Authors Posts by Mozzy1

Mozzy1

Mozzy1
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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

To buy or not to buy

It is a hot afternoon in St Augustine, Trinidad. I had just stood in line to buy doubles from a stand which I told had been closed for public health reasons. The Caribbean was represented in the line to the doubles stand – black, coolie, creole, mix, whatever. There was something unifying in lining up for food at the place which might have been unclean.

After the doubles, I went looking for a shop to buy a big bottle of water. The man at the hotel told me to walk until I see a corner, turn right and see some shops.

The place is hot. It is a different heat from the one in Guyana.

I turn a corner and see a boarded up shop. A variety store. They are probably having a siesta.

The only shop which is open is a grocery. There is a Chinese name on it.

I feel a twinge – fear of the invasion, fake Caribbean nationalism – and keep looking for any other shop which might be Chinese Trinidadian, black Trinidadian, coolie Trinidadian or anything else.

Before going to the Chinese from China grocery store.

I do not own a business which cannot compete with the Chinese. I am told that capitalism is like that, that basically cheap and plenty will always win over any other thing.

So the small business landscape changes in Guyana, the Caribbean, Africa. China is impressive in how their goods go out to the world.

The grocery has black people and coolie people working in it. I get a bottle of Trinidadian water. The kind I would try not to buy in Guyana. There is no Guyana water to buy in the supermarket.

I tell the woman at the till Good Afternoon. I like to small talk. She does not smile at me nor does she reply. She calls the price. Just the price. I give the money. She gives the bill.

There is no “thanks. “

I should not be racial and say ‘dese Chinese people’. Come to think of it, the doubles man who had the public health violation did not say please or thanks either. Maybe it is a Trinidad thing.

I peep at the computer. The text on the terminal is Chinese. It is impressive. The Chinese have been trading for thousands of years.

I feel more disturbed about Chinese groceries and retail business than Chinese restaurants. I like seeing Chinese restaurant owners buying large quantities of produce from local farmers in the market.

I like the idea that Chinese can turn the regular vegetables from Guyana into nice alternative kind of food. I am in awe of people who do not know much English who come to strange places and try to make a living.

I am sure the Chinese groceries also sell Made in Guyana products. I do not know if the Chinese ever export any Made in Guyana goods back to China.

The Government of China though spends a lot of money in Guyana and elsewhere. Government officials get to go on trips and so. The Government of China does not impose things like democracy and human rights.

I keep telling myself.. I do not have a problem with the people themselves who also catching a hustle. If it was Nigerian, or Senegalese, or Israeli or ‘India coolie’ or Syrian, I would be nervous that this globalisation would be affecting the other black, coolie, other people who have to make their lives here.

And so I navigate and I justify my prejudices.

I am not in a position of power though to transfer those prejudices into any policy or national product. Fortunately, none of my fears would create a No-China-in-Guyana-except-restaurants-unless-there-is-a-reciprocal-Guyana-in-China policy.

My racism is not as bad as yours..

During the week of 15 September, 2017, a PPP MP Nigel Dharamlall shared private messages allegedly originating from Ms Lloyda Nicholas-Garret. The messenger of course was cussed down.

He has been condemned for the racist posts on social media, and his party has not fired him from the Parliament. He should also be condemned for sharing private messages. I should probably be condemned for reading them.

The last time I read about Ms. Nicholas-Garrett in the media was was about her work on what was apparently a nice cultural production ‘Juliana! A Celebration of Guyanese Culture.’.

If the messages on the screenshots are true, it is clear that there is more work to be done beyond producing nice cultural shows. There is need for accountability to the public.

Guyana’s ugly history and political culture do not promote public integrity and accountability.

Ms Nicoholas-Garrett has not issued any statement. There is some talk about a ‘probe’. The probe might also unravel some of the team issues which might have led to the racial comments.

A lot of Government supporter says thats if she goes, the MP who shares the National Assembly with slap-and-strip-bheri, the chatree coolie, the Ministers who supported their colleague who was accused of child sexual abuse on the City Council, should also go.

My reluctance to buy water from a China-Chinese grocer means I should shut up. It should end there.

It is unfortunate that there were no screenshots of any one replying to the racist comments and saying ‘aye gyurl, what wrong wid you, is only coolie people you got a problem wid?” .

What does redemption look like? It would be nice if the Press and Publicity Officer for President Granger issues a statement, if the screenshots are true, which says something like ‘There has been public discussion about comments I made about colleagues. I have no excuse for this behaviour. I have asked that I get a transfer to the Ministry of Social Cohesion/Department of Culture where I believe I can learn and teach others about moving from racial prejudices to a place of understanding and acceptance. It is not my intention to discriminate against anyone and I hope that my future work will be open to scrutiny to show inclusion. I also hope that Mr Dharamlall and others who think like him will join me on the journey to healing “

But is only a joke, is so we does talk…

The survey from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs asks respondents to select an ethnicity. There is no option for ‘none of the above’. I am reading a book about East Indians in Barbados. The author is a descendant of Gujerati immigrants to Barbados. East Indian seems to refer to the people who came in the 20th century. There is another term used ‘Indo Caribbean’ for the other people of Indian origin who came from other Caribbean countries to Barbados.

If ‘coolie’ was listed, I might have selected it, though I like to select ‘mixed’ sometimes when asked.

Words are bandied about. Jokes are made about people to be minorities. Lots of Jehovah Witness jokes around. I cringe because if Hindu was in place of Jehovah Witness, I would not like it.

Lots of people talk about ‘chinee’ and ‘buck’ and apparently ‘don’t mean anything by it’.

Clyde Edwards is a young Amerindian man.

Clyde Edwards wrote a poem and posted on social media. He and other young Amerindians are fed up with being called ‘buck’. He wrote the poem in response to a racial slur which was shared on social media. He took the poem down after a barrage of abusive comments.

He gave permission for the poem to share here.

“They call me buck”

By Clyde Edwards

I walk on the street, they call me buck

I ride in a bus, they call me buck

I go to the restaurant, they call me buck

I sleep in a hotel, they call me buck

I go to the supermarket, they call me buck

I study at university, they call me buck

I graduate with distinction, they call me buck

I earn PHD but they still call me buck

I become government minister, they call me buck

I fly an aeroplane, they call me buck

Even the mixed ones call me buck

I work in a store, they call me buck

I work in the office, they call me buck

My boss and colleagues calls me buck

My committee members calls me buck

Don’t listen to him, he’s just a buck

I fight to be heard, they call me buck

I try to contribute, they call me buck

I live in the city, they call me buck

Even the Day girl calls me buck

She try to send me back saying I am a buck.

Anywhere I turn, they call me buck

Even in hell, they will call me buck

But thank God, only in heaven there will be no more buck.

Who is responsible for fixing this?

Heaven should not be the only place for there not to be “buck.”

The Constitution of Guyana allows for the creation of an Ethnic Relations Commission. According to Article 212D, the functions of the ERC are to :-

a). provide for equality of opportunity between persons of different ethnic groups and to promote harmony and good relations between such persons;

b). promote the elimination of all forms of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity;

c). discourage and prohibit persons, institutions, political parties and associates from indulging in, advocating or promoting discriminatory practices on the ground of ethnicity;

d) foster a sense of security among all ethnic groups be encouraging and promoting the understanding, acceptance and tolerance of diversity in all aspects of national life and promoting full participation by all ethnic groups in the social, economic, cultural and political life of the people;

e) promote educational and training programmes and research projects which provide for and encourage ethnic peace and harmony;

f) encourage and create respect for religious, cultural and other forms of diversity in a plural society;

g) promote arbitration, conciliation, mediation and like forms of dispute resolution in order to secure ethnic harmony and peace;

h) establish mechanisms and procedures for arbitration, conciliation, mediation and like forms of dispute resolution that would ensure ethnic harmony and peace;

i) recommend to the National Assembly criteria to be considered for the purposes of deciding whether any person has committed acts of discrimination on the ground of ethnicity;

j) Investigate complaints of racial discrimination and make recommendations on the measures to be taken if such complaints are valid, and where there is justification therefor, refer matters to the Human Rights Commission or other relevant authorities for further action to be taken;

k) monitor and review all legislation and all administrative acts or omissions relating to or having implications for ethnic relations and equal opportunities and, from time to time, prepare and submit proposals for revision of such legislation and administrative acts and omissions;

