Constructive criticism is central to ensuring forward movement
Stabroek News
February 17, 2004

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Dear Editor,

Since attending the Conflict Resolution Conference in Guyana last week, I found myself suddenly included in the mailing lists of the PPP-Civic and the Office of the President Media Centre (was it something I said at the conference? Perhaps I was just added in the interest of providing information to as wide an audience as possible. Yet given my experience, things have a way, in the divided and skewed landscape of Guyanese politics, of getting taken up for reasons of identity politics, and I refuse to be included on any such terms. Just setting the record straight).

I am happy to be part of this list, or any list for that matter, so that I can keep myself abreast of what is going on, as an overseas Guyanese who is distanced yes, but detached never.

As I was put on this list, I felt entitled and obliged to send a series of questions and comments, for which I have received no reply; I reproduce the gist of them here:

(1) May I suggest that constructive criticism from within is central to ensuring forward movement, debate and the generation of new ideas. Otherwise we ossify, deaden, assume authoritarian tendencies from a previous era with which Guyanese are all too familiar. Critical thinking is key to the production of new ideas, original thinking. Sure, it does not always end up with results one would like. But it helps ensure accountability.

(2) The racial impasse that we're headed to is clear for all to see. And as a Guyanese I am sick and tired of the blame, the futile exchanges, and refusal on all sides to own up to the majority of Guyanese people who want a decent life and a decent livelihood. And it's clear that new generations of leaders are either condemned to repeat the same cycle, or made to feel the consequences of not toeing lines, however arbitrarily those lines are drawn. This is why Raphael Trotman and Khemraj Ramjattan, so far, stand out for their courageous columns, refusing to play the expected racial blame game. The expulsion of Ramjattan and the closing of ranks should make all decent Guyanese disgusted.

(3) As for those meetings that are held in the diaspora, it is important to remember that overseas communities sometimes end up being the most intransigent, heads stuck in the mud, having left Guyana for reasons that are often difficult and even traumatic, they come up and split off into their boxes that are frequently more backward than what they left in Guyana, however much our 'leaders' benefit from this division.

(4) Some of us, many of us, most of us would like to hear about what is happening with the Home Affairs Minister. I for one am completely supportive of the principle of innocent until proven guilty. At the same time, what happened to an independent inquiry? In the interest of transparency and accountability, doesn't it make sense that theĀ person against whom such claims are made, even if innocent until proven guilty, would step down, go on leave, take a holiday, until her/his name is cleared? Do not assume that everyone is calling for the Home Affairs Minister's 'head' (metaphorically speaking of course); many of us like reassurance that due process is occurring, that there is transparency, and that this is not becoming a political football on both (not one, both) sides.

(5) Finally, I am also curious about the statistics re the Minister of Foreign Trade who has not received his visa for the United States. We are told by the embassy that this is routine for it to be delayed this long (!!), to verify this, would it be possible to let us know how often this is done to ministers from other countries, and if any other Foreign Minister (ironically!) had his visa to the United States delayed for this length of time (an interesting precedent, don't you think?).

As I have not yet received a response to my e-mail, I would appreciate it if you could perhaps assist me in publishing its contents so that maybe I can get a public response to these concerns, which I share with so many others overseas, and which I hope I have fairly represented in this letter.

And, for those of you with an interest in joining this list-serve (seems easy, I was added just like that!), or asking questions, do take the time to write:

"People's Progressive Party"

"Office of the President Media Centre"

I hope your wait for a response will not be as long as mine, nor the silence so deafening.

Yours faithfully,

Alissa Trotz