Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Poland + Guyana

Chapter 9 of 'The Shock Doctrine' records the 'sell-out' by the leading lights of the blue-collar Polish movement/party - Solidarity- to the capitalist 'free-market' principles promoted by the golden boy Jeffrey Sachs benefiting a few and basically selling off State Assets to global/foreign Multi-national Corporations. The author, Naomi Klein states that creating a permanent underclass 'represented a bitter betrayal, one that bred a deep cynicism and anger'.
And I wondered how much of that could be applied to the PPP, the dodgy 'businessmen' who have no concept of forward-planning becoming the leading lights in the business community ( ignoring commonsense and Planning Laws while erecting new businesses, taking a retrograde step and switching from glass bottles to undisposable plastic ones, blatant promotion of polystrene containers and plastic bags... the list goes on - but the point is that these are people who are in a position to make decisions for the rest of us and in fact most probably couldn't survive in 'business' outside of the unlevel Playing Field that is Guyana.), the betrayed workers left to fend for themselves, the largely unemployed youth - sadly unlike the Poles who do migrate and do quite well in Europe our youngsters have little or no work ethic, the international deals shrouded in secrecy...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy (Chinese) Dragon Year

So with much ads in the newspapers some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to start celebrating the Chinese New Year publicly - that is - at a Public Forum and not the usual lunch specials. This must represent the burgeoning influence of China in Guyana as we are now to be also blessed with a 24hr Chinese TV Channel.
The event was held in the tarmac-ed /staged area of the National Park. It looked like a couple hundred people were there - mainly families looking for somewhere to take their off-spring for an afternoon out.
It was a disappointment from the start as the Stalls near the entrance was the usual plastic/local jewellery, cheap Chinese toys/stickers, usual games stall with cheap prizes. Then the Chinese Association stall was selling Chinese Cakes and some type of Chinese biscuits, New Thriving hauled out the fast-food section and were doing quite well, then Royal Castle (and the Chinese connection would be...?... perhaps Brian James one of the directors of said company?), E-networks (Chinese internet cable), National Hardware (selling Chinese Cantors and SUV's) and the Chinese railway company -- think they took over the Amelia Falls project from "Flip', Haier Stand and the Chinese Embassy selling cheap DVD's and propaganda-ish books.
 The Stage was set way too far from the Stands to hold a show so the sensible of the Masses came to sit in the VEEP area.
Donald and wife turned up on time but had to do the obligatory tour of the stalls, by which time there were a few drizzles. Sam turned up late as usual  -- dunno why as I saw in the papers that they were at the reception where presumably they saw all this before? Surely it's time to haul in the deputies like Frank the Culture Minister, Robert who's doing much resourcing and dammit Reepu should be made to sit through it all as his family has such a cozy liaison! I'm sure there must be more of them who could deputise?
But I digress-- after starting over half-hour late from the advertised time the famous Lion Dance consisted of two lead dancers who seemed to know the steps and the two hapless 'backs' - the more inexperienced being the back of the yellow Lion whose 'cover' slipped off in the beginning of the dance and kept bumping into the lead guy - rather like a pantomime horse but in this case unintentional.
After a particularly long and rambling speech, unsuited for this type of event - tracing the famous Chinese-Guyanese over the past 160yrs .... we left.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


The death of an 18yr due to an abortion a couple of weeks ago raised a few interesting points -

- although abortions had been made legal about 5yrs ago, it is not offered at the Public Hospitals and one locally trained surgeon said he would refuse to do one if the mother's life was not in danger

- she already had two children- a 2yr old and and a 4month yr old : what sort of contraceptive advice if any are  given to under-aged mothers - surely that should be incorporated before they leave the hospital or at post-natal checks if any-- by trained personnel - even a social worker if not a medically trained person.

- the person who performed the abortion was a doctor - apparently the bowel was perforated, but she suffered for a few days ( where was the doctor?), was misdiagnosed at Public but by the time they got it right it was too late and she died from septicaemia 

- also the abortion was performed at an ad hoc surgery-- not designed for that purpose.

