This week there was much to talk about, and clearly the ‘silly season’ has arrived. First, from no less a source than the Office of the President we were told that “victim friendly” police stations are coming. Also from the same office, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon informed the nation that the 29 tons of “building material” that was shipped to President Jagdeo at State House by the now even more infamous Mr Ed Ahmad, was in all likelihood a private transaction. Money totalling some $200 million was found by the government to clean up the city, and last, but by no means least, Jamzone will soon be with us.
Editor, all of the above is a sure sign that elections are right around the corner in Guyana. First, many citizens have operated on the assumption that all police stations were “victim friendly.” That the PPP/C government sees fit to express the need for “victim friendly” police stations, and to expend $134.5 million to give some locations a facelift is obviously yet another election ploy rather than a fundamental overhaul. Certainly, building improvements, rehabilitation and remodelling are needed at some police locations. To rehabilitate buildings and not retrain and retool the force, though, would be like putting bad rum in good bottles.
The problems with our police force will not be fixed by expending money on the physical plant of the force, but by a serious top to bottom review, followed by retraining, reallocating and improving salaries. This must be implemented along with an independent police review board that must have subpoena powers and an independent investigative arm. Several of the services that are now currently performed by the police force must be reassigned to other agencies. These include the issuing of passports and drivers’ licences, and prosecuting cases in court. These matters can be handled more efficiently by a separate passport office, a department of driver services, and the DPP’s chambers.
Then we have the matter of the “building materials” and Dr Luncheon’s laughable attempt to defend his boss. Well, perhaps someone should remind him that the President is not yet a private citizen. He is the chief public servant, and State House is not his private residence, but state property. In other words, State House belongs to the people of Guyana. If this were a private transaction, President Jagdeo should have had Mr Ed Ahmad send the container to his home at Pradoville 1 or 2. Now, yet again, there are more questions than answers.
Instead of traipsing off to New York to attend the Federation of Indian Americans parade, the President should have a press conference and explain to the nation what happened here. This matter will not go away until we know if any taxes which might have been required were paid.
The city will get a much needed cleaning, the garbage will be removed and the cemetery will be cleaned up. The government has made available $200 million towards these efforts, and perhaps we should consider thanking them for making our money available to us. Yes, this is not the PPP/C, Ramotar, or Jagdeo’s money. This is money from the state treasury; it is our tax dollars that will be putting to work for us.
Finally Editor, we come to Jamzone, the mega concert series that is underwritten in part by the state, and brings international superstars to entertain the nation’s youth. It would be informative to know just how much of the costs of this event are subsidized by our hard-earned tax dollars. Leisure and entertainment are important, but when a large percentage of the demographic that is targeted by Jamzone is unemployed or underemployed then clearly we all have yet another more serious fundamental problem.
There is need to focus less on Jamzome and more on other important zones, like economic empowerment zones, where investors can be given tax incentives to set up businesses in certain areas of the country. There can be tax holidays and other perks for job creation. Then there is need for free-trade zones which will also create jobs, stimulate our economy, and encourage the production of value-added products for export. There should also be drug and alcohol-free zones around our schools, places of worship and bedroom communities; there must be a zero tolerance policy enforced in these areas with a mandatory minimum sentence for offenders.