To AG Anil Nandlall – On the “Chatri Coolie”

Dear AG Anil Nandlall,

Since President Donald Ramotar prorogued Parliament, I have not heard much about your Chatri-Coolie-Corruption tape. The proroguing seems to have worked out for you in more ways than one. Also, pardon me if I don’t use the word “alleged” anywhere in our correspondence because the president declared to the nation that the tape was not doctored but that your words were taken out of context. It seems that you now and forever more will be tied to those utterances.

I am not here to take sides or to defend any individual or group of individuals. I have learnt that people, no matter how righteous their actions may appear, all have some deep-rooted aim which motivates them. Instead, I defend near dead things like honour, honesty, justice, democracy and freedom of press and of expression.

I have only just listened to your tape, sir, and I like that you use our Creole language; that you embrace your identity. I heard you ask Leonard if he knew the meaning of “Chatri Coolie”. “I am a Chatri Coolie,” you declared to him. Well sir, I do believe that had you been aware of the true meaning of the term then you would not so freely use it to describe yourself.

You see, Anil, my Nani – who still swears that it could not have been you uttering those words on that recording because she cannot believe that a good and nice boy like you would do such a dishonor to his country and his people – has told me all sorts of stories about mystical India and the culture we have inherited from our forefathers. A Chatri Coolie, as Nani has explained it, is an Indian man (or woman) – or in our case a descendant of such a man or woman – who is not powerful because he revels in power but because he is a defender of those who do not sit in the place of power and because he truly understands the responsibility that comes with power.

How many people do you think have Googled Chatri Coolie over the last month Anil? How many do you think now associate the term with dishonor and corruption and a power-hungry fool? Just think Anil, this is the association that goes with the term in our little world and you, having branded yourself a Chatri Coolie, are irrevocably married to these connotations. You are the first of this new type of Chatri. Just think Anil! This is how you have been frozen in history, this is how you will be remembered, and this is now your legacy.

Chatri, dear Anil, is the mother caste of the Rajputs (even Wikipedia agrees). When we think Rajputs, we immediately think of honor and pride. A Rajput’s honor means more to him (or her) than life. In the ancient social system mapped by the Vedas, the Chatris are the sacred warriors who save the people from wounds by sustaining wounds themselves.

But you Anil, what wounds have you sustained for your people? What have you done for all of us? Have you stood apart from and fought against a system of evil that plagues us? Have you fought for every coolie man and woman, every black man and woman, every Amerindian man and woman, every Chinese man and woman, every white man and woman, every hybrid man and woman in this country? What have you done that is deserving of honor, sir? What is it, beyond riches and power, that makes you Chatri?

And you know what else Anil? The utterance which convinced me the most that you are lost – was not the scandalous things you said about your uncle wanting to fuck a young reporter or about the “borrowing” of state funds or even about attacking the Kaieteur News – it was when you expressed your concern for your wife and stated that in all of this she is innocent and knows nothing about it.

It was the only time I heard something genuine in your voice Anil. I could hear your love for that woman and your fear for her leak into your words and I listened with a heavy heart. I kept thinking, Anil, that had you really loved that woman in the way that I am sure she deserves to be loved then you would not have acted in any way that would have put her at risk. You would have guarded your honor closely, Anil, because as you well know in our culture and most others a husband’s honor is the same as his wife’s. Why would you do such things to her and your children and your mother and father and all those whose honor is somehow connected to yours? Even me, and all of those like me, young, promising souls struggling to birth Guyanese, why would you do this to us?

But more than all of this Anil, what I really want to tell you is this: you see how you love and fear for your wife? I understand that well. But the love I feel for the people close to me, can in no way eclipse the love I have for my country and all those who call it home. I believe that had you loved our country like this, had any of you loved Guyana in such a way, such dark days would never have dawned upon us. These things Anil make me fear for our country and its people, even you.

