Ever since I was a little child growing up in Guyana I always wondered why even by local standards traffic accidents and road deaths were always considered high. It seemed that the only form of death known to a child of my generation was that which was brought about by a traffic accident. Road safety programmes were always part of my upbringing, and there were many interventions, albeit modest, to make the roads a safer place for all. However, I am now convinced that as a nation we need to review our approach to road safety management.
About twenty years ago, I visited the residence of an esteemed friend who was an ambassador to this country. While interpreting certain events of the day for my benefit, he said that the government or rulers of any jurisdiction, territory or country had the political wherewithal to fashion any kind of behaviour they wished in the people, so that the masses soon learn to surrender their responsibility to the government and accept whatever is given to them.
I remembered what the Ambassador said when I read journalist Mr Michael Jordan’s letter in the KN of July 21, in which he said that the passengers must take the blame for the accident on Homestretch Avenue. He went on to say that their refusal to speak out was in fact the tragedy. I am in total disagreement with his line of reasoning, because we have a responsibility to desist from appearing to be victimising people who are hurting all over again.
I have found that people don’t just wake up one morning and start to exercise their constitutional rights. I am also of the view that Guyanese have not yet developed an appreciation for advocacy, and this is not because of fear, but because we just don’t care. In January 1994, I travelled overland to Suriname; on the way back the launch developed serious engine problems, broke down and drifted dangerously with its overload of passengers and goods. Having once been a seaman I immediately sensed danger and brought this to the attention of some passengers. I took out my camera and took some photographs in order to present a case to the T&HD. While doing so I was asked by a passenger what I intended to do, and I replied, report an unseaworthy vessel to the authorities.
Several passengers, mostly hucksters, became annoyed, and said that they would not want the vessel to be pulled off the ‘water top’ because they have their ‘hustle’ to think about. I reported the matter anyway several weeks later, the very day the T&HD moved to impound the vessel. It capsized while mooring alongside the Springlands wharf , something which was reported in the media. While other examples abound, this particular episode demonstrates how difficult it is at times, to get seemingly intelligent people to act decisively in their own interest.