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OPINION: Failure to agree to arbitration panel embarrasses govt

by GHK Lall
I thought that this was going to be troublesome, but does everything in this country have to be this hard, this insoluble? This suspicious? Rise to the level of a life and death Samurai confrontation? I am talking of the quest to identify and agree upon a mutually acceptable arbitration chair in the teachers’ business at hand.

From my lowly perspective, teachers’ pay and conditions should not deteriorate to the blood feuds of intractable local politics. But has it not? Is anything and everything of substance in this society somehow not tainted-indeed, permeated-with the ugliness, the sickness, if not the paralyzing retardation of taint? At the crux of the matter, this impasse is over money. It is not about power, national power and all that flows from such. And yet agreement is proving to be elusive on a chairperson, thornier by the day, shriller and more truculent by the hour. In fact, the parties have not even arrived at the flexible money part, before there are predetermined conclusions as to not who could (would) be balanced and reasonable, but who is going to do right by us, and only us. I do not think that a genuine arbitrator is truly desired; but a performer or puppet. Think wrestling referee. Brush aside for a moment the public postures and speechifying, and it is clear that matters have not moved a single percent from the pig iron positions of either government or union.

Now for some additional questions. Who is there who would be so thoughtless, so self-sacrificing, so undignified as to wish this thankless responsibility of arbitration chair? Clearly, whatever awards are finalized as to numbers by a courageous chairperson will open floodgates of disappointment, anger, and speculation by the group coming up short. The reputation of that chairperson could be subject to whispers, frowns, and knowing nods; most likely worse, regardless how stifled. I mean we speak (I do) of a few good men and women, but is this place so accursed that it has none? We have none that measure up for Chief Justice or Chancellor of the Judiciary? None that fit the proper criteria of Chair of Gecom? As should be obvious, all these pivotal positions are rife with sharp deep anxieties about power projection and power maintenance. But teacher arbitration chair?

If Rashleigh Jackson is questionable; then so, too, would be Roger Luncheon and Sam Hinds. It might surprise, but politics aside, I have regard for these citizens. I can separate from the nasty, smelly, brutish politics. I can also deliberately, albeit carefully, stay Afro-centric in what is now a showdown that is already a throwdown. So, who is left out there that might pass muster? I recommend Kofi Annan, but he is unavailable. Then try the Chancellor of UWI; or check with the Ambassador Holloway to ascertain if Barack Obama is willing to dirty his hands. I am struggling to stay serious; but it should not escape attention that, in spite of the scorn and sarcasm, all the names are foreign. This is the extent and character of our long-running self-imposed colonialism; the degree of our willing submission.

Now for some last questions, as I find this wearying. If we are so distrustful of what we may (may) have here for principled people, then how do onlookers view us? What respect can they have for Guyana and things Guyanese? Come to think of it, domestic violence meted out by partners against partners in the sanctuary of the hearth is already a national humiliation, a surging irrepressible disgrace. Now, I submit that when we fail to discern and reach for the sturdy patriots and honorable citizens (few, to be sure) in the midst, then this amounts to the embarrassment of psychic violence publicly inflicted on a national scale. It demeans all Guyanese. It diminishes us before our own eyes; it subjects to ridicule and every manner of condescension from all over. It is deserving.

Finally, in the flurry of activities related to oil contracts executed, and engagements of Trinidad and Barbados to redraft standing agreements, I suggest the inclusion of clauses that allows Guyana to tap into a pool-neutral, foreign, presumably oblivious-arbitrators to help us fix our leaks, to walk to the bathroom, and to clean up our mess. We need desperately this type of enabling because we are this disabled. Failure to find consensus of a chair for teachers’ arbitration forces home this position. It is disquieting and disgusting. And so much more, so much more.