Guyana Visionaries

Visionaries Inspiring Sucess In Our Nation - Guyana

Friday, February 17, 2006

Defending My Spiritual Convictions

Those who have discussed religion with me, often disagreeing with with me, when asked about my religious views opine that I am a contrarian. It's probably a nice way of saying that I do not confirm to what they consider to be the conventional in terms of religious expression. I do not belong to or favor any particular organized Christian denominational group. As a matter of fact, I am turned off by the ever increasing expansivness and materiality that today seem fashionable as expressions of Christian fidelity. I am merely one who finds comfort in the essential message of Christianity, the one that emphasizes humility, charity, peacemaking, love, forgiveness and all of those unpopular values delivered by the first and only true Christian to the multitudes at the foot of a mountain. So maybe I am a contrarian, maybe I am unconventional. Still, I suffer no pangs of regret from being dislocated from a pattern of expression in which beating on the chest and praying loudly is popular. I find great solace in my little dark cupboard each day where my communication with my spiritual advisor and mentor is private and exclusive.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Guyana Gazette

The contributors to this blog along with a few other individuals have launched The Guyana Gazette - an Online Guyanese Newspapers.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Turning The Curve

Within a matter of hours after the official launching of Guyana‘s newest political party, I was able to log into my favorite cyber space room, the GTF Forum, and connect pictorially with those happenings. Yep, our own Bryanmaxx, ever conscious and thoughtful of the diasporian interest in important happenings in our beautiful country, used the agency of technology to bring the mountain to Mahomet so to speak. Isn’t the internet just wonderful? The following day on accessing the various newspapers sites I was pleased to see that the two independent dailys appropriately made that launching the feature presentation on their front page. However, surprise, surprise, I accessed the one paper that is ex officio the property of all the people of Guyana and found that for them it was a matter of politics as usual. The headlines for that day read, MISTERY BOAT FIND IN BUXTON. I will leave the grammatical sorting of that headline to the experts and maybe knit pickers among us, but just for the hell of it would like to throw out this question to the nation at large. Don’t you-all think that when a State run nationally owned newspaper pre-empts the launching of a new political party on a turbulent political scene such as ours, with news about the discovery of an inflatable rubber dinghy, you-all should seriously consider adding your voices to the call for immediate removal of this nationally owned asset from the hands of its public caretakers? Just asking a question.

With the official launching of two new political entities, namely, The Guyana Third Force (GTF) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) now completed, I am driven to ponder another question. And that revolves around whether these recent developments in our political culture are indicators that we are finally turning the curve, and moving away from a baseline of race inflected notions and perceptions seemingly indigenous to our pattern of selecting national leadership. Because despite the fact that we have a history of coalitions, and mergers, and coming together of various political organizations and players, this time there is an aura of expectancy and hopefulness at a level we have never experienced before.

Recent polls and census results have triggered a slew of brass faced and facetious pronunciations from some politicians, to wit, that this whole idea that we are a nation that hibernate into ethnic enclaves during elections is a myth, or conjured up explanation to deny the in-roads they are making into non-traditional constituencies. Well, if you live in Guyana, or have ever done so for a considerable period over the past fifty years or thereabouts, and you still believe that kind of crap, then I have a nice piece of land sandwiched between Brick-dam, Water, Hadfield and High Streets I would like to sell to you. And the price is set at rock bottom on the real estate market. Look, we face a dilemma of which race is the most prominent feature, as is often commented on by the leader of ROAR. Burying our heads in the ground like an ostrich and ignoring it is not an adult manner of dealing with this aversive situation. That would be appropriate if we all were infants and had not yet figured out that things do exist even when we cover eyes to hide from them.

As I contemplate the emergence of two new options for the Guyanese electorate, the questions in the forefront of my mind are, what will it take to make that decisive turn at this crucial juncture of our political history? And what strategy can these two new political organizations adopt that will facility a 360 degree revolution in our political behavior? It is not too difficult to come up with answers for the first question. We have to be moved away from the practice of voting for a party because primarily it is associated with our particular racial grouping. We have to be motivated to begin thinking about the kind of Government we desire in terms of its ideological leanings, and economical outlook. We have to be encouraged to seriously accept our obligation to prepare a better and more people friendly social environment for our kids and their kids. In other words, we have to be influenced into superimposing issues like crime, jobs, healthcare, education et al, above the operand of race as the main determinant of how and why we will vote. The strategy for getting us there is what will be difficult.

