About two weeks ago, I was driving past the Ministry of the Presidency when someone in my vehicle exclaimed, “Wait, they are painting the Office of the President in green.” My immediate reaction was, “No, you could not be serious, you are joking.” I was in disbelief, so a few days ago, I decided to go back to ensure that what I saw was for real, and to my disappointment, it was.
About ten or eleven years ago, when I went to work for an organization, it was very surprising to me as a new employee, that some employees who were there before would attend staff meetings and remain quiet most of the times or would not openly challenge decisions. I soon learnt that you could have gotten into trouble for expressing your opinions, moreso your disapproval. People had mortgages to pay and children in school; the risk was too high. Nevertheless, I later learnt in life that not to question, challenge and express one’s views could get everybody into trouble, so I have made a decision to express my opinions. Someone also gave me a very good bit of advice: that I should only express my views to the extent to which I am prepared to suffer the consequences of my convictions.
Now, I will get straight to the point, I totally disagree with the decision to paint the Ministry of the Presidency green, so I would like to kindly and humbly ask President Granger to change the colour from green to a neutral one. The Ministry of the Presidency should not be painted in green, yellow (gold) or red; these are not neutral colours in the Guyana context; they are associated with politics and political parties. Lest we forget: the ‘Office of the President’ is a public building and with this precedent, if the PPP should get back into government, they can justifiably paint the building red and the AFC can paint it yellow (gold).
However, here are my substantive reasons for disagreeing with the decision. Painting the Ministry of the Presidency green makes a mockery of the whole process of institutionalizing social cohesion.
How can we have a Ministry of Social Cohesion and still do this? The Ministry of Social Cohesion is one of the most important ministries in Guyana. It was a great idea at this point of our history and development to have an institutionalized arrangement to address matters relative to cohesion; if conceptualized and constituted properly, the outputs from this ministry would become inputs to many other ministries to realize the development agenda for the country. A more cohesive environment, which is essential for business and investment, security and peace, will accelerate our development, among other things.
By painting the Ministry of the Presidency in green, it sends a message that our leadership has not placed a high economic value on strong social capital. Building strong capital should be the core of the existence of the Ministry of Social Cohesion. Therefore this is not just some green paint; this green paint has a meaning attached to it and that meaning is a part of our problem and a hindrance to our development – our politics.
Another reason I disagree with the decision is that you see, Editor, while politics is a science, it is also an art, and it does not require much artistic imagination to arrive at a conclusion as to what the artists are painting.
Additionally, what the government has to understand is that for many of the PPP/C supporters, their communications are more implied than expressed. Therefore their interpretation of the message of painting the Ministry of the Presidency green will not be that this is just some green paint or is in line with the theme, a ‘Green Economy’.
Also, it is another small topic that would stimulate public discussion, debate and energy, which if harnessed strategically, could be used to mobilize the nation around the development of the country. What the government needs to do is to find a common topic around which to mobilize the society – individuals and institutions. In India, sanitation is sort of being used as that common issue; it is a national objective for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end open defecation for about 600 million people, more than 40% of the population, by 2019, and much of the country is being mobilized around achieving that goal. It is an excellent choice of an entry point, either consciously or unconsciously.
Last year when there was the big hype about cleaning up the environment and on sanitation, I was really hoping that the strategy was to use these two areas as entry points around which to mobilize the country; and having achieved success in working together and experiencing positive results (short term wins), this would have been a powerful platform upon which to mobilize the nation around working together on other development issues.
You see, Editor, unlike many of the President’s advisers I have one citizenship – my Guyanese citizenship. I am not even a resident of another country, so Guyana has to work for me. The APNU, AFC and PPP have to work together; Africans and Indians have to ‒ and I repeat have to ‒ get this cohesion and inclusion thing right. We will not, and I repeat will not, spend the next 50 years going around the mountain like we did for the past 50 years, Guyana has to work for all of us, man, it has to work!
The Ministry of Social Cohesion needs an experienced sociologist/psychologist to head it, someone who will also be an adviser to the government in relevant areas such as these.
The Apostle Paul urged us to admonish each other in love and I am admonishing the President and appealing to him to please, please change the colour of the Ministry of the Presidency from green. I only desire the best for the President, the people of Guyana and for Guyana.
Finally, to use President Obama’s words in his farewell speech on January 10, we need to be jealous guardians of our democracy.