- the alarming ignorance of the 18yr old's husband, who obviously felt contraception is a woman's concern and claimed not to know that his wife had gone for an abortion.

- the Government's spokesperson's statement: ‘Lack of education could be cause of women seeking pregnancy terminations from uncertified doctors' (Well- commission Social Services to conduct a quick study and address that problem!)

This sadly reflects a growing problem:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/19/unsafe-abortions-rising-world-africa?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038 but looks as if we've taken another step backwards in the provision of Health Services as the current set of people making decisions are not pro-active and just reactive depending on the foreigners to state the obvious and provide funds before stirring themselves out of their inertia to do anything.
There appears to be no cohesive Health Policy and the one Government person who has got a further qualification in Public Health ( no substitution for common sense but better than nothing...) is dealing with Sports and Culture...?
Maybe one should point out that good health requires good food and making good life decisions and education is KEY.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Child Abuse and Islam

A nauseating story appeared in today's sensationalist Kaieteur News about an Iman who had been sexually-abused young boys.
Of course, lax parenting meant that the mother was glad that her children were occupied  after school until 8pm--- Lord help us and stop me from being so judgmental!
Apparently the eldest boy, aged 10yrs, felt he had no choice but to return to the abusive situation, didn't have the sort of relationship with the adults who are supposed to protect him from this sort of thing where he would be comfortable relating that sort of thing. The whole sorry mess came to light as child Protection Services actually launched an investigation after receiving anonymous phone calls. Shame he didn't feel/have anyone he could have confided in as it may have saved the younger boys- one as young as 4yr old from the abuse. Apparently the wise men of the local Arm feel monetary compensation would solve the problem, following closely the example of the Catholic Church.
After the scandal within the Catholic Church, perverts within the Islamic clerical field would/should probably not be so surprising. Peter Baker in one of March's books 'The Jolly Pilgrim' noted that both the Bible and Q'ran are books which are products of the times in which they were written  and reflect the customs and cultures of that period - Middle Eastern agrarian societies.  He had noted that the earlier Suras called for orphans and the needy to be cared for-- not in the manner of sexually abusing children-- in spite of the Q'ran approving of anal sex- one assumed between consenting adults! ( He made a comment later on that if one accepted the q'ran as the last message from God then one would expect deeper things to be stated rather than punishments for long hair and other trivia)
There was a documentary by a Pakistani journalist which revealed the sickening practice in Afghanistan of taking boys from  poor families, training them to dance-- as purdah of females is observed -- and frequently pimping them out!  Is there some sort of Cherry Picking about what is to be observed in the good book?
The sexual child abuse of boys in a repressive Islamic society  is also dealt with in one of June's books: 'The Consequences of Love' by Sulaiman Addonia.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Migrating Labour

So the Trinidadian farmers are complaining that 8 Guyanese farmers are responsible for driving up the land Rent in the farming area of Aranguez.  I suppose following the Law of Supply and Demand, the rents seemed to have doubled - however I didn't quite follow that it was due to the Guyanese they were going out of business as the Guyanese are paying the the same market rate in addition to paying housing rents and still turning a profit to remit back home in the case of the Berbician who claimed that due to industralisation there was no farming Land available in Guyana -- where was he talking about??  Though it does puzzle me that the current Housing Drive is all in Prime arable land along the Demerara River, along the lone East Bank Road - apparently a second Highway being nixed by the short-sighted Planners who all live on the East Coast presumably.
I have been surprised at who comes to work in Guyana-- not the 'top level' people only but with increasing frequency the 'foot soldiers' - mainly young westerners getting experience for their CV's and I was unpleasantly surprised this morning by one of the rougher-looking Chinese who look like English is an alien language, hawking loudly and blowing to clear his nostrils on my driveway!
Along with migrating people coming to work I suppose the whole culture would shift to accommodate new and different approaches to life.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Recreational Drugs

