Learn from this Minister why it’s very important to ensure you put thought into what you say to the public

(Reading Time: 4 minutes)

As I opened my creaky kitchen door last night, I could hear her voice blasting from our old TV. I hugged nani and moved closer to the wall-divider. I don’t usually watch the news these days but I couldn’t help it. There was a flash of her face on screen and she continued to speak about grand and petty corruption in Guyana. If the TV wasn’t duct-taped to the wall-divider it would have crashed to the floor in disbelief. What the f**k was Minister of Public Telecommunications Cathy Hughes trying to communicate?

I wish I could tell you that I listened in disbelief as she committed a massive public communication mistake. But sadly, with only a few exceptions, not very many of our public officials excel at effective, meaningful and strategic communication. It’s very easy to learn the mechanics of speaking well publicly but it’s difficult to inspire positive change with a well delivered speech. To inspire change, a speaker must be well grounded in both their individual and collective purpose and have a very clear vision of where they’re headed.

The Coalition government has taken some hits for corruption and in recent months, questions have been raised about a Ministry of the Presidency contract awarded to a private video production company with which Minister Hughes is closely linked. Allegations of corruption are an occupational hazard for public officials. Any response to such accusations should be framed in a manner which does not appear to defy the principles of the Code of Conduct for public officials. Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson has successfully done this.

In her communication, which responded generally to allegations of corruption against Government, Minister Hughes said we forget that corruption is a culture in Guyana and that it exists not just in government but across our society. She continued to deliver remarks which came across as if she’s attacking the “small man”, accusing him. When the message is framed is this way, it allows room for the listener to infer that the public shouldn’t point fingers at government when they too are guilty of corruption.

If I were Minister Hughes, I would have made the key message about government’s commitment to work on corruption (something she seems to mention only in passing). What has or is government doing to address corruption in Guyana? Is it part of a bigger plan? What is this plan? How far have we progressed with taking the necessary actions to shift this culture of corruption we so easily reference? These are important answers to provide, as honestly as she is able to as a public official.

Guyanese have not forgotten. We know that corruption is a big issue and we are worried about it now that our country is an oil producer. We are not stupid. We know that grand corruption creates the sort of political, economic and other conditions that breed petty corruption. I advise the next public official who speaks about corruption to keep these things in mind.

To even remotely suggest that corruption at the level of Government can be compared to corruption at the level of a policeman taking a bribe is foolish. Let’s examine the police bribery situation a little closer. Why does the police man feel the need to take a bribe? Would a well compensated police force reduce the cases of bribe taking? What drives this behaviour? So you see, it’s not as simple as it may appear.

Without Wax,

Bharrat

 

Featured Image: Corruption Watch

Disclaimer:

This article contains the personal views of the author and is in no way connected with any institution or group with which she may be affiliated.

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, May 18, 2019

Have a question or require further information? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com

Should President Granger pursue a second term or retire to his family?

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

I remember the first time I spotted him on the campaign trail leading up to the Coalition’s victory in 2015. He was wearing that green shirt and he wasn’t the one to make a lasting impression on me. It was his wife. First Lady Sandra Granger struck me as a no-nonsense woman who was well acquainted with rolling her sleeves up and getting things done.

When I heard that President David Granger was battling cancer and the whole nation buzzed with the latest gossip (“the President might die within the year”), my thoughts immediately went to his wife and then his family. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to watch the love of your life suffer.

Since then, I’ve witnessed “debates” (cuss-outs) here and there about whether the President should pursue a second term or retire to his family. I have rarely heard an acknowledgement of just how challenging it is for any human to make a decision like this. Sometimes, I think that many of us have forgotten how very human we all are.

For President Granger, the decision is a difficult one which will really be made by the layers of his family and community. There is no middle ground for him in this matter and any path ahead will require him to sacrifice.

Whether or not President Granger pursues a second term, his service to Guyana will continue as long as he lives. The way I see it, he doesn’t have a choice in the matter.

Without Wax,

Bharrat

 

Featured Image: Copyright Aubrey Odle (Check out his work @APro)

 

Disclaimer:

This article contains the personal views of the author and is in no way connected with any institution or group with which she may be affiliated.