l) immediately report to the National Assembly and to all relevant authorities any proposed legislation, which the Constitution thinks, may be contrary to the constitutional provision relating to ethnicity;

m) promote equal access by persons of all ethnic groups to all public or other services and facilities provided by the Government or other bodies;

n) promote and encourage the acceptance and respect by all segments of the society of the society identity and cultural inheritance of all ethnic groups;

o. promote cooperation between all bodies concerned with the fostering of harmonious ethnic relations;

p) investigate on its own accord or on request fro the National Assembly or any other body any issues affecting ethnic relations;

q) identify any analyse factors inhibiting the attainment of harmonious relations between ethnic groups, particularly barriers to the participation of any ethnic group in social, economic, commercial, financial, cultural and political endeavours and recommend to the National Assembly other relevant public or private sector bodies how these factors should be overcome;

r). monitor and report to the National Assembly on the status and success of implementation of its recommendations;

s) study and make recommendations to the National Assembly on any issue relating to ethnic affairs, including conducting studies to determine whether race relations are improving;

t) monitor and make recommendations to the National Assembly and other relevant public and private sector bodies on factors inhibiting the development of harmonious relations between ethnic groups and on barriers to the participation of all ethnic groups in the social, economic, commercial, financial, cultural and political life of the people;

u) consult with other bodies and persons to determine and specify the perceived needs of the various ethnic groups for the fostering of harmonious relations;

v) train and enlist the aid of such persons and acquire such facilities as the Commission deems necessary to accomplish its functions;

w) make recommendations on penalties, including the prevention of any political party or any persons from participating in elections for a specified period, to be imposed for any breach of provisions of this Constitution or of any law dealing with ethnicity;

x) do all other acts and things as may be necessary to facilitate the efficient discharge if the functions of the Commission.

Prime Minister Nagamoottoo who is in charge of these things has talked more about his former comrade Jagdeo, than about the Ethnic Relations Commission.

There is no urgency to forming the commission.

The people have elected leaders who thrive on the black/coolie/whatever separation. Many people believe that their leaders are better than the leaders of the ‘others’.

It is really up to citizens to hold each other accountable for racist behaviour. Instead of nurturing and believing ‘this is how we does talk but we aint mean nutting by it’, it is about learning to talk differently.

It is also about listening when we think is only ‘joke we mekin’.

It is about knowing that while things good, we can sing, dance together and eat one another food, but when things get bad, when things are most critical, it is easy to draw on race as another reason for whatever problems exist.

It is also knowing about, beyond claiming offence, to identify what the next steps are to restore or repair relationships. It is about resisting the urge to respond to racism with racism.

It is about acknowledging how actions can be deemed racist even though they were not intended to be so, and we can only learn by listening. It is about questioning everything and expecting and providing answers which are not about denial.

It is not going to be easy.

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“I kept talking, but like no one was listening to me, no one believed me.. I myself didn’t believe my own situation” the woman said.

She is an articulate advocate, warm and loving friend to many people.

The man who married her turned out to be abusive. She managed to leave.

“Fortunately, some friends stood by me.. others who I thought would know better, did not..”

Take a minute.. change a life..

World Suicide Prevention Day is 10 September and the theme for 2017 is “Take a minute, change a life. “.

The intention of the theme is to remind people of “our responsibility to look out for those who may be struggling, check in with them, and encourage them to tell their story in their own way and at their own pace. Offering a gentle word of support and listening in a non-judgemental way can make all the difference. “

Listening is a skill, and not instinctive for many people. The promoters of the theme say that the survivors of suicide talk about the role that good listeners helped in the interventions to prevent suicide.

Mental Health Therapy Daily..

I wondered what it would be like for someone looking for someone to listen in my community. I called the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Public Health and they said the Health Centre should have someone.

There are a few people waiting in the Kitty Health Centre on a Friday afternoon. There is a nice breeze. The Health Centre is bright and airy. There are no signs or posters about mental health. There is a Verandah and at that time of the day , there is a nice breeze. It is the kind of verandah where you can sit on it and see the street, but the street might not see you.

I get to chat with one of the doctors who has been there for many years. We sit side by side. It is the kind of atmosphere that encourages chatting. Maybe there is something about our Caribbean where talking is perhaps easier to do in these open spaces, than in closed rooms with desks between people . Mark Jacobs writes about the chaos in another government building where listening is supposed to happen.

The doctor explains that the Kitty Health Centre has a pscyhologist and social worker. (Both were on leave at the time of our chat)

The doctors do preliminary assessments for people, and make referrals are done to the main psychiatric clinic at GPHC.

The doctor said that she thinks more people are coming forward as there is more awareness about

mental health issues. The doctors also watch out for signs as they discuss other illnesses.

I asked about flyers and posters to let people know about the services.

The doctor said that there was a small note on the schedule of services on the wall. I had missed the note “Mental Health Therapy Daily. As the doctor said, few people read things like schedules.

The doctor and I agreed that there should be more publicity so that people could know that there were people willing to listen to at the health centre.

I think about empathy and sitting side by side on the verandah of the Health Centre.

Listening to someone who might feel they are in a dark pit requires empathy. I had written before that empathy (inspired by Dr Brené Brown ) is not standing outside of the dark pit and throwing down slender ropes to pull out people who cannot find their way out. Empathy is coming down in the dark pit, saying ‘you are not alone’, and “let us see how we could work our way out together.”

Sitting side by side seems to be a nice way to initiate empathy.

I did not ask the doctor if the verandah was used for counselling.

What is the meaning of your sign?”

The avenue on Main Street has some nice benches. Some of them are shaded by the trees in the afternoon sun.

It is not too busy. I sat with a sign ‘WILLING TO LISTEN TO YOU’ made out of recycled cardboard.

I have been uncertain about my willingness and ability to listen to people. I kept thinking of the Hurricanes, the devastation and the loss. I realise that the loss would bring trauma. I am nervous of platitudes and prayers which could be useless.

t is easy when listening, to jump in with nice words of encouragement which are not always needed. My mind is on how I communicate with those who have been waiting, and waiting again for damage and post damage. There is no way to know how to help from afar while waiting.

I try to imagine how that nice breeze could easily turn into a hurricane. Everything is nice and ordinary.

I sit with the sign.

Berlinda Persaud smiled when she saw the sign. She is active in community development work and has an interest in creative enterprises.. She realised that there were many issues that affected people and that people needed an ear sometimes. She took courses in Mental Health care and in Social Work so that she could respond better to people. We chatted about the importance of listening, and the difficulties sometimes. Some of her skills she had to use in situations which were not ‘formal counselling’ situations, and with people she least expected to use her skills with. She was able to reach out on social media to people she recognised were in crisis.

The breeze kept up nicely, fuelling the chat with Berlinda.

Some people passed and looked at the sign , and looked away. Others made eye contact and smiled. I said ‘Good afternoon’ to some – some replied, others did not.

Some looked sideways and smiled. Some walked up closer, looked and then walked away. One man asked “Do you speak English?” I explained that I was born in Guyana too but he did not look like he believed me.

A man stood near a car on the road across from where I was sitting. He was smoking. He looked at me, we made eye contact, smiled. He was puffing at the cigarette in a fast urgent way. He kept looking at the sign, looking at me. I shouted ‘You arite’ and he nodded ‘yes’.

A man who was dressed in dirty clothes asked him for his lighter. He took the lighter and walked away, ignoring me. The man near the car smiled at me as we contemplated the man in the dirty clothes.

The man in dirty clothes took the lighter and lit a cigarette.

He sat on a bench . A man passed him, saw my sign and laughed and said ‘You gah a listen to he..’

When I asked him what he meant, he ignored me and kept walking fast fast.

The man near the car was observing me interacting with the people who were passing.

The driver of the car came back. The driver was a short man. His face had some scars.

He jumped over the gutter separating the street from the avenue and walked towards me. His face looked serious.

‘Excuse me, what is the meaning of your sign?”

I explained about the World Suicide Prevention Day and the whole thing about listening. He said “Okay , Okay” and walked back to his car.

He didn’t look back.

Some school children passed. Some looked, smiled, laughed. One said ‘Oh.. he willing to listen to people’.

One boy said.. ‘He look like Mr Bean… “

Three young people came and asked what I was up to. I explained.

