The vulgarity starts from the cradle

Dear Editor,

I refer to the article which appeared on your Stabroek News front page of February 15 with regard to the Bill passed in Parliament giving financial independence to a number of Commissions in the public interest.  I am appalled at the misplaced logic voiced in opposition to the passage of the said Bill. Editor, a learned relative of mine continues to say, “That things have been wrong for so long that what is right now seems wrong,” and I ask what in God’s name is the reason for any decent, logical thinking individual opposing the intent of the Bill.

Editor, I would have liked to hear what my esteemed English teacher Mr R E Cheeks and a former member of Parliament would have had to say about the sordid level of debate in opposition to the passing of the Bill, apart from such being a good example of gobbledygook.

In my attempt to analyse the mood of the House on a Bill which should have attracted bipartisan support, I am reminded of a statement made by Sir Donald Jackson in May 1961 when in a conversation he remarked that, “Parliament [Guyana] would be poorer when people like Mr Balram Singh Rai would not be seen on its benches as they represent what was best in parliament democracy, decency, good governance and government” (Against the grain: Balram Singh Rai and the politics of Guyana by Dr B Ramharack).

Editor, I dare to raise the issue of the blatant mediocrity which pervades our society. I make reference to the hullabaloo being made about a four-lane highway on the East Bank Demerara.  Is the highway being made wider where the communities such as Diamond are concentrated, to allow for service roads and differently black-surfaced, dedicated entrance and exit lanes? These lanes when established and properly marked would allow through-traffic to move unhindered by diverting traffic even if a law of eminent domain has to be invoked.

Secondly, could you imagine the President and First Lady travelling to an international forum in the company of other dignitaries and staying at a five-star hotel where at the sign-in desk the clerk greets them as ‘Uncle’ and ‘Auntie’ or ‘Grandfather’ and ‘Mother’ while addressing the other dignitaries as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ as appropriate?  Would my President take offence at the greeting? After all, it has been the norm for some time now at home.  For Guyanese the words Mr/Sir, Ms/Madam have been conveniently eradicated from the spoken language.

Editor, Guyana Quo Vadis? ‘Whither goest thou’?  If the administration in Georgetown and elsewhere in Guyana has to impose and enforce draconian laws akin to those implemented by a former Prime Minister of Singapore in order to sensitize citizens to the need to maintain a clean environment, then so be it − provided that the requisite infrastructure and support is in place.  I would find it difficult to accept as normal the grossly untidy condition and the smelly gutters bordering a once pleasant Bourda Green and Market, and would like to be able to sit comfortably on the Mall opposite a church and get involved in the revelry of Mash. Just observe the lack of symmetry on the lateral axis of speed bumps which tells you how opposed we are to things which are basic and pleasant to the eye.

With all the accidents on the Linden highway and interior roads there is no requirement for vehicles to be equipped with emergency traffic cones to function as warning signals when a vehicle breaks down and constitutes a hazard. Why not?

With regard to the number of accidents in our riverain areas there was a time when sub-wardens attached to the Lands and Mines Department chaired examinations on the River Navigation Act to test the knowledge of the regulations and the navigation skills of prospective river captains.  Moreso there has been the need for years to put a mechanism in place to ensure that boats are equipped with adequate approved life preservers, and monitored for compliance. This has not been accorded any urgency by the authorities.

Editor, the mandatory Annual Confidential Report (ACR) which had to be completed in years gone by in respect of every public servant, was relevant to that official’s upward climb.  From being able to write a concise minute, then a memorandum and finally a cabinet paper tested the educational background of the public servant and qualifications for career success.  But the legacy of Messrs Martin De Abreu, Fitz Dorway and Barry Vigilance, Permanent Secretaries among others, who set a standard for conduct in a professional civil service has been diluted and tainted. Yes, tainted to the extent whereby a public servant could be overheard asking for a raise to buy ‘a food’ – not a meal or a lunch.  It is very exasperating when one has grown accustomed to a superior environment.

The vulgarity starts from the cradle. There is the case of the little boy wending his way to kindergarten whose hand was being held by an adult, and after looking back at a waste removal truck he was advised by the elder that the truck was pumping ‘s..t’ not waste matter or faeces.  There is a marked absence of finesse and elegance in the society.  Money doesn’t buy it.

There are issues which we must face up to like the 3000 students dropping out of school annually because they become pregnant, even though a number of them will eventually be trained to become another generation of pavement entrepreneurs. When are we going to conduct a survey to determine how many male school dropouts, say, in the last five to ten years have fallen afoul of the criminal law? There was a time when there was a stigma attached to children born out of wedlock when they could not have been considered for the award of a county scholarship. We may frown on those antediluvian days, but can we honestly accept a TV station advertising a social affair with the violent vibration of a woman’s derriere as an attraction?  But there was a time our riverain areas there was a time when sub-wardens attached to the Lands and Mines Department chaired examinations on the River Navigation Act to test the knowledge of the regulations and the navigation skills of prospective river captains.  Moreso there has been the need for years to put a mechanism in place to ensure that boats are equipped with adequate approved life preservers, and monitored for compliance. This has not been accorded any urgency by the authorities.

Editor, the mandatory Annual Confidential Report (ACR) which had to be completed in years gone by in respect of every public servant, was relevant to that official’s upward climb.  From being able to write a concise minute, then a memorandum and finally a cabinet paper tested the educational background of the public servant and qualifications for career success.  But the legacy of Messrs Martin De Abreu, Fitz Dorway and Barry Vigilance, Permanent Secretaries among others, who set a standard for conduct in a professional civil service has been diluted and tainted. Yes, tainted to the extent whereby a public servant could be overheard asking for a raise to buy ‘a food’ – not a meal or a lunch.  It is very exasperating when one has grown accustomed to a superior environment.

The vulgarity starts from the cradle. There is the case of the little boy wending his way to kindergarten whose hand was being held by an adult, and after looking back at a waste removal truck he was advised by the elder that the truck was pumping ‘s..t’ not waste matter or faeces.  There is a marked absence of finesse and elegance in the society.  Money doesn’t buy it.

There are issues which we must face up to like the 3000 students dropping out of school annually because they become pregnant, even though a number of them will eventually be trained to become another generation of pavement entrepreneurs. When are we going to conduct a survey to determine how many male school dropouts, say, in the last five to ten years have fallen afoul of the criminal law? There was a time when there was a stigma attached to children born out of wedlock when they could not have been considered for the award of a county scholarship. We may frown on those antediluvian days, but can we honestly accept a TV station advertising a social affair with the violent vibration of a woman’s derriere as an attraction?  But there was a time in this country when a lady rode a Velocette motorcycle and had a weighted butterfly to keep the front of her skirt down.

There is widespread white-collar crime where the offenders go unpunished or are just let off due to the proverbial ‘not enough evidence found.’ Are they not shunned by those who are beyond reproach?  Oh for those days when we could have listened to Honest John on Sundays at 11 am or ZFY/Radio Demerara extolling the virtues of honesty and integrity within our society.

The statement by an esteemed gentleman that there is inelegance even in the court environment took a lot of guts from one who would know what existed in decades gone by.

The slide has continued and the gutter continues to be filled with trench mud.

Yours faithfully,
Aubrey Alexander



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