Without Wax,


To Dr. Roger F. Luncheon – On the LEAD Project

Dear Dr. Roger F. Luncheon,

First, I must express my most sincere gratitude to you, and by extension the Government of Guyana, for responding to my concerns regarding democracy, trust and tragedy in our nation. I hope that our interaction will inspire generations to come. I hope it serves as evidence that our leaders, our politicians, like you, are not unreachable or unwilling to engage with our people. I hope that it serves as an example of the rational manner in which such discussions must be conducted.

I have noted your recommendation that I do not “confuse opinions with facts” as it regards the USAID Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project. As a matter of fact Dr. Luncheon, I arrived at my current position on the issue after examining your public disclosures and those of US Ambassador Brent Hardt. I have since perused a set of correspondence between Government and US officials on the LEAD project and this only strengthens my position.

I still do not believe that Government’s concern about the alleged high handed manner of the US is the only reason behind refusing LEAD. Note that I am not dismissing Government’s concern. But I am saying that based on the data I have examined it is simply not possible, not logical that this can be the only reason. Now we shall proceed to examine some facts, truths, evidence if you prefer that term.

It is fact that on October 18, 2012 US Ambassador Brent Hardt wrote to President Donald Ramotar informing him that “USAID is planning to implement an initiative to enhance democratic processes and governance institutions in Guyana by strengthening the capacity of political parties in Parliament”. In the same correspondence Ambassador Hardt noted that he was “writing to solicit (Government’s) support in coordinating a meeting with appropriate leaders within (the PPP/C) to hear your insights”.

Dr. Luncheon, it is also fact that on October 29, 2012 President Ramotar met with Ambassador Hardt and USAID representatives. On November 29, 2012 Ambassador Hardt wrote to President Ramotar thanking him for the meeting. In this letter, Ambassador Hardt was very clear that “the information [Government] provided was very helpful in allowing us to finalize the scope of work USAID will be supporting in its planned Democracy and Governance activity for Guyana”.

Based on these facts, it is clear that as early as October 2012 the US had been consulting Government about a “planned Democracy and Governance activity for Guyana” and that Government was willingly participating. At this point, there is no indication that the US has said to the Government of Guyana “Here is the LEAD project, you must sign it and you must participate in it”. Where is the fait accompli?

Further Dr. Luncheon, it is also fact that more than a year after Government had first began discussions with the US about what would become the LEAD project Cabinet disapproved it. It is fact that from the beginning you have been contending that Government refused the project due to concerns about the lack of consultation.

It is clear from the correspondence released by the US Embassy (the letters I have quoted above) that consultation has indeed been taking place. Or is it Dr. Luncheon, that there is a misunderstanding between us? Have we interpreted “consultation” to mean different things? Is the process of formally meeting with US officials and discussing the project (which has been taking place since October 2012) not to be interpreted as “consultation”?

In your recent letter to me you again state: “The details I provided publicly clearly established that the United States designed, funded the project and contracted a firm to implement the project before bringing it to the attention of the Government of Guyana.” So Dr. Luncheon, your contention, I take it, is not that the Government was never consulted but that consultation took place after all of these things occurred?

As a matter of fact, Ambassador Hardt wrote to you on May 20, 2013 about the firm that had been awarded the contract for the project. In his letter he informed you that following “earlier consultations on the USAID/Guyana Elections and Political Processes Fund Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Project, USAID has made an award to the International Republican Institute (IRI) for implementation of the Leadership and Democracy project”.

Clearly, Government had been involved in “consultations” with the US before the contract was awarded to IRI for the LEAD project. Ambassador Hardt’s words to you suggest that the issue of awarding the project contract had come up in “earlier consultations”. So what exactly is Government’s contention here Dr. Luncheon? Is it that Government is saying it should have enjoyed closer involvement in the process that saw the awarding of a contract by the USAID for a US funded project?

In all of this Dr. Luncheon, where is the US’s alleged high-handed manner? It is primarily the information available in these correspondences, and not merely my opinion or belief on the matter, which seems to all but dismiss this concern about US high-handedness. So Dr. Luncheon, how can this be the only or central reason for refusing to participate in LEAD when it has been so weakened?

