Lost and found minds in Guyana

Lost and found minds in Guyana

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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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