Jul 07, 2016 Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon

frddie2Life’s starkness glows incandescently in this country. The starkness is so pervasive that it has become the norm. People just get on with their semi-pessimistic, semi-optimistic life. Elections bring different parties with different politicians to power but the same mentality remains. There was a huge crater in the middle of Hadfield Street as it meets Lombard Street, or to put it another way, when Lombard Street meets Hadfield Street.
Once you turn east into Hadfield Street from Lombard Street you had to fall into that crater because there wasn’t sufficient room to manoeuver around it. That hole was a headache for every driver and it lasted for years until Carifesta came. Two days before Carifesta, Robeson Benn’s Ministry filled the humongous hole.
The logic was simple to understand. If we didn’t have foreign visitors by the large numbers, the crater would have remained untouched. The logic was indeed simple to understand – the local people were not important enough to have that service bestowed on them.
The PPP Government is gone. Robeson Benn is gone. New politicians are in power from a new formation but the same mentality remains. On the Atlantic highway (I call it that to distinguish it from the Railway Embankment) the street lights on the highway from Liliendaal to the beginning of UG Road have been out for more than a year now. That is one stretch of darkness you have to drive through. Then suddenly on Monday evening all the lights for that stretch were shining brightly.
They fixed it. It was an identical replica of the attitude toward the crater on Hadfield Street. If there wasn’t the CARICOM Heads meeting, those non-functioning bulbs would have been ignored. The logic is so simple – the local people were not important enough to have the urgent attention of their government. The politicians have changed since May last year but the same mentality continues.
Let’s return to Carifesta but this time the subject is not the road but heartlessness. Then we will go to the centerpiece of the Golden Jubilee – Durban Park where we will see different politicians but the same mentality. What can be more disheartening in a country where failed politicians remain politically powerful and almost won a General Election? It is as if these people can do no wrong. Often I hear people cite the name of Frank Anthony as one of the leading contenders to steer a new PPP into a new age.
Anthony was the Minister who supervised Carifesta. Up to this day, some very small business people have not been paid. These people will never be paid and not by some recalcitrant con artist, but by the government that they gave their resources to in exchange for payment. Up to this day, the struggling Theatre Guild, the financially strapped Theatre Guild is owed $1.4 million for services rendered to the Carifesta Secretariat.
That debt to the Theatre Guild caused me to lose a childhood friend from Wortmanville, Malcolm De Freitas, who is a member of the Board at the Guild. After I wrote about the outstanding bill in one of my columns, De Freitas denounced me in a published letter for mentioning the debt and assured readers that President Jagdeo was not like that; he would pay the Theatre Guild. That was the end of the friendship. Jagdeo is still to pay the Guild. The men who were responsible for this heartlessness are still in politics, still competing for power
Enter D’Urban Park. This was the centre of attraction for the Golden Jubilee. The park was built, the jubilee was celebrated, and Guyana has gone back to routine life. But many small business people are yet to be paid. The list includes sand-truck owners who have families to maintain. One person got a contract so he took a loan from the bank. He is still to be paid by the National Commemoration Commission for services and goods delivered to the D’Urban Park project, but he has to start repaying his bank loan. Doesn’t this remind you of the small entrepreneurs that the administrators of Carifesta ruined?
What makes this country frightening is that if it was a rough businessman, the Carifesta victims could have sought the help of state officials. The same with the D’Urban Park victims. But the bully is the State itself. What needs to be highlighted is how the State mistreats the low income citizens, and developing entrepreneurs. Coby Frimpong, the Government told us, will be paid his ten million dollars for an academic paper he did for the previous government. The Government said it doesn’t want the paper, it is useless. But Coby will still collect.