I watched in amazement at the vigour, tenacity, and effort exerted by the Minister Irfaan Ali as he mustered up every ounce of his being to criticize and flay the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill, during the January 25, 2013 sitting of Parliament.
The Minister was obviously speaking from his heart, and his passion, zeal and determination shone through as he argued, begged and pleaded that the dignity and respect for former presidents should be upheld and not stripped away. It was an impressive performance, indeed!
Sadly, Editor, it seems that this was a performance only. Because someone who truly believes that a former president deserves “dignity and respect,” someone who could argue so convincingly as the Minister did, surely, must also believe with all their heart, and surely, must be driven to action to fight for the “dignity and respect” of not just a former president, but for every single individual living in this country.
Yet, when was the last time that the Minister fought with such vigour and determination on behalf of the people of Guyana? Where is he, and what is he saying, currently, as residents of Berbice, a county that has been a PPP stronghold for decades, have been stripped of their “dignity and respect” by the very government that the Minister is a part of? Why is he silent on the many issues that plague this county?
Are we somehow less important than the former president whose rights he could fight for and defend so resolutely?
Perhaps the Minister is unaware of what is going on in Berbice, so let me venture to humbly educate him on just a few of our problems. Perhaps the most damaging, the most disturbing problem that has, and currently continues to strip Berbicians of their “dignity and respect” is the severe blackout crisis we face, where residents suffer through long periods of blackouts, at all hours, resulting in significant financial damage, inconvenience, and the hindrance of developmental work. These blackouts even jeopardize the lives of residents, and was recently one of the factors being investigated in relation to the loss of at least one life, after a patient died during a blackout that occurred in the midst of her surgery at the New Amsterdam Hospital. So to the Minister, I ask, what about our “dignity and respect”?
Our residents must pay a steep toll to use the Berbice Bridge; the passport offices in Berbice were taken away, forcing Berbicians to travel to Georgetown to apply for passports; loud music disturbs and disrupts every community; crime plagues our neighbourhoods; our young people are unemployed; our teachers and other public servants are paid late; our students are being robbed by unscrupulous teachers (penny-bank scandal at one primary school); the police cannot protect us; the rich get richer; the drug dealers prosper; and the poor man, the ordinary man − oh, he struggles to earn a living.
His psyche is damaged. He is fed up of corruption, of nepotism, of his educated children not finding jobs. He is hopeless. He is stripped completely of his “dignity and respect.”
And yet, the Minister would remain silent about this injustice, and choose to direct all his energies to defending the rights of a former president who already has one of the largest homes in Guyana, and who already appears to be comfortably off, and who, obviously, is not in dire need of what the Minister is expending all his energies towards.
So to Minister Irfaan Ali, I humbly ask, “What about us, Sir?” Don’t our dignity and respect matter too? Or are we consigned to being stripped forever of our natural rights?
(Name and address provided)