Garbage outside the Stabroek Market – Georgetown – Guyana
Source: Guyana Chronicle News, 3 January 2012 (www.guyanachronicle.com)
My love for my native land blossomed at an early age. It found expression in primary school through the patriotic songs I learned and sang with fervor. My favorite song was “My Native Land” by M.A. Cossou. The opening line still evokes that love: “Oh, I care not that others rave over fair lands afar…” At an early age, I believed that I would never leave my native land because there was “none so fair as can compare with my own native land.”(Lyrics available at silvertorch.com/guysongs.)
I delighted in the brilliant red-orange-yellow flowers of the flamboyant trees lining the main avenues of our capital city, Georgetown. Hibiscus hedges, bougainvillea bushes, and croton plants added their vibrant colors to make Georgetown the Garden City of the Caribbean Region.
At high school, I connected with the world through the study of geography. My geography teacher, of Portuguese descent, taught me the importance of using my talents to serve my country and to work towards building a better future for all of our six peoples.
With the end of British colonialism, I believed in our ability to create our own destiny. Our nation’s first Prime Minister, before power and money corrupted his vision, instilled national pride and unity in my impressionable young mind. I sang our National Anthem and looked to our flag with pride.
But the dream I shared with other young people of my generation was all a fairy tale. Corruption soon trickled down from the high ranks of our government and, like the salt air fanning our coastline, corroded our society and destroyed our dream, yet unfulfilled. Garbage dumps across Georgetown, due to lack of funds to pay the garbage collectors, are a visible sign of the prevailing corruptive forces.
In 2011, according to the Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International (www.transparency.org), Guyana ranked 134 out of 182 nations with a score of 2.5 (on a scale of 0 to 10), putting our nation among the most corrupt in the world. The Index also reveals that we are the most corrupt among our Anglo-Caribbean sister states. The small island nation of Barbados puts us to shame. It ranks among the top twenty least corrupt countries with a score of 7.8.
Our young people, the future of our nation, cannot thrive in a corrupt environment. With the exception of the few who will choose to milk the corrupt system, our talented and skilled young professionals and entrepreneurs will seek “fair lands afar.” Guyana’s Junior Calypso Monarch 2010, Tennicia De Freitas, then 18 years, expressed well the plight of our less fortunate youth in her prize-winning song, “I don’t want to be born.”
When will Guyana’s leaders and adults find the courage and determination to end the endemic corruption corroding the future of its youth?