Really getting to know Guyana

-As the bandits do

Co-incidentally, the sentiments expressed through today’s lead caption were first published in this column, in similar style, nine years ago. (Just) after the Bartica massacre of policemen and citizens of that community.

And one of the more notorious fellows convicted for that atrocity will feature later down in this piece.

It is to me ironic and – again – strangely co-incidental that these thoughts sprang to mind this week in circumstances far removed from Sunday’s fiery jailbreak. Which incidentally rendered “Lot 12 Camp Street” prisoner-less for the first time in much more than 100 years! But the pleasant circumstances triggered thoughts related to my own maxim – “to love Guyana is to know Guyana.”

You see, between this past Monday to today I was involved in presentations to a Camp whose participants were the GBTI Early Savers – young boys and girls. Since the lovely children are from the Capital City, the lower East Coast and East Bank of Demerara, it was a joy to use an excellent local video travelogue to introduce them to the more riverain and hinterland communities of our big, beautiful, under-explored, largely-unknown Guyana. (I would stop the tape – at Waramadong, Orealla, Roraima, the Pakaraimas, Essequibo Coast etc and brief discussions would follow.) How the youngsters were animated! Just a few of them know about living in the far-flung, non-urban locations.

A few years ago I was invited to write and/or edit a script for a planned publication titled “Getting to know Guyana”. I doubt whether it eventually saw the light of a publisher’s day.

Oh, but did I get to know the histories and characteristic of places I knew nothing of then.

How I made plans to go explore some of them – in Regions 1, 2, 7, 8 and nine – before my bones, joints and  muscles deter me permanently. (I did visit and know numerous locations in Guyana during my time with the Ministry of Education and the Guyana National Service (GNS) decades ago.) Thanks partly to Uncle Linden Forbes Sampson …

Oh beautiful (costly) Guyana

As stated before, to love Guyana is to get to know it. All patriots resident within the borders should make annual plans to visit areas far outside of the Regions within which they/we live and dwell.

Your love of this physical land will grow and be sustained in your psyche when you know what you belong to. Those hills, mountains, lakes, creeks, valleys, waterfalls – oh boy!

Remember: “Dear land of Guyana, of rivers and plains, made rich by the sunshine and lush by the rains… From Pakaraimas peaks of power to Corentyne’s lush sands”? Our poets and lyricists paint (ed) beautiful word-pictures. But yes, it is costly, even prohibitive for the poor working-class city and village dweller to see our pristine hinterland. What a solid case for internal tourism my ministers. Group vacations, charters and subsidised hinterland packages for the young and elderly must be actively considered. Agreed?

The bandits, Amerindians, cane-cutters

Of course, as I did after the Bartica murders, I offered a strangely oblique reason for us really knowing even the nooks and crannies of our beautiful but sometimes dangerously–challenging Regions.

The Bartica murderers moved from Bartica to the Linden area utilising their knowledge of the interior swamps, trails and forbidden terrain. We learnt of Sherima, Rockstone, Block 22 and Mabura. The evil fellows knew their pre-planned get-away hinterland route(s) well.

I recall too after a Rose Hall “wet-money” robbery, bandits were caught aback of the more frontal Corentyne Coastlands. They probably knew little of the backlands of Ankerville, Haswell, Tain, Blackbush, Joppa and numerous creeks and crossings. Good Guyanese must visit all these places.

Sugar workers can tell you – and tell our police trackers – how to cross the fields from Ann’s Grove and Buxton to Agricola and Mocha!

Did you read how Sunday’s escapees ploughed through from North Ruimveldt to around Land of Canaan (EBD), using no roads? (Incidentally, I believe taxi-driver Shivtahal who was spared by the bandits and ended up ’til at Annandale, East Coast, Dem.) Yes, ex-military men, our Amerindian brothers and some sugar workers can become good trackers. How long before those fellows are captured? Where will they be found in this Big Beautiful Guyana?

Fading hope, fading faith

Look, this man-in-the street columnist is in his seventies. I’ve seen and been a part of a lot. In terms of national development, national stagnation and even national steps backwards.

I’ve seen little, resource-challenged islands outstrip us in terms of standards of living, quality of life, civility, law and order. I’m ceasing. to moan. One tends to accept. And that’s fatal!

Sad, little realities I now do accept. That, for example, before I die – later this week – or in ten years time – Georgetown will remain chaotic, unclean and cluttered with vendors unregulated; that boat terminals will remain most primitive compared to elsewhere; that Guyanese will be denied safe comfortable transportation in big buses; that floods in towns and countryside will prevail; that for acceptable customer (friendly) service I’ll have to live in some other country.

I’m giving up, losing hope. And blaming many and no one at the same time. Figure that out. And pray for our new dot-com generation.

Ponder …

1) Naturally, I’ll leave Sunday’s jail-fire and its aftermath and implications to all those more able minds. But allow me just three questions:

How are prison-wardens recruited?

What are the requirements? Did the well-known activities of rogue Prison Officers result, indirectly, in the death and injury of their more honest, professional colleagues?

Is cost-cutting responsible for prisoners not in prison garb? You won’t know them on the outside.

I know the arguments against magistrates’ harsh penalties even though they have/had discretion even within strait-jacket law. Now the reduced sentences, early releases, and bail are with us. I wonder: how will all the above impact/influence the minds of the wicked?

’Til next week!


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