The doctor and the Government Frankly Speaking...
Stabroek News
September 28, 2001

International events of all-encompassing pervasive magnitude diverted my intention to comment on an issue that captures my attention and consideration every time it is raised. Raised especially by certain individuals. I refer to the abilities and competence of the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) which informs the government we have. "With a little help from friends."

Recently, primarily on September 1 and on September 6, [ please note: links provided by LOSP web site ] letters appeared in the lively editorial pages of this newspaper criticising and questioning the approaches and competence of the Jagdeo presidency and government and its ability/inability to move this under-developed society forward. The two letters that demanded my attention were penned by Deochand Narain, former head of Go-Invest and Dr. Walter Ramsahoye, a prominent neurologist who, at first glance, seems to exult in bashing the government, but, in fact, seems to be genuine in his professional concern at official ineptitude.

Both letters have attracted responses from PPP/C and government faithful. Somehow I feel that Mr. Narain's contention about an intrusive, "micro-managing" President has been adequately addressed. After all, they say that there is substantial evidence to prove that the competent Deochand was no real "go-getter" himself. The issue is a bit different with respect to Dr Ramsahoye.

The medical doctor comes from a family of achievers. People whose forebears seem to have been influenced heavily either by the blood or attitudes of Europeans. Or both. Guyanese by birth and tradition, Walter Ramsahoye's sometimes Euro-centric impatience with incompetence, crude or gross characteristics and "shallowness", flows from a middle-class "educated/intellectual" background, which does not suffer fools gladly. But how fair is this medical professional, with political insights, to the Government?

Probably because I love the use of language which employs appropriate but incisive words and terms - whether criticism or other - I repeat some of the wholesale `busing' by Ramsahoye on Thursday, September 6. Wrote the doctor, inter alia: "The truth is that we are in a quagmire and the Jagdeo government does not have the requisite intellectual armamentarium to take us out of the morass". Then: "the hallmark of this government is its incompetence and indecisiveness". Saying that the Party has not been able to attract a single "scholar" since Balram Singh Rai, Ramsahoye alleges governmental "Shallowness", deeming the current administrators "unfit to be village elders" and says that the non-omniscient President relies "on the advice of individuals ill?equipped for governance" and "chooses a number of ministers who are essentially clerks" with no ability to conceptualise and ensure implementation...Wow!

Well that is good ole Guyanese intellectual `busing' clothed in the most articulate language which, incidentally, I have abbreviated. Responses have so far addressed Ramsahoye's alleged middle-class arrogance; his alleged "foreign-mindedness" and his alleged inability or "unfairness" to not place this government's challenges, even failures, in the context of a worsening global environment.

Frankly Speaking, though I share just a few of the doctor's concerns about certain Ministers and advisors, I can direct his attention to some non-performing senior bureaucrats/public servants including a few bent on sabotage. I agree that certain "1992 Ministers" should have been asked to retire as advisors. But people like Ramsahoye himself are hesitant to go help young President Jagdeo because of what the other forces say and do.

Then, I read Samuel Hinds' response to Lance Carberry and Lincoln Lewis on the Bauxite Industry issue. I wonder how Ramsahoye assesses that genuine, well-thought out essay. Sure, Hinds is not charismatic or colourful or uses Ramsahoyesque language. But Hinds is not intellectually lazy. And, to unlettered me, Teixeira, Nadir, Jeffrey, Rodrigues, Westford, Bisnauth, Ramsammy, Baksh, Singh, Insanally and Jagdeo are no dolts or "clerks". Granted that I have only listed a specific twelve (12) - Half of the Cabinet, but could they do all that worse than the intellectually gifted and super-competent administrations of Burnham and Hoyte? And, Dr Ramsahoye, ask of your outside, neutral institutions: just where were we in 1985 and 1992 when those PNC leaders bowed out?

As a concerned citizen, I too lament the obvious "unpolished" presentations and perhaps, the rustic persona of some ministers and parliamentarians. But is that how we should judge administrators? Is it not by an ability to achieve desirable results? And considering all respective and comparative circumstances could we say, really, that these fellows don't measure up to those of the past regimes? I'm open to the debate that could be developed over this issue.

I leave with this thought provoked by a friend of mine: When the mass Exodus/Exile of Guyanese Brains began in the late seventies, and continued therefrom, it appears that more of the accomplished supporters of the PPP ran than those of the PNC. In any case, my friend opined, there seems to be more competent PNC types still around, than there are of the PPP/C variety. What say you? I guess I know what says Dr Walter Ramsahoye.

What and when America did wrong

I don't suppose the critics and analysts are "rationalising" the horrendous bombing of the World Trade Centre (especially) when they review and analyse America's past foreign-policy "blunders" in various parts of the world. I expect that they are exposing for understanding, the origins of certain imperatives and expediencies which can later backfire and breed anger at the representatives - and the innocents - of that earlier power today.

Here are a few examples of American Foreign Policy "mistakes" now being cited as "causes" for the Bin Laden atrocities (against Civilians?): (i) unstinting support for Israel against Palestine in the Middle East never-ending crisis; (ii) assistance as Israel attacked and killed in Lebanon and such camps as Sabra and Shatila etc; (iii) CIA involvement in the killing and overthrow of Salvador Allende; (iv) $US43M. given to the Taliban, just five months ago to stop opium cultivation and narco?trafficking; (v) profiting from the "spoils" of the Monroe Doctrine and Alliance for Progress initiatives; (vi) "Big Stick" interventionist policies in the Islamic World that have made Muslims see America - the West - as an economic, cultural and political force to be resisted and repulsed - they at various times supported both Saddam Hussein and the Taliban and (vii) most importantly, the Americans never recognised the worth of one million Afghans who died in the long but victorious war against the Soviet Union - the resistance that signalled the very downfall, eventually, of that Bloc!

When you hear the lectures, listen to the analyses and read the fuller expositions of past American failings, be sure to contextualise them in the particular era of geo-political history. You can later decide whether any policy bred much earlier can justify bin Laden making no distinction between Americans in uniform and those who are like me and you.


1) What does Dr W Ramsahoye have to say about the legacy of debt and dismemberment the PPP/C inherited in 1992? And the hindrances put up by those who left them, since then?

1b) What should one expect from Kwame McCoy's appointment as Public Relations Officer at the Health Ministry/Hospital Corporation? Stand by, I'm afraid...

2) Respects Swami Aksharananda. My brief response to your correspondence delayed again because of time and space. In next week's offering, I might even ask what you think about the RSS - the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. Watch out!

3) If America fights dirty, covertly blowing up cafes and stores, won't those innocent Arab souls become Martyrs too? Like the suicide bombers? (But when will it end?)

4) If Guyanese undocumented/illegals perished, their surviving kinfolk might not want to be exposed! How sad. We don't go to bomb and destroy. Just to sweat and work hard!

5) I can have nothing much against the GS&WC pipe-laying exercise to install Water Meters. I'm glad for contractor Courtney Benn. But in many societies, the destruction caused in many communities - to roads, bridges, etc; the mud, slush and dust caused - would have occasioned Class Action Suits!

6) Lovely insightful letter by Beverly Conway earlier this week - about the insensitivities and insensibility of our people, generally, towards the atrocities of September 11. My point exactly. Some of us are becoming examples of grossness and what it means not even knowing what or how to care.

7) On your TV tonight: The broken-down school-building; the latest strike; the high cost of ....something? Be strong.

'Til next week!