Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ending 2013..the good, bad and ugly...

First the good-- Ministry of Works seemed to have found its backbone and after having work on the East Coast roadwork stalled in Court  (incidentally by the lawyer heading the "Third Party") the Government got some sort of legal 'go-ahead' and proceeded to dismantle structures built by a businessman with more money than sense-- many abound here as the Law of the Jungle seems to Rule.  I see this as a good move as in my opinion, too many people are infringing on sensible regulations, mind you the Government as well but that is a totally different Blog: maybe this particular businessmen fell out of favour as there are way too many dunces bullying their way and destroying the infrastructure.  I would like to be executive President for a year, cut`back the perks of those useless people sitting in Parliament achieving nothing and force people openly flouting regulations to pay for remediation.....I probably would not last a week before someone put a bullet in my head but it is a nice comforting fantasy ending in a few Hangings - I always knew Madame Defarge was not a good literary person to emulate, but I digress..
I believe Ministry of Works also started clearing up a few drains highlighted a few Blogs back but not unfortunately the Lamaha Street canal outfall as that would mean treading on the toes of one of the untouchables- good friend of the ex-President who propped up a dodgy set of people with seemingly no morals during his reign, sad... bird of a feather and all that...

The bad is that road traffic accidents continue at an alarming rate, mainly young men under 25yrs, driving 'under the influence', claiming to drive someone's vehicle without permission (so the owners are not culpable) unlicensed and uninsured so the victims can't claim compensation and walking away with ridiculous fines in proportion to the damage they cause-- in the region of U$100-U$150. Under my fantasy rule they would be put into forced labour camps and made to do community work until they paid back for the damages inflicted to infrastructure and the victims' family agreed that compensation was sufficient-- that way-- there is a pool of available labour, and the youth would learn about gainful employment... two problems solved at once!

The ugly is the continued disregard for the lives of Guyanese women by Guyanese men. I felt sad to read of a mere 17yr old rural girl whose father could not afford to send her to school so agreed that she could 'go with' a young man who came to work in the area and who promised to pay for her to go to school-- turned out to be a drug addict-- took her to his home in Berbice for a couple of months then 'lived home' with her for a while then abandoned her. He came back after a while and the father rightly told him that he was not to contact the daughter, so the family had to watch helplessly when the young man got his employer's shotgun, barged into the home and shot the girl dead in front of them!   Four other women died at the hands of the men who are supposed to protect them this past week.. what is going on?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Things that bother me with the last blog!

So in the last blog, I indicated that no sympathy for any side was merited in my opinion.

The maid was/is clearly disloyal to shop her employer, she could have just asked to return home and move on with her Life if she were that unhappy.  My view is her agenda all along was to reach the nirvana of working in the US and apply to stay there permanently - the fact that she got the US government to do so says a lot about her manipulations - pretty damm expert- feel sorry for the hapless US Taxpayers who have to foot the bill for the stupidity their Government.  Expect a xenophobic backlash at some point.  Notwithstanding the minimum wage rule-- which makes sense if one has to factor in Living Expenses such as board and lodging and transport. It had been commented on that the correct thing to do was for the Indians to request a waiver of the salary rule... alternately... Mrs Khodegade could have stated in the maid's contract -- deductions for board and lodging -- it is commonly done in the Traffic-ing in Persons  offence: the 'girls' have to work to 'pay back' the costs of being taken- legally or illegally - to a foreign country, board and lodging and interest at an extortionate rate: no difference really done 'above board'.

The Indians are arrogant to ignore the US's rule which had been brought to their attention previously. We had/have the same problem over here with the Drug Lords blatantly flouting the Law and ordinary moral decency-- being surprised to be 'caught' when they leave these hallowed shores; strikes me the same-- the diplomat's family are part of an immoveable elite/oligarchy, probably untouchable back in India and used to having the rules bent to suit their purpose.  The current solution of promoting the diplomat to the ranks of the UN mission when she is responsible for bringing the country into disrepute just goes to show how alienated the Indians are from their heritage of moral decency:

The US is the worse offender, because they were aware of this pending problem 4 months ago when the maid reported her employer. They clearly carried out 'investigations' and decided that Mrs Khodegade was in the wrong. Surely some neutrality is called for? Clearly the State Department must have been informed - why is Kerry apologizing? - and the hammer must have fallen against the Indians. I find it strange that no-one thought it fit to diplomatically mention to the Indians their precarious situation. Would the Americans mete the same treatment to the Saudis - notorious for doing the same and worse?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

...and you wonder why the rest of the World hates ya....

