Below the surface in our society so much happens. Secrets abound. People speculate. On the street we gaff about things we hear in the shadows.
When we tackle State officials with tales of corruption, it’s quite easy for the President, Prime Minister, Chief Cop, and the entire flock of Ministers, to look Parliament square in the eye and demand, with disarming innocence, “evidence”. They know that we gaff and tell tales. So they dare us to show that corruption is not just another tale we tellin’.
Well, an American, with the eye of an outsider, roamed Georgetown and delved below the gaffing to unearth the facts of a global corruption scandal.
The American, David Casavis, who spends his time teaching at colleges in New York and launching election campaigns hoping for political office in New York’s boroughs, found out we exist because of the notorious Thomas Carroll US visa-selling case.
Casavis wanted to know how the US Foreign Service could be so caught up in such a scandal: selling US visas by way of gangsters and scoundrels, reportedly netting Carroll US$12 million in just one year.
Casavis came to our dear land, became familiar with the word Guyana, and, intrigued, fascinated, frightened, went back to New York to write a book on us.
Reading Casavis’ ‘The Thomas Carroll Affair’, published last month in the US, one gets the impression that dark and dire secrets abound below the surface of the rough and tough of daily existence in Georgetown.
Casavis delved with the dogged investigative determination of a seasoned detective, and wrote the book with the engaging reporting style of the seasoned investigative journalist. His excursion into the Guyana underworld unearthed a massive global stink within the sanctimonious US Foreign Service. We tell a great civilization by its books, its literature. Our young nation boasts great writers of yesteryear – A. J. Seymour, Martin Carter, Wilson Harris, Edgar Mittelholzer, Ian McDonald, to name the famous ones – but we lost our way, and now see books as alien.
We may not publish books about the real state of our society, as we lost that ability, that eye, for such defining action. But not so America.
There, books remain the premier teller of tales, the greatest way to gaff. Even investigative journalists now turn away, in the US, from newspapers, which fell from their glory days, to write expose after expose in books.
While we Guyanese harbour our secrets and gaff about them in the middle of Stabroek Market, the American Casavis took a peep behind the gaff curtain, saw the making of a book, and grabbed the opportunity.
And what a book it is, not only putting Guyana on the map as a place where international crime happens with wicked immunity, but also exposing a rotten core of the mighty US Foreign Service.
In the process, he exposes the US Embassy in Georgetown. The US Embassy, which we all thought of as a grand eagle of saintly sanctimonious sanity, fell from its lofty perch. Inside its sturdy, hallowed walls, corruption eats away at the fabric of society as much as outside on the streets of Georgetown.
Casavis’ book stuns. Its release, days before the US Embassy in Georgetown got caught in another shocking US visa-sale scandal involving its officer Edy Duran, could not come at a worse time.
Casavis missed many crucial underlying tracks of Guyana’s powerful underworld. This the reader may excuse, as his pen, being American, focuses more on the US Foreign Service, which seems to be his hobby.
The US Foreign Service is so rotten, so stink, that Thomas Carroll learned the tricks of his trade not on the streets of Georgetown, from Guyana’s “smart” underworld, but from working at US Embassies in Asia – particularly Taiwan and China.
Carroll came to Guyana prepped for the role of selling visas illegally on Georgetown’s street.
Casavis does a great job to walk the reader through the development of Carroll’s interest in illegal US visas sales.
But Casavis also accomplishes an astonishing job in naming key underworld figures in Guyana, including big name police officers and business owners, who formed a ring around the Kingston-based US Embassy, and Carroll’s former rented house on Duncan Street in Lamaha Gardens.
Were we to see books like these appear, written by Guyanese who know the secrets behind the gaffs, we may see a transformed Guyana.
Casavis’ book is bound to impact the way business is done within the global US Foreign Service.
Yet, it may see little impact here, because, first of all, most Guyanese already know the secrets about the dark underworld, and second, our Government seems unlikely, unwilling, too scared, and unable, to act on evidence, no matter how verified.
Casavis relates how a thriving US visa sale “cottage industry”, spanning the globe, sees Chinese, Indians and Arabs use Guyana as a “trampoline” to the US. He names a Chinese “snakehead” from Berbice who charged US$40,000 for each Chinese getting to the US from China, through Guyana.
We tell our secrets in gaffs on the street. But when those secrets start finding their way into books published in the United States, by American college professors, we know that we now occupy a place of notoriety in the global underworld of corruption, fraud and international crime.
We now harbour global secrets, attracting America, which now finds interest in our gaffs. “In a totally corrupt country – where corruption has been going on for generations – this was mild. It was even banal”, Casavis writes, in describing the Chinese operation. What would Guyanese think of Casavis’ book? We already gaff about these things on the street.
But our secrets exposed in black and white, on the streets of America, must now face the glare of global scrutiny.
And in that, we may see some hope: hope that those dark secrets robbing us of our potential may one day see the light of justice.