So problematic to be a politician in this land

Dear Editor,

It would be the understatement of the year to say that it is a tough time here in Guyana.  This would be especially applicable to those persons immersed in the shadowy arts of political practice.  I usually do not have it within me to be sympathetic to politicos, but I feel a stirring, faint as it is.

If a least popular poll were to be conducted right now, the Hon. Minister of Finance would win first, second, and third places all by himself.  I am prepared to speculate that he would perform just as well in similar foreseeable future polls.  Nobody likes the bearer of bad costly news.  Still, in defence of the local emperor of the exchequer, it has to be said that everywhere he turned, he came up empty.  It was the same story over and over: accounts drained; funds gone; story done.

As was suspected, and is now becoming increasingly clearer, the ship of state that is Guyana was floated on a sea of the stupor inducing, in more ways than one.  There was that which clogged the senses, and that which choked the banks.  Those that did the major snorting for a long time now exhale quietly; they still have to cross a very agitated River Jordan.  Huge tolls are waiting in its turbulent cataracts.  At least this minister gets to laugh through the discomfort of his messages.

Then there is the Hon. Minister of Agriculture.  Surely, he is the forgotten man (or would like to be) of Guyanese politics.  It is as if he has been furrowed and ploughed under like the staples under his purview.  There is no demand for him; the price for his presence is negligible to nonexistent, like the commodities managed.  Like D’Artagnan he has shown a clean pair of heels and does frequent disappearing acts in the face of fresh onslaughts.  Amidst the sharp scrutiny and fierce glares, the minister has been wise to do like the young of old: neither be seen nor heard.On the bright side (for those who can locate either a side or some brightness in this), the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs has his work made terribly difficult; the very urbane folks who went before enraged everybody that counted, and he is left picking up the pieces scattered all over the place.  It is Humpty Dumpty all over again, and the minister has to be gnashing his teeth as the bartering is now steeper.  Great care was taken to cultivate close (and cozy) ties with the East while the Westerners were left to monitor their radars of comings and goings involving the handsomely rewarding cash and carry trade.

One has to wonder that if that was allowed to continue uninterrupted, how much of the current talk and flavour about oil bonanzas would be anywhere on the airwaves.  I reckon that the neighbours would have been provocatively objectionable, if not outright aggressive.  I doubt that anyone would have sighted a flotilla making the arduous trek across the Indian Ocean or South China Sea, to so much as make a courtesy call.  Now with new painstaking efforts at relationship building, the incumbent minister can report of the availability of Southern Command to raise the flag as circumstances dictate.  The minister is still undoing a lot of damage, but there are ready partners to smooth his passage.

As all of these happenings unfold, the ruling class can depend on being pulverized daily (sometimes rightly, sometimes prematurely) by rollicking segments of the Fourth Estate.  They have a job to do, papers to sell, and consistent low standards to maintain.  It can be very colourful, and of great entertainment value.  Politicians, who should be cringing in embarrassment, now nod dismissively and knowingly.  The paper tigers are not to be taken seriously, but must be humoured.  Thus, the politicians watch as some media houses labour to separate sheep from goats, only to end up on the side of the goats.  Judgement Day waits and it promises to be neither funny nor pretty. Talking about funny and pretty, there is one in the political amphitheater here whose forehead emits a dark sinister glow.  This can only spell troubling times for this society.  Now casting about without a full head of hair is excusable; on the other hand, operating without a full deck can tumble headlong into snake pits of the perilous.

Even as I write, I hear of valiant efforts by the same leading political figure to project humility, gentility, and palatability.  I regret to announce the verdict: dismal failure on every count.  Guyanese are not fooled for a moment.  Guyanese are stuck.  As I said earlier, political life is a hard sell these days; charlatans are what citizens behold.

Editor, it is so problematic to be a politician in this land, I wonder why anyone in their right mind would wish for such a calamitous existence.  Then I recall the undeclared unexposed side of the business, particularly the rich payoffs: ego expansion, loaded friends (think liquid, paper, and cold steel), Babylonian excesses and Persian delights.  I will settle for church.  But to each his own; and every man is entitled to his own vice.

Yes, it is a dog’s life for local politicians.  Except that some dogs have their own manicurists and access to cable television.  It is a nice living all things considered.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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