The international news reported that due to a Poppy Disease there was a shortage of heroin on the market, and  following the Law of Supply and Demand - the price shot up accordingly: good news for the Afghani farmers who didn't bother with the Occupying Forces and concentrated on poppy cultivation -getting a whopping 133% increase in their prices-- must be the only farmers to report that-- the ones in India across the border committing suicide over falling crops and prices while owing Loans (thanks Monsanto + globalisation!).
So a recent link on a friend's page  http://therevealer.org/archives/10192 reports that Aldous Huxley in the interest of science offered himself as a guinea pig to try mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug and compared its 'high' to that obtained by the Yoga Masters and other mystical persons after years of training : very 20th Century- don't bother with the grunt work if you can get the right chemical - ' All that we need to realize our true potential is built into the very organic structure of our brains, he believed. It just takes a little push, a nudge, to turn the valve off and let in the unmediated flow of absolute reality.'  'Mescaline removes the need for any kind of special moral life as it keys directly into the chemical component that gives rise to  our ability to experience transcendence. This might not seem at first like a contradiction,  but rather an evolution in his thinking. '
Read a book written by an American from the Christian Right who stated that the CIA had unleased LSD into the student and hippie population to study its effects on the brain in the '60's and had even formed The Aquarian Conspiracy whereby the powers-that-be investigated how to become mystical. Must be why we're all suffering as they are now the movers and shakers in the US-- great - fried brains making global decisions!
From personal experience, my cousin who experimented with marijuana and then moved onto the harder stuff has been slipping in and out of rehab. He seems to have lost his grasp on reality - isn't that just resorting back to an infantile state and wanting someone to look after you - and don't we all wish to have no responsibilities?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A House For Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul

I remember starting this book when younger and tossing it aside as being too boring, but having been amazed at  his biography by Patrick French I was persuaded to revisit this book as it was put forward as a Bookclub Selection by a member who had studied it recently.
What a difference a couple of decades make- I loved it the second time around!
Having suffered the slings and arrows of (not quite)outrageous fortune, quite a few things struck a chord. The story is basically a man's struggle to drag up and better himself from the lowly position in which he had been born. It was quite touching that owning a piece of land where he could finally call his own represented the highlight and zenith of his existence but in fact, although he realises rather late that he missed the childhoods of his children -- the irony is, it is through his children that he managed to achieve an immortality of sorts -- the eldest child fulfilling her filial duty and returning to shoulder the financial burden and become the de facto head when Mr B pegs it and his son - VS himself achieving the lofty heights of the Literary World, who relates the story of his father's life, while taking swipes at the petty-mindedness of the 1940's Trinidadian society.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gardasil controversy

About 5-7 years ago, visiting medical teams found the rate of Cervical Cancer was fairly high among Amerindian women. Here's what the World Health organisation had to say :

'Cancer of the cervix is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, with about 500 000 new cases and 250 000 deaths each year. Almost 80% of cases occur in low-income countries, where cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women. Virtually all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to genital infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract.'

The Gardasil vaccine isn't a cheap one but Guyana by virtue of its backwardness managed to get a few thousand to inoculate its 11-13 yr old girls and if there's any left over the boys as well.
So far, so good right?
Well, it turns out that a few people are convinced that it's all a big hype to spend Government money (nope-- PAHO gave) and push unnecessary medicine into unsuspecting people. Sigh - the problem with sexually transmitted diseases is that you can't 'tell' who has what no matter how careful you are and isn't it better to lessen your risk of a potentially dangerous virus and less costly from a public Health point of view?
I believe in hearing everyone's viewpoint, here's what the Naysayers feel:

