AS AN EMERGING NATION, WE MUST NOT FORGET OUR OLD FRIENDS.
Guyana has always been friends with many other nations, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, to name a few. In many ways these historical and influential relationships with these powerful nations have given us protection for our sugar, bauxite, and other resources. We may have had a few fallouts in the past, but most of these countries have always been there to hold our hands and walk us over the proverbial “troubled waters.”
Since independence, the United Kingdom has been like a guardian mother looking out for our protection and democracy, through contributions to our battles against crime and to our national and human development. And, as we have seen in recent times, the energy and power they placed for the democratic freedom of the citizens of this country. For this and more, I say that the United Kingdom deserves a standing ovation and applause from Guyana.
I must also recognise the former Non-Aligned Movement set up by the five international founders: Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, Indonesian President Sukarno, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and President of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito. The Non-Aligned Movement has played a very important role in the development of our consciousness of freedom of thought, where no predominant country with money and power can brainwash us into being maniacs of their regime. It also served its role in our development as a free country.
Cuba has been a great friend of Guyana, and we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their medical brigade, scholarships in tropical agriculture, medicine, post-graduate medicine, and so much more. I firmly believe that we must never allow ourselves to forget our comrades. As we are building this greater and more powerful relationship with the United States of America, we must not forget those nations that have helped us to develop and grow.
As for China, without a doubt, they have also been one of our greatest friends in the form of aid to our country, friendship in morality and scholarships in various industries, and professions. I can say the same for the land of my ancestors, India, also known as Hindustan. I am always amazed at the rapid development of so many fields of endeavour and science from the dawn of known civilisations to modern times. The famous Chinese silk trade route that spans the globe, bringing scientific discoveries, art, and commodities for trade. This, at the same time, brought ideology, knowledge, wisdom, and technology to the world, from nations such as Arabia, Persia, Greece, and Rome — in other words, the whole world.
I personally have a deep respect and love for China and I feel that we must be ever grateful to them for being there as a shoulder on which we can lean. However, I would like to take this opportunity to call upon my very good friend and mentor in universal peace and international diplomacy, the Hon Ambassador Cui Jianchun, to suggest to his government to always have an oversight of Chinese projects in Guyana. As for basic commercial goods and major traffic arteries such as highways, bridges, dams, tunnels, railways, subways, and airports, they must be of the highest quality and not of the third level, as I know exist in China’s industrial supplies. I reiterate, it would be noble if Ambassador Cui Jianchun encourage China to look over these projects and to ask its government to provide the requisite proper guidance to the companies coming to Guyana. I say this from the experience of doing business with China. I know that China produces different quality of goods. There is the first quality, in which you pay a little higher, the second quality where you pay less, and the third quality where you pay the lowest and get the lowest quality. For this reason, I am worried about our airports for the fact that we have paid for the best, and China Harbour and Engineering Company offers us a third or worse standard, thus affecting the identity, prestige, and honour of the People’s Republic of China. If anything, they are expected to make sure we get what we paid for and maybe a little extra. This is why I am calling on our good friends in China to watch over Chinese projects done in Guyana, so as to ensure we get what we are paying for. With this, I also urge the Government of Guyana to ensure that we do not always go for the cheapest, but for quality, not only in the construction of highways, byways, tunnels and trains, but also in the provision of local services, etc. It is difficult to enter into contracts with the lowest bidder and to demand the highest quality service in any industry, be it foreign tenderers or local tenderers.
The Government of Guyana must also ensure that no international bank or countries from which we borrow money must ever be able to hold and seize our assets; our lands, our airports, etcetera. If we cannot afford to pay in the future, the loan will have to be re-negotiated, so they cannot hold any of our assets as we have seen in some countries where major airports, etc., are being taken over because they were unable to pay debts that have been borrowed. The clause of the contract must explicitly state the aforementioned.
Additionally, oil companies and foreign investors should never own lands and properties. Instead, they should be made to partner with Guyanese, who will own the lands, build and give them service as partners, so that our citizens can have independence and wealth. Otherwise, these foreign companies with their capital reserves, as capitalists, will take away all our lands, opportunities, and we, as Guyanese in our own country, will become third, fourth, or fifth-class citizens and end up working as employees in what is called local content by foreign-owned corporations and industries.
I end this missive by expressing the fact that I look forward to strong relationships in large-scale projects such as modern rail, city subway, or overhead trains that will encircle the city, providing cheap and comfortable public transport using natural gas and or self-generated electricity or electricity from our hydropower. I wish God could have given me another 20 years or so to see the great progress our new government is going to make in getting Guyana to look like Singapore and Dubai, in which we become leaders, invest, enjoy a high standard of living and import general labour like Singapore and Dubai, but with processes and immigration policies in place, so that our country is well secured against migrant labourers or workers. The government has to be cognisant of the fact that we cannot give approval for foreigners to open stores on Regent Street or Water Street, but to create manufacturing industries with good sense that will not destroy our environment by polluting the atmosphere or our waters. Foreign investors should also be encouraged to partner in all kinds of industries with some Guyanese, instead of giving away all the opportunities, lands, and tax concessions that Guyanese are never entitled to, so that our people can prosper as well.
This is my grand vision, Your Excellency President Dr. Irfaan Ali, Vice-president Dr.Bharrat Jagdeo, and Prime Minister Brigadier Mark Phillips, of a bigger, more beautiful, glorious Guyana.
Hajji Dr. Roshan Khan Snr