They asked to take a picture. I asked them if they were sure. I was wondered if putting a label ‘willing to listen to you’ wouldn’t expose them to comments about being crazy and having nothing better to do.

They were sure they wanted the picture, and to be identified with the sign.

We have to keep mobilising those who are willing to listen in places which are good for listening.

There might be better ways than sitting with a sign on the avenue to encourage people who are struggling to talk.

Helplines

The Mental Health Unit, Ministry of Public Health

Available during week day office hours.

Tel 226-1402, 226-1405

Suicide Prevention Hotline

Telephone numbers (+592) 223-0001, 223-0009, 600-7896, 623-4444,

WhatsApp: +592-600-7896, 592- 623-4444

Help & Shelter

Available during week day office hours.

225-4731, 227-3454

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“You see de fence? I only hear about dis fence, is what madness is dis?”

The man on the phone had turned into Shiv Chanderpal Drive on his way to work. He had worked hard for the change in 2015.

The fence outside the Ministry of the Presidency iis not really a fence. It is a wall.

The wall is painted green with bits of something which might be AFC yellow which look a bit greenish anyway.

There is a gate in one part of the wall. It is reminiscent of the gate at the Camp Street jail.

But is who Granger friken suh?”

People have always picketed the Office of the President, especially during the last administration.

In July 2002, some protesters had ‘stormed’ the Office of the President. Some of them went down Regent Street afterwards and burned a store or two. The then President was not in the compound.

There were other pickets after that – different groups of people. Different issues, some of which were never resolved.

Some pickets continued after the change in Government. There were never any moves to take over the offices or to attack or pelt any of the people coming out of the compound.

There is something strange about the Green Wall. It seems a symbol against all the talk of bringing people together and working in love and Unity and so on.

Who is scared of the people? Are there going to more changes announced which might inspire the July 2002 spirit and have people try to take over the compound?

Or is this some kind of fixed monument now to the walls which exist between the governing elite and those being governed?

Walls usually mean more secrecy, more things to hide, less transparency.

Transparency

President Granger met with the Exxon Mobil people on 30 August, 2017. The meeting was at State House. State House does not have walls around it at the moment, just the beautiful wrought iron fence.

The President reportedly said that “Government will be working with ExxonMobil to develop a long term relationship, which is founded on transparency, accountability, openness and aligned interests for the good of Guyana. “

This statement is ground breaking, especially since a search on the beautiful DPI/GINA website revealed the news item about the President is the only item which has the word “transparency” in it.

DPI/GINA is probably not set up to deal with transparency, openness and accountability. It looks like Prime Minister Nagamottoo will have to move out from behind the Green Wall to include the transparency project on the DPI/GINA website.

The Ministry of Natural Resources website seems a natural place to disseminate information about the contracts with Exxon. However, a check on the website shows a Page Under Construction in the part about the oil and gas.

The Government of Mexico has a website with various contracts (if you use Chrome, you can translate the site as you browse).

In January 2016, President Granger had inspired a headline in the Kaieteur News “No place for corporal punishment in Guyana”. It was nice, progressive, unpopular with the people who like to beat children and who must have voted for President Granger.

The then Minister of Education Dr Roopnarine seemed on the same page as the President.

But, 20 months or so later, teachers are still beating children in school. And instead of Dr Roopnarine going around , teacher to teacher , educating them about the alternatives, President Granger has pulled him in behind the Green Wall.

Will the President’s call for transparency in the deal with ExxonMobil go the same way as his calls for No corporal punishment in Guyana?

What could transparency look like?

Guyana does not have a history of open Government. There was another joke in August when slap-and-strip-bheri’s leader Bharat Jagdeo called for the Government to release the contracts the PPP had hidden behind their chain link fence.

The PPP hasn’t created a website and shared out the contracts. They might not have kept copies in their files.

Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram has been in the public domain challenging the ideas of secrecy and confidentiality related to the contracts with ExxonMobil. The Government has not responded.

In March 2017, the Ministry behind the Green Wall announced the appointment of Dr Jan Mangal as Petroleum Advisor in the Ministry. The press release does not mention transparency as part of the terms or reference for the work of the Advisor.

In August 2017, the Minister of the Ministry behind the Green Wall, Joe Harmon, said there was no conflict of interest in Dr Mangal’s working with the Government, and Dr Mangal’s brother being part of a company Totaltec which has a contract with ExxonMobil.

Totaltec was around since October 2016 if not longer.

In a world in which President Granger’s comments were true, the Ministry behind the Wall would have proactively revealed the details of the relationship between the Petroleum Advisor and the principals in Totaltec.

The Ministry would have shared the contract and terms of reference for the Petroleum Advisor so the public could form their own conclusions about the conflict of interest and how it was resolved.

Experts who shall not be named..

The Government apparently has a lot of experts around. Minister of Natural Resources though has been secretive about the names of the experts. Now is the time for the Minister to go and list all of the advisors and share their reports which contain the advice they have given the Government .

There are growing discussions about the ways of dealing with confidentiality and transparency.

Parties can renegotiate their agreements.

It isn’t clear if the Minister has ever had advice about how to renegotiate the relationship with ExxonMobil in the best interests of the Guyanese people.

Has President Granger and the Government of Guyana started new negotiations to make the discussions transparent with ExxonMobil?

After all, if ExxonMobil is also committed to EITI and transparency and accountability then they should have no problems with opening up their agreements.

President Granger does not hold press conferences so there is no opportunity for anyone to ask him unless they catch him at some other random event.

That Green Wall should not be a symbol of the future of the relationship between the Government and the people of Guyana.

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“I don’t think I have ever seen anything like this before.. I was wondering what was happening with art in Guyana” the man said to the art students at the Umana Yana. The students from the University of Guyana had put on a large exhibition of over 100 pieces of work. The exhibition was called “Artists in Perception”. The exhibition was held from 19th to 24th June, 2017. The man said he was an artist, and he congratulated the students on their efforts.

I had dropped in on the exhibition. I did not expect the wide scope of the exhibition. I thought the exhibition was ‘awesome’. An artist asked ‘how so’ . I could not explain since I am not artsy and I do not have the words.

There were vibrant colours. One powerful installation by Alavina Naughton was dedicated to the women who were attacked by their male partners after they left abusive relationships. The artists asked the viewers what they would tell perpetrators. There were only three or four statements on the notepads when I visited on the day before the exhibition closed. I thought the note pad with the pens and the couple of statements were a critical part of the installation.

I had never seen any kind of installation in Guyana which included the viewers or asked the viewers to participate actively rather than just ‘viewing’.

One of the artists Michael Griffith titled one of his pieces in the Devnagari script in the catalogue – “आंखें” – aankhen – Eyes.

“Nothing like this before..” is a nice feeling in a place where ‘Nothing like this before..’ has inspired feelings of despair.

“Nothing like this before.. “was the feeling after the chatree coolie Attorney General refused to resign, and slap-and-strip-bheri was put on the list of PPP candidates. But ‘Here we go again..” was the feeling as the new Attorney General refuses to apologise to a Judge who asked for an apology, and a few citizens, not a tsunami, signed a petition calling for the removal of Minister Volda Lawrence.

“Where are we going..?” a woman who is not a PPP supporter asked in despair as she watched the video selfie of Minister Simona Broomes in the empty Parliament Chamber. Minister Broomes had captured the imagination of the poor working people as she walked into work places and tried to clear complaints made against employers.

The video selfie was a tribute to another woman who had captured the attention of Guyanese on social media who needed a laugh.

“Nothing like this before..” accompanied the feeling of anticipation and hope as the coalition Government came into power. There was a nice feeling that this was going to be the beginning of end of “winner take all politics” and that it was possible for every citizen to feel part of something different, but nicer than what obtained for the first 50 years or so.

May 2015 and the new Prime Minister “ Vows to bring about Constitutional Change,”. By April 2016 – the PM has been given responsibility for governance and is waiting on the report of a six person committee. In June June 2017, the PM is silent according to Stabroek News who headlines that Despite budget of $80m, no move made by gov’t on constitution reform discussions

And this is even after the Working Peoples’ Alliance called on the Prime Minister to “stop pussyfooting’.

The “Nothing like this before..’ of a dynamic transformative changing of the Governance systems has not happened.

