I would first like to applaud the new Minister of Public Security for the outstanding work done so far and new vision and direction put forth for the reforming of Guyana’s security sector. The devastating impact of crime on foreign investment, migration and the morale of country, among others, have been documented by many observers in the past.
I would like, however, to encourage the Minister to look into an area that has been neglected for far too long in Guyana, and now has become our dominant culture. It is one, I believe, which has an inextricable link to crime in this country, and that is underage drinking. As a young Guyanese who resides in what it is considered a low-income area in the countryside of Guyana, the effects of this phenomenon are evident.
Today in Guyana and virtually in all locations where alcohol is consumed or sold, one can find the presence of underage persons either buying or consuming alcohol. Many bar/shop owners, particularly in the rural areas, accept this behaviour because for many underage drinkers account for a good percentage of their revenue.
Persons who acquire a liquor licence should be aware that selling alcohol to minors is a violation and that they risk having their licences taken away. Almost none of these establishments practise checking the IDs of suspected underage persons, and virtually none has a clearly visible sign (which should be issued by a governmental entity) stating it is an infraction to sell alcohol to a minor, as typically done in the US (it is also applied for tobacco).
As a person who lived in the US for quite some time, I am appalled at the apparent laxity in the application of the law and the type of culture that now dominates Guyanese society. It does not take an expert to observe what lies ahead for a society which allows this behaviour to continue. Teenage drinking is quite frankly something that no business establishment should be encouraging.
Persons living in the communities where this trend is more evident can testify to the problems that occur when underage persons consume alcohol. It is the number one contributor to violence, noise nuisance and lawless behaviour towards law abiding citizens, and many Guyanese are hostage to this phenomenon.
Guyana is now at the crossroads of survival after decades of rot and decay. What we do today will determine where we as a society stand tomorrow. Like many ills which start innocuously, this one was allowed to fester and become the elephant in the room which hardly anyone talks about. It is time for change, and on that note I ask that this issue be looked at and taken seriously by the new administration.