Guyana has always been a country known for its high literacy rate. It was once deemed the envy of the Region, given the many eminently qualified sons and daughters it produced and who were offered Regional and international positions in various countries and illustrious organisations.
However, all put together, they are outnumbered by other Guyanese who have not achieved such status but who are extremely literate and who can think, analyse and make insightful conclusions on their own. That said, some can argue based on our politics over the decades, the independence of thought may be a fallacy.
Be that as it may, in today’s world, aided by technology and related devices, people in general have more access to information which in turn has helped them to become more aware of issues, especially those that directly impact them. Many have also been able to increase their literacy levels through this and other means, allowing for more involvement as many are becoming more vocal over social issues, not the least, politics. In other words, today, people in general are also not easily fooled.
It appears that in spite of this growing global trend, some politicians are not attuning themselves to this reality. Given what plays out in the public domain, here being a case in point, information provided and which is expected to directly address specific issues, is skilfully crafted to either avoid the issue altogether or is of little help. In doing so, officials probably desire it go unnoticed while allowing the claim that a response has been provided.
One could argue that in the general realms of politics, expecting anything else is being flagrantly naive. On the other hand, when some politicians promised to break what they deem a cycle of unaccountability, the possibility exists for naivety be traded for expectation in delivery. In other words, hope for the cycle of accountability to begin.
Take what happened recently in the case of the husband of the Housing Minister being granted contracts from an entity that his wife oversees; and a company affiliated to the Communications Minister, being awarded a contract by a Government agency.
In the first instance and after the matter was made public, the Housing Minister reportedly blamed the specific department for awarding the contract, claiming she is not directly responsible for such actions. While that may be so, it’s a difficult proposition for the Minister to think that people will believe she was unaware of the contract awarded and of its implications. A question from the ordinary man would be; how would a wife not know of such major undertaking by her husband?
It may seem a fair question in the context that spouses generally involve each other on significant matters pertaining to the advancement of the family. Even if she was unaware, with it being deemed a conflict of interest, there is expectation by the general public of particular action being taken.
On the second instance, the Communications Minister also claims she was unaware of the award of the contract and that upon her assuming the role of Minister, she relinquished any involvement in the day-to-day operations of the company. Again, that may be true, but the question of conflict of interest lingers. Also, there is the same expectation for particular action; action which is yet to be seen. Keep in mind, in other countries, officials caught up in such scenarios, resign – either voluntary or having being told.
This is not advocacy for such action, but a reminder of the proverbial promise of the cycle of accountability by the current Government. The ordinary folk, must not be underestimated. In these changing times, they would not need any convincing that the actions in question for which the officials claim to be unaware, may be rendered unacceptable in the context of a conflict of interest it seemingly derives.
Therefore, the attempts to address directly that particular circumstance while offering what can be construed as intangible defences, can be interpreted as an insult of the intelligence of the masses. Recently, accusations were levelled against a Government Ministry for allegedly using multiple names for one person in public advertisements pertaining to the naturalisation of a foreign individual.
When it was found that indeed there were different names to the same photograph and pressure brought to bear, the State newspaper claimed it was a mistake and admitted to being responsible. While, again that could be true, such admission becomes difficult to accept especially when the said admission was only after an exposure. Just this week, a leading critic of the current Opposition stated that the Communications Minister may be in breach of the Integrity Act.
While the ordinary bloke may not be fully au fait with the jargon of such an Act, they sense something not being right; something out of the norm. To them, it seems something is out of sync with the cycle of accountability; something contradictory to what was promised. Given what seems a frequent occurrence, it may be a fallacy to think that being in sync is normal. In the current context, that thinking itself could also be an insult to intelligence.