For a very long time now we have watched mainly four types of response from government spokespersons to recurrent crises plaguing Guyana; these are arrogance, silence, sophistry as response, or assigning blame to others. Over the last week this has even been more patently obvious in the government’s responses or non-responses to the latest garbage-related flood fiasco.
In and out of Guyana, Guyanese looked on in horror, anger and frustration at yet another complete flooding of Georgetown. One of the most disturbing facts about the PPP is their desire to destroy what they can’t control. And this is evident in how they have neglected Georgetown even as the mountain of garbage threatens to choke even those who hold power and the floodwaters inundate even the former Governor now President’s mansion on Main Street. Historically, the PPP has never won Georgetown and that, combined with the fact that Hamilton Green continues to be Mayor, seems to have decided them to let the city return to the swamp from which it arose. Even the sight of the ABC ambassadors cleaning up our capital city was not enough to move this PPP. One would think the overwhelming misery, destruction of people’s belongings, and what must be surely the damage to the foundations of homes and businesses would galvanise the state to call in all stakeholders and throw its full weight and resources behind a collective response towards a long-lasting solution to the continuing problems of garbage and flood. But the PPP’s response has been and will be the same as usual: blame everyone else and do nothing. The pattern is clear.
Indeed, what is it about Guyana that the only responses from the organized opposition have been press conferences, press releases, protests and debate in the restricted confines of Parliament and letters? Many of these are well articulated and important contributions, but they do not shift the behaviour of the state. The never-ending cycle of non-response or arrogance from the state continues after each crisis whether the crisis is environmental, corruption or about local government elections. The almost daily columnist Frederick Kissoon, in spite of the labels and barbs sent his way has been remarkably consistent in highlighting and hammering away at the horrid state of affairs that is Guyana under the PPP/Civic, and has backed up the written word with physical protest. Kaieteur News and Stabroek News editorials and commentary have been dependable in highlighting the misery of life as have some TV stations. Other commentators including Clive Thomas and Christopher Ram engage the lack of social, economic and political accountability with their weekly columns and public criticisms. But nothing appears to shift the regime even when it comes to cases like the national and global embarrassment of the garbage problem.
So what is the way forward for struggle in Guyana? The mountain of lament and written and spoken protestation has not shifted the stubborn arrogance of the state and party in power. Isn’t it time the range of protest is extended? Human beings have a range of other peaceful options of protest including handbills, picketing, demonstrations, petitions to parliament, signature campaigns, sit ins, fasts, strikes, marches among others, even closing down the city until the garbage problem is seriously addressed. As hard as it can be to muster the time, courage and resolve to draw oneself into public and collective protest, it works over time in all societies, including Guyana. Just think of one of Guyana’s greatest sons, Hubert Critchlow, who fought for labour in the darkest days in the early part of the last century. History should give us hope, as it bears out the truth of the statement attributed to the Russian revolutionary Lenin: “Sometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen.” May ours come soon.