Thanks to a FB friend with waay too much time on her hands this story was brought to my attention.
The US immigration authorities arrested an Indian female diplomat while she was taking her child to school, strip-searched and charged her for Visa fraud due to inaccuracies on her maid's Visa application. The strip-search bit was a bit surprising for a white-collar crime-- were they expecting to find stashes of drugs or a concealed weapon? The fact that she is a spokesperson for women's affairs adds a certain irony to the situation.

Wow! Guyana being as small as it is, I have come across many American diplomats who seem like such nice human beings - never mind the probable stirring they do;  even in our small topsy-turvy part of the world, if a diplomat were found in serious breach of the Law, unofficial channels would be used to sort out the problem. I mean - we would probably call in the Indian ambassador and contact New Delhi to lodge a complaint for whatever reason.

What on earth would possess the Americans to publicly humiliate this representative of India?  India's neighbours who would be benefit from this rift - Pakistan and/or China probably couldn't be happier! Or maybe the great USA has fallen to the small-minded politics over here where the opposition takes pleasure in one-upmanship, never mind how the country would suffer?

Given that over in India, it appears that the majority of women are treated abominably themselves - gang-rape being reported with alarming frequency- this is hardly an example for an 'enlightened country' to set! The general consensus on my friend's and the internet page is that the Indian diplomat deserved this harsh treatment as pay-back for exploitation of the maid. I immediately remembered a dreary book I read this year which gave the servant's point of view (he was the cook and general dogsbody) - his glee of being given a closet to sleep in, in Washington - a step-up from sleeping on the pavement of Bombay/Mumbai. And rather like 18th Century England, if the nanny was not doing this job, is it possible she might be subjected to something even worse back in India?
I would like to hear the nanny's side.  Apparently the US is holding that their minimum wage is U$9 an hour and the diplomat lied on the application form saying the nanny's salary satisfied this requirement -- um so my question is -- what concern it of the US government? Will they be collecting taxes and ensuring that the servant gets healthcare insurance? Are the illegal and unclassified workers who work under the radar and ensure their economy runs, getting at least U$9 per hour minimum wage?? And if they are concerned about the on-the-breadline-earners shouldn't they be turning their attention to their trans-national companies-- maybe institute the rule that anyone working for an American company anywhere in the world gets the American minimum wage - like Britain threatening to prosecute any British company who is found guilty of bribery overseas... but I digress...
It smacks of outdated colonial upmanship:  Here funny coloured people, WE are entitled to exploit your ignorant asses because we are superior, know what best and created the system but you have to dot the i and cross the t.  It is ironic but karmic that the same diplomat might indeed be guilty of the same thing back in her own country.

Postscript: (4hrs later) apparently the nanny/maid read the Visa application and felt she should be getting what was stated on the application- approximately U$4000 per month- and then reported her the vice-consular general. Ha- the next step would be to apply to stay in the US on refugee grounds - in the book referred to above, the guy 'ran away' and worked illegally in an Indian restaurant and lived with an African-American woman- think I tossed the book aside meaning to return to it when I had more time - wonder if the maid's story will follow suit?
Postscript 2: In an odd situation of Life imitating Art- from VS Naipaul:
also: the US point of view:      The comments after are also interesting  - seems a mutual corrupt situation - strange story where one has no sympathy for any side!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Going around in circles..

Can appointing local business executives to 'come up with ground-breaking proposals that will ignite production incentives and fiscal strength with its recommendations'  really do the work of a good economist?

I had noted that the Fat Cats seem unable to think long-term and seem hell-bent on destruction for short-term gains:
so much for sustainable development!   It is extraordinary that Guyana would be collecting from Norway to preserve the rainforests while making deals to exploit the Land without a clear understanding of the long-term damage.  It has come to light that the Minister of Natural Resources had given exploratory licences to a well-know miner for one of the least visited areas- the south-east of Guyana, without informing the rest of the country. This Ministry is an odd, newly created one putting all the viable industries in Guyana under one roof - presumably with the blessing of the ex-President (as the minister is his niece's husband ) who is well-respected worldwide for being on the Climate Change band wagon!?
This is the topsy-turvy contradiction that is Guyana!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Drains of Georgetown

Last week central Georgetown ground to a halt after a few hours of heavy rain in the early hours of the morning. Previous blogs ( have referred to the fact that the Dutch envisioned Georgetown as part of a huge plantation system and the English modified this to expand the City.

The foolishness of the post-Colonial governments in screwing up the system - mainly expanding the Public Hospital and blocking a few key drains in recent times meant that lower Georgetown ( between the Demerara River and the Atlantic Ocean) , where my office is located is a now a man-made created basin. My drains expert fumes about the stupidity of not providing one way gates for the 40-foot canal which drains Cummings Lodge and his theory is that the water gushes down and contributes to flooding the City which is under seige from uncleared and blocked drains.

