By Francis Quamina Farrier
There is a myriad of issues and topics which keep presenting themselves in competition for immediate consideration to be in this week’s feature article of mine; thus, the decision which required the above headline. Nonetheless, this article can only accommodate three of the many issues and hot topics which are swirling around at this time.
UNNECESSARY FLOODING CONTINUES IN GEORGETOWN
The first issue decided on is the continuing flooding in Guyana’s capital city, Georgetown. Many elderly citizens of the former “Garden City of the Caribbean” had no such experience during their younger years. Some of the younger citizens of today are sometimes skeptical of accepting such claims by the elders. There was the time when there were the regular May-June and the Pre-Christmas rain-fall seasons which came like clockwork here in British Guiana/Guyana.
The May-June was the big annual rainy season. Showers were extremely heavy and incessant. They were referred to as “falling like bucket-a-drop.” However, there was never the kind of regular flooding as experienced since the turn of the century. Discussing this topic with a number of experts over the past two decades, I was advised that added to the negative effects of Climate Change, the dramatic increase of rainfall, and the decrease of water holdings (canals) in Georgetown, all play a contributory factor in the watery problem.
Former north to south city canals at East, Thomas, Camp, Waterloo, Carmichael and Main Streets have all been filled in and are now avenues for pedestrians. That leaves millions of gallons of rain-fall water nowhere to go when the kokers are closed, but onto the streets, and even over the very avenues and pavements which become like canals again. The relatively poor maintenance of existing canals in Georgetown, such as the Lying Avenue Canal, is also part of the reason for the floods. Those citizens who clutter the drains with litter and garbage must also bear much of the blame. Most of the culverts are also in need of scheduled desilting.
The above has been addressed by myself and other journalists, reporters and members of civil society over the decades since the problem emerged over four decades ago. What is now obviously needed is sustained action by the relevant authorities. It would be recalled that there was a noticeable absence of flooding in Georgetown after the thorough clean-up campaign of the city in the latter months of 2015. Many citizens took note of that as they observed the positive results and were happy. Unfortunately, that improvement was not sustained and the happiness of citizens was short-lived. With regular rainfall, the floods in Georgetown have returned resulting in streets and yards becoming inundated.
That is extremely discomforting to citizens and visitors alike. One of the reasons contributing to the flooding in the city is the clogged-up koker out-falls. Keeping canals clean is important, but that is usually an exercise in futility when the koker out-falls are all clogged-up and water can’t get out when the kokers are opened. In one particular case, there are large trees growing in one of the koker out-falls, blocking over 80 percent of water getting out when the koker is open. I have looked at that koker many times when it was open and observed how the water was struggling to get out.
THE DRAMA OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
With tens of thousands of Guyanese residing and voting in the recent contentious Presidential Election in the United States of America, that is certainly a topic for inclusion in this feature article of mine. On March 2 of this year 2020, Guyana experienced a General Election as never before. The official result of that General Elections was not officially settled until early August when the present PPP/C government was installed. America played a vital role in bringing the long-drawn-out process to a conclusion.
The United States of America is also experiencing a Presidential Election fiasco. Although that 2020 election concluded over a week ago, and the winner officially declared, the incumbent president has so far not conceded and offered congratulations to the victor. There was an extremely high voter turnout at that November 3, 2020 election. Somewhat different this time around, was a high percentage of mail-in voting and early voting. The official result is that the Former Vice-President and Democratic Party Presidential candidate Joe Biden has won. Incumbent President Donald Trump has so far not conceded and offered congratulations to the winner. He is claiming that he has been cheated and plans to take the matter to court. Meanwhile, Heads-of-State from several countries including Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, have already extended congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden. At this time no one knows exactly what would play out on January 20, 2021, when President Donald Trump should vacate the presidency and President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America.
With a flash-back to July 23, 1986, then-Senator Joe Biden delivered a fiery speech expressing his disgust against the white minority government in apartheid South Africa, saying, that it was a “Repulsive and repugnant regime … I’m ashamed of the lack of moral backbone to this policy,” he had said about the inactions of the government of the USA of the day. Biden has built up a reputation of fighting for the underdog. With no ‘first dog’ in the White House during the Trump presidency, President-Elect Joe Biden has already adopted two dogs from an animal shelter to become “first dogs” and reside in the White House. Meanwhile, the American Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who paid a brief visit to Guyana last September, has stated that his boss, President Donald J. Trump, will serve a second term. When asked for a comment, President-Elect Joe Biden referred to it as “an embarrassment.” So, is the United States of America about to have two presidents at the same time? And is the United States of America losing its moral authority to lecture to less powerful countries?
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND ELECTIONS IN NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand is one of the few developed countries in the world with a very low COVID-19 death figure per capita and a high standard of living for its citizens. There is also a diverse government with whites and indigenous citizens as well as a high number of women in the government. The country is also very successful in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. With a population of over five million, there are 1,980 cases and just 25 deaths as a result of the coronavirus. I visited New Zealand some years ago and observed a high level of discipline by the citizens. I was shown many of the things which the country benefited from their previous gold mining heyday.
In that twin-island country, results of their recent September 17, 2020 General Elections came in just a matter of hours after the close of the Polls. The incumbent Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was declared the winner. The country’s Indigenous Maori Peoples serve in quite a number of important political offices. The Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, is a Maori woman. While in New Zealand, I also noted the way the Indigenous Maori people received in reparation; Radio and TV Stations, Libraries, well-constructed infrastructure and other amenities in their communities. Instead of simply asking for reparation in liquid cash, the Maori people identified what they wanted in order to improve in their communities and standard of living and they received same.