I live in Subryanville in Georgetown. The area has always been prone to flooding – and was always the last to drain off after the rest of Georgetown. Many other people on the coast did not deal with flooding – it seems that post 2005, there were serious attempts to keep drains clear and pumps and kokers working. This month though, Subryanville has not flooded like other areas. The rains have been intense, water has raised but the water goes down soon after. There were repairs done to some of the infrastructure – the Ministry of Public Infrastructure had to do critical work which the City Council did not seem to be able to do. Nothing like this before .. for some of the residents meant not having to be so distressed by heavy rains. Nothing like this before.. has meant for me, being ‘dry’ while other people used to be ‘dry’ are now flooded.

The Subryanville scenario though has not been repeated throughout Guyana. There is a lapse in management which seems to be a symptom of some kind of disconnect among the different parts of the Government which are responsible for drainage.

“Nothing like this before..” was also another feeling after the Stem Guyana Robotics Exhibition at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall. It was a rainy Saturday morning. There were different groups exhibiting. There were all kinds of people who visited the sports hall to participate in the exhibition. Gender dynamics must have played out as quite a few men brought children with them.

One of the men visiting the exhibition was Stanley Greaves, an artist. The connection between art and technology is not often made in Guyana.

Another first for Guyana is the Youth Innovation Project of Guyana. The project invites proposals from young people in areas related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, Architecture, Arts, Architecture, Archaeology, Mathematics and Spirituality. There was a news release recently with a call for more applications to the fund.

I asked a community conscious young man who lives in Region 1 if he had applied. He said he did not know of the call and was not aware of any out reach activities related to the call. He will try to meet the deadline of 30 June though. Another young man who works in Region 6 said he heard of it , but thought that it was only about science and technology. He was cynical about the fund – ‘they will probably give those who they know’ but he decided to apply in good faith.

The fund has the possibility of creating more ‘Nothing like this before..” projects in Guyana.

Innovations in Governance though is not part of the call for the Youth Innovation Project. Maybe the Office of the Prime Minister might use the $80 million dollars later on innovative governance projects.

Young and other Guyanese will therefore have to find ways of changing ‘Here we go again.. ‘and “this set just like the last..’ to creating a ‘Nothing like this before.. “ Guyana which every citizen has equal access to the resources and in which all citizen can achieve their full potential.

(Coil will be extinguished as it tries to refuel. If all goes well, it will be lit by 7 August 2017)

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“I would like to see a solar panel on every roof in Guyana” said Raphael Hazel. The bureaucracies around the Deeds Registry and the electricity company prevented Raphael from sorting out grid electricity for the house.

As a result, Raphael had to go completely off the grid with solar energy much earlier than he intended.

The house, the Anchorage, is one of the remaining wooden houses in Guyana. The windows and doors are surrounded by graceful trimmings of carved wood. There are wooden shutters which are mixed with glass windows. The shutters were specially designed for shade and cooling from the sun – the source of the energy which now powers the appliances in the house.

Solar energy refers to the heat and light energy from the sun. There is rapid interest in harnessing the energy to replace fossil fuels. The interesting news from around the world – large polluter China now has a floating solar farm on land which had been destroyed by mining, oil giant Saudi Arabia plans to be an exporter of solar energy, oil producer Norway’s has a 400% increase in solar energy installations, India has a solar powered airport – indicate the potential and interest in turning to the sun for light.

Barbados seems to be leading in the Caribbean. They have been encouraging the use of solar water heaters – needed especially for the tourism sector. Barbados has moved from the focus on the solar water heaters alone. A Canadian company, Deltro, plans to establish a factory to make solar panels and there will be a solar farm.

The Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) also has a campaign about solar water heaters. I visited their office to see what information was available to the public. The only solar brochure available was about solar water heaters.

Many Guyanese who are glad to get clean running water in their houses would probably wonder what the fuss is about – hot water is well, kind of a luxury still and people seem to make do without it.

However, there might be increasing prosperity and people who are considering hot water installations will buy solar water heaters.

Many Guyanese who are not enjoying the periods of intense heat would probably want the GEA to also invest in researching and supporting the development of solar cooling technology. The GEA had a demonstration project. There doesn’t seem to be other places in Guyana where appropriate solar technology is being researched.

Guyana’s experiments with solar

Way back in the 1980s, there was a house in Lamaha Gardens, Georgetown which was fully powered by solar. I could not find information about the house. Raphael Hazel did his undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Guyana. He did his final year project on solar energy and in 1994 published his research “Flat plate collector utilizability for Guyana” His supervisor, Mr L. P Langevine, worked with the Solar Unit at the Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology. Mr Langevine published other research related to the use of solar energy in Guyana at the time. It was clear that there was some attention being paid to gathering knowledge. IAST no longer seems to be interested in solar energy.

There have been other publicly funded projects since then. The GEA DRAFT Strategic Plan notes that there were 1,750 systems installed in 21 hinterland villages. There was an intention to install 16,580 more solar systems under the 2012 LCDS . Other citizens who could afford solar in the hinterland regions have been building. There is no mention of any assessments or studies of the results of the installations.

Raphael Hazel’s vision of a solar panel on every rooftop will now include State House. Business like Demerara Bank and Nand Persaud International Communications have invested in solar. There are some small businesses in interior locations have also invested in solar. The example of Ajay Bhyro from Bartica was reported in the Stabroek News. One organisation has had to move from solar to grid while waiting to replace the batteries. The organisation does not have the funding to replace the batteries which have reached the end of life period.

The University of Guyana might have a solar farm, but there it seems to offer no scope for research and education about solar energy. The other tech-voc institutions in Guyana do not seem to offer any courses.

Government and solar energy

The Guyana Energy Agency is responsible for implementing the Government’s policy on energy. The Draft Energy Policy lists the following intentions of the Government :-

  1. Establish a transparent and streamlined process for evaluation and approval of energy projects. The aim is to facilitate private sector interest and confidence in participating in energy projects;

  2. Encourage the installation of grid tied solar photovoltaic farms on lands that have low agricultural value;

  3. Require that developers of solar photovoltaic farms consult with the local community before applying for planning permission;

  4. Encourage the utilisation of local content by developers in the purchase of goods and services, and in the employment of labour;

  5. Introduce fiscal incentive aimed at residential customers, commercial entities and developers to encourage the wide spread deployment of small, medium and large scale renewable energy technologies. For example,

    a. Tax rebates that reduce the taxable income of purchasers by the costs of the technology;

    b. Reduced duties free access at the port of entry;

    c. Inclusion of the cost of the technology in home mortgages; and

    d. Increased import duties and taxes on competitive technologies such as electric water heaters.

  6. Support the GEA to construct pilot projects to demonstrate a residential scale and commercial scale grid tied (with and without battery backup) solar photovoltaic (PV). The aim is to demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility and benefits of these technologies.

Government has some fiscal investments for installation of solar energy. According to the draft Strategic Plan for the Guyana Energy Agency “In 2012, Government of Guyana Zero-rated the VAT and made fully exempt from Import Duties, the following: “Machinery and equipment for obtaining, generating, and utilizing energy from renewable energy sources, including Solar panels, Solar Lamps, Deep-Cycle Batteries, Solar Generators, Solar Water heaters, Solar Cookers, DC Solar Refrigerators, DC Solar Freezers, DC Solar Air Conditioners, Wind Turbines, Water Turbines, Power Inverters, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) Lamps. “

It seems that the zero rating from VAT has been removed, but the import duties are still relaxed.

The GEA will have the following objectives :-

GEA will continue to:

  • Develop and encourage the development and utilisation of sources of energy other than those sources presently in use.

  • Demonstrate, research and utilize solar photovoltaic technology as a source of renewable energy to meet energy needs where appropriate.

There is no mention of the formal training or certification available for persons interested in working on solar energy projects. There is no mention made of the adoption of quality standards for the solar energy sector.

Solar-preneurship” in Guyana

Solar-preneur is a word I saw in a BBC article about African micro-businesses providing solar energy services. Guyana has recently awarded large contracts for Solar installations – one for 57 government builidings, and

One diaspora based company – Greenheart Tree Energy has provided an installation to the Paramakatoi Tomato project. There wasn’t any information available on the financial arrangements. A Swiss/German company meeco won the contract for State House and has recently won a larger contract for 57 Government buildings.

It isn’t clear from the public information what kind of capacity would be left after the installation for local services in Guyana. Who will be responsible for maintenance? Is there potential for other micro-grid systems?

