Frankly Speaking: After eighteen years in charge -glimpses of Guyanese justice
Not sure why in Heaven’s name I’ve chosen to comment on the three PPP/C administrations (October 5, 1992 to today) which have been in government and “in charge” of us for 18 years non-stop.
Could it be that it is because on Tuesday (October 5, 2010), three days ago, there was no triumphant fanfare or declaration to mark the eighteenth anniversary landmark? Except a dutiful Chronicle editorial and a mild comment from Freedom House? Whatever, as a once-active “political citizen”, I’ll share my now layman’s views on the performance and status of the PPP/C’s stewardship since October 1992. After all, their three governments’ policies, programmes and behaviour have impacted on our collective status currently. Especially those of us who still live permanently within the defined borders of our Big, Beautiful, Blighted Republic.
How do we assess?
The majority of Guyanese, the struggling working class, the salt of the earth won’t be too concerned with the success or effectiveness of government’s diplomacy and/or foreign policy even though that does impact upon our international presence and internal stability, however indirectly. Even the much-vaunted LCDS – Low Carbon Development Strategy, or the perennial everlasting search for oil or how United Nations organisations view Mr Jagdeo’s actions, matters little to the poor.
No. Ordinary folks consider governments’ stewardship in terms of their current quality of life based on bread-and-butter issues which currently determine their own and their children’s education, health care, transportation, housing, employment and salaries. For starters! Then, the more “cerebral” intelligentia, the academics, economists, and other specialist professionals will weigh in on such government responsibilities as fiscal management, agricultural development and macro-economics generally.
Mind you, it is difficult to be objective in these matters when both short-and-long term activities by government affect you personally. Especially if you’re working-class and the effects are negative. But I try to rise above the personal. And to consider dozens of causes which a Guyana government could and does not control. But even that is quite challenging!
The history, the present
Recall the “history”. Twenty-eight years of the PNC in command. “Electoral engineering” denying the people’s will; Jimmy Carter coercing Desmond Hoyte to heed America’s preference for a real election here; GECOM’s Rudy Collins’ heroic stand and “tendered ballot” voting for PNC protesters; then Cheddi Jagan’s triumphant swearing-in on October 9, 1992.
The “Dawn of a New Era”, wherein even Opposition Leader Hugh Desmond Hoyte conceded that there was much national “goodwill” for Cheddi for most of 1993, beckoned.
To me, Frankly Speaking, Cheddi’s four full years ushered in significant freedom of speech and press, grand infrastructural development in terms of school-buildings, hospitals, bridges, etc, to be expanded later on in convention centres, roads, stadium Berbice bridges, police stations, drainage and irrigation and such like. That, at least, must not be denied! And salaries and pensions did improve significantly. Even if taxes and the cost of living (for electric power, transportation, pharmaceuticals, schools books and chicken) did nullify those increases. Even the trade unions should be truthful and broadminded about that – as I can be.
Any assessment of the PPP’s eighteen-year tenure should, I submit “objectively”, take into account the massive negatives those governments had to confront after October 1992.
For starters, there was the scandalous foreign debt which ate up our Domestic Product. (Cheddi began trimming away and benefited from sympathetic write-off to pursue his people-friendly social-sector budgeting and spending). Cheddi Jagan passed away in ’97 and the PPP then faced enormous unfair political, violence-fuelled opposition. A lady judge even found legal reasons to belatedly vitiate the elections of ’97!
Despite the Opposition-inspired destabilisation of ’97 and 2000, young, relatively unknown Bharrat Jagdeo, from 1999, managed to steady both the PPP and Guyana ship, after he too was offered national goodwill by a people who wanted to avoid Desmond Hoyte’s slow-fiah, mo-fiah politics. Hoyte himself threw in the towel of life one December soon after. Bharrat Jagdeo, to me, did well to erase external debt but began to squander internal goodwill as his lieutenants plundered the opportunities that national projects should have offered to all. So where are we now?
Destabilisation– and Rot
The Mashramani of 2002 saw an unprecendented jail-break by five notorious, well-organised, structurally-supported convicts. A prolonged crime-wave provoked national fear, hints of political destabilisation and varied responses by government and other groups. “Phantom killers”, vigilantes, organized crime and the narcotic drug. Trade flourished. Still, Jagdeo managed to survive and keep Guyana economically alive. Despise him all you want, I rate that as his personal success. However dubious.
Another unprecedented tragedy, the Great Flood of January 2005, challenged young Jagdeo to the limit. My own assessment? Frankly Speaking, I think that they “weathered” that storm reasonably well. The coastlands and Guyana survived!
Perception is often greater than reality. When combined with factual evidence it becomes reality itself. Today all PPP fine achievements are submerged by our status as a narco-friendly, money-laundering trans-shipment state. Corruption by government and state-related persons and entities prevail in the nation’s consciousness. Craft, favouritism and discrimination are claims against a government that has actually done well in housing, health care and environmental commerce. The failures in rice, sugar and bauxite cannot be all their fault but the buck usually stops right there.
I know you-all will scoff as I state that I won’t vote, but won’t mind change next year. I’ll feel for our voters though, because I see no viable alternative!
Oh, and no I won’t offer any assessment grades to the PPP, after 18 years. You do so.
Glimpses of our Justice
Because I’m running out of space here and because I’ll return to this issue, this is how I’ll deal “summarily” with this item now.
“Justice” – fair play, justness; exercise of deliberative authority in the maintenance of rights; the process and procedure, judicial proceeding to determine guilt or innocence. But with the advent of C.N. Sharma’s Justice for All Party and TV show, too many working-class Guyanese think of “justice” as being a commodity like tennis rolls-and-cheese or a pound of chicken. Justice to them means, invariably, that a suspect or an official must be guilty! Unfortunate…
On another level, I’ve always wondered why our Chancellor of the Judiciary and/or our Attorney-General never responds to the USA’s Country Reports which consistently describe our legal/justice system in unflattering language.
Until next time here are a few items which make the various elements of our judicial system lamentable: i) eyewitnesses to crimes are scared to testify, (ii) files and evidence disappear before court day; (iii) victims’ parents accept pre-trial compensation and inducements rendering prosecution toothless; (iv) witness-protection is a joke here; (v) cases take years to be heard (because of backlogs and few courts); (vi) Investigators are handicapped by inadequate forensics and unusable, blurred video images; (vii) prosecutors are inexperienced and judges misdirect or don’t advise at all.
Need I go on? But more soon.
*1) Don’t we manufacture HIV/AIDS Anti-Retroviral drugs at the New GPC, East Bank, Demerara (anymore)?
*2) Is all well with the Daily Millions-Plus lottery game?
*3) Want to purchase my proxy vote? Name Providence the Kanhai-Lloyd sports stadium and raise old-age pensions to $12,000/$15,000 per month. (There are not many thousands over – 65).
*3b) Former army chief (Bouterse) in Suriname. Former retired Brigadier (Granger) in Guyana??
*4) Stop bothering/pestering me about who’ll get concessions to sell by the new National Swimming Pool.
*5) Coming soon: Getting a piece of Guyana land for agriculture: Who decides who gets?
‘Til next week!