Before allowing myself to be infected with what is usually described as “the Christmas Spirit” from next Friday – I hate the premature commercialisation of Jesus’ Season – today I allow myself to succumb to the now-daily death-on-the–front-page syndrome and reality of our society.
And since I did intend pre-Christmas brevity today, I’ll be extremely brief and simple today. But how simple – or simplistic-could I be about poverty and crime in today’s Guyana? The Guyana I long decided to stay in permanently and to die in – hopefully not by murder or misdemeanour?
Stabroek News Senior Journalist/Reporter Oluatoyin Alleyne, corrected a somewhat Sunday “false start” about the brutal murder of Moblissa’s Molly James in the Monday’s edition of her paper. On Monday all media, like SN, reported on the arrest of the seventeen-year-old suspect who allegedly committed a dastardly double-murder act upon his own.
So what has caused me to use this report as today’s lead? The type of frequent issue I usually avoid?
Poverty, murder, wealth
Well it derives from the “abject poverty” as described by Ms Alleyne when painting her word-pictures of the Moblissa crime scene; the indicative humble-cum-primitive nature of the existence of the two deceased victims. Through her own professional observations, photographs and quotes from various relatives and neighbours.
Part of Alleyne’s reportage this Monday: “All of the signs pointed to a mother who lived in abject poverty and was struggling to survive. According to Lawrence – a former father-in-law – she would sometimes leave the children with her eldest daughter – who is said to be about 16 and who was living elsewhere with her ‘partner’ – and travel to the Interior to work as a cook…”
This little excerpt alone paints an all-too-familiar profile of our society’s significant underclass living on the edge of – seemingly – nowhere. Other segments of the report also help to fill out this excerpt’s profile: (1) a single parent mother of seven not yet forty; (2) an almost open-air tent shack called “home”; (3) her extreme poverty but mother’s will to survive; (4) a 16-year-old “eldest” daughter “living home” already who was (5) obliged to “look after” her little siblings when mommy Molly (6) would venture into (her native) hinterland to seek domestic work occasionally.
You only have to arouse whatever social conscience you have to contemplate the questions, some obvious answers and (even) future scenarios. Where are the fathers of the seven – now six – Molly produced? What guidance or schooling did those children ever receive? We see the pictures of poverty after assaults and killings – the shacks, the dirty compounds and little faces crying out for our compassion. Some of us are moved when civil society charities or the corporate guilty step in to alleviate the poverty the State’s safety nets (?) miss. Others scoff and cringe when the Ministers point to socio-economic progress.
Mind you, frankly speaking, I know of poverty in developed countries and neighbouring societies, but we are not even “one million in a big country of significant resources.” And yes, almost weekly now we hear of murders amongst the comfortable and the rich. Murder can also be wreaked amongst the wealthy, it seems.
The rhetoric, the reality
I’ll spare “lecturing” or “preaching” now. Years ago, my function was to organise the publicity as government ministers and other decision-makers regaled all sections of the populace with achievements. Promises made and normal routine services expected, during and after their election to office.
Don’t be too upset with the current Ministers of Housing, Employment and Social Services when they tell of their good deeds. But spare a thought and a tear for the late, murdered Molly James.
Terror, fear, Miami and Mahaica
Again, I attend to a related issue of criminality as reported in another section of the media on Sunday.
Taxi-driver Bharat had reportedly picked up two Skeldon-bound Guyanese holidayers returning from Miami, Florida, USA. He left the airport with his passengers-relatives during heavy rainfall. Driving slowly, he was sort of ambushed by another vehicle which had swerved in front of his car at Cottage, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara. Three would-be armed bandits tried their best to enter Bharat’s vehicle carrying his overseas passengers.
Despite their terror and bullets, Bharat managed to out-maneouvre the chasing criminals and sped into the compound of the Mahaica Police Station. Poor Bharat. He had to beg the two policemen to be let in, they were of no assistance whatsoever. Reportedly, the victims had to stick around for about seven hours before a detective looked at the bullet-hit taxi early next morning.
Imagine that it was your relatives back home for the holidays that night. A terror-filled welcome with no police assistance. Yes there is crime in Miami but your relatives found themselves in Mahaica so that is the Guyana locale of their latest life-story.
Why do I feel like quoting from a fair assessment in Stabroek News’ Monday Editorial which states, in part: “The crime situation is another example. Various periods of the PPP/C’s 21-year reign have been undermined by the ineffective response to crime. The criminals, murderers and organized crime have run rampant. This period is no different. Execution-style killings and fatal robberies continue unabated while recent weeks have seen wanton murder by licensed firearm holders who should not have had a permit in the first place. The seemingly majestic plans which had been laid out by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the last day of last year have fizzled whereas even in neighbouring Caribbean jurisdictions various measures and expertise are being brought to bear.”
My pre-Christmas miscellany…
1) If the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) represents workers at the Office of the President, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministries of Health, Tourism and Foreign Affairs, would the underpaid public servants of those four entities join the salaries increase protests?
1b) another taxi driver’s view: “Dis govament stupid! If dey give de public servants twenty per cent raise dey gon spend it in stores dat de govament like!” Discuss…
2) GPSU and the Teachers Union always have “interesting” elections. The GTU needs an Election Officer. Should I apply?
3) Let me attract some ridicule here: I would love to see the two traditional sports grounds made modern. Pity there is such suspicion surrounding the money and the personnel related to the aborted bid.
4) List seven countries now investing or willing to invest in Guyana? What do you find?
5) The Baby Jesus after His interesting birth, lived simply. Even in those days I doubt he would have been extravagant.
Control your spending this month!
’Til next week.