Guyana, unmasking the culture of entitlement
(In memory of Ronald Waddell)
RONALD Waddell was assassinated on January 30, 2006. This is the 12th year since that sinister event. His death was enveloped in one of the most violent periods of our internal history since the emancipation of slavery in 1834-38. This country was managed by the most ineffective and uninspiring government it ever knew. The acceleration of social entitlement towards a criminal state reached levels that are now unmasking its ugliness with the behaviour of both the board of GBTI and the current NBS management. A false sense of entitlement was cemented in the day that Waddell’s life was taken, separating who was legally disposable by the death squad, the politically connected criminal businessman and who was by social and financial status above the law. I knew Waddell on Laing Avenue; we called him Solo, like Napoleon Solo, the character from ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E’.
Our later conversations were rooted in defining the options of underprivileged urban youth, a vicious phenomenon that we inherited from the colonial area, that this country from its independent status has not had the finance to address effectively. The South Georgetown area has always been the foremost urban scapegoat to define the status quo demarcation of ‘entitlement’ which in fact is a pretentious charade of the exposed to options as against the unexposed. For those of us without mere blink eye retention of memory, I can remember a gang-rape case in Albouystown some two decades ago, when the Magistrate Fung-A-Fat demanded: “Where are the women organisations, why aren’t they here?”. Ronald Waddell would have marveled at this time, not perfect, but much better, with the actions of the GBTI board and worse still with the management of NBS, exhibiting temerity of entitlement that defies the acknowledgment and respect of the Law. From Parliament to NBS, the curse of entitlement based not on enlightenment but rather on the frailty of certified social connections is what has tormented and tortured Guyana for the past 50 years.
I can recall the incident when an obviously off, intoxicated by some substance, Corporal Beresford murdered Jermaine Wilkinson in 1996. The behaviour of persons linked to what law enforcement was back then, was as if this youngster was not even human. Along with Ronald and Jermaine’s relatives I watched them at the court, at the protest in front of Freedom House. They were laughing from the window. The only person who came out and spoke to us at Freedom House was Henry Jeffrey. These are the people whose twisted sense of entitlement with the consistent extrajudicial murders with political support, initiated the grassroots retaliation that led to many innocent police and civilian lives lost and a criminalisation of Guyana. With a proliferation of arms brought in from across our borders that is still tormenting our society.
I brought Desmond Hoyte into Albouystown, he almost didn’t come had it not been for the presence of Ronald Austin. Former President Hoyte confirmed to many of us after his link in Albouystown, that he regretted not reaching out to grassroots concerns due to his preoccupation with designing the economic reforms that Guyana needed to survive- which he was responsible for- and which the PPP had inherited and destroyed.
He commented on the mood of entitlement without mentioning it, in reference to a police officer who then was responsible for having his ranks fire pellets into protesting nurses. During Hoyte’s governance, this policeman had locked two suspects in a car trunk, parked and proceeded to consume some beers. This was reported to President Hoyte who wanted this policeman out of the GPF. “You would not believe the number of people who called and begged for this fellow, with no sensitivity to what he had done,” the now-late past President said. It seemed that this peculiar familiarity in our small country had become counterproductive and that the past president had realised it.
Recently, acting Commissioner of Police, David Ramnarine echoed Hoyte’s lament. That entitlement syndrome is also transferred to the politics of this country. A source at NIS was disappointed when he recommended that NIS conduct a cordon and confirmation to NIS payments from minibus operators. Roger Luncheon rejected it on the premise that “too many of our [PPP] constituency will be affected.” It was concluded that some were entitled not to pay taxes, while others by their ethnicity and political affiliation were condemned to carry the nation’s tax load.
We spoke Ronald and I, around 2001 on the obvious impact on the old and South Georgetown areas. After the changes on the waterfront stripped thousands of their jobs, they received no severance pay. That was how the street sellers quadrupled, and the populations of some islands in the Caribbean rose, to include 25 percent Guyanese. The largely congested areas of Georgetown must now merit adequate attention; they have suffered longer; values have retrogressed, becoming the scorn of the entitled – their sources for gunmen and drug couriers. The sugar workers have always benefitted, all workers must be placed on the landscape of necessary needs and not based on political or otherwise entitlement.