“Courage does not mean lack of fear.” – Sara Bharrat

The most important question Guyanese will ever ask themselves

This is the second article in a five (5) part series – Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People. The series was inspired by a string of occurrences during the 74th to 82nd sittings of the Eleventh Parliament of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. It offers brief commentary and analysis in simple language to anyone interested in learning, and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current state.

The National Assembly is a mirror. Anything we see when we look inside it reflects who we’ve allowed ourselves to become as a nation. It is nothing less than madness to expect our Parliamentarians to operate by a set of principles and values which we do not hold them to and which many of us do not live by.

This is the hardest lesson I’ve learnt these past weeks. I do not say it to cast blame, cause shame or heighten anyone’s suffering. I say it because it is important to acknowledge that the fault lies not only in our political leaders but in ourselves (the people who have chosen them) as well. Parliament is about people and it is also about their choices. During the 74th to 82nd sittings of the Eleventh Parliament, we witnessed the consequences of our choices, our actions and lack of action.

Speaking of government is not equal to speaking of a single political party. Government is made up of three branches: the Legislature (National Assembly), the Executive (the President, Cabinet and Government Departments) and the Judiciary (Courts). All our major political parties have a voice in Parliament: A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Alliance for Change (AFC) and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). Together, they represent most of our people.

In many ways, the unsettling events we’ve witnessed in the National Assembly recently are products of a type of political loyalty that is built on and strengthened by distrust. We do not trust each other nor do we feel entirely safe among each other. Our distrustful nature is in turn a product of both periods before and after Independence.

Loyalty is the currency we have used to pay for protection and a feeling of security. And what threat is it that terrifies us so much? Each other. Beneath our distrust is a deep-rooted fear of each other which feeds frustration, anger, resentment and hate.

Our loyalty to the group we believe keeps us safe, blinds us. In such a situation, loyalty is no longer a virtue but has become a vice. It is perhaps the root of all the vices preventing us from operating by a set of principles and values necessary for moving Guyana forward and from demanding better from our leaders.

As Guyanese and at this point in our history, I believe the most important question we will ever ask ourselves is: have I placed my loyalty where it will benefit my country and all our people or have I used it to buy protection from an imagined threat which feeds a political culture that continues to destroy us?

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PS – A very merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. While this is the sort of thing we’d rather not think about during the holidays, such thinking – once it leads us closer to a solution for Guyana – is the greatest gift we can give to the people we love.

 

Featured Image: Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan boarding British Guiana Airways Ltd (The Road to Independence, Stabroeknews.com)

 

Other articles in this Series:

  1. Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People

 

Disclaimer:

This article, like all others in the series Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People, is not meant to advance any position on behalf of any political party or any other entity or group. It is part of a collection of political commentary and analysis – expressed in simple language by a young Guyanese – made available for anyone interested in learning and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current political state.

 

 A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, December 16, 2017

 

Have a question or require further information? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com

Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People

This is the first article in a five (5) part series – Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People. The series was inspired by a string of occurrences during the 74th to 82nd sittings of the Eleventh Parliament of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. It offers brief commentary and analysis in simple language to anyone interested in learning, and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current state.

For as long as I live, I will never forget the spirit in which the 74th to 82nd sittings of our Eleventh Parliament were conducted. I am deeply disappointed in both sides of the House and severely wounded by what appeared to be a complete disregard for the sacred calling they each chose to answer, for the trust our people have placed in them, for the sacrifices our ancestors made to ensure that we could enjoy the right to govern ourselves, and for their own dignity.

The men and women who sit in Parliament are no fools or dunces. They are among the best and brightest minds this country has produced in their generations. They are also some of the most courageous among us because they chose to stay and give their life in service to this country. Why then have they so easily reduced the highest form of our national conversation (our Parliamentary Discourse) to nothing more than a common cuss-out?

Perhaps our Parliamentarians and many of us have forgotten that our National Assembly – one of the symbols of our right to call ourselves a free people – is something that we paid for in sweat and blood. To disrespect the sanctity of Parliament is to spit on our past, present and future.

The birth of our society was like any other birth. It was full of pain. Some of our people came here out of necessity or in search of fabled riches. Many more of our people were forced into this land either through enslavement or a false promise of prosperity. Our birth was also full of life and need, if not love. We came together and stayed together for survival.

Before 1966, our struggle for freedom from our colonial masters united us. Our fight was against a common enemy and we burned with desire for the right to be our own people. I don’t think we fully understood what that meant. With our vision turned outward on that long ago enemy, we perhaps failed to fully think through what would be required of us to build a nation.

Just over five decades since that first historic win (Independence), the common enemy and the immediate needs which bound us together have faded. Our sense of duty to each other has weakened and we are now each other’s enemy. These past weeks Parliament has, now more than ever before, been a house turned against itself.

