Even as rice farmers in Region Six continue to battle drought and irrigation problems, their fortunes and their chances for the “good life” are being eroded by a debilitating paddy bug blight, which is resulting in a greater than 30 per cent loss. Rice farmers in Regions Two, Three, Four and Five similarly are battling against paddy bugs and drought. While the farmers themselves, with help from the Rice Producers Association (RPA) and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), have valiantly begged for the Government’s attention, the Minister of Agriculture and A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) are missing in action (MIA), cruelly ignoring the rice farmers. Last week, APNU/AFC had a Region Six “outreach”, but none of them reached any rice farmer or any rice field. For APNU/AFC, the paddy bug problem is fiction, fake news.
APNU/AFC wasted an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money in the fake Region Six “outreach” to “bring Government to the people”. After a morning of wining and dining in New Amsterdam, disguised as a Cabinet meeting, they eventually made a condescending late-afternoon appearance in Port Mourant. They were brutally greeted by hundreds of protesting Region Six residents and by empty chairs under tents in the University of Guyana Tain Campus compound. The residents of Region Six rejected and boycotted them. It was crystal clear APNU/AFC did not learn any lesson from the Square of the Revolution circus. The newest edition of the “bringing the Government to the people” circus was another elitist show for people to again bow down to the Ministers.
It was humiliating to watch the Ministers amid empty chairs scrambling to get their staff and their few remaining supporters in Region Six pretending to be residents bringing their problems to their Ministers. It is not that the people of Region Six do not have problems; they have overwhelming problems they struggle with every day. But they did not want to be a part of the circus. They do not believe that APNU/AFC care about their struggles and they have no confidence that APNU/AFC is willing to find remedies for the problems the people of Region Six and Guyana face daily. Even as the Ministers shuffled into their chairs under the coolness of the tents, their body language told a story. They were watching the clock so that they could end the circus of that day and get back to their plush offices and homes in Georgetown, away from the agony of the people.
Not one of them ventured to meet the struggling rice farmers in the middle of their plight fighting paddy bugs and drought. The Minister of Agriculture was totally invisible in a region which almost entirely depends on agriculture. Not one of them visited the sugar workers and their families in Rose Hall, Canje and in Skeldon. Not one of them went to visit the striking sugar workers at Albion. Not one of them visited the health centres that everyday must tell people there are no medicines to give them. Not one of them visited the New Amsterdam Hospital with its non-functioning mortuary or the non-functioning Port Mourant Ophthalmology Hospital or the Skeldon Hospital, which after two years still cannot get proper GPL electricity. None of them bothered to find out why potable water has become a major problem. Not one of them visited the families and the organisations trying to combat the growing problem of domestic violence. It is true the week before, Minister Lawrence did re-commission the eye hospital, but the hospital still cannot perform eye surgery. It is true, too, that Minister Ramjattan’s remedy for domestic violence is a good cuss-out for Region Six men – they drink too much and then beat their wives.
Humiliated by the stinging public rebuke it got for its “bringing Government to the people” circus at the Square of the Revolution, APNU/AFC has now embarked on “outreaches” into the different regions of Guyana. The parties are desperate to put behind them people’s total loss of confidence in their Government, the national consensus that APNU/AFC has brazenly neglected people, even the people who voted for them, and the national conviction they have become aloof, out of touch with the ordinary people’s daily struggles for a decent livelihood, corrupt and uncaring. Last week, they were in Region Six and this week, APNU/AFC will be in Regions Five and Three, thinking they are reconnecting with people. But for the people, they know the circus continues.