Welcome ceremony for PM will be seen as flaunting privilege

Dear Editor,

According to the Guyana Chronicle (April 1, 2018 ) Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo is scheduled to return to Guyana this week after being away in the United States (US)  for two months, following his illness, surgery and recovery. Like all Guyanese I wish him the best of health. What I read in the Chronicle – and sincerely hope it was a mistake or overzealous reporting – is that on his return there is expected to be a welcome ceremony.

A welcome ceremony after illness and being treated abroad, not by the local healthcare system, and with the support of the government/taxpayers’ expense comes across as poor politics and public relations. The late President and Leader of the Opposition Hugh Desmond Hoyte did a similar surgery like PM Nagamootoo. This surgery was done when he was Leader of the Opposition, also in the US, and with no financial input from the government/taxpayers. His recovery and return, though welcomed, were absent a welcome ceremony.  Constitutionally, the Leader of the Opposition is one of the two premier political leaders; the other being the President.

PPP/C Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy had a similar surgery in the US and with the support of the government/taxpayers. His recovery and return to Guyana were also absent of fanfare. It could be said this was because the PPP/C government wanted to keep it quiet, mindful that the taxpayers aided the process and recovery and didn’t want to flaunt it in their faces, or just didn’t think a welcome ceremony was fitting. Any or all of the thinking that informed the decision not to hold a ceremony was/were prudent.

Our society still falls far short of providing basic health services to the masses. Many don’t have the luxury of opportunity and access to pay for local private service much less go overseas with private funding or have the government/taxpayers input.  In short, there’s a Marie Antoinette outlook to healthcare in Guyana. In that this exists it is hurtful to rub it in the face of the hundreds of thousands of Guyanese who cannot afford, don’t have the privilege of government/taxpayers access, or pray that they don’t fall sick for fear of not being able to afford to access the needed care.

PM Nagamootoo wrote an interesting article in his column  in the Guyana Chronicle lauding Dr. Cheddi Jagan and presenting himself as an ardent admirer and disciple of his beliefs. One of the few things on which there is unanimity about Dr. Jagan is that he had empathy for the struggles and plight of the masses and eschewed fanfare, particularly unnecessary ones.

This proposed ceremony will obviously come at additional cost to the taxpayers who already feel they are overtaxed. The Prime Minister and his team have to be mindful of the optics and the politics of what this ceremony will cost and create. There is certainty that society would be more welcoming to have him host a press conference, share his experiences if he cares to, advise of warning health signs and lifestyle changes, and thank the people for their support. The people are already feeling down having to navigate the daily intricacies of life, including finances and appropriate health care. A welcome ceremony will undoubtedly be seen as flaunting wellness, financial access and privilege in the masses’ face.

Yours faithfully,

Minette Bacchus

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