I have heard many people describe the recent events in Parliament as “just politics”. Is it really? Parliament isn’t about politics, it’s about people and their lives. Every Member of the National Assembly is responsible for representing the interests of our people. They have been chosen to lead the advancement of this nation in a manner that is in keeping with the best interests of Guyanese. Now take a moment to think about the last two weeks without trying to decide which side of the House is to be blamed for what and ask yourself: have they been able to do this?

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Featured Image: Copyright Keno George (Parliamentary Stories)

Disclaimer:

This article, like all others in the series Parliament: It’s not about Politics, it’s about People, is not meant to advance any position on behalf of any political party or any other entity or group. It is part of a collection of political commentary and analysis – expressed in simple language by a young Guyanese – made available for anyone interested in learning and thinking more deeply about the types of solutions needed to address the issues arising from Guyana’s current political state.

 

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, December 16, 2017

 

Have a question or require further information? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com

Lessons on leadership from the GECOM fiasco and a life lived under two governments

It has been a long time since May 2015. Long enough, I hope, for us to see that many of the people who call themselves leaders of this country, both past and present, and who feign love for Guyana are really sinister, self-interested, opportunistic, dishonest, lost men and women.

I hope it has been long enough for us to see that these failed leaders continue to put their partisan politics before people and country and that this is not a race thing. This is about power, economic and otherwise, and race-based politics has only ever been a tool for gaining and maintaining power.

Think of these kings and queens among us. They eat and drink and laugh together in their posh little bubbles. They drive around in their fancy vehicles with the world locked out, our world, and they have no idea what its like to walk the streets of Georgetown, of New Amsterdam, of Lethem, of Mabaruma, of Buxton, of Lusignan, of any village or town in this country, sweating and feeling like we do. Even if they once knew, the memory is nothing but a romanticised image added to their political armory.

These “leaders” have failed themselves and their country, our country. History will never forget and I hope that for as long as they live, they dream every night of what they’ve become – lost – and that they wake every day feeling empty, unfulfilled and knowing they will be remembered not for the good they’ve done but for what they did not have the strength and courage to do; put Guyana first.

I believe that there are still a few men and women among them, who are not drunk on power, who love this country but are so entangled in the web of partisan politics that they do not know how to use their voices without dying. To those men and women, I have only this to say: silence is worse than death. Silence means that you have been broken – bent to the will of the power hungry lost men and women – and made to be a coward.

And to those of us who walk the streets sweating and feeling, if you are lucky enough to see, it means that you will read these words and understand. But remember, silence also means death for us and our children. See, feel and speak. If we all rise against the few that hold power, what will they do? What will they do if we render their race tool impotent? They will either dance to suit us or flee and let us build a nation.

 

The untold story about how the systems failed to protect me from an unstable man’s reign of terror

I am no saint. I have hurt the people I love the most in the world. But no matter what hurt a person believes we’ve inflicted, nothing gives them the right to reign terror on our lives, to hijack our peace of mind, to make us so paranoid that we’re afraid to walk down the street, to sleep, to eat, to see a car linger a few seconds too long in our street. Last September, a man who was enabled by his family and closest friends, did this to me.

He sent a series of threatening text messages to my phone which were framed as threats of a political nature. He faked his own kidnapping and then went around to people in my networks telling them that I had arranged it. He gained access to my Google account via a computer I’d loaned to him and used it to access my email and social media accounts. He created a fake Facebook profile, pretended to be a girl who was raped and tried to get me to meet him.

When I went to the police at the station nearest to where I lived at the time, they didn’t take me seriously. They brushed me aside, told me I was having a bit of man problems and did nothing to protect me from him. When I went to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the officer there was kind, he listened and in the end he told me that there was nothing he could do for me. In matters like mine, he explained, it was my word against my abuser’s word plus there was no legislation at the time to deal with cases of cyber bullying. CID could offer me no protection.

A social worker I interacted with during those weeks, advised me to go to the Magistrates’ Court and get a protection order. I went to the court, I filled out the necessary paper work and then as I was leaving the room the man – who I believed was helping me – touched my arm inappropriately and said words I now cannot recall. I did not go back to the court that afternoon to swear before the Magistrate so that the order could be issued. I was confused, I was afraid and I felt like the more I tried to get help, the more I was exposing myself to danger. The Court could not protect me.

When he went to the same police station, they listened to him and they showed up at my house. During those weeks, there were many misunderstandings about whose belongings were at whose house. His examination certificates and passport were left at mine. The first I didn’t realise were there and the latter I knew I had and eventually lodged with the police at Brickdam. Why did the police respond to him and not me? Is it because of his skin colour and profession? Is it because he’s a man? Is it because his complaint was easier to deal with than mine? Why didn’t they protect me? I don’t understand why.

And the worst part is that I am not his first victim. He’d been implicated in attempting to burn an ex-girlfriend’s apartment (something I learned after I suspected he’d staged his own kidnapping). When I reached out to her for help, she told me that even during 2016 she had still been receiving threatening text messages from him. Less than two months after his reign of terror on my life, he started a relationship with a woman who used to be my close friend. His behaviour seems to follow a pattern based on a series of unresolved emotional issues.

