Country above Self – letter by Major General (retd) Joseph G Singh

Dear Editor,  [letter by Major General (retd) Joseph G Singh]

Retired Major General Joseph Singh

Retired Major General Joseph Singh

Country above Self

In February 2013, a few days after the shooting by ‘youth men’ of Mr Oscar Clarke, General Secretary of the People’s National Congress in his home at Plum Park, Sophia, I wrote two letters to the Editor and in one of these (February 5, 2013) I stated:

“Times have changed. Institutions that were working at the time of Independence were retooled, politicised and centralised and we the people became alienated from grass roots structures (such as Village Councils) because most were unrepresentative of communities. Citizens then spent more time looking after themselves and those with resources created their own safe havens, in splendid isolation from the realities of community life – the infiltration by narco-traffickers, the rise of truancy among youth, the increasing incidence of absentee fathers, the dilemma of mothers who, by default, became the breadwinners of the family, the deteriorating infrastructure because of ‘fly by night contractors’, and the rise of subcultures that attracted the youth men and women”. 

Almost two years later, the institutions which had become dysfunctional, remain largely so – testimony in great measure, to the negative consequences of political gridlock and intransigence. The youth men and women have now graduated from being urban ‘Foot Bandits’  who attacked Mr. Oscar Clarke in this own home, to  ‘young men on bicycles’ – given the name ‘Bicycle Bandits’ by rural residents of  new housing areas at Zeelugt, Tuschen, Diamond, Republic Park and elsewhere, to the ‘Car Bandits’ who brutally and callously shot to death a Security Guard at Sterling Products Limited, and to  the ‘Hinterland Bandits’ operating by boat and off- road vehicles, who killed a shop owner I knew at Mango Landing, Essequibo River.

The geographical dispersion of these most recent criminal activities is an indication of the increasing intelligence gathering capability, mobility, and bare-faced arrogance with which persons bent on criminality seem prepared to counter the deployment of private security guards, law enforcement patrols, road blocks, check points and CCTV cameras. Those of us reading the daily coverage of criminality that reports on the murders of citizens, such as security guard Wilfred Stewart and shop owner Linden McAlmon, and injuries to many others, may have unwittingly developed a fatalistic immunity to these examples of man’s inhumanity to man because of what is being played out in other jurisdictions such as in St Louis and Michigan USA, Mosul in Iraq and Damascus in Syria, and of the death toll from viruses in parts of Africa and from weather related disasters occurring with increasing frequency in many parts of this planet.

But what of the two daughters and unborn child of Wilfred Stewart and their mother, and Linden McAlmon’s children and his wife Maureen? What if we who now read this piece were the victims, and our children, wives, husbands and partners were faced with the trauma of being bereft of their fathers, husbands, wives and partners in this the season of goodwill?

If lower crime statistics are a reasonably accurate indicator that the society should feel safer and more secure, the recent incidents are cold comfort to the relatives and friends of the victims whose lives have been viciously terminated by those who are interested in quick returns for least effort or who are being manipulated by behind the scenes puppet masters.

Political gridlock has had its debilitating impact on a long suffering citizenry, desperately hoping for respite from the endless vilification, the quirks, the angst and the vitriol emanating from all political camps. This is exacerbated by reported acts of irresponsibility in the management of our national assets, of self aggrandisement and cronyism, downright chicanery and political buffoonery which overshadow the good works, largely unheralded and unreported,  being done by  committed and conscientious labourers in the public vineyard. The net effect is that the deficit in governance and the acts of criminality are taking their toll on the morale and tolerance level of peace loving Guyanese.

Incidents of violent crime, road kills, domestic violence, white collar crime and corruption, fragmentation of family units and degradation of the cohesiveness of communities, are symptomatic of a more insidious malaise in the national character. It is facilitated by the political grandstanding and unwillingness to cede ground in a magnanimous national effort to resolve systemic issues plaguing the society. It contributes to the growing disillusionment among many of our youth and recent graduates from secondary and tertiary institutions, who despair of realising their true potential as individuals and as professionals in the country of their birth.

If this is truly a season of goodwill and we are sincere in our exchanges of greetings and good wishes, then we should also look forward expectantly to  some morale-boosting manifestations of  the highest levels of statesmanship, political astuteness, receptivity to advocacy and magnanimity, in the cause of national unity and Guyana’s development for all.

This should be complemented by all faith-based organisations practicing a model of liberation theology – the kind that took root and blossomed in our region during the 1970s and 1980s, that will identify with good governance, and finding creative solutions to the issues that affect the poor, the vulnerable, the homeless, the jobless, the traumatised women and children, and the marginalised in our society.

I republish for emphasis, an extract of what I wrote in February 2013:

“We must accept our collective responsibility now and demonstrate that we have the capacity, commitment and desire to uplift this country we call home. We must empower ourselves to arrest the slide and demand much of ourselves and those in authority, who have been elected to serve us”.