In the letter column of an independent daily of Thursday November 3rd, 2005, a contributor, very frustrated with the way things are going, claimed that he voted for change in 1992 and it got him nothing. In fact he was worse off than he was before he voted, and he was mourning the death of a parent whose passing was incidental to the economic travails they had experienced. He said he would not “vote for change” again, but would base his choice on a number of things he illustrated. This, to me, is a microcosm of the kind of mindsets the two new political entities will have to tackle. They somehow have to make people, driven to frustration and skepticism about promises made by politicians pre 1992, understand the difference between a change of garment and driver, to a change of direction and a new car. Obviously, the GTF and AFC will secure the services of better minds than ours, we pontificators in the letter columns of newspapers and in forums on the internet. And they will face the unenviable task of developing a strategic message that connects with the rank and file of our people, in order to lure them away from this current pattern of selecting Governmental Leadership.

Keith R Williams
Atlanta, Georgia.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Journalists Under Attack

A surefire symptom that democracy in a nation is under threat is when attempts are made to silence the press from exposing malfeasance in public institutions, and other politically sensitive situations. Governments of this modern era react frantically to scandals or perceived scandals involving their administrations, and journalists who take seriously their equivalent of the medical Hippocratic oath, often find themselves in the sights of zealous governmental and political operatives out to silence their voices, or the messages they are in the course of delivering.

In the US, an investigation is being conducted over the leaking of an intelligence operative’s name to the media. Her husband disagreed with certain claims leading up to the Iraq war, and wrote an OP ED piece in the New York Times in that regard. Apparently in retaliation, as the story goes, she was outed to Administration friendly journalists, and one proceeded to publish her identity in his weekly column. Fortunately in the US, no one, not even a President is immune from the law, as Nixon’s political demise because of his conduct in the Watergate Burglary evidences.

Literally hundreds of journalists have been assassinated this year, either by government agencies or by insurgency forces. Although the killing of prominent ones like Paul Klebnikov, who was an American and associated with Forbes Magazine among other publications, receive world wide coverage, the passing of the vast majority fall by the wayside, except for mention in the obituaries in the annals of NGOs like “Reporters Without Borders”. Like Arnulfo Villanueve, a columnist for a community newspaper in the Philippines who was apparently gunned down in February for criticizing local officials for their involvement in illegal gambling. Or Relangi Selvarajah, a popular Tamil broadcaster who, along with her activist husband, was gunned down in Colombo Sri Lanka in August. Incidentally Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was assassinated on the same day, and the Government is pointing fingers at the Tamil Elam organization for all three killings. But be that as it may, the fact is that journalists committed to bringing the truth to public view too often find themselves in cross hairs of forces averse to having their dirty laundry exposed.

I am writing this because of a disturbing report I read in a Guyanese Independent Daily recently. And it is indicative of a belief, not overtly widespread at the moment but perceptually growing, that the State is uncomfortable with scrutiny of its performance. In this report action that is internationally acceptable in the course of a journalistic investigation was being categorized by Officialdom as a crime. And what cements the notion that these kinds of reactions are panicky and frantic is the fact that the “man in the street” already knew what was going on. I will not castigate the individual official who lost sight of discretion in response to a scandalous situation. I kind of liked his confrontational approach to the villains who issued threats to him because of his investigations. But what I would like to say to him and others carrying the chalice of power is that; "you set the tone for peoples’ reaction to journalist involved in a justifiable expression of their trade". "Threats of prosecution being leveled against them in such pursuits, are no different than threats issued against you yourselves when you are in lawful execution of your official functions". "THINK".

A human society, in a broad sense, consist of three elementary groups of people. (1) Officialdom, represented by institutions of Government and Politics. (2) The Press, all aspects of media dedicated to information gathering and proliferation, and (3) The Public, comprising every soul detached from the previous two. Although in a democracy it is routinely claimed that power reside in the hands of the last group, in reality, particularly in developing nations, that power can generally be exercised sans restraint by the first group. The limiting agency, or restraint on the first group is the second group, the press, comprising journalists and reporters who are the gatherers and disseminators of information to the public. They are the un-official private detectives who keep tabs on the doings of Officialdom and report what is appropriate and important to the public. They are the referees who keep a keen eye on the interaction between Officialdom and the Public in order to ensure that there is no hitting below the belt or gouging so to speak. They are the eyes and ears, and when necessary voice of a Public, who, too often, are blind and deaf to the machinations of those they placed into power and pay from their taxes, and absent the means of vocalizing their complaints and concerns. A free and independent press, through the agency of courageous, fair and objective journalism fills this vacuum in the power equation between the group inaugurated into office to govern, and the masses in the category by whose leave they do govern

Keith R Williams
Atlanta, Georgia

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Will ideology play any role in the next election?

