Living in Guyana can be very challenging, especially for those who are forward-thinking, objective or constructive. The challenge is compounded by arrogance, laziness and backwardness in many sectors. The level of backwardness, I believe, is so endemic and broad based that it threatens to destabilize this country and undermine its sovereignty. It is entrenched among many who are even highly academically qualified or otherwise elevated, and has been embraced as a standard of Guyanisation.
In a comment on the recent catastrophic fire and unfolding fiasco at the Georgetown Prison, the Head of State commented that the occurrence was “an accident waiting to happen”. That comment raises a few of many underlying questions. Did the prison authorities underestimate the magnitude of what was festering? Was the intellect of those incarcerated ever considered or were they merely taken for granted? Among those highlighted in the bulletin issued on the most dangerous escapees is a former policeman. The Guyana Police Force commemorated its 178th Anniversary with a route march the day before the riotous escape. Invariably the day following such an activity would be treated as a rest day, when the Force is not at full strength. What a coincidence!
Guyana gained independence in May 1966, but this country still has a colonial mentality clot. Most people tend to think that all solutions are extrinsic and not intrinsic. There is a distinct gap between actions and consequences. In most instances that gap is only often bridged by punitive measures as against an overarching appreciation and proactivity to enable stop-gaps. That type of mentality tends to fertilize grandstanding by some who are mere incompetents. Things only get done as a consequence of some extremity or reproof from international sanctioning bodies. I will cite two examples. Guyana did precious little to curb Trafficking In Persons (TIP) until it was faced with international sanctions. The same situation applied to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Caribbean Action Task Force (CFATF) regulatory chastening due to local lapses on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism prior to 2016.
There are some persons in authority who will not budge to address certain issues or act on proposals by genuine local nationalists, but will snap into intense hyperactivity like a child who is stung by a wasp on a mere hint by any representative of the American, British or Canadian (ABC) countries on any matter. More amazingly, they do the full dance once Guyana is cited for any form of recalcitrance in ABC or international reports. This is a clear indication that we are not as independent as we promulgate.
I recently went to the Brickdam Police Station to have my vehicle certified for fitness. The prescribed time for that exercise is from 09:00 to 11:00hrs, Mondays to Fridays. That was the same time-frame for the past 25 years when there was just a quarter of the vehicle population. That time period is the same when most working class persons, and by extension vehicle owners, are contributing to the economic growth and development of this country. Most people use a friendly connection or other method to get vehicle fitness outside of the prescribed process. I was fortunate to obtain my certification of fitness through the right, yet laborious process. I spoke with a senior police officer who was empathetic in terms of my observational analysis, but merely responded by saying that “this is the system”.
I respectfully believe that the current system employed for certifying vehicle fitness is archaic and backward. There are real solutions that I will not detail here. Solutions that would be vehicle-owner-friendly, ensure that vehicles are meritoriously certified, negate under-table inducements and corruption, thereby ensuring public safely and true compliance with the traffic laws.
Our policy makers ought to be realists, who embrace greater public consultation and feedback. True sovereignty of a country is reflected in the way its policies and systems align to meet the needs and protection of its citizenry.
Ironically, in Guyana, most of those who make policy and enforce systems never have real interface with what they create and are often oblivious to or overlook the associated challenges faced by the masses. This distortion often contributes to many of the lamentable ills in our country. I will reserve the other half of the story.