By A.A. Fenty
February 13, 2004
It is not because I received, after a long time, a D-Threat from an irate reader who objected to my last Friday's offering that I've been granted a virtual time-out today. It could be the fact that this `paper, on Monday (SN February 9), effectively pre-empted and upstaged me capturing eloquently much of what I had intended to write in bidding acting Police Commissioner McDonald a farewell befitting a Public Servant who was put under siege in the most outrageous manner.
(The caller, last Friday evening, had objected to my theory that the early activities of the Phantom Gang(s) had sort of balanced or "equalised" the previously one-sided violence against the innocents of the beleaguered society. He had concluded erroneously that I had implied, last week, that "only Black People is bandit"). Even all that is related to Mr McDonald's work - or lack of effort - depending on your perspective. If ever a public officer in a key and sensitive position deserved - or needed - some public sympathy, it was Floyd McDonald. To me, he and his office represented the wider blighted society under siege - from the politicians, the business sector, the poor law-abiding and from his own within. There was no way a Floyd McDonald could "win".
Consider Mr McDonald's predicament - as his tenure turned out to be. I'm reliably informed that he was really grounded in accounts and "finance" - an administrative function in the Police Force. He was, from all accounts, a sort of career public servant in uniform. His immediate predecessor, Laurie Leyland Lewis was a pervasive powerhouse, a strong one-man, almost individualistic titan who had served both administrations, and in his latter days probably strained to continue to be as professional as he sought to be. Lewis made McDonald a crime chief. In the context of an imperfect Police Force, nearly corruption-friendly, what could have really been expected of Mac's "Crime-Chief" efforts? But under the redoubtable Laurie Lewis, he soldiered on eventually being thrust into a cauldron of conflict-prone responsibility.
I hold fast to the view, frankly speaking, that any Commissioner, or comparative Security Chief in a "national" public position in this Blighted Land was doomed to relative failure in the post-1997 period. Opposition confrontational, destabilising politics made life difficult for even an a-political parish priest. As Lewis left and McDonald succeeded, the politics, crime, corruption, indisciplined traffic culture, economic woes and narco-enterprise extant in this society bound the acting Top Cop to mere expectations with no wherewithal to fulfil them.
Came the 2002 Republic Day jail-break and the still-deadly consequences which have led sadly, to our country's loss of innocence. Poor Floyd McDonald. Monday's Stabroek News editorial "transition" captures, adequately from McDonald to Felix.
Commentator Heston K. Rodrigues (SN Wednesday 11) might be right. We cannot be unfair to Mr Felix. But the Rodrigueses of this Guyana World must know, as the late Lloyd Barker often reminded, that the force is a microcosm especially of the poorer sections of the society that fuels it. We must express support for Felix and outline just what we, as a society with a vested interest in his success, could do practically, to support and reform the Guyana Police Force he will head.
No doubt Mr Felix will be challenged to manifest his professionalism and "independence". No doubt as a Guyanese human being with - his inner-most personal preferences, he will be hard-pressed to rise above the "politics" of his position bringing to bear all his experience and qualifications to bear, with the consistent support of his management team, the government and opposition. Even as his political and parliamentary subject minister remains under siege.
And as I say goodbye to Floyd McDonald, I search for appropriate words to send him to a well-deserved but fruitful retirement. All I can muster for now is the following: The "forces" that be were eminently unfair to you. The criminal enterprise that blossomed during your watch had some socio-political underpinnings over which you had no control. It wasn't your fault! You tried with CANU - your best beacon of limited success. More than ever you know quietly where the criminal cancers fester. You know the crooks and their sponsors. You've earned your rest. Thanks for the effort. (Your sunset signals still - A hell of a dawn).
It's a black thing...
Look, I'll cheat here `til next week. I'm always moved to write something relevant during this African Heritage Month or Black History Month. For now, just contemplate this snatch first offered exactly nine years ago.
"There is this message on some popular T-shirts Afro-American youngsters like to wear: It's a black thing... you wouldn't understand": The "you" refers to persons who are not "Black" or Afro-American", including white people, of course.
I suppose now I'll have to number myself among those who "wouldn't understand", after attending an interesting black history month forum held by the Guyana Branch of the Pan African Movement last Monday evening. The focus was on the National Hero, Cuffy, as the gathering, led by an eminent panel, sought to examine the slave-warrior's challenges, strengths, weakness and conduct during and after the 1763 rebellion. There seemed to be a type of consensus that Cuffy's contribution to the global liberation struggles of the black enslaved of those times and after, was almost immeasurable - whatever his own failings. Later, when two or more participants wanted to pin down what precise lessons could be drawn from Cuffy's problems during the revolution - and how the lessons and wisdom derived could be used to benefit today's divided black generations, I either "couldn't understand", or became a bit confused. Frankly speaking, the Afro-Guyanese contributors to the discussion all meant well. It was, however, just as if, as Arnon said, there was a mere "parade of knowledge" at times. It was obvious, from the forum, and from scores and scores before this one, that the "realisation", the "awareness", the "consciousness" of black peoples' lack of cohesion; of their not getting their act together and of their being divided, manipulated and exploited by others, is understood. Yet, after decades of local, national and international symposia, fora and workshops, nothing tangible is really done to address actual programmes of advancement.
After the forum ended, I enjoyed a stimulating follow-up discussion with the boys at the Club. (It was refreshing meeting the Professor for the first time). We agreed that it would be foolish not to treat with "Caucasians" in this inter-dependent world.
We discussed, at length, what amounted to the "black man's dilemma" in a world in which circumstances conspired (and conspire) to enable Jews, Asian and Caucasians to enjoy advancement and status, most times superior to the Afro-peoples; including the Afro-Guyanese condition. The exchange is too long to be recorded here, but many fingers were pointed - inwards at times. (After the elections, can Black South Africans really control their country's military and precious minerals? Who's responsible for the Afro-Guyanese economic status here? Shouldn't organisations like the Pan African Movement institute concrete measures aimed at assisting Afro-Guyanese youth to acquire entrepreneurial skills or to meet the imminent UG Cost Recovery fees? Or would that be discrimination?) You get an idea of our Club gaff that evening?"
1) My Heart cries. What is a good Calypso? A good Soca Song?
2) Can judges of Calypso be expected to overcome their own preferences for specific singers and issues and apply, as best they could, the criteria for judging?
3) I sympathise D'Ivan!
`Til next week!