 

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, May 7, 2019

Have a question or require further information? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com

No-confidence motion or not, we still have to secure Guyana’s future

I did not believe that the no-confidence motion would go in favour of the Opposition because I refused to entertain the idea that our political culture of party-over-country had suddenly shifted. The 33rd vote which passed the motion is not an indicator that there is any interest in placing country above partisan interests. At most, it suggests that one group is better at playing checkers.

I have little interest in examining what led to last Friday’s outcome during the 111th Sitting of the National Assembly. I have far less interest in attempting to determine what could have been done to avoid such an outcome. And I have absolutely no interest now in exploring legal loopholes in an attempt to suggest that the motion is null and void. While there is certainly learning-value in deconstructing anything, prolonging this type of conversation requires investing time that Guyana no longer has.

Both the President and Leader of the Opposition, based on media reports I’ve seen, seem to agree that we should move swiftly and peacefully in three months (from December 21, 2018) to General and Regional Elections. I agree. We don’t have time to become so absorbed in our internal battle that it costs us the war that is surely coming from the outside.

In five or six decades when our historians look back at the current decade and the next, they will perhaps mark them as an important period in the evolution of our race-based political culture to one which will be built on the principles and values we wish for today. But if we do not learn to act swiftly as a unit after the next elections, this could become the period in our history that doomed our future.

We know that loyalty to party above country is a problem. We know that lack of transparency and accountability plague us. We know that the balance of power offered by the current Constitution is far from ideal. We know that racism built on and perpetuated by decades of fear needs healing. We know that strengthening governance and so many other things is vital to our survival. We know what the problems are. We spend too much time deconstructing them, blaming each other for them, dwelling on them.

Right now, Guyana needs solutions. Even if our solutions are not perfect, we still need to set the ship sailing. If it sinks halfway across the ocean, it doesn’t mean that we’ve failed. It means that we’ve learnt what we need to know to make half the journey and what prevents us from making the other half. It means we’ve acquired information we need for success. A few ships have been set to sail already. We need more, a massive fleet of solutions to take us into the future.

While it is important for us to continue calling for peace, fighting racism, demanding commitment to constitutional reform yet again, demanding better, being vigilant, we must be practical about what we can achieve over what timeline and even more practical about Guyana’s immediate needs (I will share my thoughts on this soon). We must also be steadily aware of our new place relative to the rest of the world and the challenges this brings from the outside.

Our work does not pause now and it will not pause in the future. After elections, we will  still have a Government and if we have any good sense left, we will commit to working together and across differences to secure Guyana’s future.

Without Wax,

Bharrat

 

Featured Image: Copyright Keno George (Parliamentary Stories)

 

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, December 23, 2018

Have a question or require further information? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com

There is no future for Guyana without teachers

“The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.” V. S. Naipaul

 

Teachers are not to be blamed for the empty classrooms at the beginning of the school term tomorrow. The problem is the structure of the system in which they operate and our support of that system through ignorance or silence. Part of the solution is to ensure that teaching is a well-paid position and that our educators benefit from the best opportunities for professional development.

I do not take it lightly when political leaders attempt to use a moral position to shame teachers out of a strike. Shame is not a solution. We must learn to manage our differences in productive ways. Productivity should be highest when conflict is at its peak. We must learn to manage and resolve our differences in ways which increase our productivity as a people. This is an opportunity for our leaders to demonstrate that they understand this and to show us how it’s done.

Guyana cannot continue to squabble in its own house while the rest of the world is watching. If we are a house divided against itself, the world will make easy work of eating us alive. Oil has put us on the map again and promises a second chance at becoming a leader in the region and an example to the rest of the world in much bigger ways. If we are to secure our place in the world and the future of generations to come, we must all commit to a clear vision for Guyana that is supported by everyone regardless of skin colour, religious preference, class, political loyalty or anything else which separates us.

There was a strike during my third year of high school in 2003. The teachers at St Stanislaus College who stood their ground during that year taught me how to stand up for my rights. A few years later I graduated in the top ten of my Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) class and after that I was among the ten best performing Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) students in the country. The same teachers who went on strike spent many extra hours working with me, caring for me. I am because they are, because we are.

Taking Guyana into the future requires serious investment in building the capacity of our people to meet our arising needs and addressing the high migration rates, particularly of University of Guyana graduates. We cannot do this without investing heavily in teachers who are the heart and soul of the education system.