So we took a second run with him sighing the Patience of Job when I puzzled over what he telling me - they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I walked with my camera to take a few shots in case anyone is in a position to do anything- as we have reached a desperate state where those who know have defeatedly started shouting solutions without thought of payment so someone else can take the credit and get paid handsomely.

Sothe basic problem is this at the bottom of Lamaha St and Urquart St:

Nope, I am not talking about the uncleared grass in the trench, but if you go up from DEC you will see a largish pipe. Back in British times, the Colonial masters threw on a train depot over the ultimate outlet for this canal which drains the lower part of the City-- mainly Cummingsburg. However, they maintained the drainage with a Koker to which a pump was later added:
Unfortunately that outlet is now blocked by the geniuses at BK Tiwari who threw up a Prime Spot building on the riverfront - slightly worrying as they are given many major engineering projects involving nuff money, implying more money than sense.

The post-Colonial government didn't help by contributing to blocking the run-off to the river by throwing up the Transport and harbours building:
just across the road from the defunct koker and
redundant pump.

So now picture that the gradient starts to rise from Lamaha Street, therefore logically the water from Church St to Lamaha St going from Urquart St to Queenstown until Irving St is supposed to drain into the Lamaha Canal but... the outlet is blocked. Parallel to lower Lamaha canal is the lower part of the 40ft Canal draining all the way from Cummings Lodge, taking in the neo-1992 squatting area of Sophia.
View of Koker controlling 40ft canal outlet to the Demerara river

At some time in the late '70s /early '80s, as a response flooding in Cummingsburg - no doubt exacerbated by blocking drains by expanding the Public Hospital willy-nilly and not maintaining the drains - a passage was cut to allow water to flow into the 40ft canal from the Lamaha canal:
View of channel from Lamaha St

View of channel from lower Cowan St

Unfortunately for everybody, due to unregulated building all the way down, the volume of water is too much for the 40ft canal and without some sort of gate/pipe with valve system the water from the 40ft canal would further contribute to the flooding of the Cummingsburg by draining into the Lamaha canal!

Ironically, the blocked drains and poor maintainence  saves Cummingsburg from further flooding from the over-worked 40ft canal - which is what I believe happened the other day: rain from up the East Coast draining in the 40ft canal spilt over into the Lamaha canal, most probably due to sheer volume and added to the woes of Cummingsburg struggling to drain its own volume of water, to bring that part of the City to a halt with higher-the-usual-water levels which took longer than usual to clear.

Also in the late '70s/early '80s, the city Engineers decided to relieve the heavy burden on the Lamaha canal, now draining Bel Air park due to blocked drains along Vlissengen Rd, Queenstown/Albertown  and Cummingsburg by putting pipes to drain into the 40ft canal - at this point one wonders if it is plain ignorance or a deliberate strategy to flood the residents out to grab Prime land?  Unfortunately, it tends to backfire and water from the 40ft canal drain instead into the Lamaha canal which has no-where to go resulting in Cummingsburg getting flooded and the northern part of Georgetown draining into the Lamaha canal via the 40ft canal??  The cynic in me says as soon as all that illegal money buys up Cummingsburg then I am sure sensible drainage will be on the agenda!
Junction of Lamaha St and Irving St..note pipe on left drain 40ft canal into silted Lamaha canal and bridge where the water connect with the central trench between Visslengen St and Irving St.

On the other side of Irving St/Vlissengen Rd, one would logically expect a continuation of the Lamaha canal and one would be so wrong-- I forgot to take a picture as Drains man friend passed and asked why he wasn't at a BBQ party- the man has places to go and people to see instead of running around the City explaining the madness that are the Drains of Georgetown! So on the eastern side of Visselengen road - where Bel Air park and all the way from Le Repenitir , there is the sad story of unregulated buildings and blocked drains preventing drainage into what should have been the continuation up of the Lamaha canal. Instead, bizarrely the 40ft canal cuts into where should be the Lamaha canal (!!??!!).  Yes, because sometime in the '70s/'80s people apparently filled in the main 40 ft drainage canal in Kitty and built buildings on it - just like that-- you could not make these things up even if you tried!

Mr Drains noted that to pump out water is quite expensive and the Kitty pump station serves the block with national park and the block with QC. His suggestion is to stick a koker/pipe with one-way valve - allow non-essential places to drain naturally and instead address the question of draining the more heavily occupied areas of Cummingsburg.
Picture of one of the oldest functioning kokers in Guyana