I have little doubt about the veracity of pollster, Vishnu Bisram's NACTA July-August sample polling that shows, if the elections were held today, the PPP would cart off 45% of the votes to the PNC's 35%, and other smaller parties 10%, while another 10% of the votes could be up for grabs.

Outside of the not-so-surprising revelation that "the newly formed AFC is attracting a significant following and could hold the balance of power...with 6% (voters) support, which, when combined with the other mini-parties poll about 12%," what I want to address immediately is the statement in the news item: "Most Indians distrust the PNC and will stick with the PPP to keep the PNC out of office."

This distrust obviously stemmed, not only from the PNC's past as a party in government, but in recent post-election upheavals that threatened to turn civil society on its head with Indians always being targeted for physical and business attacks.

Perhaps hoping to use the concept of 'making Guyana ungovernable' to pull the PPP regime to consider shared governance, the PNC's strategy backfired, much to the relief of the PPP, which can now quietly point to the above quoted statement that its mission of exploiting the racial insecurity of its Indian support base could assure it being re-elected in 2006.

Note, however, that 'most Indians' are more likely to vote for the PPP to simply ensure the PNC is kept out. But this whole notion of voting for a party in order to keep out another party defeats the whole purpose of governing by shared vision. Now, once this is done on Election Day, what's next? I'll tell you what's next, the party that wins goes on to do its own thing in power, not really caring about the electorate's concerns, because the electorate did not vote for it on the basis of issues, but on the basis of racial insecurity.

That is why it is so darn disturbing and irritating that after Burnham's failed socialist policies and the collapse of communism under the Soviet Union, the PPP has the temerity to say it is adhering to socialist principles as its vehicle to move the country.

In fact, I have long been asking whether the lethargic pace of socio-economic recovery and growth is attributable to the ruling party's communist leaning, because this snail-paced movement fits in neatly with a plan to keep Guyana on a slow-growth rate with the hope of showing that free or open market system is not working, so Guyana should then link up Cuba and Venezuela and other ambitious socialist forces in the region.

Now, what would be interesting to know is what potential voters think of the PPP now that it has gone public with its claim to be a socialist/communist party? Will the ideological position of the main contenders matter to voters in the 2006 elections? More specifically, will 'most Indians' still vote for a communist PPP just to keep out a 'distrusted PNC', knowing communism has failed or is bad for Guyana, but that it is still being foisted on the nation because 'most Indians' who are uncomfortable with a PNC regime will automatically vote anyway for a PPP regime?

Before I end, permit me to state my deep concern over the publicity surrounding the convergence of the ‘smaller parties’ at a time when a viable Third Force, to be called the Alliance For Change, is getting ready to make its grand entrance on the political scene.

Yes, I know parties have a right to meet and form alliances, wherever and whenever and with whomever, but this particular timing could not have been worse. For the past few months, observers have been glued for new developments regarding the Third Force, but the ‘smaller parties’ calling a meeting the same month or around the same time of the Third Force being officially launched, it’s as though the ‘smaller parties’ want to steal the Third Force’s thunder.

This is divisive behaviour and it plays well into the open arms of the ruling party, which can point to undecided or swing voters that opponents are fragmented, and therefore will not be able to mount a serious challenge to the formidable PPP.

I would have preferred if the Third Force got launched, making its manifesto clear and plain to all, and if the ‘smaller parties’ – which already existed and need no grand introduction - feel they, too, have a manifesto, then go right ahead and make their case. If, per chance, the Third Force and the ‘smaller parties’ share a similar vision, then look for common ground on which to work together.

With the meeting already taken place, I would now settle for the leadership of the Third Force going ahead with its blueprint for the party and the nation, while the leaders of the ‘smaller parties’ can do likewise. However, I am against any attempt at this early stage to link the Third Force with the ‘smaller parties’ because the Third Force was born of a peculiar set of circumstances at a time when Guyanese are deeply frustrated with both the PPP and the PNC. This is a turning point moment in Guyana’s politics, and the momentum is with the Third Force.