by GHK Lall
I did something that I have not done for over forty years, I took the time to read President Ali’s address, the whole thing, as shared with me by Demerara Waves. Jimmy Carter was the last beneficiary of such interest on my part. This is some of what I read and what I have to say.
Many have said that I love the language, which is accurate. In the presidential address, I recognize a work of splendid craftsmanship: soothing in most parts, comforting to the ear, and encouraging as to what could be in store. I heard the biblical from Genesis 4:9 in ‘we must all be our brother’s keepers.’ I would have thought that the president and party didn’t have that in them and am glad that they saw it fit to employ a well-used line of mine. Then, I heard Rudyard Kipling in that one about ‘walking with kings and not losing the common touch’ and I say that (the president and his people) dug deep and came up with a gem. What is there for a connoisseur not to like? I will get to that in a moment.
I liked reading about jobs and accountability, which are always easily and fluently flowing in presidential addresses. I liked the part about inclusion and ‘all Guyanese’ repeated in one rallying bugle blast after another; that was good to read again and again. I liked the segues into sugar, even though I fear it may not be so sweet this time; given where it is at, and the high hills it must climb to succeed, to salve. There were many things to appreciate in President Ali’s inaugural address with the syrupy and honeyed being giving the fullest vent. Comprehensive, it was. It was crystal clear, too, as to certain intentions. And now I ask pardon as I introduce a bit of a cloud on the sunny moment.
From my reading, I think the president went out of his way in pressing hard to suppress any departure into disputatious territory. Such as that controversial oil contract, which was pilloried before and during elections by his own people. That which was given the hardest and most sustained of receptions before was strangely visited with the gentlest and quickest of rushed touches in Dr. Ali’s address. It was so soft and rushed as to be inaudible and unreadable in the blur of its illegibility. I discern some deference to the prior helping hand (electoral) of my fellow Americans; I discern also the rare and studied courtesy necessitated by the pomp and production of the moment, and not to embarrass oneself or one’s guests with the hard edge of truth. I must say that the president and his party are manifesting some new contours, with diplomacy and subtlety being a couple, and before those to whom such counts. The bottom line is that after all the raving and ranting and reckoning, the inviolable character of that choke-and-rob contract (the best that could have been gotten, all circumstances considered) is now being accepted and pacified into some degree of tormented rest. Ah, politics and elections can be a nasty, ugly stew.
Now I had hoped and wished that some of the same nuanced speechmaking would have been displayed in one area. It should have been in the addressing (the avoiding of them) of those dirty words like impasse and trickery (though never uttered on Saturday) and what is now making the rounds of the Guyanese equivalent of the holocaust (elections) in those spare words that mean so much: this should never happen again. But what I read was discomfiting, to say the least. For there was the president in full-throated crescendo saxophonist flair, like Charlie Byrd Parker, in pealing about ‘inclusion’ and ‘all Guyanese’ and in more than one riff, only to spoil the moment by diving full length into the darkness and gutter of ‘electoral review’ promised and ‘to hold accountable’ those who corrupted the system. That goes a far way and to a height. It may be inordinately difficult to stop. It does not foster inclusion of the fullest extent, recommend the healing so terribly missing.
Let me be clear: I think that that is necessary. But to patch it into the inaugural address was too much about returning to the frightening twilight zone. Such things have their place, and especially when the president and his party went to great lengths not to offend the foreigners, particularly the Americans with that dastardly oil shackle of a contract. Some things are simply neither said nor done, such as cursing in a cathedral. Saturday was a special time and place, of grand designs and soaring sounds; it ought not to have been so sullied. Handle that elsewhere, for it flies in the face of inclusion and that ditty about ‘all Guyanese’, many of whom are battered and pierced. Spare the salt, heal and seal the wounds. At least, make an authentic attempt to avoid the acids.
Those are my tiny thoughts, where there was much of the encouraging, and that little bit of the self-sabotaging. Now the proof must come in the practicing, the doing, and the living of all that was so stirringly promised.