This is not about him though. I have made peace with that episode of my life. I have forgiven him and his enablers. I hope that they get help and heal eventually. But what I have not resolved is how the systems which should have protected me failed to do so. While I’d like to tell you that I’m over the fear, I can’t. I’m very afraid right now. What if he reads this and becomes angry? What if they try to terrorize me all over again? Will the systems fail me again?

I am lucky that last year I was surrounded by people who knew me, people who stood by me. But what about women who are completely alone? What happens to them? Who stands with them? How do they heal? Do they become victims of men like the one I encountered at the court? Are they stereotyped by police? How many of them end up dead because of these systemic weaknesses?

Last words for a stranger

To the man-who-works-with-hands

I dreamed of the old you nights ago. In it, you found me and you told me that it wouldn’t hurt for long, that it would be okay. I placed my cheek against your chest and listened. I could hear your heart beat strong like it does in life. It anchored me, brought me peace and after a long, long time, I felt safe again.

But then I came back to this world where I couldn’t breathe, where your cruelty has become my most familiar friend, where you’d rather cast me away because it’s easier. And yet, I’ve remained near you because I know which is worse between your absence and presence.

Today is a sad day for me. It is the last time I will write to you and for you. I have said all I’ve had left to say. I ripped the words from the deepest parts of me and had them flung back at me repeatedly. I’ve been buried in the weight of my own love, my own loss, my own sorrow.

We do not choose love. It chooses us. But we do get to choose the moment we throw in our white flag. And so, you have mine, finally. While I’ve given up on the dream that you’ll come home again one day, I have not given up feeling the way I’ve felt from the moment I first saw you. You are wrong. There are things that last.

With deepest regret and unwavering love,

the girl who waited until there was no hope left.

Why it’s okay to be sad

March 30, 2017

World Poetry Day

Umana Yana

Dear Nana,

Charlene Wilkinson is reciting poetry in the tongue of our people to the beat of African drums. It is the kind of sound that tugs at your heart until your soul makes itself felt. I am listening to her and I miss you. I miss you more than any man’s language can ever tell you.

She speaks in the language I heard as a little girl near the cane fields or in the boat when mamoo dem bin ah come from backdam. And the language, it plunges into my heart, my soul, piercing me in ways I have never felt; in ways I never thought I’d feel.

And I look up, half expecting to see you, hoping that your ashes could find their way back to me. But I see nothing. There is nothing but the words piercing my heart.

They took you away from me and I could do nothing about it. On one side, they hijacked who you were to create fear and on the other side, they turned what you were into an ugly thing and used it to stir hate. They took you from me and I could do nothing about it.

It has been a while since this sort of spirit flowed through me. It has been a long, long time since I felt this alive, this awake; it has been like coming home. They say that our memories are short and because of this we will always be victim to our political culture. But I believe our memories are long. It is our heart that is the problem. Our hearts cannot bear the pain they’ve given us.

I have taken their new culture. I have taken their new way of thinking. I have taken these things and made a mask for myself. And I wear it to hide my wounds but still, I cannot hide all of it.

Today they told me that my eyes look sad. I am sad and I don’t try to hide it anymore. I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way. We were made to feel and we feel deeply. This sadness, it is the price we pay for the privilege to love. And it is a price I will gladly pay again and again.

I am sad today but I am not always sad. I am silent today but I will not be silent forever. But until the time is right, I wait silently, sometimes sadly, but always with love.

 

Love,

Bharrat

 

A Love Letter (Love After Love)

Dear Self,

I read Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” for the first time a few weeks ago. Yesterday, I heard that he’d died. I could not believe it. How could the creator – of those moments in my life where I was wildly happy or able to see with unparalleled clarity – be gone?

But then, I suppose he’s not really gone. Not so long as we feel his words and his spirit through them. I have been told that when we say goodbye, at least we have memories of people; the moments we shared with them. But as you well know, memories are like air –  there, but not always easily felt unless there is a storm. And the right amount of time and distance can and will cause them to fade.

So why is it that all of me has been unable to let go of all of you, to let you fade? I believe there are two reasons. The first is that I do not merely remember frozen images of you. I remember your words and these words work in the same way that Walcott’s poetry and prose and drama do. They evoke feelings and they preserve all of you, your very spirit. Your words keep you alive in me.

The second reason is embedded in the primary poetic message. It speaks to our truest love being our own self. I have learned to love myself, to be happy with me and at peace. And you, you are me, a big part of who I am. So in loving myself, I have no choice but to love you too. There is no separating the two. There is no whole and pure love for me without loving you.

You and I, we are each other. And so long as my words remain with you, I will always be with you, all of me, forever. Because love after love, I stood before the mirror and I saw you; the rest of me, the part that made me whole.

 

Without Wax,

Sara

PS – Happy birthday, my darling.