In our quest to create the kind of future we aspire to, we must cultivate the ability to know the root cause of why we are where we are today.
We cannot plan for tomorrow unless we know where we stand today, and, most important of all, why we ended up where we are today.
This week, on October 5th, we will see much fanfare from Government and the ruling political party as our leaders celebrate 21 years of attaining political power.
We will not see a mea culpa, an inward looking, a contemplative gaze, upon the kind of progress, or lack of, we made over the past two decades. We will not see a social audit of the forward movement of our nation. We will not see a political leader look us in the eye and admit that he or she made monumental mistakes and caused stunning failures.
Our nation creeps across time with the irony of this paradox hanging over our heads: the power elites trumpet how glorious our land is, and the rest of the society, we the citizens, bemoan our state of under-development.
Forbes Burnham ruled this land for 21 years, ending with his death on August 6, 1985. And nowhere in his speeches, or in the pronouncements of his Government, did the nation see a candid assessment of where the nation stood. The Burnham strategy sought to bring an optimistic outlook in the bleakest of times.
With Desmond Hoyte’s rule we saw some semblance of our Government facing up to reality, and the Economic Recovery Programme sought to correct the social structure that had fallen so terribly out of alignment.
This current Government, in power for 21 years now, governs our society with blinkers on. So we keep suffering decades and decades of our Government denying the true state of the society.
We could see why our Governments see a different society than we do: they enmesh themselves in cocoons, immune from the rest of the society.
When Clement Rohee, Donald Ramotar, Kellawan Lall and Robert Persaud, et al, were young men at the party’s headquarters, Freedom House, on Robb Street, they lived as ordinary citizens, like us today. Many of the party men rode rickety old Soviet motorcycles.
Now men of the party, 21 years after their elevation to power, move about in air-conditioned, multi-million dollar SUVs and live in expensive houses. They command power with arrogant disdain, as rice farmers of the Corentyne bemoan. Our leaders refuse to look themselves in the mirror and face the nation with a heart of contrition and candour.
We the citizens, suffering decades of this wall of silence dividing us from “them”, plod along, silent in our passive hopes.
A few good men, unable to bear the ethical collapse at Freedom House, walked away. Khemraj Ramjattan, Moses Nagamootoo, and Ralph Ramkarran joined the likes of Raphael Trotman who had abandoned the other major political party, to champion a new way forward.
All these leaders owned up to the fact that the Guyanese society continues to suffer a social free fall.
None other than the son of Dr Cheddi Jagan, Joey Jagan, expressed his disgust at the lack of conscience within the political party his parents founded and dedicated their lives to see gain power.
Our leaders ignore the voices of those who seek to align us to the road to real social development. People like Christopher Ram, Anand Goolsarran, Ramon Gaskin, Henry Jeffrey and Clive Thomas, all quintessential Guyanese, with independence of thought, with hearts of good conscience, stand up to point out the social dangers we face as a society.
Government leaders, enmeshed in their cocoon, ignore these voices, or attack their character.
Just about every commentator in this country blames Bharrat Jagdeo for the sad state of our social development. Jagdeo’s 12-year rule as President failed to see crucial democratic institutions activated.
From the paucity of the justice system, including law enforcement, to the fact that 16,000 high school leavers failed CXC English in 2012 and 2013, we refuse to face ourselves, and to see our condition.
Government leaders excuse failures with stunning stupidity, for example pointing to situations in the US as comparisons. Government officials excuse the poor English CXC results with claims that the Caribbean suffers too, and that US citizens also suffer from poor communication skills. These broad statements, of course, ignore the positives of the Caribbean and the US.
On October 5th, as a few elite leaders celebrate their attainment of political, economic, cultural and social power, the rest of the society watches with disdain, waiting and hoping on the monthly remittance from family members overseas.
Even the big success stories of this Government over the past two decades – like the Berbice Bridge – generate huge controversies. The Amaila Project, the Marriott deal, and the airport expansion all generate severe criticisms of corruption and unethical financial behaviour.
In fact, a case now in court reveals some sad facts about the shenanigans behind the scenes that happened to ensure funding for the Berbice Bridge from the National Insurance Scheme and the New Building Society.
After 21 years what could we celebrate? The rise of an elite class lacking ethics? The rise of the underworld, with organized crime entrenched? The massive chunk of the national economy that depends on remittances from overseas?
The huge housing drive that sold State lands belonging to the Guyana Sugar Corporation to poor citizens, generating a multi-trillion dollar banking wealth for the privately owned banks? The US$1 billion spent on education?
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, would say we should celebrate the child who gained 20 subjects at CXC. That is such an inhumane act, to ignore the 16,000 kids who failed, because it smacks of the worst blinkered leadership any society could suffer.
Our leaders would refuse to face where we stand today as a society, but we the citizens can find the root causes of why we are where we are today, and generate solutions, using private initiative, to turn things around.
Our Governments have failed us, refusing to face the facts of life, refusing to root out the causes of our social stagnation.