As the Head of the UN Children’s Fund is reported to have said last Monday:

“The world is more divided politically among and within nations than ever before… and …. the foundations of the future would be built in the hearts and minds of children, not the physical infrastructure of schools”. 

I am not a pessimist.  I have experienced positive occurrences in different parts of our country and witnessed at firsthand how these have impacted on the lives and livelihoods of people. But there should be no denying that there are systemic issues to be resolved by our collective efforts. Now is as good a time as any for us to re-group, re-engage and  re-double our efforts at shaping a caring, enlightened and civil Guyanese society that will work in unity and harmony with unselfish and responsible leaders at all levels who can be relied upon to put institution, village, district, region and country, above self.

Yours sincerely

 Joseph G Singh

 Major General (retd)

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Comments

  • Milo  On 12/12/2014 at 1:10 am

    I commend Major Joseph Singh. What a timely article. Well structured, written and on point. Excellent work! Great!

    >

  • H.Bovell  On 12/12/2014 at 9:58 am

    Thanks Joe.Our short sighted leaders cannot see what a beautiful country Guyana is.All they care about is filling their pockets.The trouble is whatever you sow so shall you reap.It will fall on their children and children’s childrenThey will never enjoy what they have reaped.

  • N.Augustus  On 12/12/2014 at 4:40 pm

    In the end is is the willingness of the individual think indendently and look at the facts available and demand that those seeking to lead, demonistrate their ability to lead or lose their support. Unfortunatelyy race have been used to blind voters to what should be apparent to them in listening to self styled lleaders. Given a small ;po;pulation and significant resources, Guyana could be one of the 50 best ;places in this world within 10 to 15 years. The leaders simply seek positions of power for themselves not jobs for their followers, while feeding them fear or mariginalization to their followers. I refuse to believe that the opposition could not have done better with their power in parliament thru better negoitations with a minority government to improve projects and ;programs to benefit their supporters. They have simply become the party of No, like the republicans in the US, instead of maybe or if this is dine then we will do that. Unfortunately, the AFC bitterness towards the PPP and their desire ito destroy them do not allow the APNU any room to negoitate anyting, so all wait for the defeat ot the PPP some day, rather than seeking as much concessios now as possible. So far the opposition with all their lawyers have not be able to prosecute anyone for the roported corruption or improve,one ;project or program, only complian about them. Guyana needs b etter governments and opposition or things will remain in some form of chaos. Jest saying, time to see the man in the mirror.

  • caramentwrickford dalgetty  On 12/12/2014 at 5:52 pm

    I always enjoy reading Major Singh’s letters. They’re the type of offerings that can only come from proud and committed Guyanese. Yet I remain sure that his call to commitment will fall upon and bounce off the hardened ears of the political sycophants occupying seats of power and leadership but producing nothing in the national interest. Major, if you read this I would like to see your articulation on a more open style democracy where all the people participate, or have the opportunity to, in multi-candidate primary elections. The Westminister style parliamentary democracy has not worked for us….we need new options. Thanks.

  • Joseph G Singh  On 12/12/2014 at 8:27 pm

    Dear Ms Carmen thank you. A reformed Constitution and a reformed Electoral System at National and Local Government levels are the instruments that will ensure genuine people participation in the affairs of State and give credence to Article 13 of the current Constitution i.e. The involvement of Civil Society in the governance process. Warmest regards. Major General Joe.

  • Joseph G Singh  On 12/12/2014 at 8:30 pm

    Apology for previous comment if I got your name and gender incorrect. It should have been CW Dalgetty.

    • caramentwrickford dalgetty  On 12/12/2014 at 10:10 pm

      No harm General…You’re a Major General…you’re allowed a mistake or two…but not on the battle field…lol. I am hopeful that soon the politically progressive in our community would rise up and clamour for the overthrow of our political/electoral system. The arbitrariness of “the list” continues to bother me: simply because the folks thereon are not elected; rather, they’re selected. I know you’ve done yeoman service on behalf of Guyana already but I still think you are uniquely placed to lead a continuous advocacy for a new electoral system…let the parliamentary membership at every level be elected by popular vote…let the votes in parliament really represent the will of each members’ constituents…let the votes be the conscience and aspirations of the PEOPLE; not by partisan dictate. We have to try something else to make the parliamentary membership more accountable to the community. Please continue to write. My actual initials are W. A. Dalgetty. That C actually stands for CARAMENT – CARIBBEAN AMERICAN MUSICIANS AND ENTERTAINERS NETWORK.

  • Joseph G Singh  On 12/13/2014 at 11:38 am

    Dear WA – many thanks for your corrections and for your perspectives. I do believe that the reforms should have been concluded before any elections. This is now unlikely but the electorate should agitate for which ever political construct takes on the reins of government, to commit to the reform process being given priority so that Local Government Elections are held under new dispensation.
    BTW are you related to Tom? Warmest regards. MG

    • wrickford dalgetty  On 12/14/2014 at 11:57 am

      Yes. He’s my uncle. Thanks for your responses.

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