GUYANA: Living In The Chaotic Republic of Guyana – commentary

Stabroek News

By Stabroek News Editorial – June 4, 2022

Wanting order in one’s life is a universal human desire. No normal person wants chaos. In our personal lives we want and work towards states of order. Ideally we keep our homes and surroundings clean; we look to create harmony and predictability within and outside of our families; we save for our children’s university, for our old age. We are constantly securing ourselves against the chaos and uncertainties that life throws at us.

In developed countries citizens pay taxes and in return the state assists them in varying degrees from state pension plans to free tertiary education, free and quality healthcare. The French state will pay for its citizens to spend three weeks at a therapeutic spa. La belle vie! In one respect Covid-19 has been a blessing as it has finally concentrated the minds of Western politicians, after years of Darwinian capitalism, towards the protection and economic welfare of their citizens through significant disbursements and other reliefs.       

Much of what governments and municipalities do surrounds the simple and pretty basic maintenance of order. Creating and enforcing zoning regulations, disposing of garbage and cleaning neighbourhoods. The judiciary and police play an important part in the maintenance of an orderly society from punishing “disorderly behaviour” in its broadest sense be that deviant driving to noise nuisances.

Civilised societies are founded upon order. The Brazilian motto on its flag is “Ordem e Progresso” – order and progress – and springs from a quote by science-based positivist philosopher France’s Auguste Comte (1798 -1857): ”Love as a principle and order as the basis; Progress as the goal”.

It is important however not to conflate what is an emphasis by governments on order with authoritarianism. While fascists and to some extent conservatives do like to promote their ability to maintain order especially when it comes to crime, they certainly do not have a stranglehold on it. Yes, Mussolini was said to have made the trains run on time in Italy but so did many other democratic countries and Italy still does today despite having a tumultuous democracy that has seen 69 governments since World War II. Orderliness should be about creating the framework for a harmonious society: a commuter knows the train will be on time so has no need to barge past his fellow worker.

By now the reader will be getting an idea where this is heading….little to none of this exists in Guyana let alone any trains. In fact the state contributes to this disorder with frequent blackouts, water-outs, traffic mismanagement, a “bankrupt” national insurance scheme…among a multitude of incompetencies. In short this country is very, very badly run.

And as we get older we need more order. We become physically vulnerable and rely more on healthcare and other social services. This may be why so few Guyanese physically remigrate despite the exhortations of this government. Having fled the disorder of their homeland decades past and then been cocooned in systems that care for them, coming home and expecting a peaceful, stress-free retirement they often experience a shock to endure a bureaucracy that is non-responsive and often unjust.  Case in point was that of the Suttons who, having begged for and bought a house lot from the relevant ministry for $6M in 2020, were told two years later that their documents could not be found.

At this point we must stick a pin and acknowledge that as citizens we contribute greatly in big and small ways to this chaos through anti-social and delinquent behaviour. We park and double park wherever we wish, drive drunk and/or recklessly, we vend on city sidewalks, we play loud music wherever and whenever, evade taxes, steal electricity, launder money, smuggle chicken, liquor, cigarettes…the list goes on. But it is the state that is duty bound to regulate our activities.

The burden of this chaos falls most squarely on Guyana’s underclass who do not have the means to insulate themselves through such luxuries as water tanks, generators, private cars, schools or hospitals. And of this demographic it is the women who bear the most burden. Comfortable readers of this newspaper may have gotten a sense of this through accounts of the deaths of the three children of Tracy Flue, a young mother living in Barnwell, Mocha backdam. Apart from being a personal tragedy it is a microcosm of how the complete lack of social services, police protection and basic infrastructure led to the avoidable deaths of her children.

According to her statements to the press, she was in an abusive relationship which she had reported to the police to no avail. She had no child care so resorted, inadvisably, to securing her children in her home and going off to her security job each night. The house caught fire. The fire service responded but the state of the dam meant they were unable to reach the home. The children perished. Many have since lamented and prayed over this avoidable tragedy but it is not out of the ordinary and it was not an accident. It is the perfect intersection of the state’s neglect for its people.

