Two Fridays ago a seminar on Constitutional Reform the Process, was held at the University of Guyana. The event, which was well attended, was organized by the Carter Centre and facilitated by the British High Commission. The PPP and a cross-section of civil society were represented, but conspicuously absent was any APNU or AFC party or Government representatives. The discourse focused on why there should be constitutional reform and the process by which it should be undertaken. The event was not intended to have a formal conclusion but to have Guyanese ownership.
Many ills of the society that needed redress were identified. There were concerns that elected officials were interfering in the democratic right to protest, of political intermeddling in Amerindian affairs, of the need for equity in the society, of implementing the existing provisions of the Constitution, of educating young people about the issues, and everything in between. The debate around the issues raised was lively and energetic. The fact that the audience remained attentive and engaged throughout the three-hour event suggested that there is much interest in constitutional reform and scope for more debate.
Petronella Trotman is the name adopted by Ronnell Trotman, who is a transgender person. Born a male, she identifies as a female. Two famous transgenders, born as males and now identifying as women, are Caitlin Jenner, an Olympian and television personality, and Chelsea Manning, a soldier who was imprisoned for leaking information to Wikileaks, both of them of the United States. Bruce Jenner struggled for many decades and Bradley Manning, who is much younger, for many years with gender identity issues before formally and publicly adopting the female gender with which they have identified.
A transgender person suffers from a gender dysfunction. He or she identifies with the gender opposite to that assigned to him or her at birth. It has nothing to do with sex. Their sexual preferences do not necessarily change. And it is not the same as homosexuality and lesbianism, which has to do with sexual, not gender, preferences. Homosexuals and lesbians are not transgenders.
The ruling elite in the United States, supported by those of Europe, are becoming apoplectic at the prospect of a rapprochement between the US and Russia, which could lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia. Not since President George W. Bush looked into the eyes of President Putin and saw his soul, has the prospect emerged of better relations.
The US press, reflecting the ruling elite, has demonized President Putin as an evil genius intent on restoring the power of the old USSR and the greatness of old Russia at the expense of the US and its allies. The elite is convinced that President Putin is so clever that in any encounter between Trump and Putin, the latter will inevitably prevail. This has reached almost hysteria stage since the CIA concluded that Russia intervened in the US elections by hacking into computers of the Democratic Party and officials and leaking it to Wikileaks. No other narrative, not even Russia’s accusation of Hillary Clinton’s intervention in Russia’s presidential elections against President Putin, is permitted to see the light of day.
Three of the four dailies on Friday headlined the second oil find by ExxonMobil at a well called Payara-1. Past predictions about the presence of petroleum deposits in off-shore Guyana were confirmed when ExxonMobil’s announced its world class discovery, the largest for 2016, at its Liza well. If the Payara-1 turns out to be large, then the predictions of much greater deposits in the area could be accurate and much more oil could be found.
The amount of petroleum deposits that have already been found is enough to transform Guyana. But somehow Guyanese do not yet appear to be impressed. Casual conversations with Guyanese suggest that the cynicism that has developed from decades of promises based on Guyana’s agricultural potential, that Guyana could become the bread basket of the Caribbean and Guyana’s failure to take off economically, continues to exist. When told about the prospect of oil wealth for Guyana, and what it could mean for the future, many Guyanese are dismissive and unbelieving.
The truth is that Guyana would be transformed and we need to choose how. It would not happen overnight, of course, but by 2025 Guyanese would be feeling the impact of the oil income, which would continually increase. The Government appears to be making preparations to establish the legal framework and institutional mechanisms. There is no evidence that it is making any effort to reach out to the Opposition to build consensus from the earliest stage. If the Government wants political and national consensus going forward, it needs to start consultations with the Opposition early or face the possibility of a perennially contentious situation for our oil industry. Former Minister of Energy of Trinidad and Tobago, Kevin Ramnarine, speaking in Guyana recently, urged the establishment of a national oil and gas company to manage the oil industry, whose leadership should be insulated from politics. While this is easier said than done, it can be accomplished if the effort starts now.
I recall that long before a year had elapsed of Mrs. Janet Jagan’s presidency, an outcry arose regarding her failure to hold a press conference. She eventually held one about one year into her presidency. The voices calling out Mrs. Jagan in 1997-8 are still around, but have gone silent on President Granger failure to hold a single press conference despite having been elected to office one and a half years ago. The Norconsult Report on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) is only one of the major issues of great importance facing the country and a serious and coherent response is yet to be had from the Government.
When the Norconsult Report was commissioned the clear indication was that the Government would abide by its conclusions. In announcing the report in November 2015, Minister Winston Jordan said that, “Norway seems keen to finance an independent review to, once and for all, pronounce on the viability of the project.”