Wherever we live, there are situations or conditions or attitudes in the society that we come across, or they come across us, that have a negative impact on how we see the place. Those things are here, like everywhere else, and like everywhere else they’re often in that extensive category of matters that never seem to become rectified. I’m not going into this naively. From experience I’ve learned that there is almost zero chance that my wishes will come to pass, but here are some things I would like to see in Guyana.
Anyone who traverses Georgetown knows the high standard of the grounds at the GDF compound at Camp Ayanganna. That sprawling area is an oasis of neatly manicured lawns and hedges, with no disorder or litter anywhere in sight. There are none of the uneven parapets or leaning posts that are common in the landscape almost everywhere else. So here’s my suggestion: the President should identify the group of persons responsible for that Camp Ayanganna oasis, and he would put them to head up a new government unit with the explicit purpose of beautifying the country (notice I’m going beyond Georgetown; I’m sidestepping the politics). Using the Adam Harris lexicon, the new unit will be called “Dem Boys Dem” or DBD, instead of some forbidding official name, and they will create a programme called “Clean Awee Place” or CAP with concise posted orders in the vernacular for deficient properties, eg, “Weed Um”; “Repair Um”; “Dump Um”; “Clean Um”; etc. CAP employees would be in uniform, wearing a distinctive Clean Awee Place cap designed by Donna Ramsammy, and they would have (a) the authority to fine litterers and (b) the expertise to make everywhere look like Ayanganna. The language may amuse at first, but the local vernacular will help the messages to take hold. It will take some doing, because this operation would intersect several ministries, but I would like to see that.
This past Easter on a trip to Barbados, I passed through Timehri at 5 am – a time when we should all be in bed – to be greeted by a very friendly Immigration Officer (yes, I did say Timehri), who was professional and efficient while still being friendly. Her name was Officer Kertzious, and how she was able to smile and be cordial at that ungodly hour was beyond me. The condition underlying my comment here is that some of the immigration officers at Timehri would clearly benefit from training in handling travellers with courtesy and respect, and particularly in displaying some of that vibrant Guyanese hospitality, but there’s no need to send for the inevitable overseas “expert” to conduct the classes. We have Ms Kertzious who can do the job very effectively; we won’t have to bring her in first-class and put her up at the Pegasus. She’s right here, maybe living in Soesdyke (that’s a wild guess), and she has the procedures down pat. Besides, whereas the overseas consultant might run into some resistance, Ms Kertzious would be able to ‘buse‘ her Guyanese colleagues in language they would understand. So whoever is in charge of the officers at Timehri, should arrange for this officer to run a few workshops to show her colleagues how it should be done. It would make life a lot more pleasurable for the folks transiting our airport. I would like to see that. Let me tell you: when you come off one of the grinding overnight flights here, including that stressful Trinidad transition, to have the first face you see at Timehri smiling at you is like a cold mauby on a hot day.
(An aside to the previous: In verifying the Immigration Officer’s name, I called, in turn, Home Affairs, the Passport Office, Immigration Timehri, and finally Immigration Officer Clement, and in every instance I was dealing with helpful, efficient and courteous civil servants. Officer Clement, in fact, went so far as to look back in her data base for the information and relayed it. In a country where we’re often complaining about poor services, that was an example of some folks getting it right.)
Another thing: even a casual look at the appearance of our commercial buildings in Guyana shows the standard to be generally low. I accept the reality of high cost of material and prevalence of poor workmanship, but businesses such as Andrew Art in Ogle and Spads Water on Thomas Street in town show that those hurdles are not insurmountable. And the point there is that while formidable capital can be required, as in the impressive edifice of the GBTI Bank building in Kingston, attractive exteriors can be achieved without massive expense. I would not begin to profess to know how to propel this shift, but in the country generally, not just Georgetown and New Amsterdam, we are regressing in the way businesses present themselves to the public, and it would be nice if we were going up the slope rather than down it. It would obviously be a good business tactic, as well, by attracting customers simply on appearance, but purely on the aesthetic side I would like to see that.
Finally, as a motorist, I am often stunned to see vehicles (and it’s not just minibuses and taxis) beating traffic lights at crowded intersections. Going north on Sheriff Street, the right turn onto the seawall road is a prime example, but there are many others, and I am yet to see anyone charged for these dangerous bursts. Okay, our Police Force is stretched, and we can’t catch all the offenders, but it would help to have a random rotating system of patrol car surveillance at these major lights to deal with these lunatics. When I lived in Canada and the Cayman Islands, I would see police cars chasing down drivers for ignoring stop signs, driving through red lights, or making illegal turns. We often see our police cars here, lights flashing and siren going, escorting dignitaries around town. Just once, Guyana, just once, it would be wonderful to behold a police vehicle, with blinking blue lights, pelting up one of your streets to apprehend one of these traffic miscreants. I would close my gaping mouth, stop my van, and get out and applaud. Obviously an occasional interception like that is not likely to make a significant dent in the nonsense, but I would feel good driving home knowing at least one of the jackasses is going to court and probably acting sensibly the next time a traffic light turns red. So whoever our traffic boss is, I’m asking that he arrange to trap at least one cunnu munnu. I would love to see that.