about 1000, whilst wages and salaries were increased only by about one-third of that. Wage and salary earners, particularly civil servants, were, in 1992, ‘worse off’ than they were in 1964. The main difference has been Dr. Cheddi Jagan and the PPP/C’s adherence to financial discipline (a balanced budget), a discipline which is often painted as harsh, but which paradoxically brings the brighter day particularly to the smaller man, particularly wage and salary earners.
As I have said in the Budget 2014 Debate – Berbicians became much ‘better off’ when the Berbice Bridge replaced the aged and ailing Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) steamers. The “problem” with the tolls of the Berbice Bridge is the negligible tolls of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB), which evolved from its particular history. Each day, the need for a new, or additional, Demerara Bridge becomes more evident, and it is being addressed – it could and would be built in good time, but with cost-covering tolls similar to those at Berbice. Otherwise, a new Demerara Bridge would have to await receipt of another grant or very concessionary loan, and the bridge would take in the order of four years to be built.
Yes, we of this PPP/C Government are plugging monies every year into the sugar industry, just as we continued, from 1992, the People’s National Congress (PNC)-support to bauxite, which began soon after 1976. And in this regard, we ought to count the G$3 billion electricity-subsidy this year, for electricity in the bauxite communities. Even whilst supporting bauxite and sugar, we are urging, and working for, a refashioning of our old, traditional economic activities, longing for the day when they can sustainably pay their way and no longer have to call on the national treasury. I did refer to NOKIA as an example from which we could learn, with its rapid rise and, then, being overtaken by others, and, eventually, its decline. This is the story of life, of all economic activities, of all companies, of all human communities – we have to manage this “life cycle” as it is manifested. Time is required for people and for communities to refashion and transform themselves – we owe it to them, for, indeed, we all benefitted during their ‘glory days’. The world is ever changing, and the diamond in the crown today eventually loses its ‘shine’. This PPP/C Government did not abandon our bauxite companies and communities, nor would we abandon our sugar companies and communities – we will continue to work for their disciplined transformation to profitability and prosperity.
On the question of race and political preferences, I repeated my position, which is that we should take account of the fact that our different peoples (races) arrived here with their different, complete cultures, respectively – religions, social practices and attitudes – and, further, had different historical experiences in this land. It should not be a surprise that as formal socio-political organizations arose in Guyana, that our people would cluster around views and attitudes that would overlap with race. Cheddi was aware of this, and endeavoured consciously and continuously to position the Political Action Committee (PAC), the PPP and the PPP/C as parties for all Guyanese, and with a leadership that reflected all the segments of Guyana. Who will refute this?
As Cheddi espoused, and we believe, we face two challenges – becoming one people, and materially building our Guyana; and as we work at the latter, we will be resolving the former. The ethnic overlap with voting, will not disappear with anyone or with any party waving a magic wand. We of the PPP/C, believe that this will happen gradually, as we hold together, work together, making common experiences as we build our country materially. Trust will thus be built, and as trust is built, we will be coming together from our various starting points and, one day, unheralded and without fanfare, our earnest, honest feelings on the important questions on which political clustering presently turn, will no longer be an overlap with race.
These are the sentiments that I tried to express – Mr. Seetaram and others may have heard and understood differently – I thank you all for this opportunity to correct and clarify the misunderstanding.
Samuel A. A. Hinds, O.E., M.P.