Independence, rather than liberating us, has led to a continuing exodus
Stabroek News
October 11, 2001

Dear Editor,

On my return to Guyana Mr Fenty's response (SN 28-09-2001) [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] on my comments on the present administration was brought to my attention.

I do not have Mr Fenty's access to the media but I trust that those who gave him a great deal of space to express his views will not use editorial privilege to inhibit my reply.

Let me state at the outset that I abhor racial politics which has defined elections since 1957. Unlike others, no one can accuse me of supporting critically or otherwise our post-independence man made disaster.

The populace has been subjected to nearly four decades of misrule and only the uninitiated apologist would attribute our misfortune to the global situation.

Our institutions, without exception, have been desecrated and there is no beginning in sight for a restoration. Our legacy of tribal politics fostered by the duopoly is the recipe for our continuing degradation.

I am heartened by some of Mr Fenty's comments, as when distilled there is nothing exculpatory in what he has said.

My reference to ministers being merely clerks stems from the government's embrace of the Burnham Constitution which its party originally condemned but now eulogises and have adopted with missionary zeal. That Constitution makes the Prime Minister a special assistant to the President and a post 1992 legal luminary had the audacity to describe the Constitution as being excellent while the PPP held the Presidency. What arrogance, what naivete, what insensitivity, what manifest unfamiliarity with the aims and objectives of a constitution? As for the constitutional "reform" process fundamental issues were not addressed by those who have misruled us for the past forty years.

I would like to comment on some issues raised by Mr Fenty.

On the question of Sam Hinds' writings, his deal with the European expatriates who now run GPL was nothing of which government should be proud. Only those who do not pay for electricity escape the folly of this travesty, which immortalises its authors. My training precludes me from endorsing such a contract and were I part of an administration that insisted on such misadventurism I would have demitted office. No one and certainly no expatriate could ever persuade me to give away our patrimony and contemporaneously handsomely reward corporate raiders.

I am not aware that the vast sums of money expended by the Bauxite company to enable him to research Guycor 93 has ever been justified. Additionally, transparency wedded to its contradiction of government in secrecy has resulted in his ill-fated CGX deal not having been made available to the public.

With respect to President Jagdeo I said that posterity would judge him. I advised that he extricate himself from his handlers. I vividly recall at Herdmanston in March 2000 at a meeting between the GMA and a presidential team headed by President Jagdeo and which included the Minister of Health and the Head of the Presidential Secretariat that I proffered advice on improving the health services at the Georgetown Hospital so as to circumvent the unconscionable fees paid for private eye surgery. In fact, I offered a model, which would have improved health care countrywide in all specialties and would have enhanced the quality and training of our practitioners and medical students. The only ineradicable flaw in it that it would have made imposters, sycophants and opportunists redundant. To my astonishment and that of the President, the concerned Minister and the Head of the Secretariat declared that such a formula was not possible because of Public Service Commission (PSC) rules! It was left to the President to remind those tasked with the onerous responsibilities of governance that PSC rules no longer apply because the entity has been corporatised. Since then there has been masterly inactivity.

Presidents, Ministers and high-ranking officials must learn that to command respect they must never renege on undertakings - never make promises which they have no intention of honouring and until they learn and understand this they remain unfit for high office.

High-ranking officials must ensure that they are properly briefed when engaging in discussions.

I vividly recall that in 1994 on the 150th anniversary of Queen's College, Prof. Ewart Thomas lamented to me the treatment meted out to him by the President. Prof. Thomas is presently Dean at Stanford - an Ivy League University. He was asked if he would allow his name to go forward for the vacant position of Chancellor of the University of Guyana. He agreed. Thomas distinguished as he was, and incontrovertibly the ablest Mathematician the West Indies has produced was overlooked. On that visit he paid a courtesy call on the President merely to tell him that his being overlooked was not a source of hard feelings. He remained a Guyanese and offered his services in whatever capacity to help Guyana. He was disillusioned because the president had no idea whom he was. Ewart Thomas, Guyana Scholar, UWI Scholar a distinguished Cantabrigian, a member of president Bush's elite Advisory Team on Higher Education was not only rejected but not recognised. Ewart Thomas would have been able to put UG on the map, attract scholars of distinction and make UG an institution of which Lancelot Hogben would have been proud. There are many Thomases but until the PPP starts looking outside its cocoon their egregious contempt for scholarship will continue unabated and the unqualified will continue to be regarded as the most qualified for recognition. No scholar of distinction needs to make a pilgrimage to Freedom House for recognition and the corollary is obvious. They should abandon their resentment towards individuals at the opposite end of their intellectual spectrum.

You should never presume to know how I think, my dear Fenty. What is important is that there should be a cadre of independent individuals who are willing to put country above all else and make constructive criticisms when the ship of state falters. It is the antithesis of opportunism. To qualify, such individuals must not be political chameleons. You make the lamentable mistake of presuming that those who comment are enamoured of what took place prior to 1992. In regard to me this is not the case. As for those who are non-performing or who sabotage government it is the function of parliament, law enforcement agencies, and the Service Commissions to deal with this. To protect the public, uphold and respect the rule of law, while setting examples of what constitutes good governance are primary functions of a caring and informed administration. If government and its agencies however show little regard for our laws they should not be surprised when lesser mortals do likewise.

The dichotomy in our thoughts, ideals, loyalties and aspirations is exemplified by Fenty's observation "could we really say that those fellows don't measure to those of past regimes". If this is the standard to which we aspire we are inexorably on a slippery slope gaining momentum as we accelerate towards our rendezvous with disaster. Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary independence rather than liberating us and improving the well being of our people has brought us enslavement and a continuing exodus.

Reference to my ancestry and education was never relevant but having raised it I must confess that I have no reason to harbour an inferiority complex for our former colonial masters and in negotiations with them I would demand mutual respect. As far as my education is concerned I would never have allowed Duncan Sandy who took a fourth at Oxford to out-manoeuvre me and I would not have flaunted a complex by accepting a legal adviser named by him at something as important as a constitutional conference.

Those at the helm should disabuse themselves of the notion that they are the repository of wisdom and intellect. Indeed with our polarised society no party will ever achieve that status.

The albatrosses around our neck did not have the perspicacity or nimbleness of intellect to eschew taking us into the cold war and the consequence of this romanticism of neophytes with an inappropriate and failed ideology has consigned us to being a social, cultural, educational, economic and legal wilderness.

Yours faithfully,

Walter Ramsahoye