'We oppose the mass vaccination campaign of schoolgirls in Guyana with Gardasil on public health as well as child rights grounds. There is little compelling evidence that the incidence of cervical cancer locally justifies this invasive and very costly intervention, as well as serious concerns about the lack of public education and consultation prior to making the decision to undertake this campaign. Other serious issues such as the lack of informed consent of parents, misuse of already-scarce resources, and public unawareness of side effects make this mass vaccination of schoolgirls even more troubling. We believe that this vaccine is scientifically unnecessary, an unwise use of public health resources, and potentially does more harm than good. We call on you, Minister Ramsaran and Dr. Woolford, to re-evaluate and halt this campaign immediately.'
* Update- May 20 2012: In today's SN a leading oncologist working in Guyana said he saw 117 new cases of Cancer in 2011, of which 41 involved Cervical Cancer and 29 Breast Cancer.

And this:

India Suspends Gardasil! (2010)
Unlike in the United States, The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has told two Indian states, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, to halt its Gardasil vaccine study, which was slated to test the vaccine in about 32,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14.
DNA India reports:
“The program is part of a two-year study to look into the utility of a vaccine in public health programs and acceptability of Gardasil.
The program was marred by controversy after four deaths and complications among 120 girls were reported after vaccination. The girls complained of stomach disorders, epilepsy, headaches and early menarche.”

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Walk At the Back of Diamond Housing Estate

Having never been in the New Housing Scheme, I decided to take the opportunity as the Guyana Photographers Group were having a Photo Walk.
There were roadworks on the main road so the group decision was made to go to the Conservancy at the back of the housing estate.  There seemed to be one fairly narrow major road to the Back, which was already beginning to erode on the left-hand side, with avenues in various states branching off until 21st Avenue; bridges over the canal on the right leading to the Grove Housing Scheme.
We were all fairly surprised to see an impromptu rubbish site  starting at the entrance to the path to the fields - people coming with Pick-Ups while we were there to dump more rubbish to the dismay of the resident near-by who saw the Cameras and hoped that we were reporters from Stabroek News who would DO something about 'the Rich People from the front of the scheme dumping their rubbish' at the back! Clearly no Neighbourhood Scheme in force!
There was a rough stile holding back a few cows but the flatland held no Photographic interest.
Copied one of the experienced photographers and got a better shot.
But we turned back as the ground was a bit too mushy.
I drove around to check out the area but most of the side roads were in bad shape and several of the bigger houses in the front seemed locked up and abandoned.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Red Cherry Cafe

First off, congrats to the Owners for trying to open up a Local chain. The first located in City Mall and the second in Lamaha St perilously close to the busy Camp Street junction. The neighbour from The Changing Room boutique already came and chased us off from parking in front of their premises and I can just imagine the confusion during the day as mini-buses tend to let people off near junctions-- who's responsible for City Planning - does that department even function??
2.30pm on a Saturday afternoon was fairly quiet - although we went to try the Sundaes, we both were feeling peckish and decided to have a sandwich each with a coffee and tea. We were surprised that the coffee and tea came mixed with milk and sugar. Regular instant coffee and Yellow Label tea. Mich sent back the tea as she liked hers black, I usually can only manage half a mug so persevered with the coffee, but was disappointed with the white bread used in the sandwich - still, having not used White Bread for years I managed to wolf it down-- shame these 'local' places can't/wouldn't use the local produce and produce fresh-squeezed/pressed juices like our Venezuelan neighbours- who managed to have carts with presses on most street corners. Would a (marginally) healthy option of wholewheat bread be too difficult to offer?
The sundae menu was not very helpful as the flavours were not stipulated - Mich opted for The Lonesome Cowboy which came with two scoops of Blueberry (local??) ice-cream tasting more like Bubble-gum flavour (all highly artificial anyway) and I opted for another - the manager kindly allowing me to choose one scoop of familiar vanilla and chocolate flavours. Good that they were using local Igloo Ice-cream but I think a bigger hit would have been to promote local Ice-creams made with more interesting local fruit flavours from Nicky's near the Jail. I missed the stewed fruit, crushed nuts and coconut strips that Idaho used to serve up when I was a child- having instead the odd combination of raisins and sprinkles, mercifully the promised condensed milk did not materialise.
Having said all of the above, the prices were reasonable - about $300 per item though I am still working out if the prices on the Board were VAT  inclusive.
The Decor was bright and cheerful though the tiles on the floor were looking dingy in spite of the place opening less than a month ago. There were a few odd open arrangement of the booths- maybe providing for larger groups?
The service by the young Staff was passable.
Odd rough handle to the door which cut my finger as we were leaving - sue-able offence in the US!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Haiti and Guyana

