US-based Guyanese launch think tank on national policies

Paul Nehru Tennassee, Professor at University of the District of Columbia, USA

By Zena Henry

A group of corporate and professional Guyanese based in the United States is on the verge of launching a cross border think tank called The Roraima Institute (TRI). The non-profit organization which is registered in the US is said to be the brainchild of a number of well -established Guyanese recognizing the need to lend their expertise and skills back home.
TRI Director, Paul Nehru Tennassee, told the Guyana Chronicle that the overseas-based organization was specially formalized to aid Guyana in assessing its development, while creating policies that would have positive impact on the overall growth of the nation. He said that TRI is especially interested in working with the poorer class of persons living in the country so they too can access the benefits of an advancing country.
Tennassee said that in April of 2016, more than 80 Guyanese from across the US met at the University of the District of Columbia at a conference called “Guyana: Aspirations for Real Change -2016 and Beyond” to engage in dialogue on how they can render their skills back home. “The conference was to spark a non-partisan dialogue and make recommendations about how Guyanese at home and abroad can support sustainable development in the country.”
Tennassee said that the conference’s participants were accepting of the brain drain issue and felt that as contributors to this reality, they should do more to contribute and build bridges for Guyanese at home and abroad to collaborate. Tennassee is in Guyana for the second time conducting research and recently released a report on the issues affecting Guyanese, particularly those at the grass root level.
The Director said that listening interviews were conducted in regions three, four, six, seven and nine, providing insightful and useful perspectives from diverse groups from across the country. Based on five main questions that pointed to the quality of life and activities done to improve the quality of life in the country, Tennassee said it was found so far, that many young people were having problems with jobs, while those employed are still finding difficulty in making ends meet. Farmers and manufacturers, he said, are having problems marketing and promoting their goods among many other issues discovered.
Tennassee noted however that Guyanese abroad are eager to offer assistance, where he (Tennassee) for example, is interested in providing pro bono training and classes in the academic areas of Civics, Government and Corruption among several other areas which he teaches at the University of the District of Columbia in the US. Tennassee pointed out that TRI will be funded by corporate and professional Guyanese. “These are people using their own money to do well for their country,” the Director insisted. He said too that local business people are also being lobbied to get on-board and also provide assistance in getting the work of the institution going.
Tennassee went on to say that since the organization is non-profit, all its activities and even financial record will be made public as to how much money is injected into the organization and what it was used for. Outside of this, Tennassee said come August, TRI will be organising a national conference titled “The state of the Guyanese grass roots- how all of us can benefit from the oil revenue.” He said the idea is to take an earnest look at what is happening with the Guyanese poor, while finding sustainable ways in lifting them out of their situations. Tennassee recognised the many issues plaguing the Guyanese population such as its racial division and political issues. He noted however that Guyanese must take a step in helping each other to advance their lives saying it is “our moral and historical obligation.”
He said, “We are not a people of royalty, we come from a period of slavery, indentureship and conquest, so all of us have a common origin. If there are those of us who are left behind, for whatever reasons; below the poverty line, they don’t have a good education; then we have a responsibility to see how we can come up with policies to lift them up.”
Tennassee said that TRI is in its early stages but they envision working closely with the Guyanese population to meet their desired end.