As I sat in the black-out that engulfed the city on Wednesday night, it dawned on me that after 12 years (the longest serving President) Bharrat Jagdeo and his regime were unable to do something as basic as keeping the lights on. So what is there to celebrate? What is the reason for the self-congratulatory party? Let us not kid ourselves; electricity is a basic necessity in the 21st century, and there is no reason or excuse for what amounts to the equivalent of a small city (Guyana) to be without a continuous (24 hour) electricity supply. There are less than one million households in Guyana, and that is less than the average metropolitan city around the world. They get it right, so why can’t we, and we have the audacity to celebrate.
This month pensioners in Guyana will take home a paltry $7,500, while the President in a couple of weeks will start collecting from the over-taxed citizens of Guyana a ransom fit for a vulgar and heartless king. President Jagdeo’s retirement package with his cars, secretaries, free light, free water, free vacation, gardener, maids, cook, security, free health care, no tax, make a mockery of the little man who must slave to keep him living a life of luxury. Mr Jagdeo will live out the rest of his life on the backs of the working poor who must struggle with an unconscionable 16% VAT and 33% PAYE. I dare ask, Editor, what is there for the little man like a pensioner to celebrate or appreciate, when his daily income of approximately $250 a day cannot even buy a loaf of bread.
With the staged crowd and the glitz and glamour of a Potemkin village the Champion of the Earth will humbly accept the praise and thanks of a grateful nation. The lights will shine bright at the National Stadium, obliterating the darkness that has invaded the social fabric of our nation. As he shamelessly engages in this glorification of self, several homeless men and women will be going to bed on the bleachers of the Parade Ground, while several more scattered around the city and throughout the nation will rest their heads anywhere they can, thankful for another day, barely surviving in Mr Jagdeo’s paradise. The laid off sugar and bauxite workers, the civil servants working for starvation wages, the police officer forced to compromise his values and criminalize himself by taking bribes to supplement his meagre wages, the students that attend the ramshackle schools that are a remnant of another era – what should they be thankful for?
There will be wild boasts and claims of infrastructure development on a massive scale. The rulers will pat themselves on the back and say, “Thanks to our great leader we have been delivered.” The preferred mode of address will be ‘Dr Jagdeo, Champion of the Earth,’ and not to waste an opportunity to campaign for the upcoming elections, Mr Ramotar will be rolled out. However there will be no talk of the WikiLeaks cables, and you will not hear the word ‘money- laundering’ mentioned once. The drug culture that has invaded our land will be brushed under the carpet. The failure to invest in the most important resource – the human resource – will get absolutely no mention. The thousands that continue to vote with their feet, abandoning Mr Jagdeo’s paradise for anywhere else, will be ignored and the bands will play as the ‘rent a crowd’ waits to be bussed back to their homes.
Editor, if this was not so serious it would be laughable, for I remember the day that this man became president. He was young and many felt he was unaffected by the old politics of the past and he would govern fairly and bring much needed change to the country. There was goodwill and we were prepared to give him a chance.
He squandered it, he blew it, and 12 years later we are still a divided nation, we are still a nation plagued by poverty. We are a nation of beggars, where the super rich express themselves and flaunt their riches, while the poor just try to keep bread on the table and a roof over their heads. Yes, some with connections to this regime have lots to be thankful for, because they have never had it this good. But while this small band of tycoons and drug lords feast at the table of plenty the masses go hungry.
Some have opined that today should be dubbed a day of shame, but I would rather we had a day of prayer. We should ask him to continue to bless this land and show us that we must learn to live as brothers and sisters, or perish together and suffer as fools.