I wish to draw attention to the structure of our society and the massive social injustices and abuses meted out to the masses, here referring to the working class and so-called hustlers who, either are disqualified from regular jobs for lack of appropriate educational attainment, or else are unable to accept the ridiculous low-paid wages and salaries in the formal economy, ie, government and private businesses. These have resorted to making a living from mundane commercial activities such as selling sweets, cigarettes, etc, in order to survive.
Societies have tended to be divided into the working class and the ruling class, or elites. The ruling class or elites can be refined into what I refer to as the system. The system includes wealthy business owners and their privileged directors, executive managers and similarly designated figures, and the upper level of government bureaucracy, which includes the ministers, their advisors and senior managers, and the entire justice system. The system also includes those lawyers and their agents who collude with the justice system to pervert the course of justice.
Integral to the system’s control mechanism are the media and other forms of mass communication which it uses to control the minds of the masses with propaganda and platitudes for the injustices suffered by them.
Some of the great injustices and abuses meted out by the system against the masses have been those perpetrated in our court system. Our Guyanese youths, many of whom have been robbed of an education along with the opportunity to acquire a regular job, and who have also been robbed by their employers because of their inability to reason and count, occasionally find themselves on the other side of the law as they resort to alternative means of surviving. Caught up in the criminal justice system without the financial resources to fund a pleading of their cases, they are occasionally left to languish in jail for inordinate amounts of time.
Those who belong to the system and who commit crimes make bail, and their lawyers and the legal system collude to drag out their cases almost indefinitely. On occasion evidence is tampered with, which ultimately results either in the case being thrown out or some similar version of events.
With regard to the injustices committed against the masses by the justice system in particular, while I do not condone the use of marijuana, or cannabis, some advanced countries have recognized the plant for its medicinal purposes, and have moved to decriminalize its use completely.
What is clear is that the use of personal consumption of marijuana within the context of new knowledge cannot be construed in any way, manner or form as a criminal act. In this regard, I submit that individuals incarcerated for the possession of the plant for personal consumption be immediately released from confinement. I admit that I am personally suspicious of its benefits for other than medicinal purposes, as I am sure are other concerned members of society, so that it is recommended that the release of the aforementioned persons be also accompanied by a nationwide education campaign warning against the consumption of marijuana for other than medicinal purposes, in a manner similar to the treatment of cigarettes.
Perhaps the greatest abuses perpetrated against our Guyanese masses have been their impoverishment and subjection to the brutal system of injustice that has accompanied it. The dismal failures of successive governments have rendered the masses poor, and in many instances, uneducated. This combination of factors has yielded a society where many have little scope for opportunity to live a normal life that includes a well-paid job and raising educated children who can survive in tomorrow’s world.
Our governments have acknowledged the massive impoverishment suffered through Guyana’s structural adjustment policies of the late ʼ80s and early ʼ90s, and even after benefiting from higher tax revenues, particularly VAT, have continuously dreamed up massive capital expenditure projects, for which they also have had to borrow in many instances. A quick check over the years would reveal that literally hundreds of billions (not millions) of dollars in taxpayers’ money, including foreign loans which Guyanese will have to repay, have been spent on capital projects.
The questions here are: Where are the jobs? Where are the higher incomes? Why do our civil servants, from our police who are entrusted to enforce justice, to other members of the public service, have to resort to soliciting bribes in order to survive? Why do many of our womenfolk have to engage in promiscuous activities to support themselves and their families?
Are Guyanese better off for the expenditure of all of these hundreds of billions of dollars? Wouldn’t it have been better to use part of these monies to pay increased salaries to public servants to lift incomes and expenditures in the economy?
Contributing to all of this has been our very own private sector, those businesses that stand as financial behemoths within our society. These organizations have fed off of the social chaos precipitated by our governments, and systematically engorged themselves on the labour of the masses, underpaying workers, which translates as robbing them of their fair pay, sharing in the benefits of their labour, and the opportunity to look after their children and prepare them for tomorrow’s world.
After the collapse of our economy in the 1980s, these businesses, taking advantage of the prevailing massive levels of unemployment that still exist even today, have consistently and unjustly underpaid their workers when they were more than capable of compensating them according to their just due.
These very same businesses who today portray themselves out as paragons for a better world, have in fact helped to keep Guyanese poor. These businesses, along with our successive governments, have contributed to what I call the arrested development of our society.
Private employers need to adopt the socially responsible position of paying workers their fair wages and ensuring that their NIS deductions are paid in.
Government needs to re-examine the effectiveness of its capital expenditure programmes, both in quantity and quality, and in terms of the benefits that are expected to accrue to society. Secondly, they need to take a proactive stance on raising the ordinary Guyanese out of the systemic poverty that resulted from the adoption of the earlier mentioned structural adjustment policies. Increases in salaries can be easily and effectively managed so as to mitigate their impact on prices. It should also be noted that eliminating systemic corruption will go a long way to marketing Guyana as a destination for both foreign investment and tourism.