'So why don't you pretend?'

Cassandra's Candid Corner
Stabroek News
July 23, 2000

Today I am going to be denounced as a conspiracy theorist. But circumstances compel me to believe that there must be more to the Guyana-Suriname issue than meets the eye. For starters, which of you readers knew that there was a CGX Energy oil rig doing exploratory drilling on behalf of Guyana? (No, I am not asking you if you ever heard of the Eagle site or knew where it is located).

Then two personalities, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Guyana and Suriname, known for their aggressive attitudes, were pitted against each other. Further, the Honourable President Wijdenbosch who took over negotiations is really not the President of Suriname at all. Finally, that which could be a mutually beneficial enterprise is now thwarted by an unwillingness and intransigence to realize a compromise. All this makes me flirt with the idea that there are people behind the scenes pulling strings for the marionettes to react.

In effect, the voices of the people have not been given the chance of sane, collective utterance. Just the opposite is taking place. Stimulation of emotions towards bellicosity (less from our side, in spite of some letters to the editor advising strong arm intervention) is obvious; and those of us - on both sides - who agitate for a quick and peaceful resolution (even a unification of the two sovereign states) are given no coverage, and the idea is marginalized and squashed.

Why is this so? Why is there a failure to effect a positive outcome? Are there other vested interests involved which would not want an obviously mutually beneficial advantage to the two states to accrue? Would they prefer to see a war between Suriname and Guyana? I think there may be other invisible actors in this drama of whom we know nothing - just as how we didn't even know that CGX Energy had brought an oil rig off our coast.

Quickly another question on this matter. When Guyana agreed for Suriname to join CARICOM, how come we didn't extract from Suriname a prerequisite ruling and agreement on the border dispute between the two countries. I think this is called quid pro quo. In fact, this is another issue of major importance (as it now turns out) that experienced no parliamentary or national debate.

Look, I just hope that the majority of the citizens of our two countries can force our leaders to bring us closer together. The opposite is too horrendous to contemplate.

*Are we living in the real world? Or is everything a virtual reality? Almost daily we can find in the media a make-believe occurrence. We wallow in the pretend-syndrome. There is no limit to self-delusion. We are told that the educational system is improving, notwithstanding the fact that the best teachers are leaving, and that employers are confronted with a substandard product emanating from our learning institutions during job interviews. We continue to spend good money on laboratories (SN, 18.7.00) that have no standards and which give results that are dubious. Worse, doctors pretend that the information is correct and rely on these data for diagnoses; they too are part of the make believe world. For a swollen abdomen they perform abdominal CT scans, ultrasounds, blood tests, endoscopy/sigmoidoscopy, laporoscopy, paracentesis, x-rays and stool analyses, when the distension is simply caused by the nervous habit of air swallowing.

A 'pretend' classic is the feigned surprise by the stakeholders of the rice industry at Jamaica's importation of US PL480 rice. The General Secretary of the Rice Producers Association is quoted (SN, 13.7.00) as saying that they are devastated by the fact that a CARICOM member state could be importing PL480 rice when instead Jamaica "should try its best to assist Guyana". Hey, Comrade, get real; Come down to earth.

A large amount of the rice entering from the USA comes from Arkansas. Since he was Governor of Arkansas, one Mr Clinton was a strong and reliable lobbyist for the rice farmers there. This Mr Clinton is now the President of the USA. Do you think that he is going to oppose the Arkansas farmers' rice from being shipped to Jamaica? In fact, he is the one buying the rice from his own farmers and exporting it 'free' to Jamaica. And the RPA cannot beat 'free'. Besides, I don't know why we are bawling, when our own SIMAP brings in World Food Programme 'free' milk powder and dumps it into areas where struggling dairy farmers are trying to produce and sell local liquid milk.

But there is another interesting factor in the whole equation. When the Europeans were taking our rice at a vastly improved price, guess whom we abandoned. From one day to the next, most of our rice moved to Europe and away from Jamaica. Not until 1996/1997, when the preferential (OCT route) markets were reduced did we seek to re-enter the Jamaican market in a big way. And the RPA is "surprised" at Jamaica's attitude?

Let me share with you another bit of make believe. We pretend that when we give out concessions for timber harvesting to logging companies, and when we write into the contracts specific directives, provisos and prerequisites, then we have done enough and the companies will comply. Wake up fellas. The reality is that logging and environmental friendliness are mutually exclusive concepts.

Once, not really so long ago, I saw a reference (actually it was more like an advertisement) to a successful system of logging in Costa Rica. It was a project of one of the UN bodies. I immediately requested this information which I hoped to pass on to the Commissioner of Forests. What I received was an apology for a 'system'. The first paragraph acknowledged the difficulty in logging in an environmentally friendly manner. The last paragraph, as per usual with research projects of this nature, admitted "marginal success" (double speak for 'failure') and suggested that more funding was needed.

It is not today that logging companies have begun to ruin the environment and destroy plant and animal species in the process. In fact, when our people speak out against such atrocities and against the reprobates who practise the destruction, it is those same conscientious civil servants that get the axe. More I mention not - at least not now.

Suffice to say, that one of this country's most knowledgeable technicians in the forestry business was unceremoniously booted out of office, and is now a much sought after consultant - giving his knowledge and expertise to several countries worldwide, but not to Guyana who apparently doesn't need him.

Young Luvindra Sukraj, Deputy Commissioner of Forests, reported that not only some companies were not "complying with even minimum standards", but that they were attempting to prevent the monitoring team of the Guyana Forestry Commission from visiting the concessions. Welcome to the real world, Mr Sukraj. The real world of pretence. They are pretending to log with environmental consciousness and you are pretending that they could and would do it, if they follow your guidelines.

Ah well, Nat "King" Cole sang a song which could be our National Anthem:

"Pretend you're happy when you're blue
It isn't very hard to do
The world is mine, it can be yours, my friend
So why don't you pretend?"

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