by Rakesh Rampertab


UG is a madhouse. This is obvious from a flow of letters by top UG officials. Dr. Anand Daljeet, former senior lecturer, raised a number of issues about the Iwokrama project and interestingly, shares the view of UG impropriety with Professor Frederick Kissoon; “Every kind of marginalization that is perceivable exists at UG. The question is, who is accountable at UG? It is apparent that no one is accountable.” Kissoon says, “I am in my eighteen year at UG and I can boldly state that one of the unsavoury procedures at UG is how scholarships are arrived at.”

This week UG answered back, half-denying half admitting. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Al Creighton says UG is listening to “legitimate” criticisms, hoping to restore “order.” Of course, he reminds us that this depends on how much funding UG gets. More money, more order. (This is the equivalent of the poor being told by the Ministry of Education to see the private schools for a good education.) More money, more education. Mr. Creighton reminds us that UG has mechanisms to arrest biases, but he plays the psychologist by noting that humans have biases invisible to these “mechanisms.”

It’s the old Shakespearean bone-and-bark dog trick; fair is four and foul is fair. This is shoddy thinking, especially when held against complains of transparency and fairness. But fair is “not” foul. Fair is not dollar-valued or race-colored, but basic human integrity. Given the murky atmosphere of UG, the public should not accept what is told readily, especially since integrity evaporates the higher one gets in any state institution in Guyana. After all, the UG administration operates as a mirrored image of PPP-PNC views.

In a separate letter previously, Mr. Creighton said that the Registrar sits on the University Scholarships Committee. But Professor Kissoon said this is a lie. Since Mr. Creighton did not make amends in a follow-up letter, one can assume that Mr. Creighton’s blunder proved that laxity of UG administrative attitude. If the Registrar is required to sit by law, why has he been ignored? Is it because he is Indian? How many scholarships were awarded without his input, that is, illegally? It seems as if “order” is needed with individuals and not UG; after all “mechanisms” can only exist. It is administrators who enforce them fairly or not.

While I agree that there must be some unfounded criticism, our enthusiasm to produce bureaucratic misfits requires that speculations be investigated, especially since Guyana is a country that needs “committees” to get just about every basic national service done. I agree that the Ethnic Relations Commission be called in to UG. Speculations can often raise interesting questions, and sift the dust from the table of the mischief-makers.

Here is something to speculate. I have been told that it’s hard for local Indians to win the Guyana Prize for Literature. Many alleged that in addition to being the irremovable Stabroek News art critic, the influential Mr. Creighton (Secretary of the Management Council, I believe) favors black writers. Also, the Faculty of Arts at UG through which this Prize is channeled, is dominated by blacks. Strangely, this is exactly what Professor Kissoon has been hinting about, except in the scholarship department. I have been told not to have anyone send submissions directly to the Faculty, but through a newspaper or even Dr. Ian McDonald.

Of course, it’s all speculation and UG, I am sure, can muster up evidence of 1,001 “mechanisms” that would prevent such nonsense. But when a “first” book like Adiadne & Other Stories (by Mr. Ruel Johnson) wins for fiction, it must raise eyebrows. A critical reading of it shows an author with unquestionable talent experimenting, yearning to break free, but the stories themselves or the book are nothing unusual. With respect, I did not find it to be of Prize-winning quality. Maybe the other entries were all worse. But what if some other person did submit stories that were superior? It forces him/her to speculate. And, given our racial landscape and the fact that local Indian writers are not winning, despite entering each year, it must lead suspicion. Who is to say that nothing is happening surreptitiously (secretly)? US$5,000 “prize” money is a lot of cash, isn’t it?

Therefore, newspapers and international bodies with interests at UG must scrutinize UG much more. The group overseas (Annan Boodram etc.) created to help promote UG should think carefully about these “speculations.” The PPP-PNC camp has and will use UG for their partisan benefit. From within they infiltrate; from outside, they pretend to see no evil and hear no evil. E.g., the racist-bully incident on the basketball court against the UG Hindu Society (Diwali-rangoli) has gone untouched by either Mr. Robert Persaud (PPP youth leader) or Ms. Laurene Nestor (PNC youth leader), not to mention Mr. Creighton in his “Diwali” piece for Stabreok News. The two "youth" leaders were very loud and animated against GIHA (Sarwan issue), claiming to be against events and incidents of “division.”

Our newspapers should acquire the UK-affiliated report on the Iwokrama project, instead of merely accepting the selective extracts offered by UG Vice Chancellor, Dr. James Rose. What he quoted seems fair. Now, what was not quoted? While it is a colossal blunder for UG to have undertaken such an experiment without the basic tools required, it is equally irksome to hear an educator of such caliber display such gravity towards poor ethics by saying to us not to fuss, because “outages are an unfortunate reality of our everyday existence.” I want to say that administrative idiocy is also an everyday thing, but I cannot; that is, directly. UG does need lots of money. But, if an entire nation could not get one generator, and that’s acceptable (no one was punished for the lapse), I think it needs new people with integrity to rescue it from under the dead weight of its poor administration.


November 3, 2003
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