Class, ethnicity and jail

Last year, when considering the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry into the March 2016 prison disturbances in which 17 inmates lost their lives, I made two recommendations having to do with imprisonment and sentencing, which I am following up on here, because I believe they are still important to how our criminal justice system develops and is responded to by those in jail.

Freedom

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx’s ‘Das Capital’, and I was invited by the Guyana Peace Council, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union and the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre to make a presentation, “How to translate Capital into meaning for one’s life” at a seminar held last Saturday at National Library in Georgetown.

Lincoln Lewis: reasoning away structures

In 1817, the social theorist, activist and ‘father’ of ‘cooperation’, Robert Owen, was told at the Congress of Sovereigns at Aix-La-Chappelle that the enduring structural contradiction between capital and labour would make it impossible for his idea of cooperativising the world to gain traction.

Jagdeo negotiating under duress

Long conceptual and practical experience has taught me that the vicissitudes of the negotiation process are such that what at first may appear simple can become very complex, requiring an inordinate amount of thought and preparation.

The Elections Commission: Race has no premium

On Sunday 11th June 2017, I read an article in Stabroek News (‘Process to appoint substantive Chancellor, CJ should not be rushed – lawyer’), which convinced me that a substantial number of us suffer from a form of ‘cognitive delusion’: a preoccupation with beliefs about our political system despite the logical absurdity of some of these beliefs and a lack of supporting evidence (Encyclopædia Britannica).

A budding ‘competitive authoritarianism’

As promised, this column will consider the political side of former president Donald Ramotar’s ‘Under the PPP/C Guyana had the fastest growing economy in the region’ (SN: 22/05/2017), since it raised important issues which, because they are coming from Mr.

Donald’s truth

In ‘Under the PPP/C Guyana had the fastest growing economy in the region’ (SN: 22/05/2017), former president Donald Ramotar presented some isolated truths, but the story he wove around them was essentially false.

Planning for the elderly again

Recently, the Government of Guyana, i.e. the Ministry of Public Health, announced that in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protection and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) it was in the process of devising a strategic plan to deal with the condition of the elderly.

Dr. Hinds’ nonexistent ethnic trap

Contrary to what Dr. David Hinds says, none of our pre- or post-independence governments has been in an ethnic trap of any sort (Guyana Chronicle 23/04/2017; Guyana Chronicle .30/04/2017).

Act now on African land issues

No sooner had President David Granger, in his address to the Fourth Annual State of the African Guyanese Forum at the Critchlow Labour College in August 2016, declared that his government intended to ‘establish a Lands Commission in order to rectify the anomalies and resolve the controversies which, up to now surround thousands of hectares of communal lands which were purchased in the post-Emancipation Village Movement,’ the Indian Action Committee (IAC) was on his case.

Coupling African and Amerindian land issues

Given its historical development and situational context, outside of pure formalism (an emphasis on form rather than content), to which this regime appears particularly prone, there are no good logical, historical, political, economic, social or other reasons why it should have decided to couple the generally settled Amerindian land issue to the yet to be consensually formulated African demand for ancestral land.

The spectre of secularism

‘Reasonable comprehensive doctrines, religious or non-religious, may be introduced in public political discussion at any time … provided that in due course proper political reasons – and not reasons given solely by comprehensive doctrines – are presented that are sufficient to support whatever the comprehensive doctrines are said to support’ (John Rawls.

Amaila: Trapped by myopic worldviews

Anyone concerned with the present perilous direction of climate change must hope that countries not only stick to the commitments they made under the UNFCCC 2015 process but if possible raise their ambitions. 

A radical religious inclusiveness

As reported last week, the headmistress of Central High School, Ms. Kamlawattie Balroop, responded to her critics which such passion that, given the nature of her topic, one could have quite easily accused her of zealotry (SN:30/03/2017).

The future of MAPM

Now that we have reached a hiatus in the confrontation between the Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) and the Mayor and City Council, it may be as good a time as any to attempt to determine what that confrontation represented in terms of some possible futures of the movement.

Pradoville 2: gone for a steal

The discussion on the Ogle Housing Project (Prado 1) last week was intended to aid us in understanding the controversy over the Sparendaam Housing Project (Prado 2).

Pradovilles: theory and practice

The sight of the PPP/C leadership traipsing to the headquarters of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) in relation to the Sparendaam Housing Project (Prado 2) has again raised the expectation, particularly among APNU+AFC supporters, that they are on the verge of some kind of reckoning for the massive corruption we have been made to understand existed under the PPP/C government.

Unnecessary and costly disputes

The APNU+AFC government does not have a strategic approach for dealing with the Private Sector Commission (PSC); thus its recent reactive response to the legitimate concerns expressed by that organisation in relation to the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Bill, parking meter controversy, rule of law and economy have been highly propagandistic and unhelpful if one believes that the private sector is indeed the engine of growth.

Mr Rohee, the plague is upon both houses

Let me thank Mr. Clement Rohee for publicly engaging me on perhaps the most important question that has been on the political agenda of Guyana for the past 60 years: ‘how do we get to a government that can ensure the psychological and actual peace and prosperity for all of us[?]’ (There is a place for everyone in the PPP, SN 7/2/2017).

