I have heard and read strong criticisms about the handling of our national affairs by the ministers and the President. But my great worry is that certain folks are vocal on a number of issues. I live in Georgetown and know that from the days of the IMC, through to the newly elected Mayor and City Council of 1994 that it was generally known and accepted that the rates and taxes garnered by the Georgetown municipality were insufficient to provide a basic and a satisfactory service to citizens who reside in our capital.
The previous administration frustrated Mayor Green’s lottery project and every other proposal to expand the council’s revenue base. The new Mayor proposed the parking meter project to bring in urgently needed funds to provide a better service to citizens. But alas, the coalition government seemed to have bent backwards on account of the demonstration and noises from one particular group which took to the streets and ramped up a propaganda frenzy which put a halt to this necessary project. I say ‘necessary’ because during the brief period of the parking meter project, the business areas of Georgetown took on some semblance of orderliness. Today, these business areas are chaotic and unworthy of the nation’s capital city. But I suppose demonstrations and threats by certain groups are necessary to bring attention to things that are wrong and not beneficial to citizens as a whole.
But here lies my worry and amazement. We read recently of a foreigner who turned out to be no more than a criminal who came to Guyana, obtained a firearms licence and gold mining concessions, employed Brazilians with maybe five per cent Guyanese, removed our gold and precious metals and became a millionaire until it appeared his compatriots caught up with him.
My question is why are these same concerned Guyanese not out in the streets on radio and television demanding that the government shut down all gold concessions given out to non-Guyanese and that a careful audit and examination be made throughout the mining areas. And why has our government not taken drastic action to ensure that there are not similar alien criminals exploiting our resources that our earlier ancestors found and extracted in an orderly and environmentally friendly manner.
Some of these goldminers are destroying our environment without a care or concern for tomorrow. They are contributing very little to the national coffers and are not doing anything to provide a good life to our people. Why are our new traditional protestors and those who talk about all the wrong things silent on this crucial matter?
When we got independence in 1966, it was stated by our two national leaders, Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan in relation to the exploitation of our national resources, that these gifts from God should be primarily for the benefit of the children of those indentured labourers and slaves who sweated blood and tears and nourished our lands from Region 1 to Region 10.
I recall some years ago, when the question of the responsible exploitation of the nation’s natural resources was discussed, Prime Minister Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago said “oil don’t spoil.” For Guyana, I hope our government and all our people will chant as noisily as the anti-parking meter, anti-sugar, etc, groups that ‘gold don’t rust’ and urge the government to take steps to ensure an end be put to this exploitation of our resources.
Our ancestors both on the plantation and the pork-knockers must be angrily turning in their graves when they see gold being harvested by alien criminals and others, and their descendants are getting the crumbs.
Let us focus on what is important to ensure the integrity and the well-being of our people and their children