Guyana holds a special place in China’s diplomatic history. It opened diplomatic relations with China as far back as 1972, the first country in this region to do so and at a time when China was struggling to break the bonds of isolation. China has always been grateful and developed political relations with the PNC, adding to that which had been historically established with the PPP.
Guyana is now not the only country in the region with diplomatic or economic relations with China. But with the discovery or petroleum in which a major, state-owned, Chinese company, CNOOC, has a significant interest, China would have obviously been looking to Guyana to further develop its economic relations. It is poised to do so with the plans and opportunities for infrastructure development and gas-to-shore operations long into the future.
But there is now another, less benign, reason for Guyana’s permanently enhanced visibility on China’s radar – its recent intention, now cancelled, of permitting Taiwan to establish a trade and investment office in Guyana. But the Government is not the only agency that can facilitate the establishment of Taiwan office. Any Taiwanese is free to rent or purchase office space and undertake trade and investment activities. But the Chinese know that the Taiwanese who come to Guyana to work will have to obtain a work permit which can only be issued by the Government and otherwise engage with the Government in numerous ways. Therefore, in whichever way it is conceived, the Government of Guyana has to give its imprimatur on the establishment of business relations with Taiwan.
There is no non-contentious route with China whereby relations with Taiwan can be made possible. Its firm policy toward Taiwan is well known and long established. The danger for Guyana is that China may decide to de-emphasize its relations with Guyana. China is the second largest economic power in the world and can afford to do so. The question is, can Guyana afford to lose China’s friendship?
Apart from the vast economic opportunities Guyana would lose, China has close relations with Venezuela and also has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. If Venezuela takes military steps against Guyana, as some fear, if the ICJ rules in favour of Guyana, Guyana may not be able to count on China not using its veto against any UN resolution condemning Venezuela. This is not a place Guyana ever wants to be.
I SAY IT AGAIN, HOMESTRETCH AVENUE IS A DEATH TRAP
The loss of two young lives on Homestretch Avenue once again demonstrates the need for urgent action with regard to the most dangerous road in the city of Georgetown which has, by far, claimed most of the lives lost on Georgetown streets. On 31 August, 2020, Chief Prison Officer, 38 year old Prince Cox, lost his life in an accident on Homestretch Avenue. I wrote an entire article on the dangers posed by this road to its users and pointed out the large number of lives claimed by Homestretch and the regularity with which they are lost. I urged that the Government ought to take emergency steps to reduce speeding on this road by possibly restructuring it, as was done with Carifesta Avenue. I suggested that the situation was urgent enough for funds to be diverted from some other project that did not pose the dangers of Homestretch Avenue.
On 16 February, 2021, just a few days ago, SN reported that Dakera Grttten, 19, and Tonika Halley, 18 and a mother of one, had lost their lives the day before in a car accident on Homestretch Avenue. I cannot conceive of the devastating pain and sorrow caused to these families, relatives and friends by the loss of these young lives. And it need not happen.
While motorists have a responsibility to use the roads with care, the authorities have an equal responsibility to ensure that a road is not constructed in such a way as to encourage its dangerous use. Homestretch Avenue is a dangerous roadway that encourages speeding. As soon as this was realized many years ago by the death toll from its use, works ought to have been undertaken to modify its structure in ways that would make its use safer. Over the years nothing has been done and Homestretch Avenue continues to gobble up the lives of Guyanese with distressing regularity.
The budget debate is due to start shortly and thereafter the estimates will be considered. This process allows for questions to be asked about individual roads. Perhaps an Opposition MP, or a Government MP, may consider asking a question of Minister Edghill about Homestretch Avenue. If no provision has been made for its restructuring, and the MP is persuaded by the arguments herein, he or she may seek to persuade the Minister. If provision has been made, suggestions can be made as to the fast tracking of the project.
If no adequate response is forthcoming from the Minister, it would be necessary to continue to raise public awareness of this dangerous piece of roadway. The awful reality is that while this is happening, more young, and maybe older, Guyanese would continue to lose their lives and more families put to grief.