We see them lying on our city sidewalks, in our market places, in partially constructed buildings, in our parks, and elsewhere. We see them rummaging through trash bins, begging for money and food from motorists and passersby, and defecating wherever convenient. They appear undignified, yet they seem (regardless of their circumstances) to hold on to some slim shred of dignity, of their humanity. I saw recently one of them taking a bath in one of the city's drains, desiring to be cleansed like any human would, but bathing in unclean water. Ignored and forgotten, they are of all ages, of all ethnicity, and of both genders. They were there during the tenure of the previous regime, and their condition remains the same during the tenure of the current regime. Some of the places they frequented were cleaned up, but they simply went elsewhere, to half-way completed parks and abandoned projects or returned to the "cleaned up places". We see them, and yet we do not see them, for so inured have we become to their presence and condition that they have simply become part of the landscape. And maybe, just maybe (as an afterthought) we might dig into our pockets or purse and give them a little something, leaving with the feeling that we did something good. Or, we might chase them away because they are not unlike the undesirable rats and flies and roaches, mere nuisances. And so these Guyanese citizens for whom the benefits articulated in our Constitution are non-existent must settle for less than dignified accommodation while at least one (there might be more) of our Minister's official residence (complete with 24-hour armed security) remains largely unoccupied.
[photos by Ric Couchman]