Guyana: We are a jokey country – By Leonard Gildarie

Guyana: We are a jokey country

Leonard Gildarie

More than a week ago, two Bourda vendors died after a crash involving a minibus that turned turtle, on the East Coast of Demerara. There was anger and then it was quickly forgotten.
On Vlissengen Road, a minibus slammed into a car and ended up in a nearby trench. A pregnant woman was among the persons rescued.

On Regent and Albert, an ambulance heading along Albert Street crashed into a minibus on Regent Street. A security camera video showed the horror.
This is a topic that we come to again and again.       

Forget me. Our policy makers, and politicians, on both sides of the divide, have to start opening their mouths. It should not all be fancy speeches at a bottomhouse meeting or roadside rally.
We have some real issues that our people are faced with. You are our representatives.
Yet we get lost in the red tape and bureaucracy and shrug these off, leaving it to the next person to address.

There is a really big problem happening on our roadways and there is deafening silence by the powers that be.

Six days a week I leave my home at Diamond and drive to Kaieteur News. I return in the evenings.

At Herstelling, one lane is invariably closed to traffic because of commercial activities taking place. A tyre shop, a hardware store and an auto repair shop are located a stone’s throw away from each other. Two of them happen to be people I know and respect. But we are talking here about the bigger picture. I will lose a few friends, but it comes with the territory.

Around the corner at Providence, the policemen are likely standing on the road with speed guns or stopping vehicles. It is random road checks, they say.

Here is the problem. It is all about traffic violations and not so much about crime control, as the policemen are not armed.

Nothing is being done about Herstelling and that one lane of traffic.

Daily, we see the madness on the roads. A minibus overtakes you, then suddenly signals to get into the corner to pick up a passenger. The drivers are stony-faced.

People would tell you stories about drivers with a Guinness or two, with a few drivers using marijuana.

Want to hear something shocking? Well, it is a public secret. Many of the minibus and hire car drivers have bought their licences.

Here is a simple way to find out. Pull them in, ask them how they got their licences. Want to go a little further? Administer the theoretical Drivers’ Licence test and see what happens.

Somebody has to bell the cat. The fact that many policemen and women own those minibuses should tell you about the reluctance to address the situation.
And while we are on this, why are we not thinking of a moratorium on the number of minibuses operating?

The government has been talking big buses.

We took some hard decisions with the sugar industry.

The fact is that is master plan to improve the city and rid the issues of transportation and parking.
One of the proposals was the barring of minibuses from parts of the city.

Rather, they would drop passengers off at designated areas and big buses would shuttle the passengers to different points. It would reduce the problems of congestion at key points, like Stabroek.

These are ideas that we need to seriously consider if we are talking about improving this country, taking it to the next level. Sometimes the right decision may not necessarily be the most popular decision.

I hold this country dear. We have taken on big companies – Rusal, Exxon and even BaiShanLin. We have taken the US, China and India to task because we believe that a better deal should be had.

On Friday, the Official Gazette of Guyana, which publishes notices for the Government, released a list of public officials in Guyana who failed to declare their assets.

According to the Integrity Commission Act, public officers should disclose their financial assets and liabilities on or before June 30, each year. When a public officer ceases to be a person in public life, he/she should disclose his/her assets and liabilities to the Commission within thirty days from the date that individual cease to be a person in public life.

It is very clear. Yet we have about 500 public officials whose names have been published for not complying.

Let me put it into perspective. As part of the tool to fight corruption in public office, many countries introduced the integrity laws. In essence, we want to know what our public officials, including politicians, own before they entered office or were appointed. We also want to know what they own after they left.

We know that there are many ingenious ways to hide assets, but it is a start.
Here is the eye pass.

We have heads of our institutions, including the Guyana Power and Light Inc.; the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and even GO-Invest, who are not complying.

Months ago, the Integrity Commission published names of the Permanent Secretaries who are not complying with filing a declaration of their assets.

Yes, we do have politicians too.

Here is another vexing angle. We are paying the Integrity Commission millions per year to operate, with a specific law passed empowering it to operate and do certain things.
I had long thought about the headline – “We are a jokey country”.

We are a proud people who are beginning to understand our worth. We have no choice than to protect this country, all that it stands for. We have some good things going. We have good examples of how not to do things. We also have people who are hell-bent on breaking the laws.

If our public officers, 163 according to the latest list, refuse to comply, what kind of message are we transmitting to the citizens of this country?

In fact, even the foreigners come here and do what they want.
I have good friends at GPL. The chief is a Jamaican. His name was listed as one of those who failed to declare his assets. Are we a jokey country?

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  • Kman  On March 11, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Your newspaper should list the names of the crooks on a monthly basis. This may garner some attention.

  • Trevor  On March 12, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    Leonard, if the Gog brings in the big buses, will that only exacerbate the unemployment as minibus drivers will lose their livelihoods?

    I agree, with all of this talk regarding how many millions of barrels of oil Exxon will suck dry daily, the roads are very dangerous.

    I believe that the wealthy foreigners don’t have to worry of dangerous driving as they live in gated communities along Liliendaal and Bel Air Gardens.

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