Predicting the AFC’s demise is precipitous

To paraphrase a now familiar adage, ‘if the AFC did not exist someone would have invented it’ for the simple reason that it suggests logical and historical/nostalgic ways out of the ethnic divide that still plagues this country.

Is the AFC still relevant?

The Alliance for Change (AFC) must be congratulated for conducting what appears to have been a most transparent, competitive and well executed leadership election.

About the PPP

Nearly six and a half decades after the PPP first came to government in 1953, with other hopeful junctures in 1964, 1992, 2011 and 2015, Guyana stands at another political crossroads and the outcome will again depend largely upon how the political elite and our diffracted civil society respond to the current difficulties.

‘Smart-man’ and disruptive politics

Temptation to pay little attention to the inscrutability of the governing political elite in its dealings with the selection of a new chairperson for the Guyana Elections Commission gave way to concern as I came to realise that the situation may be somewhat more complicated and possibly detrimental to the body politic.

Litigating Amaila

Perhaps more than it realizes, under the 12th December 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement on Climate Change which, having been ratified by a sufficient number of states, became international law in November 2016, the government of Guyana has taken many positions and made numerous commitments that in my view have severely limited its policy space in the area of climate governance.

The regime is feasting its ‘detractors’

Can someone please explain what is happening to political governance in Guyana? In just two days – the 29th and 30th of December – unnecessary controversies erupted over two issues, the Amaila Falls hydroelectric project and the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC), which, had they been sensibly handled by the APNU+AFC government, could have been a signal to the Guyanese people that 2017 may indeed herald the beginning of their long sought after ‘good life’.

The elderly: broken promises

The Christmas season has traditionally been a time when we try to universalize our good fortune by ensuring that those less fortunate than ourselves, and particularly the elderly, are able to partake in the festivities and merriment.

2017: Perhaps the best budget ever

‘The national budget is a document that … authorises the government to raise revenues, incur debts and effect expenditures in order to achieve certain goals ….

Dining with Fidel

On 27th  April 1953, three months before Fidel Castro and his compatriots began their revolution by storming the Moncada Barracks in Santiago on 26th July 1953 the People’s Progressive Party won its first elections and was preparing to take government in Guyana.

Hamilton Green’s appeal to equity

‘Equity thus depending, essentially, upon the particular circumstances of each individual case, there can be no established rules and fixed precepts of equity laid down, without destroying its very essence, and reducing it to a positive law.

Trade unions and global equity

In 2011 388 of the world’s richest people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of mankind combined: by 2015, Oxfam claimed this wealth was concentrated in the hands of just 62!

Housing interventions should prioritise the poorest

The chairperson of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA), Mr. Hamilton Green,  was recently reported as stating that between 1994 and 2015, 66,124 house lots were allocated by the PPP/C government; to date 28,220 of those lots are still unoccupied and there is a waiting list of 25,000 applicants.

Exploiting a low democratic baseline

In a public lecture, ‘The Despot Accomplice: how the West is aiding and abetting the decline of democracy’ at the London School of Economics a few days ago, Brian Klaas (http://www.lse.ac.uk/), among other things, made the point that 2006 was the peak year for democracy and that people are now losing faith in it.

National Youth Policy: a charade?

The social environment created by those striving for political dominance does not allow for an authentic popular expression of national concerns for it cannot accommodate the kind of democratic participatory institutions that are necessary if such policies are to be found and fructify.

The Education War

‘I don’t care what you teach and how you teach it. All I want is for my child to pass.’  Once we do not take this comment too literally, I believe that the parent saying this is representative of most of those who have school aged children.

PPP/C went low: APNU+AFC has gone lower

On 6 October 2016, Stabroek News published an article ‘Cabinet deeply perturbed at Grade Six math results’, the content of which, if true, has certainly taken official education reporting to a new low, and this is magnified by the hackneyed solutions to the problem that are proffered.

Structural disenfranchisement

Last week I spoke of the growing perception, even among the supporters of the APNU+AFC government, that what happened at the last general elections was, as they say on the streets, an exchange not a change of government.

Social cohesion lite

Understandable though it may be, is it not ironic that precisely at the time President David Granger was telling the 19th Biannual Congress of his People’s National Congress Reform that ‘We need not be divided, we need to build cooperative relationships at all levels of society’, he is set upon a constitutional course to remove ‘Cooperative’ from the Cooperative Republic of Guyana?!

Social cohesion and co-operatives

When the government created the Ministry of Social Cohesion it placed ethnic conflict, the easing of which is contingent upon the behaviour of its mortal political enemy, the People’s Progressive Party, at the centre of its agenda, and some would say that in our circumstances failure is the default mode of any such enterprise.

Africans and APNU+AFC: wishful thinking?

After outlining some of the historical hardships that confronted African Guyanese, the dire condition in which Africans still find themselves and some of the more recent international and nations responses to this condition, President David Granger, in his presentation to the Fourth Annual State of the African Guyanese Forum organized by the Cuffy 250 Committee, concluded that “This is the time to organize and mobilise so that at the end of the decade, the Government and the Guyanese people can report confidently they have achieved the objectives of the United Nations International Decade for people of African Descent.