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Featured Image: I was unable to identify the source. Help me identify if you can.

Disclaimer:

This article is not meant to advance any position on behalf of any political party or any other entity or group. It is part of a collection of commentary and analysis – expressed in simple language by a young Guyanese – made available for anyone interested in learning and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current political state.

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, September 02, 2018

 

Have a question or require further information? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com

A question every successful leader should be able to answer: “Who is replacing you?”

This is the third article in a five (5) part series – Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People. The series was inspired by a string of occurrences during the 74th to 82nd sittings of the Eleventh Parliament of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. It offers brief commentary and analysis in simple language to anyone interested in learning, and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current state.

The last time I saw him, his eyes were a bit tired but the rest of him was so alive. He hugged me like he was truly happy to see me and I hugged him with all the hope I still have for Guyana. I didn’t know how to tell him that our hope was attached to him and the other men and women like him. Before I left him that day, I looked him in the eyes so I could feel him, measure him, before I finally said: “Mentoring is the most important thing you can do for us now”.

Not so long after, I saw another man like him from the other end of the loyalist’s spectrum. He told me that leaders were ordained by the good Lord or chosen by the People. I looked him steadily in the eyes and I did not miss his meaning. He was really telling me that I should not think of myself as a leader because I was neither ordained nor chosen. I looked at him closely that day, I could see that his body was failing, that his spirit, though strong, was no longer full of light.

These men are more alike than either of them would ever admit. They are so wrapped up in their respective loyalist priorities and in their struggle against each other that they have either:

  1. failed to recognize that a good leader can always identify who will replace them and is always teaching and guiding the development of future leaders;
  2. recognized the importance of mentoring but believe they have all the time in the world to do it;
  3. become so self-interested that they no longer truly care about securing Guyana’s future;
  4. chosen to believe that they will never die.

More than 65% of our population is currently under the age of 35 (my stats may be a bit outdated). With the rest of the world fast learning that Guyana is not Ghana and biting into our story hard, we need to ensure we are building the capacity of our young people to lead Guyana into the future. Our contemporary leaders may not be able to claim success unless they can answer a very simple question: who is replacing you?

I have had the good fortune of sharing words with and looking in the eyes of some of our national leaders. Some of them are working hard. Others treat supermarket parking lots as their stage for demonstrating that the bad-man-run-things attitude of power drunk politicians is very much alive. Both kinds sit on either side of the National Assembly and, together, they share responsibility for ensuring Guyana has strong leaders to take her into the future.

Signature 2

 

Featured Image: Copyright Keno George (Parliamentary Stories)

 Other articles in this Series:

  1. Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People
  2. The most important question Guyanese will ever ask themselves

Disclaimer:

This article, like all others in the series Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People, is not meant to advance any position on behalf of any political party or any other entity or group. It is part of a collection of political commentary and analysis – expressed in simple language by a young Guyanese – made available for anyone interested in learning and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current political state.

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, August 22, 2018

Have a question or require further information? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com

The most important question Guyanese will ever ask themselves

This is the second article in a five (5) part series – Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People. The series was inspired by a string of occurrences during the 74th to 82nd sittings of the Eleventh Parliament of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. It offers brief commentary and analysis in simple language to anyone interested in learning, and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current state.

The National Assembly is a mirror. Anything we see when we look inside it reflects who we’ve allowed ourselves to become as a nation. It is nothing less than madness to expect our Parliamentarians to operate by a set of principles and values which we do not hold them to and which many of us do not live by.

This is the hardest lesson I’ve learnt these past weeks. I do not say it to cast blame, cause shame or heighten anyone’s suffering. I say it because it is important to acknowledge that the fault lies not only in our political leaders but in ourselves (the people who have chosen them) as well. Parliament is about people and it is also about their choices. During the 74th to 82nd sittings of the Eleventh Parliament, we witnessed the consequences of our choices, our actions and lack of action.

Speaking of government is not equal to speaking of a single political party. Government is made up of three branches: the Legislature (National Assembly), the Executive (the President, Cabinet and Government Departments) and the Judiciary (Courts). All our major political parties have a voice in Parliament: A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Alliance for Change (AFC) and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). Together, they represent most of our people.