Raphael Hazel has created a company Blueberry Solar which provides solar energy installation services. He hoped to make a company in Guyana which would reconstruct solar panels from the broken chips. He has worked on one installation and will work on others. He has not bid for any projects as yet. He is waiting for some training from the Small Business Bureau about how small businesses could bid for the large Government contracts.

Clean and green?

Solar energy though might be clean, but the manufacture of the panels, the manufacture and disposal of the batteries all have some environmental impact. According to a National Geographic article, the ‘cheap solar panels’ from China come with higher carbon footprints than those from other places where environmental regulations are more stringent. The recycling of solar panels might not be economically feasible since the panels have long life. The life of batteries is shorter, and there are going to be problems with end of life use.

Raphael does not advocate that solar energy means abundant cheap energy. He recommends that managing his own installation means managing his consumption. The appliances have to be energy efficient. There have to be plans for rainy days and for night time. He prefers these limitations though, to relying on the main grid. He has plans to build a demonstration house which has been designed to be energy efficient and which would use solar energy.

He hopes to keep educating the public so that there will be increased usage of solar energy in Guyana.

(On Saturday 24 June, 2017 , STEM Guyana will be hosting a Robotics Exhibition at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall from 10am. There are plans to have a booth from a private company about solar energy. )

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“You aint apply yet.. what you waiting for?” the man asked me. He is an educator , Guyanese born and in full time employment in the United States. He earns supplemental income by tutoring students in English. The tutoring is done over the Internet. His students are in Taiwan. There is a 12 hour time difference so he starts working at 5am some days. Other times he works in the night from 7pm or so. He had visited Guyana recently and managed to conduct his classes though the Internet was slow.

The company provides software in which the tutors connect with the students using audio and video. The company is recruits people who have certified in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) or who are thinking about certifying. I emailed the agency he recommended. I wanted to find out if they recruited people living in Guyana. There has been no reply from the agency.

Karen is an educator living in Guyana. A few years ago, she had also encouraged me to join up with an essay writing service. She had a full time job but needed additional income. She registered with an agency based in the United Kingdom. The agency would send her topics for her to research and develop into essays. There would be other essays which needed editing. Apparently, there are many people who pay others to write and/or edit their essays and other documents. Karen did work for about a year with the agency. Sometimes, she subcontracted a friend. She stopped when a new job took up more of her time.

Joshua Kissoon provides IT services. The recent economic downturn in Guyana resulted in a reduction of clients in Guyana. He decided to register with Upwork.com as he was keen to pursue work in his field rather than have to take up other work. Joshua managed to secure a contract which requires him to work a full work week. The work requires him to sign in and be connected for at least two hours every day . He can work offline and then submit work afterwards. The company allows him some flexibility with the scheduling of the hours which is especially useful in the event the Internet goes down or there are electricity problems.

The work done by the ESL teacher, Karen and Joshua is made possible through developments of information and communication technologies. They are participating in what one writer refers to as the ‘Gig economy

The World Bank published a report in June 2015 titled “The Global Opportunity of online outsourcing”. The authors propose a definition of online outsourcing as :- “The contracting of third‐party workers and providers (often overseas) to supply services or perform tasks via Internet‐based marketplaces or platforms. These technology‐mediated channels allow clients to outsource their paid work to a large, distributed, global labour pool of remote workers, to enable performance, coordination, quality control, delivery, and payment of such services online. “

Technology-mediated channels”

The technology-mediated channels are usually web platforms which allow job-seekers and potential employers to create profiles and assignments. Some agencies do the matching or provide ‘managed services’, while others allow job-seekers to apply for the work or ‘open services’. Some of the companies provide online training and orientation opportunities. The Government of Malaysia has created eRezeki (translated to eLivelihood). The platform allows persons to register. The Government also has created ‘pusat rezeki’ or centres where people can access the platform, and also participate in training to enable them to participate as Digital Workers.

‘Paid Work’

The kind of work which has been available for online outsourcing usually requires high skill levels. The jobs tend to relate to computer programming, web development, graphics design, writing and content managementvideo and audio editing, management of IT infrastructure, online marketing and accounting. There are some jobs which might require basic IT literacy skills along with skills in other fields. These jobs might relate to areas such as research, data entry, transcription services and text conversion from digitised images, and online marketing.

The eRezeki platform in Malaysia provides for three work categories. These categories cover the range of possibilities for connecting workers with prospective clients. They are :-

  • Digital microtasks/ Microwork – which covers some of tasks requiring basic IT literacy skills

  • Digital Work – which covers the tasks which requires high skill levels

  • Digitally enabled work – work which is initiated through a contact on the platform, but completed offline. This could related to provision of services such as construction, cleaning, cooking, supporting events, care-giving, etc. .

Guyana’s Central Recruitment and Manpower Agency used to have a website to match employers with job seekers. The website is no longer active.

Remote Workers”

Guyana has experience with the call-centre industry and business process outsourcing. There is news recently that one company intends to increase employment from 2000 to 3000 workers.

Online outsourcing (OO) tends to include individual or small groups of individuals working from home or other locations where there is good Internet and reliable electricity.

Some OO companies recruit from different countries around the world. Other companies tend to restrict themselves to North America. In large countries, the ‘remote’ could mean connecting across different regions, cities and towns. In Guyana for example, there might be a tutor in Essequibo providing services to students in Georgetown. The interaction could be for a set number of hours for particular topics for example, or help with particular assignments. I understand that there are some lessons teachers who supplemented their face to face classes with remote interactions using Skype. There are some entrepreneurs who are apparently also already doing assignments and tasks for students. There has not been much discussion of the ethics of this kind of education entrepreneurship.

Joshua Kissoon had to provide a portfolio of work online. He sent over 30 applications, each one tailored for the job. He received 6 offers. He has also contracted two other persons , from India and Russia, to help him learn a new technology.

Karen said it took some time before she had her first assignment. Each assignment helped to build up her profile. She did not have direct contact with the students requesting the services. The ESL company from Taiwan interviews applicants.

There are concerns about the protection of workers, especially with contracts across borders. The trends seem to indicate that people in developing countries would not pursue online outsourcing for all of their income.

Payment online”

Guyanese who wish to pursue online outsourcing opportunities would have to deal with the limited options for receiving payments. Karen was able to negotiate with the essay writing agency to send her payments via Western Union. In order to avoid per transaction charges, she had to accumulate payments. She had to bear the charges. Joshua Kissoon has to use Paypal. He is exploring using Payoneer to access cash. He is concerned about the losses due to the transaction and exchange losses and will consider things like negotiating payments via Paypal with vendors.

The dilemma for micro-workers is that cost of receiving micro-payments reduces the significance of the earnings.

What can the Government of Guyana do?

The authors of the Global Opportunity in Online Outsourcing report recommend that Governments could broadly :-

“..enact positive policies that enable and promote the growth of the OO industry; and

remove legislative and regulatory barriers that inhibit the growth of the OO industry..”

Some of the specific actions they recommend include developing the workforce, creating the infrastructure and identifying and developing target markets.

The Government has increased the ICT infrastructure and the intended liberalisation of the telecoms sector is expected to improve the access to the Internet. The challenge though, is that while the Ministry of Public Telecommunications provide the infrastructures, it is up to the other Government programmes to make use of the infrastructure. An ICT Hub, is just that.. and would only be more useful if it is turned into a ‘Job/work centre’ for example.

The call centres apparently use our ‘English’ as a resource. The Government might want to support the certification of persons who want to acquire the English as a Second Language certifications.

Joshua Kissoon said that he has been able to work with the Internet and to manage with the fluctuating quality. The difficulty for him is ensuring a reliable power supply as he loses out every time there is blackout. He hopes to invest in solar power for his work space. There might be other persons who have to make similar considerations if they want to work from home. There is not much publicity available about Government incentives to pursue solar and other forms of energy.

The Guyanese opportunity for online outsourcing seems possible. There is a need to do some more analysis and to explore especially, a system for online micro-payments.

Karen is from Linden. She hopes that the affordable and good quality Internet will reach the area where her house is located. She looks froward to the day when she could return home and pursue the remote working opportunities.

(The internet (GTT) went down while I was writing this article. The article was delayed as a result )

Update 12 June , 2017 : Two persons confirmed that the Payoneer card works in Guyana.

Dr Rosh Khan also told me that Xoom is working in Guyana to allow cash payment.