A recent article by the commondreams organisation:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/03-2 highlights the difficulty of trying to help a country deeply divided into tribal fractions, no coherent infrastructure or plan and a large mass of the population living a meagre subsistence existence largely uneducated.
As highlighted in Britain some time ago, large portions of Donated money was not reaching the distressed people to whom the appeals had highlighted. Thankfully bona fide Charities such as Oxfam, Age Concern and many others have taken the criticisms on board and modified their organisations so that the donating Public are told how much of their donations get to the Actual people, trusting them to be accurate and honest!
While understanding the need for a co-ordinated effort in order to be effective - two years without any tangible achievement is stretching credulity a bit. The fact that the political situation is unstable and the big neighbour to the North seems hell-bent on interfering in local matters means that the worse seem to have risen to the top - those who are most aggressive and most probably just concerned with preserving their Status Quo and oblivious to the obvious suffering of the people.
The question is.. and how now to start doing something positive on a large scale?
Global Fund came up to the same problem trying to have Public Participation but in Guyana, at least, stymied by the Government.
I compared Guyana's attempt at an Economic Recovery Program, apparently rated by the foreigners as being a good one but see the despair of the average Joe, with a Recovery Program to be designed by the Haitians and was chastised  for daring to suggest that local capacity was questionable. So when Guyana's former President - Jagan formulated A National Development Strategy with countrywide participation back in 1996 he was actually on the right track - shame his 'legacy' seemed to have abandoned those principles.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hiding in Plain Sight

With the advent of the pesky terrorists the ABC banks have tightened up their procedures and are on the Look-out for Money-Laundering. This leaves the local people who have excess money, under the eye of the ever-vigilant GRA (!), with a bit of a problem.
I was amused at the sarcastic remarks made by two TV presenters who were advising the young to start saving for a house--citing the 31yr old Minister of Housing's large-scale (for Guyana) House, complete with Pool and Pool-House! Considering he was an unknown person until being 'discovered' and made a Minister in the Jagdeo's administration two years ago; as they commented he must be a very good 'saver'. The blatant rags-to-riches would attract the attention of the Income Tax office in many countries trying to govern by Rule of Law and it is to be hoped that the stronger Opposition would call for investigations and not limit to just the current administration as several houses down my mother's street were bought by several Ministers under their administration, given carte-blanche to write their own contracts!
And while this petty tit-for-tat goes on, the country's resources continue to be mismanaged and sold off down the line.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dare To Love by Penny Dixon

Bought this book as a Christmas Present but got sucked into reading it. Had read a brief review in the Newspapers wherein it said that a smooth-talking Guyanese man featured.
Started out like a Caribbean Mills & Boon but suddenly took a turn into explicit erotica in Chapter 5 or so. While cataloging the dilemma of Guyanese working in Barbados it seemed determined to be titillating so I guess while I would be glad to promote the book as one dealing with Caribbean issues - and in fact bought the book with that in mind- the explicit nature means that I would have to be careful about who I gave the book to as I suppose although we are all adults and sex is natural, pornographic details may just curtail more widespread distribution!
Initially the events being told from the perspective of the two protagonists was an interesting one-- it got a bit repetitious. The ending was also unsatisfactory with the husband conveniently being disposed -- I am re-writing it having the Police do 'an investigation'!

Haiku for the New Year

A Kiss, A smile
Makes Life all worthwhile
Let 20 12 bloom.