Frankly Speaking Frankly Speaking:
By A A Fenty
Stabroek News
February 27, 2004

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Another week of definite mental saturation for me results in this contribution being the briefest indeed for many a week.

I comment briefly on two issues that are as dissimilar as chalk to champagne - from a citizen-in-the-street layman's perspective.

A country it is said hardly gets to choose its neighbours. The land-mass was there for centuries then countries - even nations - evolved. Circumstances then would make them co-exist peacefully and productively. Or merely survive as bad neighbours prosecuting disagreements between them from time to time. History - especially as originally fashioned by the early European colonisers - has determined that Guyana experienced uneasy, albeit relatively peaceful relations with two of our neighbours - big, powerful oil-rich Venezuela in the west and little Suriname to our east. The even more powerful Brazil, ironically, has settled its boundary with us, unlike the first two mentioned, but is rapidly manifesting its active presence amongst us. Both in the goldfields and on the Coast. (Our "neighbour" to the north, the big brown Atlantic, challenges our fragile coastal "sea defences" whenever it wishes. There are no "negotiations" really possible with it!)

About three years ago, if the truth is faced frankly, little Suriname humbled us by expelling a rig that was exploring for oil reserves in our Corentyne waters which it claims to be its own. All the diplomacy has not allowed us to re-assert ourselves there. Little Suriname's expulsion has been sustained with talk of Joint Development. I suppose our national priorities and under-funded budgets do not allow us to back up diplomacy with military authority.

Now whenever commenting on our formal relations with our continental neighbours and Caricom "sister" states, I always become more acutely conscious of the fact that thousands of our countrymen, beginning decades ago, have made these places their new home(s). And if they are still borderline cases with few rights, how they must shudder when respective territoria_l disputes become active, volatile or explosive from time to time.

Well, just for now, the thousands of Guyanese-born citizens now settled in Venezuela must be breathing with much long-term ease. That's because President Chavez, charismatic and some may say cunning, breezed in and out of Georgetown last week bringing gifts and messages of "love processes." I've read, most carefully, all the letters, assessments, editorials and other opinions offered in the wake of that Presidential State visit. As is often my custom, no need to repeat most of them here. Except to raise questions which some of those comments stimulate.

Like, do the Sunday Stabroek and the official opposition really have no confidence in the ability of our Foreign Policy and Diplomacy to project, prosecute and defend our territorial integrity and our sovereignty? OK I suppose I can conjure up their responses, from their perspective. Based only on recent precedents (Suriname's bullyism, Brazilian economic exploitation of our minerals, reportedly with unfettered monitoring), we lost diplomatic points and our present administrative capabilities - policing, customs, immigration, consular capacities - leave much to be desired in the area of cross-border relations.

My own observation is that though I can accept that our "little Guyana" achieved, in the past, high-profile status "in the world's international fora" how "settled" was (is) the Guyana-Venezuela issue, for example? Did we really isolate and prevent Venezuela aggression? But I suppose my questions for this period should be more along these lines: given our economic status and myriad vulnerabilities, just what assistance should we seek or accept from our Spanish-and Portuguese-speakingneighbours? Couldn't Minister Insanally's foreign policy think- tank fashion our positions? Even with Sunday Stabroek's assistance? All states' national interests come first (to them). So how much "support" could we expect from certain Caricom sister-states who depend on certain Caricom sister-states who depend on Venezuelan oil supplies? (I'm taking it for granted that all internal forces will "come together" whenever there are external threats to our sovereignty.)

So I need the knowledgeable commentators to assist me - and perhaps Minister Insanally: How much and what type of assistance should we seek or accept from our three continental neighbours? And when? Thanks in anticipation.

Perverse happenings

I was a primary school teacher for more than a decade. I'm a father still. So I can never come to terms with the weekly increasing brutality meted out to too many very young Guyanese. What drugs, what liquor, what "temporary insanity" can drive that Sophia man to assault a four-year-old!? What sympathy can be given to that individual. I notice that he has been granted bail. I can therefore state little else. For now.

Then there was the man who assaulted brutally, a 79-year old woman! What punishment will be given him? Again, I won't delve into the many sociological/psychological reasons for child-molestation, incest and related heinous activities, as described in all the journals available to me.

I do grapple, however, with understanding this particular manifestation of our social degradation of recent times. Today is the day I need your assistance.

1) Caught VCT's Tony Vieira's views on the Mash Day Float Parade? OK, he didn't comment on the composition of the massive crowds. But don't dismiss all his views!

2) Next week: "Ah gun drap yuh!"

3) Did the best calypsoes win?

'Til next week