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

The run up to the 2015 elections had some really active involvement of youths in dreaming about Guyana . Some young people wrote about the “Guyana I want “ .

Some of the youths got the Guyana they wanted, and it seems things have fizzled out a bit.

I did an All fools Manifesto in 2015and then forgot about dreaming about Guyana because of some of the emerging nightmares that the dreams were not going to happen.

So dreaming about Guyana in 51 years of independence and not in any random order as dreams are never in order. It would be nice if some of this happens now :-

  1. There will be no beating of children in Guyana’s schools. There is a report of teachers beating an Amerindian child who might be dyslexic. There are other children suffering around the country.

  2. The Minister of Education will resign if he cannot stop teachers from beating children in Guyana’s schools

  3. Guyanese will stop beating their children.

  4. Teachers who want to be beat children will resign and go and work in the Marriott hotel.

  5. Teachers who want to beat children will go and plant flower and medicinal herb gardens in their communities. The parents who want to beat children will go and work with them.

  6. There will be serious programmes to address bullying and other forms of violence in schools.

  7. Every child in primary school will know to read and write at their level.

  8. The Minister of Education and Chief Education Officer will resign if there are children in primary school who cannot read and write at the standard level.

  9. Every school will have clean and working toilets.

  10. The Attorney General will apologise to Justice Holder in open court.

  11. The Ethnic Relations Commission will be activated

  12. The Human Rights Commission will be activated

  13. The Women and Gender Equality Commission, the Rights of the Child Commission, the Ethnic Relations Commission and the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission will have persons who subscribe to the Human Rights Conventions which Guyana has agreed to even if Guyana has not bothered with enforcing them in law.

  14. Every child with a disability will have access to quality free education.

  15. The Local Government Commission will be activated

  16. The President will convene an independent investigation into the allegations of child sexual abuse against his party comrade, Councillor Winston Harding.

  17. The National Assembly will ask the President to convene a Tribunal to investigate the allegations of child sexual abuse against former Minister Manickchand’s nominee on the Right of the Child Commission, Kwame McKoy

  18. People will refuse to vote for slap-and-strip-bheri .

  19. The political parties will have child protection policies and policies against gender based violence for their members.

  20. There will be pavements on all nice new roads where cars are speeding to avoid the main roads

  21. Guyanese will stop littering.

  22. The Prevention of Discrimination Act will be amended to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

  23. The Constitution transformation process will begin in 2017. It might never end.

  24. President Granger and the Leader of the Opposition will give up on finding a chairman from GECOM and just do the right thing and invite Vladimir Putin to nominate a Chairperson.

  25. President Granger and Bharat Jagdeo will also agree to replace the other commissioners with nominees from China, USA, and the remainder from Exxon Mobil.

  26. Guyana will change laws to decriminalise marijuana and to allow the cultivation of hemp

  27. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer citizens (LGBTIQ)will have the same rights as others Those who opposed these rights will not be rewarded with National Awards

  28. Guyana will have an active and engaged National Science Research Council

  29. The Institute of Applied Science and Technology will be an active institute which operates in an accountable and transparent way and which engages with the public to stimulate science and technological innovation

  30. The VAT on private education will be abolished before the new school term starts.

  31. Guyana will admit that it has a problem with alcohol.

  32. Guyana will spend the same energy on alcohol control as they are doing on tobacco control.

  33. There will be an annual book,literature festival in every region and municipality of Guyana

  34. Every municipality and NDC will have a space for cultural events.

  35. Cultural events will not include events with loud music. I know two citizens who have had to leave their homes because of the noise on national holidays.

  36. President Granger and Bharat Jagdeo will do joint public service ads to ask bus drivers to drive at the speed limit.

  37. President Granger and Bharat Jagdeo will do joint public service ads to ask bus drivers to not play loud music.

  38. President Granger and Bharat Jagdeo and other MPs will use minibuses at random times to move around.

  39. The money being spent to develop a cultural policy will be used to buy lots of copies of all the books which have won Guyana Prizes and put them in the libraries so citizens can borrow and read. Apparently the National Library has to put them in reference only.

  40. There will be the same amount of news headlines and front page news photos on renewable energy as there are about oil.

  41. There will be the same number of groups who are interested in money from renewable energy as there are hustling for the pickings from the oil and gas

  42. Guyanese will work with their local authorities to keep their surroundings clean

  43. The Government will implement the draft policy on the use of free and open source software in the public sector. (I worked on it so I kind of have an interest )

  44. The Head of the Mental Health Unit in the Ministry of Public will be account for the comprehensive National Mental Health Strategy. There will be an activity by activity update on the plan.

  45. Prime Minister Nagamoottoo and his information empire will release the Exxon and all other related contracts to the public.

  46. There will be an article about Guyana in every single edition of Caribbean Beat and Zing.

  47. Prime Minister Nagamoottoo and his information empire will be transparent about their sophisticated public information strategies to not bee responsive on things like the Government’s decision on the referendum on gay sex and the Government not having a travel black list.

  48. The Minister of Natural Resources will use money from the Gold and Oil earninngs to compensate all of the citizens from Chenapau who they recently traumatised.

  49. The experimental work being done on open data in the Government will be consolidated and turned into official Government policy and practice on releasing data for the public to use.

  50. The efficiency at the Passport Office will be replicated at all other Government agencies.

  51. There will be an active and vibrant National Film Commission/Board to stimulate the development of films about and in Guyana

It is always complex, this national dreaming. Some of these dreams might be nightmares for other people.

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(Background logo share via Facebook. Creator Unknown)

by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“What are Hinduism’s views on the issue” the young Christian man asked. Independence morning and the issue we were talking about was gay rights. He felt that Christians were under attack on social media. He did not like the ‘cuss outs’ and hoped for civil conversation. He did not understand why people would be upset at the Church.

The Government had said that they will hold a referendum on gay rights and that legalizing homosexuality is a ‘sensitive issue’ .

Guyana had shamed itself internationally. Guyana voted to stop the funding of an investigator in the United Nations system to report on the abuses of LGBT people around the world. Guyana voted with voted with countries like Indonesia , where gay men are whipped in public, and Saudi Arabia, where public funds are used to pay people to chop of heads and hands of citizens, or to flog those who write blogs against the regime.

This is Guyana…

Minister Greenidge in lamenting the difficulty of addressing discrimination against LGBT citizens said – “but this is Guyana and in these countries you have a different mix of not only ethnic groupings, but you have religious groupings” .

His predecessors had said the same thing about “the divided society” and the fear of those who pray against homosexuals.

“This is Guyana’ is often used to show why Guyana is incapable of better.

Like the Marriott, the Government continues with the homophobic approach of the PPP to dealing with LGBT equality. The view that ‘We will not discriminate and we will not change the laws” is easier to express than facing the prayers of those who want to preserve the discrimination .

The image from outside the Ocean View sitting of Parliament in 2003 shows the religious diversity which the Government and Opposition cannot deal with.

President Granger gave hisaddress on the 51st Independence under the title “Diversity and Destiny” . The President made constant reference to the ethic and religious diversity. He spoke of no other kinds of diversity.

It is a shame he did not explain more on what he meant by social equality when he said “The ‘free state’ is one that is free from discrimination; it is one that is built on the basis of respect for cultural diversity, political inclusivity and social equality.”

First Lady Sandra Granger in a speech at another event spoke of a different kind of diversity and difference. She encouraged the audience to be inspired by LGBT youth, and other young people who deal with discrimination.

The Draft Social Cohesion plan refers to the LGBTQI as a marginalised group. It refers to the national consultations where the discussions on LGBTQI were “passionate”. Reasons for the discrimination included “inacceptable [sic] behaviour in the community, fear of family members being influenced or molested, religious beliefs, dress code/behaviour, not accepted traditionally or religiously” .

The draft strategic plan though has an objective to “Support and advocate for new or revised policies and legislation, revised public sector rules and regulations, updated business practices, updated workplace practices, and appropriate social and cultural norms that can strengthen respect for diversity, and confront social exclusion and intolerance, such as: – Enactment of sexual orientation legislation, that removes the stigma, discrimination, exclusion, and marginalization that are experienced by many in the LGBTQI community…; “

“This is Guyana” apparently is this place with contradictions where the Green Economy depends on mining and oil, and where politicians seem to want LGBT citizens to be equal without doing the work to challenge the homophobia of those who want the discrimination to continue.

