Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 6th 2014 Contents A22
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 6, 2014
On April 1, it s spot-the-
spoof for the English
media. The Guardian in
London said Scotland was plan-
ning the switch to driving on the
right. A penguin in Torquay zoo
was photographed with a golden
egg. The Sun had: "Frackingham
Palace---Queen drills for gas in
Guyana s Stabroek News
reported a 3.2-metre April 1
spring tide which pushed down
the sea wall at Mosquito Hall,
east of Georgetown. That one
was for real.
Like much of Guyana s coast-
land, Mosquito Hall lies below
sea level. For years, residents
reported cracks and fissures in
this vital structure.
"The minister said on TV that
this sea wall is not an issue,"
said one angry villager. "He
should come and live here and
he will see."
And for Guyana s politicians,
April 1 was Day Two of the
annual budget debate.
The budget must be agreed on
by the end of this month. With-
out a budget, there s no legal
basis for the government to col-
lect taxes or write cheques.
And this year, it s quite possi-
ble there will be no budget.
Since 2011, the opposition par-
ties have had a single-seat
majority in Guyana s National
Assembly. Last year and in 2012,
they amended the budget, cut-
ting out some spending items.
In January this year, Guyana s
chief justice Ian Chang ruled
that Parliament has no power to
amend. They can either approve
the budget, or vote down the
In a normal country, govern-
ment and opposition would have
spent the past few months nego-
tiating an agreed package. The
French do it. The Americans do
it. But not the Guyanese.
This year s budget has plenty
spending the opposition does not
like. For starters, there s a US$30
million subsidy for the state-
owned sugar company Guysuco,
which has not presented a finan-
cial report since 2010. Last year,
Guysuco notched up its thinnest
crop since 1990. Parliament
might perhaps ask for some
accountability before they vote
them extra cash.
On the big day, an opposition
member might conceivably for
some reason be unable to vote.
Failing that, the budget won t go
The finance minister can in
theory back off, and rush
through a new budget the oppo-
sition will accept. But backing
Guyana s People s Progressive
Party (PPP), in office since 1992.
So, what next? With no budg-
et, the government could call
fresh elections, to be held within
In that case, it would make
sense to ask for a supplementary
allocation before dissolving the
National Assembly---enough at
least to pay salaries and write
Next day, the attorney general,
Anil Nandlall, sued the Stabroek
News and a respected account-
ant, Christopher Ram, for libel.
His complaint? A March 19 letter
from Ram, which held the AG to
book for unfilled appointments
to the judicial services commis-
sion. He wants an injunction
against re-publishing, and dam-
ages of G$20 million---that s
Stabroek News immediately re-
published the offending letter on
its Web site.
I ve read it. It does not say
that the attorney general is cor-
rupt. It does not say he has bro-
ken the law. It accuses him of
"cheap politics." It says he has
been "mischievous and obfusca-
tory." That, says Stabroek, is "fair
comment on a matter of public
So no olive branch from the
If elections are called, what
The elections commission says
it will be ready, if it has to be.
But Guyana has a long, long his-
tory of delayed polls and dis-
putes over the voters list. Don t
hold your breath.
For the government, cam-
paigning will be less than fun if
the budget taps are turned firmly
off.Both main parties have their
internal squabbles. The PPP gen-
eral secretary, Clement Rohee,
penned a 1,355-word letter to
Stabroek last week, dealing with
his own party s affairs.
The state-owned Guyana
Chronicle reported on March 21
that the former two-term presi-
dent Bharrat Jagdeo would be a
better candidate than the current
president, Donald Ramotar. This,
they claimed, was the message
of a mystery opinion poll com-
missioned by the opposition.
Jagdeo may indeed want to run
again; whether he can depends
on a close reading of the consti-
tution, which rules out more
than two consecutive terms. A
legal challenge and a party
squabble would not make a great
So it looks like a repeat of
2011: Ramotar vs Granger. And
the most likely outcome? Hung
Parliament, Mark Two.
There are still enough PPP
loyalists to keep them as the
largest single party. So that gives
them the president, the cabinet,
and control of the executive. If
they win back a few votes, they
might just scrape a National
Assembly majority. All things are
But there are a good few angry
voters. Said one last week in
Mosquito Creek: "And now they
come and patch-patch. But that
can t do nothing."
Dear Sacha, I don t know
you but evidently you
are a clever, capable,
woman. A petite former beauty-
queen powerhouse in a man s
world who has busted stereo-
types and has no need for arche-
typal labels. Neither madonna
nor whore. Like the old Virginia
Slims ad: A girl who has come
such a long way, baby, that you
could be anything you wanted.