In many ways, the unsettling events we’ve witnessed in the National Assembly recently are products of a type of political loyalty that is built on and strengthened by distrust. We do not trust each other nor do we feel entirely safe among each other. Our distrustful nature is in turn a product of both periods before and after Independence.

Loyalty is the currency we have used to pay for protection and a feeling of security. And what threat is it that terrifies us so much? Each other. Beneath our distrust is a deep-rooted fear of each other which feeds frustration, anger, resentment and hate.

Our loyalty to the group we believe keeps us safe, blinds us. In such a situation, loyalty is no longer a virtue but has become a vice. It is perhaps the root of all the vices preventing us from operating by a set of principles and values necessary for moving Guyana forward and from demanding better from our leaders.

As Guyanese and at this point in our history, I believe the most important question we will ever ask ourselves is: have I placed my loyalty where it will benefit my country and all our people or have I used it to buy protection from an imagined threat which feeds a political culture that continues to destroy us?

Signature 2

 

 

 

 

PS – A very merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. While this is the sort of thing we’d rather not think about during the holidays, such thinking – once it leads us closer to a solution for Guyana – is the greatest gift we can give to the people we love.

 

Featured Image: Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan boarding British Guiana Airways Ltd (The Road to Independence, Stabroeknews.com)

 

Other articles in this Series:

  1. Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People

 

Disclaimer:

This article, like all others in the series Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People, is not meant to advance any position on behalf of any political party or any other entity or group. It is part of a collection of political commentary and analysis – expressed in simple language by a young Guyanese – made available for anyone interested in learning and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current political state.

 

 A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, December 16, 2017

 

Have a question or require further information? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com

Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People

This is the first article in a five (5) part series – Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People. The series was inspired by a string of occurrences during the 74th to 82nd sittings of the Eleventh Parliament of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. It offers brief commentary and analysis in simple language to anyone interested in learning, and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current state.

For as long as I live, I will never forget the spirit in which the 74th to 82nd sittings of our Eleventh Parliament were conducted. I am deeply disappointed in both sides of the House and severely wounded by what appeared to be a complete disregard for the sacred calling they each chose to answer, for the trust our people have placed in them, for the sacrifices our ancestors made to ensure that we could enjoy the right to govern ourselves, and for their own dignity.

The men and women who sit in Parliament are no fools or dunces. They are among the best and brightest minds this country has produced in their generations. They are also some of the most courageous among us because they chose to stay and give their life in service to this country. Why then have they so easily reduced the highest form of our national conversation (our Parliamentary Discourse) to nothing more than a common cuss-out?

Perhaps our Parliamentarians and many of us have forgotten that our National Assembly – one of the symbols of our right to call ourselves a free people – is something that we paid for in sweat and blood. To disrespect the sanctity of Parliament is to spit on our past, present and future.

The birth of our society was like any other birth. It was full of pain. Some of our people came here out of necessity or in search of fabled riches. Many more of our people were forced into this land either through enslavement or a false promise of prosperity. Our birth was also full of life and need, if not love. We came together and stayed together for survival.

Before 1966, our struggle for freedom from our colonial masters united us. Our fight was against a common enemy and we burned with desire for the right to be our own people. I don’t think we fully understood what that meant. With our vision turned outward on that long ago enemy, we perhaps failed to fully think through what would be required of us to build a nation.

Just over five decades since that first historic win (Independence), the common enemy and the immediate needs which bound us together have faded. Our sense of duty to each other has weakened and we are now each other’s enemy. These past weeks Parliament has, now more than ever before, been a house turned against itself.

I have heard many people describe the recent events in Parliament as “just politics”. Is it really? Parliament isn’t about politics, it’s about people and their lives. Every Member of the National Assembly is responsible for representing the interests of our people. They have been chosen to lead the advancement of this nation in a manner that is in keeping with the best interests of Guyanese. Now take a moment to think about the last two weeks without trying to decide which side of the House is to be blamed for what and ask yourself: have they been able to do this?

Signature 2

 

 

 

Featured Image: Copyright Keno George (Parliamentary Stories)

Disclaimer:

This article, like all others in the series Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People, is not meant to advance any position on behalf of any political party or any other entity or group. It is part of a collection of political commentary and analysis – expressed in simple language by a young Guyanese – made available for anyone interested in learning and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current political state.

 

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, December 16, 2017

 

Have a question or require further information? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com