Other people’s polite homophobia though seems to get rewards from the State.

The opposition to the 2003 Constitutional amendments involved sections of the Christian and Muslim communities.

Protestors in 2003. Image linked from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/06/christian-and-lgbt-groups-have-brought-the-battle-for-gay-rights-to-the-caribbean/277280/

Bishop Juan Edghill and Pastor Raphael Massiah were active members of the Christian Fellowship which prayed with/for/against President Jagdeo and the others to ensure that there was no equality for LGBT citizens.

The Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana has maintained its opposition to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Guyana. Pastor Massiah and other Caribbean Christians also signed a letter to President Donald Trump this year . The letter was an appeal to the President Trump to send light instead of the shadows of ‘LGBT’ coercion the ‘same-sex agenda’ .

Bishop Juan Edghill became a Minister and is now a Member of Parliament , elected representative of the people who also voted for the chatree coolie and slap-and-strip-bheri.

Pastor Massiah is a recipient in this year’s honour list of the Cacique Crown of Honour. Sheikh Moeenul Hack who is from the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana is another recipient of the Cacique Crown of Honour.

It seems there is high reward for opposition to decriminalisation of homosexuality, not only in heaven, but also on Guyana’s earth.

Referendum

Trinidadian activist Colin Robinson appealed to the leaders and others in Guyana to move beyond the Referendum. He reminded Christians that Jesus was crucified after a referendum of sorts.

A referendum was used in Guyana for the infamous 1980 Constitution. Ironically, referendum is coming up again in the discussion of the possibility of Bharat Jagdeo running for a third term.

The argument for Bharat Jagdeo is that the Constitutional amendments are flawed because they were not agreed by referendum. Bharat Jagdeo has spoken out against discrimination against LGBT citizens while saying that Guyana is not ready for same sex marriage.

He also has spoke about decriminalisation of marijuana even though he did nothing while President to decriminalise marijuana.

The Government has also shut down discussion about decriminalisation of marijuana. Independent Guyana apparently will continue to jail mostly poor people for marijuana offences. Minister Joseph Harmon is the Judiciary can decide how to apply the offences. This view is different from when Minister Harmon was in opposition when he seemed to share similar views to the current Leader of the Opposition.

Independent Jamaica had a National Commission on Ganja to address ganja decriminalisation.

Independent Guyana though, will not have any consensus or referendum on this issue.

Citizens will continue to be punished for the use of a substance which is legally used in other countries.

Human Rights in Guyana

The Constitution which might be invalid because it was not agreed by referendum has provisions for Human Rights. The Prime Minister, who is responsible for Governance was busy this week with consolidating the public information empire. There were no advertisements for any of the positions in the new entity. The Prime Minister has appointed one of his own politicians to head the new agency which is expected to ‘guard against’ the partisanship of the past.

The Prime Minister has stopped providing public information on the work he is doing to activate the Ethnic Relations Commission and the Human Rights Commission.  These commissions are tasked in the Constitution with raising awareness about Human Rights in Guyana.

The Women and Gender Equality Commission is another Constitutional commission. This week , they issued a statement which called for a repeal of all archaic and discriminatory laws. They reminded citizens of the protection of human rights of all Guyanese.

The reason for the statement was for the WGEC to respond to the social media posts by Commissioner Nicole Cole. Nicole Cole has been making homophobic statements on social media. She, like the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana and the churches associated with Bishop Edghill and Pastor Massiah, is against the changing of the laws.

Nicole Cole has been visible and active on discrimination against women and children. I have been part of some of the protests with her.  Many of the people who are saying No to the referendum and who are concerned about her role on the Commission have not protested with us.

Many of the organisations which protest homosexuality have also not protested with Nicole Cole on any of the other issues she has protested about, especially as they relate to violence against women and children.

Nicole Cole is a representative of the Rastafari community on the Women and Gender Equality Commission. She reportedly said that the Rastafari faith will never condone the legalisation of buggery.

Years ago, I had interactions with a man who had no problems invoking his faith for his homophobia. He said he was Rastafari and like Nicole Cole, condemned all those who stood for equality of LGBT citizens.

In a space of a year or two  , he said he changed his views. He eventually wrote a facebook post advocating acceptance and talked about his change in views.

I do not know his views now as the interactions stopped.

He told me then that he had a chance to reflect on his views as he met different people . He had discussed with a Rasta elder as well who gave him a different view on love and discrimination.

He said “I realized One Love is exactly that. No exceptions.“

Another young man asked me about the referendum. He felt hopeless about Guyana after the announcement of the referendum and the general reluctance of the Government to do anything positive for human rights. He had voted for the Coalition and hoped for change.

It is a shame in Guyana at 51 years, ‘One Love’ is not a Government which will not rise above the ‘division’ and institute equality for all of its citizens.

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“Vidya, Granger must have lost his bloody mind.  It would have been better for him to not say anything.” said the young man who had welcomed President Granger and the Coalition Government in May 2015. We were talking about our despair at President Granger endorsement of the refusal of the Attorney General to apologise to Justice Franklin Holder.

We had both agreed that President Granger was a nice man. We disagreed on a few other things. Many people had expected that the change in Government would close the period of chatree coolie and slap-and-striip-bheri kinds of issues.

Mr Rashleigh Jackson was Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1990 when his son was arrested with marijuana. Desmond Hoyte was President. Minister Jackson resigned. These days, many countries, including Jamaica, have made moves to decriminalise marijuana. There are no memories of any other Minister coming close to being cited for contempt by any court in Guyana.

The General Secretary of the PNC at an event on Friday 19 May, 2017 said that President Granger is following in Burnham’s footsteps. The PNC seems to be yearning for Burnham, the glory days when Burnham’s Guyana was big in the world. Some of Burnham’s Attorney Generals are around. They were part of the glory days. There were no known reasons for any Judge to ask for an apology. Maybe the Judges were scared of Bunrham, who knows?

President Granger was not at the event. He was on his way to Saudi Arabia, his second visit. Saudi Arabia flogs and beheads its citizens. Saudi Arabia is hosting President Granger and President Trumpr and others Saudi Arabia is big in the Islamic Development Bank. Guyana hopes to access money from the Islamic Development Bank. Guyana allows the beating of children in schools, but no other flogging of citizens. There have been no hangings in awhile and the President has said he does not intend to sign any death warrants.

The President always speaks courteously to people. Nobody has had any complaints of cuss outs or buse outs or reasons to demand apologies from him for the things he has said. It is a shame that the courtesy does not replicate in other places.

From 5 hours to less than 30 minutes to apply for a passport..

The Passport Office on a humid Friday morning is half full. At the entrance, some men are calling taxi taxi., others are selling passport cases and I hear one asking if I wanted a passport form.

The last time I visited in October 2012, Donald Ramotar/Bharat Jagdeo were in power. I had posted on Facebook “Such a joy today at the passport office, from 8am to 3pm.. first in the cowshed.. the cool breeze with the hot sun and then as I give thanks to the PPP for the quality service.. the Guyana Police Force band strikes up ‘How Great thou art’ and then ‘Hear oh Lord.. ‘ and then we move to the other enclosed building.. and I get to ponder on the photographs of the President and the Prime Minister for the next few hours while I make sure I don’t use my cell phone in the building.. everybody polite though..”

There are no signs anywhere in the Passport Office saying where to go first. The pictures of the President and Prime Minister have changed. They are both smiling though. There is the faded “No Cell phone sign.”

I sit and ask a woman next to me if this is where we have to hand in the forms. She says, she is not sure, but go to the ‘Front Desk’.

The officer at the Front Desk is chewing gum and has her phone in her lap. She does not seem to too happy to be there , like the President and the Prime Minister on the wall.

The Immigration Officer who is custodian of the borders and ports of entry is probably not the best person to smile with confused members of the public.

I join a line which seems to have people going to the desk. However, the line doesn’t seem to be moving. People seem to be coming from all over to the Front Desk.

I ask a woman in the line if this is the line to hand in applications. She smiled and said no, she thinks the line is for those collecting passports.

I see another woman who was dressed like an officer. I asked her where to stand. She smile as well and tells me stand right there in front of the desk and the Front Desk officer would see me.

President Granger’s and Prime Minister Nagamottoo’s pictures are still smiling.