The government with its sudden bags full of oil money, likes to talk about “people-centred development”. It’s one of those slogans politicians like to utter that has zero actual meaning. And in fact this administration’s current emphasis on “transformational infrastructure” – another empty epithet – such as bridges, highways and even a stadium for Berbice – will not address a single factor that led to these three children’s deaths nor the real hardships of working class Guyanese. Nor will the $1.9B giveaway to miners and all the other ad hoc handouts. Because this is not about money, it is about understanding what are the issues surrounding the deaths of these children and all the other tragedies then building and staffing fully funded social welfare systems to address them. It is the kind of hard work that is simply beyond their capabilities and one suspects that this is not a priority.

The President’s pet motto “One Guyana” is similarly vacuous. Of course we should aspire to unite as one people but really in our everyday lives racial tensions pale in comparison to the lack of order and the daily injustices of living in a deeply dysfunctional society.  It is why some in this country unfortunately wax nostalgic for colonial times. That is misguided but what has been lost since independence has been order. And not all of this descent into chaos can be attributed to the country’s economic decline. There are many other poor countries that are simply better run. Moreover what is becoming clearer is that all this oil money will not restore order. Instead we are moving from a very poor disordered state to a very rich disordered state. What will be the politicians’ excuse then?

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  • Bernard  On 06/05/2022 at 1:37 am

    “… readers of this newspaper may have gotten a sense of this (tragedy) through accounts of the deaths of the three children of Tracy Flue, a young mother living in Barnwell, Mocha backdam.”

    The Ali administration must act quickly to implement a social security system to prevent a recurrence of this type of horrible tragedy.

    No mother or father should be forced to lock their little children alone in the house at night while they go to work.

    One may ask why Tracy Flue couldn’t find a family member or a friend to look after the children for her while she went to work at night. But this is easier said than done.

    In my view, there should be emergency shelters available all across the country where parents like Tracy can temporarily drop off their children at night till proper arrangements can be made to protect the children.

    Some of Guyana’s oil wealth should be spent on social reform to assist parents in dire straits. The government can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    They can damn well build roads and bridges and emergency shelters at the same time.

  • theonly  On 06/06/2022 at 11:57 am

    It is the perfect intersection of the state’s neglect for its people.Dont blame the state for the death of those children, blame the father. When my uncle was in charge of this country no one would even think of blaming the state for any wrongdoings.

    • Mike Persaud  On 06/06/2022 at 5:12 pm

      Age: “When my uncle was in charge of this country no one would even think of blaming the state for any wrongdoings”

      I assume by uncle you mean Burnham. The country was in crisis under that Election Rigger, people couldn’t leave the country fast enough, food shortages everywhere and many were on the brink of starvation.

      It was by far the worst period in the country’s post-Independence years.


  • Dennis Albert  On 06/06/2022 at 12:15 pm

    The government giving vouchers, while the fried rice price going up in tandem. The elite always win.

    That’s why you see those 6 to 9 storey buildings, being constructed as if they were valued at the price it was fifty years ago.

    The M&CC is unable to get the true taxes for those tall buildings, while we Guyanese fight for the scraps.

  • Dennis Albert  On 06/07/2022 at 12:22 am

    Burnham did this?

    I look at the LARGE AND TALL 8 storey and 9 storey steel structures in GT with Raphael, and I wonder why there isn’t any money to feed the poor with the oil monies?

  • Stanley Greaves  On 06/07/2022 at 11:50 pm

    Nostalgia about “colonial times is misguided because. Garbage collected daily. Streets kept clean. Alley drains too. Parapets weeded. School inspectors to check on regulations being kept. Highly trained teachers . Traffic laws obeyed. School choirs. Health inspectors visiting tenement yards. No flooding of the city. Flood control in villages. City and rural canal systems maintained. We don’t need these now . We got oil munney…somewhere .

    • Dennis Albert  On 06/09/2022 at 1:32 am

      The British stopped flooding and global warming? How nice of them. Maybe they should return and bring their racial problems with them? They are not welcome in Guyana.

    • Bernard  On 06/09/2022 at 3:29 am

      To Stanley Greaves:

      All that was done mainly to serve the interest of the ruling class, the boss, the British.

      It was in their best interest to maintain the city and various other places while they had the slaves (and later, indentured slaves) toiling in the fields to make them rich and richer.

      Over the period of British occupation, untold numbers of acts of criminality were committed against the enslaved class and evidence purged.

