Jessica, Priya: Two Sunday Letters

-Organising, Empowering Civil Society

Frankly Speaking a few folks would most likely, berate me for daring to juxtapose the illustrious Jessica Huntley’s name in the same (literary) vicinity next to Priya Manickchand’s.

After all, Jessica was a proud Buxtonian-type who helped to “mother” the original People’s Progressive Party (PPP) as well as to pioneer radical Third World publishing amongst first and second generation Caribbean-Guyanese immigrants to Britain. Manickchand, by comparison (?), is an attorney-at-law turned government Minister trying boldly to lend just a little intellectual lustre to a lacklustre government. Comparison?

Anyhow, two letters mentioning the two ladies appeared in the newspapers this past Sunday. Sentences from each leaped out at me hence these brief comments.

In the first one thirteen (13) Working People’s Alliance (WPA) think-tank types lauded the work of the now-late Jessica Huntley and, as the caption proclaimed, suggested strongly that “It is the duty of the Caribbean Region to commemorate Jessica Huntley in various appropriate ways.” I note the word “duty” and do agree with the exhortation generally. But one portion of a thought in the Huntley letter attracted me very much. It ended: “… concerned with the fate of peoples still oppressed, or who had recently regained their independence without cultural sovereignty.”

What beautiful, significant descriptive usage! “Cultural Sovereignty.” Yes we lament the absence of economic independence after the paper, constitutional, political sovereignty. Yet we allow cultural penetration of other people’s identities- from fashion to dress, music and food – to intrude, even overwhelm our Caribbean- Guyanese heritage. The Huntleys’ Publishing House Confronted that dilemma from within the belly of the behemoth itself- “Great” Britain.

Meanwhile, as I battle to promote our oral tradition here, I cringe at the radio advertisements in heavily American accents. (If you can’t live in the USA, bring it here – right to Georgetown and Gangaram.) Poor us.


The other Sunday letter was penned by a Khemraj Ramjattan. This writer was responding to the government Minister of Education Priya Manickchand who herself had represented another Minister’s wife working in the Auditor- General’s Office.

This letter writer included these words in his letter: “the then first lady complained of “High-Tec domestic violence” and had to suffer mosquito bites after being literally chased out of the presidential bed chambers into the vehicles under state house where she was forced to sleep.”

And there were other gossipy, speculative allegations in this particular missive. I recall too, reading of interesting “parties” at State House some years ago. That letter was written by none other than Elder Eusi Kwayana! What was State House coming to?


Civil Society: Status and Authority

Since I stopped voting at National Elections, I’ve become more acutely aware of the presence, presumed role and status of local Civil Society. I’ll spare preaching or “lecturing” here but must report what a former Government Minister told my friend two weeks ago.

This ex-minister said, forcefully, that. “Guyanese Civil Society Groups are cowards!”

Wow! But could there not be an element of fact in his opinion? Are not many of our non-Government Organisations (NGO’s) selectively silent in issues of national significance? From constitutional and electoral violations to dysfunctional governance? Are not too many of them compromised?

I’m associated with a ten-year old group, the Guyana National Council on Public Policy (GNCPP). This is a burgeoning Think-tank-type NGO which has challenged electoral malpractice through litigation as far as the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). As all of Civil Society should in between national elections, the GNCPP draws it status and authority from international Civil Society Charters and conventions and, best of all from our own constitution.

GNCPP resumes its series of televised conversations on “Human Security and Insecurity in Guyana” on most television stations over this week-end. During those discussions, interested viewers will hear of the GNCPP’s plans to approach all Guyanese Civil Society Organisations in Guyana and elsewhere to encourage collaboration and collective thought and effort to confront injustice and poverty especially.

A planned international conference is on the cards for next year and soon the powerful patrons of the GNCPP will be announced. It will even be difficult for detractors to label the GNCPP as “Opposition”, or to hijack the conference. So authoritative will be its supporters and so just its objectives. Even Government will stand to benefit. In the interest of all Guyanese.



.1) The parties are in local government elections mode. Vincent and other educators had better explain the local government system of voting. Simply!

.2) The Chronicle carried a story about the PNC in the regions in its Tuesday edition. What balance!

.3) Will our police investigate the “experience” of the 19-year-old truck driver involved in that tragic accident? Just when and where did he get a licence?

.4) How’s the case against the Islamic teacher accused of sexual harassment coming along?

.5) Catch a forum for Civil Society on your TV in the coming days.

Til next week!


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