…futilityThe movie “Born on the 4th July”, was a mega hit because it hit a raw nerve in America back in 1989. It tells the story of a young man, born on the 4th July – the same as the US Republic, of course – who volunteers like a good patriot fresh out of high school for the Marines to fight in the Vietnam War. His coming-of-age in that crucible of imperialistic overreach, opened his eyes to the horror of war and their disconnect from those who are in the trenches.Caricom was also born on the 4th of July – and your Eyewitness knows that date wasn’t chosen through mere coincidence. Those WI leaders who decided to move beyond the opening gambit of CARIFTA – the Caribbean Free Trade Association, also intended to form “a more perfect union” – as the American “founding fathers”. Just a decade before, the WI Federation has fallen asunder under the inbuilt disabilities inserted by the British – and even Arthur Lewis couldn’t put it together again.But the leaders didn’t give up – first with CARIFTA and then Caricom. We were to be a COMMUNITY! Meaning WE West Indians were going to work together to make the dream of achieving developed country status a reality – starting on July 4, 1973. In 1989, when the movie hit the screens, Guyana had hit rock bottom – the then PNC Government had to go to the IMF on bended knees to bail us out. On that option, Burnham presciently had said “Over my dead body!!”But we had to swallow their bitter (poisonous?) medicine – we were vying with Haiti for the “lowest on the totem pole” award! So, you’d think we’d be one of the most vociferous supporter of Caricom – if for nothing else than “there’s strength in numbers” and all that, no? And we were! WE stretched ourselves above and beyond to make our contributions – even housing the Secretariat here. But what did we get? Free movement of citizens? How about that “Guyanese bench” at Barbados airport? Investment in our agricultural land? How about cutting their nose to spite their face by dropping “The Jagdeo Initiative”?? etc…etc…So there comes a time, when – like that veteran in the movie – we have to look at this whole Caricom venture a bit more dispassionately and see what it’s doing to us. Now that we’ve struck oil, we can expect everyone and their uncle in Caricom to vie to become our “besties”. Nothing wrong with that – but we have to evaluate who allowed us to have some dignity in the bad old days.And who kicked us into the dirt!…”assishness”We’ve frequently had occasion to mourn, like the character from Dickens, that surely the law isn’t an “ass” for taking some ridiculous stand or another. Like jailing a fella for simply having raw materials for a decent spliff in his possession! But it looks like there are folks in our society who’re determined to ensure the identity of “assishness” and the law.Take the fellows at SOCU. They’ve already made asses of themselves for filing a charge against ex-AG Anil Nandlall for 14 Law Reports costing the grand sum of US$2500 – when it was clear they had no case – and in any case, had already spent 10 times the US$2500!! But now comes the quintessence of SOCU’s “assishness”.They filed request for a “search warrant” for the law reports to a Magistrate. But when Nandlall pointed out the High Court had already issued a prohibition against seizing the “Commonwealth Law Reports” they claimed they were actually looking for ‘Law Reports of the Commonwealth’!! Can you believe that?Is this a comedy routine or what??…elitismYour Eyewitness has to concur with that letter writer who claims the NGSA simply reinforces class distinctions, since it assumes at least a middle class background.But, he has to ask…”What’s the solution?”
Just like that, Christmas 2019 is here. My family and I wish every one of our Guyanese sisters and brothers a blessed Christmas and a joyous holiday season. We are hopeful that in some way, no matter how small, every family can find something that brings happiness and celebration. Guyana has always been a country where Christmas is a unifying time, when all Guyanese share in the festivities. Christians will observe with religious significance, but they will be joined by other Guyanese in the festivities. Christmas is a visible evidence of Guyanese living in, and revelling in, religious harmony. I am therefore confident that we will put aside our many differences, whether political, cultural, religious or other, to have a joyous holiday season 2019.Christmas 2019 comes at a time when hopes are high, but when despair also clouds our entry into 2020. Some will argue, rightfully, that hope and despair are always partners in our lives, and every Christmas season finds us with both hope and despair. But Christmas 2019 is more pregnant with the presence of hope and despair, their co-existence being more pronounced than ever before. Thus, when Guyanese celebrate this Christmas season, they will harbour the exhilarating possibilities of hope for a better future for Guyana and for families living everywhere in our country. At the same time, there is the sinking feeling of despair as we face the many challenges that have knotted our forward trajectory into a more prosperous country.We are more hopeful than usual this Christmas 2019, because Guyana is now officially an oil-producing country. Oil brings wealth, and this can only raise the hopes that every Guyanese citizen has for not just a better future for Guyana, not just for a handful, but for every citizen, no matter where they live, no matter which political party they support, no matter which religion, no matter whether they are presently employed or not, no matter what their personal economic circumstance might be.There are sound reasons why oil has brought and heightened the hopes we have in our bosoms. In one whirlwind swoop, Guyana has doubled its economy. In 2019, our per capita GDP was just US$4,500. In 2020, it will likely be almost US$10,000 per capita. Our country’s overall GDP will bounce up from about US$5B to US$10B. This is a whopping increase, and rarely in the history of the world has such enormous economic movement occurred with such swiftness.Hopefully, this new-found wealth will not leave anyone out; that, in some way, every Guyanese citizen, no matter their age, will benefit. Oil wealth brings enough equity to meaningfully change the lives of all of our citizens.So, as we celebrate Christmas, there are high hopes in every corner of our country, and this should make Christmas 2019 very special.But amidst the euphoria of hope that oil presents this Christmas, there are obvious reasons for despair. Our oil resources are being managed, so far, in a way that clearly is incompetent and clueless enough to dim the high hopes we embrace. There is a sinking feeling we might have given away our oil, and that the wealth of oil will not benefit every Guyanese; in fact, leave too many Guyanese behind. There already appears too much corruption tied to oil, such that our country will produce oil but the vast majority of citizens will become poorer, as in Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and other countries. There is a sinking feeling that citizens of other countries will benefit more than Guyanese. We are still hopeful that oil will transform Guyana and the lives of Guyanese, but this hope is dimmed by the despair on how our Government is managing oil.As Christmas 2019 swoops down on us, our celebration is muted by knowledge that, for the first time since 1926 — that is, 95 years ago — Guyana will not produce 100,000 tons of sugar. In fact, 2019 will be a rare year, since it will be one of only three years that Guyana has failed to produce 100,000 tons of sugar since 1876; that is, for almost 150 years.In the throes of this shame, more than 7,000 sugar workers are living day to day without a job, their children not able to go to school, their Government abandoning them, never taking a single day since 2016 to visit them to reassure them. Clearly, the hope that oil brings is dimmed by the prospect that things can only get worse for the sugar communities. In fact, there is that feeling that this Government is deliberately setting sugar up for failure as an excuse to end sugar in Guyana.Unfortunately, sugar workers will celebrate Christmas with the ugly possibility that 2020 will see another dramatic downsizing of sugar.In 2019, Guyanese witnessed the absolute raping of the constitution, flagrant violation of many laws by our Government, spiralling crime, our roads being a death trap, our Government trying to rig elections again. After almost three decades of a democracy, during which we ended hunger in Guyana, we see hunger reappearing as dictatorship re-emerges. That is why this Christmas is being celebrated with both hope and despair together.