The officer behind the Front Desk looked up and said, no that is the line over there and she pointed in a different place. It was kind of diagonal away from the desk and it looks as though people would have to walk across the front of the line of people waiting for passports.

I moved again.

I imagined a bubble coming out of the mouth of the Front Desk officer and bursting over my application forms. But there is no bubble.

I reached and she checked the forms. She told me to have a seat. She pointed in the direction of the dark windows marked 1, 2 and 3.. “Somebody will call you”.

I asked her what happens next. She told me that I must sit and wait, and that the persons behind the dark windows will tell me what will happen next.

The woman sitting next to me says that is where we pay. I go up . I pay. We are paying for this service.

The woman there is talking to someone else. I push my face as close as could to the dark glass to see who is behind. I feel foolish talking to a dark window. Woman looks like if she is smiling. She takes a call on her phone too as I leave. I am told to go and sit down in a different place. Another woman comes in and sits down next to me. She is uncertain. She sits for a minute or two and then asks me where to go. I feel like an expert now.

There are some officers calling ‘next’ in a door way across the room. You have to kind of pay attention. I can’t imagine President Granger shouting ‘next’ to any of the citizens to get them in line to do anything with him. In some places, it would be ‘next person please’. But not here, maybe in the future.

My ‘next’ comes and I go to wait on nice comfortable settee outside a booth. The officer in the booth takes the application, and the picture and so, and then tells me when to go back for the passport. Something tells me to ask when to go back, to ask the opening hours. She tells me they are open from 7am to 3pm. I had assumed that it would have been 8am to 430pm like other working places.

I made it out of the Passport Office less than the 30 minutes. If I knew where to go and what to do it would probably have even be a shorter time. There are no signs anywhere saying what are the working hours for the Passport Office. Maybe the lack of signs and information is to enable citizens to talk to each other.

The time has improved from the 5 hours at the end of the PPP rule.

The lack of information though, about how to navigate the room shows that some attitudes towards citizens remain the same. There is a feeling that I did not belong in that place and that I had no business to be there. I know this is not the reason why they finish dealing with people quickly – to get rid of them.

I wonder if the officers themselves have ever made suggestions as to how to improve the seating locations so that the flow could be smoother and there would be no need for anyone to have

Maybe when the oil starts flowing, things will change. We have few choices though, when dealing with the State. We don’t protest too much. The Attorney General’s lack of apology has not bothered too many people.

The no-apology Attorney General reportedly told a group of LGBT-loving people that the Government will hold a referendum on the decriminalization of male homosexuality. The Attorney General it seems does not know that Human rights are not gifts from the majority to the minority . The referendum has been described as a ‘threat’ by some activists.

There were no reports of visible protests or of anybody shouting ‘Get out de place. Don’t tek yuh eyes and pass we”

There are no reports of the Attorney General having to leave the event with the LGBT-loving people like how Justice Holder had to leave the court room.

It seems that the Attorney General’s refusal to apologise to Justice Holder is the price we have to pay for the shorter time at the Passport Office. People have no choice but to keep their minds.

 

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

Apologies and arcches..

11 May 2017 . Two years after the elections which brought the coalition Government to power. The day was Social Cohesion Day. Citizens travelling on the East Coast were not feeling the social cohesion. They vented about about the traffic jam caused by Ansa McAl and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. Ansa McAl was giving an arch to Guyana. They had to hurry up with the installation because big ones were going to be in Guyana.

According to a Stabroek News article , Ansa Mcal and the Ministry did not ‘expect this”. A lot of coalition supporters have been saying this about many other things that the Government is doing or not doing. And ‘this’ is not about pleasant surprises.

Ansa McAl and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure changed their plans and freed up the road. The damage was done already as with so many things which cannot be fixed with apologies.

The frightening thing about the episode on 11 May 207, the second anniversary of the coalition government is the apparent lack of thought into the decision. What other decisions are the nice Minister Patterson making for which he is not anticipating the consequences? Are other Ministers making similar decisions without any assessment of consequences?

Any commuter would have told the Minister and Ansa McAl not to block the East Coast and the East Bank Roads on week days. What other projects are being implemented without sufficient thought and consultation with citizens? Which Government initiatives have changed in design after ‘consultation’ with citizens?

But vanity projects seem vital to the administration. I have had to protest other Ansa McAl structures around the country with sexist messages . Cynic that I am, I imagined that the apologies were written in advance of the disruption and did not take them seriously.

Maybe Ansa McAl in redeeming itself would move to announcing which Guyanese brands and products they are distributing around the Caribbean.

And maybe Guyana will have an arch somewhere in Trinidad & Tobago soon.

Minister Patterson has been accountable to the public on more than one occasion. His apology is nice and different from the contempt showed by the Attorney General Basil Williams who refuses to apologise to Justice Franklin Holder.

Two years into the coalition government and the legacy of the chatree coolie seems to continue over at the Attorney General’s chambers. It seems as though more is to come unless the AG’s advisory council intervenes.

Citizens can expect further disruptions. There will be some apologies. Other times there will be no apology, but fascinating explanations.

Like the unexpected expansion of barricades around Parliament on the day before the 2nd anniversary. Citizens are frustrated as they had to find their buses to go home. And some are laughing. The Guyana Police Force apparently believes that somebody will attack the parliament. It might have been an All Fool’s Day Joke on the 11 May, 2017.

But the Police apparently are serious. Citizens then will soon come to resent the disruption when parliament is in session. Maybe Parliament should meet on a Sunday then. There was a threat on the President’s life. Some citizens were vicious in their rantings over who was plotting. No one has been charged as yet. The Police have been improving in some areas.

Solving crime

Crime Chief Blanhum has said that the police have been able to ‘solve’ more cases. His work on the Babita Sarjou murder investigation gained him public support. His boss was the man in charge of the investigation.

The trouble though is that the police is only one part of the justice system. The difficulty then comes in the convictions and prosecutions. And with an Attorney General who could refuse to apologise to the Judge, what else is going on after the police charge people? And what about the crimes which are not reported because the Crime Chief cannot be in every police station? And is how is the Government ensuring that the Crime Chief’s competence is held as an example throughout the GPF?

It would have been nice if these kinds of questions could be answered as part of a Government policy on free and open engagement with citizens. The man in charge of information is the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Nagamottoo’s use of our GYD 984,000 .

Sunday 14 May, 2017. There are full page centre page ads paid for with the permission of Prime Minister Nagamottoo. I get some costs for advertising from three newspapers which carried the paid advertisement. The total cost is approximately GYD 984,000.

The ads say that I have been experiencing less blackouts . This is a day after the third full day blackout in the last nine months or so.

I did not measure blackout during the PPP time. I had a sense in the last few years before the appointment of the Prime Minister that the blackouts had eased. We certainly did not have long periods. GPL and not the Prime Minister is responsible for accountability on blackouts. GPL might have data on the blackouts under various Presidents.

But, Prime Minister Nagamottoo spends a million dollars of taxpayers money to construct an alternative reality. Apparently, I should feel accomplished that I can experience long blackouts because the Prime Minister tells me they are less than before.

Minister Joe Harmon had said that public sector spending was being tightened .. reusing envelopes and so on. Is the money saved on envelopes being used in this misinformation project?

Different people will have different assessments of the Government. It gets complicated when you have to weigh up Minister Patterson’s willingness to apologise with the refusal of the Attorney General to do the same. Many people would agree to praise the efforts to keep the city clean.

There used to be a spot by the city constabulary office in Bourda Market which was always had a puddle of nasty water. That puddle has gone, and it is nice to walk on clean pavements after heavy rains. I keep looking for the re-emergence of the nasty puddle. But I have not seen it.

Other parts of the country have experienced flooding in the last two years, some of the first time. The flood on Saturday May 6, 2017 might have been caused by negligence of some city workers. Camp Street and other parts of Georgetown still floods.

Many citizens are happy with the improvements in passport processing.

I like how the water pressure increases sometimes at certain times of the day. The water though varies in quality.

Two years into the coalition Government, there is a variation in quality across the Government. Two years into the coalition Government, there is no sign of commitment from the coalition  to consistent quality across the Government. Otherwise, we would not be spending money on advertisements to tell us we are having ‘less blackouts’

RANDOM BITES

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon To buy or not to buy It is a hot afternoon in St Augustine, Trinidad. I had just stood in line to buy...