      As independence neared, the British methodically destroyed incriminating documents (called watch files). Those files were incinerated to ashes while others were buried far out at sea in weighted-down craters.

      The reason for the file destruction was to protect the British from future criminal liability by post-independence governments..

      When they finally departed the colony in 1966, they left the former slaves broke and destitute and the country’s coffers empty.

      Are you therefore, Mr Greaves, surprised that things are now in a state of forlorn disrepair?

      • Dennis Albert  On 06/09/2022 at 9:10 pm

        My friends living in the ABCEU countries tell me that the privileged classes live in mansions and urban luxury towers, while the Guyanese and other immigrants live in rat and roach infested apartments which cost an extortionate amount of their paycheque working in backbreaking factory jobs.

        Many Guyanese, including that Age chap here, see no future in those countries for Guyanese.

  • Dennis Albert  On 06/09/2022 at 9:13 pm

    The British Landlords expect the immigrants and working class to pay their mortgages for their cockroach infested s-holes. Guyana more cleaner than this. Don’t be fooled by the Friday afternoon dumping at Stabroek Market.

    Guyanese people living abroad paying over $2,000 British Pounds a month to live with rat and cockroach.

    • Brother Man  On 06/09/2022 at 11:20 pm

      You’re not kidding.

      “According to HomeLet, the average rent in London for new tenancies is £1,572 a month. HomeLet also says that rents in London have decreased by 4.7 per cent compared to last year.

      But rents can of course vary depending on lots of factors, including the location and number of bedrooms.Mar 24, 2021.”

      • Dennis Albert  On 06/10/2022 at 9:52 pm

        Working for minimum wage in a factory where you are expected to work like a machine, to pay most of it in rent in a country which wants to genocide you because of your ethnicity or colour, is a foolish proposition.

        I’d rather hungry belly in Jagdeo’s PPP than to live in a country where I risk getting gunned down by both police and the White nationalist due to my skin colour or ethnicity.

  • JoE  On 06/12/2022 at 4:41 pm

    Stanley Greave’s statements are absolutely true. The movement towards independence didn’t guarantee good governance by local politicians, neither in Guyana, the Caribbean, Africa, India or Sri Lanka. The local crooks have had a field day to fill their pockets. Corruption was not rife under the British but it’s certainly a hallmark of most ex-colonial governments today, bar Singapore. Good standards were maintained in education, allowing us access to further education in other metropolises. So you can stay with your beloved grievances but the least you can do is be honest enough to weigh the good that was there with the bad. We all know the imperialists committed robbery and theft of the wealth of subject states but to their credit their institutions gave us, the governed, a level of development we didn’t achieve without them. Kleptocracy is alive and well in most countries including the richest and the petty thieves are the ones we see at our humbler levels. All of this blarney won’t move the needle one bit towards success in bringing Guyana back to the level of efficient management that existed before Burnham got into power and destroyed us with his megalomaniac tendencies.

    • Dennis Albert  On 06/13/2022 at 12:12 am

      Look at what is happening in America.
      African-American brothers are being gunned down because of their melanin.

      Why would anyone want to bring back the people who oppress us?

      By the way, that Canadian devil Alison Redford, a White Canadian, helped with the pillage of we 15 billion barrel oil.

  • JoE  On 06/13/2022 at 8:44 pm

    Who said anything about bringing back oppressors? You’re just shooting your mouth off. The kids who just got shot were not African-Americans. For sure African American men are being shot at without cause but the US allows all and sundry to shoot and kill at will, melanin aside. And as far as I know, Redford didn’t arrive to do a report gratis. She was hired by the Govt. to do so. If they didn’t like it they could have rejected it. Lots of experts have been warning Guyana about the best way to handle the oil bonanza. We all know that the advice has been ignored. Take responsibility for the missteps of your own, African and Indian alike and stop shifting the blame to others.

    • Dennis Albert  On 06/13/2022 at 9:01 pm


      When Mandela tried to solve the problem in apartheid South Africa, the oppressors jailed him.

      Likewise, if AFC Trotman, PPP Ali or “Vice” President Jagdeo tries to assert their rights against the oppressor, they will end up in sanctions.

  • JoE  On 06/14/2022 at 11:46 am

    By whom? You love your burden of oppression..wallow in it. I’m out of here.

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