You didn t have to be butch,
matronly, or old to be up there
with one of the big boys.
And yes, it s you we were talk-
ing about at the hairdresser the
other day. How proud we are of
you. When, after a government
minister, Chandresh Sharma,
reportedly slapped, then pushed
you against a car, instead of
whimpering, cowed by power,
you stood up for yourself,
reported the slap, the push that
made you blackout. I m
impressed. I see my younger self
in you, the self I wish I had the
confidence to be then.
I cringe at my younger self. I
sat in offices with powerful peo-
ple, invariably older men, and
pretended to find their bombas-
tic, sexist jokes funny. Dumbing
down, limiting my vocabulary,
hiding my brain behind pink lip-
stick, resisting the urge to smack
leering men---with poor grammar,
yellow teeth, deep pockets and
power to shape my career---
smirking at my legs. I associated
being feminine with weakness,
having babies as a liability.
The minister denied every-
thing. Mysteriously, private semi-
nude photographs of you sent to
your boyfriend were released on
To look at you, one would
think you were made of steel.
But we know you re human. This
hurts badly. Your dignity is
I hope you were encouraged to
be brave by flight attendant
Ronelle Laidlow, who was allegedly
threatened with losing her job and
got felt up by another government
minister, Glenn Ramadharsingh,
and reported him.
People like Sat Maharaj---to
whom entire communities look
for guidance---dismissed a
reported slap on a woman s face
and shoving her so hard she
blacked out, as a "private mari-
Women who still feel power-
less in their lives and dependent
on men to get ahead herded
together to throw darts at you
for "moral" reasons, while,
immorally, not recognising that
yes, you could have been killed
with that knock to your head.
Many men---owing to your
beauty, independence and the
fact that you wouldn t look at
them twice---tried to degrade
and dehumanise you by salivat-
ing over you.
Human hearts are tangled and
mangled because we are compli-
cated; but freedom from fear is
a basic human right, and slap-
ping someone or pushing them
is a violation of a human right.
Instead of crumbling in shame
at the images of you being cir-
culated amongst shameless,
salacious men in this country
who do nothing to protect
women, you held a press con-
ference, claiming a smear cam-
paign, making no apologies for
the photos you sent your
boyfriend as your inalienable
right to privacy, and calling on
the Prime Minister as a woman
to protect you.
How the talk of you came up
at the hairdresser:
As I walked into the salon my
hairdresser---I ll call her Susan---
expertly spun around a middle-
aged, very attractive woman to
face the mirror. But there was
something wrong with her. She
had a cast on her arm. She said
she "fell." Even after the haircut
that would have any woman
bouncing out of the door with
confidence, she quietly asked
with downcast eyes if she could
sit down in the lounge for a bit.
There was a good chance she
hadn t fallen. That someone did
this to her. That this salon with
women became her refuge for a
While Susan lathered, condi-
tioned and blow-dried my hair,
Susan told me about her mother.
Her father drank, womanised and
spent almost a decade beating
her mother senseless.
The incidents spilled out: the
time her father threw her mother
against the fridge; splattered
blood on the TV when he threw
it at her; dumped the hot meal
which he said had too much salt
over her mother: gravy, meat,
vegetables, lovingly prepared,
pouring down her face like
sewage; questioned about a
woman, decided he would drag
her down the hill like a rag doll,
her body rolling in cement, stone
and broken glass.
She ended the story with a
sudden murderous glassy look in
"Nobody is going to ever hit
me. If they do, forget the police.
I will kill them. See all those lit-
tle girls growing up seeing their
fathers or any man beating,
abusing, shouting at their moth-
ers and other women in their
lives? Guess what? They ve
In a week, two separate women
cut the careers of two powerful
men to shreds; men who, oddly,
while protesting their innocence,
resigned; meaning there was too
much egg on their faces to do
The latest shot of you in a
smart, long-sleeved form-fitting
sexy black dress, smiling and
walking towards your shiny car
in the sunshine with your head
held high, warmed my heart.
You re a fighter. And you won t
let them see you cry.
Meanwhile, the older woman
with the lovely haircut: where is
she? You did this for her, and for
another generation of women.
You helped men to think twice
before they physically, verbally or
sexually abuse a woman. Bravo.
NEITHER MADONNA NOR WHORE
GUYANA: BUDGET TICKET TO TROUBLE?
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