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OPINION: Daring to be about Guyana, calling things as they are

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 April 2021, 12:17 by Denis Chabrol

by GHK Lall

Say or write something that holds a trace of disagreement about where things truly are in this society, something that is about the bigger picture, the national welfare and good, nowadays, and there are those furious automatic brandings: anti-PPP and anti-government; and from the other side, anti-PNC+AFC and anti-opposition.  Since I can only be, strive to be, about what is pro-Guyana, then it is a harsh aspect of the Cross that must be borne stoically.  I dare to get the message(s) across. Those that are of freedom of conscience, unfettered thinking.  Thus, some of us can dare to speak to truth, to say it as it is.  I so dare now.

I sense that we are in a bad place with this COVID-19 virus, that is daily ramping up its presence here, through more confirmed cases by the score, and a continuing trickle of deaths.  To grieving families losing a loved one, that is not a trickle, but could mean a different world in which they exist going forward.  Things are so alarming that the alarming is happening on our roads.  Reports are of members of the Guyana Police Force setting up roadblocks and calling out people for not wearing face masks.  Ordinarily, that would be a good thing in a taxi with more travelers than the driver, or a minibus, with more than the driver alone.  But, it tells me that trouble is afoot with the management of this viral pandemic, and the PPP government is scared.  It is so scared that it is not sharing anything, with no official pronouncement from the health authorities, beginning at the top with the Hon Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony.  Neither the minister specifically nor the government in general is saying anything about the gravity of the COVID-19 situation.  There is contentment with saying nothing, the best option because the last thing desired is a panicked population.

Though I understand, I will assert that an alerted population, as to the true state of the local situation with this virus, would compel citizens to respond more seriously, by taking more precautions, and avoiding protocol violating practices.  The socializers might come to grips with the riskiness of unobserving behaviors, relative to their own health, life itself.  At the very least, some forced adjustment, even if sporadic, could be helpful in building confidence, in protecting.  Moreover, the casual and indifferent could appreciate what is at stake, and do their part.  But, because the government, through its leaders and senior health professionals, prefer the deceptive silence of all is well, and that there is control, the peoples of this country proceed as normal, with only the sensible and prudent lifting the bar on themselves by doing still more in terms of masks, social distancing, gatherings, and the like.  In the meantime, other Guyanese are lulled into a false sense of security.

I disagree with the government on this approach, and citizens should be sharply dissatisfied with their welfare being subjected to unnecessary risks, because of what may be withheld.  It is that there are more than a few Brazilians travelling across our borders, with seeming impunity and regular freedom.  A group of responsible Guyanese vacationers in that region of the interior during Holy Week observed fairly full vehicles, including a truck, of our neighbors from that country.  Also, it is that there could be a particularly worrying source for recent virus numbers, as pointed out in the article titled, “New COVID-19 variants possibly spiking cases in Guyana -PAHO Director hints” (Demerara Waves, April 14).  Presently, I make no link with Brazilians here, and the possibility of variants here.  But speak of the two (Brazil and variants) and commonsense takes over, since the Brazilian authorities themselves did identify over a dozen of such variants plaguing their citizens.  And because, if there is a trusted source for a current and accurate picture of virus conditions, then the PAHO people are the best that are around.  I would take them ahead of any government any day, especially this one in charge today.

Before the daggers come out, commendations have been publicly articulated on what I believe (and experienced) as efficient COVID-19 vaccine distribution; and for the wise decision to continue to keep schools closed.  Remember: what is pro-Guyana, and best for Guyana; and this is regardless of those that have to be praised.  Or condemned.  It just has to be, if we are going to get anywhere or anything; and since we are talking about a raging viral pandemic and all manner of menacing variants, then the last place that any of us should wish to get to is the ICU or, worse still, the mortuary.  My position today is that the PPP government is not sharing the full story surrounding this virus, which I believe is close to out-of-control here.  There! I said it, and if that is blasphemy, then crucify me.

With this context and my outlook, it was more than surprising to scan the headline, “Guyana open to tourism despite pandemic -Minister Walrond” (KN April 15).  According to that article, the first-time government minister said, “we continue to market Guyana from the perspective of it being safe to travel.”  Somebody is misleading everybody, maybe the world, but I refuse to fall for that one about “safe to travel.”  From my perspective that is shocking, especially when the U.S Embassy has cautioned its citizens about travel to this country.  This flies in the face of fears and realities.  It is wrong, and dangerously and damnably so.  I say so.

What are we planning to do? Airlift the incoming ecotourists to and from their interior destinations?  Prevent them from any contact with locals?  Isolate them totally?  I ponder whether the government is merely reckless, putting up a brave face, or simply plain stupid.  I settle for all three.  I think we have to cease with this charade, and tell Guyanese what is really going on with this virus.  Where there is an information vacuum, there is room for rumor to run amok.  I appeal to the government: don’t be this way.  Do things another way, the right way.  That would be pro-Guyanese, completely so..