I hope that now you are less perplexed about my position. The things I have presented thus far are facts, truths, evidence. In order to dismantle the merit of the data I have relied upon, you are left with two options: you can either contend that the correspondence released by the US embassy has been fabricated or is false, untrue, misconstrued (whichever term is preferable) or you can contend that it is limited in that it only presents one side of the conversation (that is only those letters the US would have sent to Government).

The first option would be a diplomatic disaster and I would be left with no choice but to ask you: where is your evidence that the US is lying or misconstruing information? If it is the second option then the solution would be simple: the Government can release its side of the correspondence so that a more holistic view of what has been taking place can be gained.

Further, I have also cited your own words as published in the Stabroek News and on Demerara Waves (the online publication). So unless, we accuse them of misconstruing your position on the LEAD project then the data that has been available to me as it regards your stance is also fact, truth, or evidence. So it would seem, Dr. Luncheon that my position on the matter has indeed been based upon facts, truth or evidence.

Finally, allow me to briefly address this issue regarding what you have described as an attack on our sovereignty and Ambassador Hardt’s “apparent contempt for the Government of Guyana”. I agree that no foreign entity has the right to come into our country and conduct business at will. The fact that I thirst for the democratic opportunities that LEAD promises does not mean I support an attack on our sovereignty. Such a notion would be ridiculous.

However, as you are well aware Dr. Luncheon, Ambassador Hardt’s alleged display of contempt came after Cabinet’s disapproval of LEAD. The issue is and remains Government’s refusal of the LEAD project prior to the ambassador’s alleged conduct. It is sad that matters of sovereignty have arisen but our debate is not about this and this has not been Government’s cited reason for disapproving LEAD.

You asked me “Where in the world of international law and relationships would a foreign government openly behave so outrageously?” I believe that as it concerns the disapproval of LEAD the question we should be asking ourselves is: Where in the world of diplomatic relations does a government publicly accuse a member of the diplomatic community in such a manner? Would it not have been more in keeping with diplomacy for Government to meet with Ambassador Hardt and attempt to sort out this matter?

On January 8, 2014 Demerara Waves (in an article headlined “No negotiation of US-funded democracy project under duress-Luncheon”) reported you as saying “We ain’t negotiating under duress. We are not discussing a project and its implementation whilst it’s being implemented”. I felt some hope when I read this Dr. Luncheon because I interpreted it as meaning that Government is willing to renegotiate if US stalls LEAD implementation. Has Government made this clear to the US officials? Is there a possibility that some agreement can be reached so that Guyanese, especially those of my generation, can benefit from LEAD?

I am sure, Dr. Luncheon, you have recognized that I am not attacking our Government but rather I am exercising my democratic right to question the actions taken by them for the greater good of our nation. I do not believe that denying Guyana the LEAD project is for the greater good of our country, of our people. If we do not examine every available side, if we do not question endlessly and reassess our position on these matters then how else will we arrive at truth? How else will Guyana progress?

For our people and country

Without Wax,

Sara Bharrat.

To Roger F. Luncheon – On Democracy, Trust and Tragedy

Dear Roger F. Luncheon:

I had a bone to pick with you about that USAID Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project. However, bone picking is exactly why we are the way we are. I have been many things, I am many things, I will be many things but I will never become the bone-picking-Bharrat. Truth is the currency I deal in.

After you announced that Cabinet would not have the democracy project I told my nani all about it. This is what she said: “Luncheon is a good man”. When people attack you personally, specifically when they say that all you are is bad, I defend you. I do not defend you because of any personal allegiance. I defend you because I know there is good in every man and woman among us.

I defend you because attacking a man personally is pointless and dishonorable. It only serves to distract us from the systems which we should be examining and questioning. Do not worry, soon our people will learn to shrug off these distractions; they will learn to see , to question, to act in the most effective manner.

I wrote about the LEAD project earlier. I do not believe that Government’s concern about the US’s alleged high-handed manner is the only reason behind refusing the project. People have no doubt read my words and recognized that I am for the project. However, there is more to the matter.

You see, there is a sad, sad story behind the fact that I would choose to believe the US over my own Government. When I made the decision I kept remembering all those appearances of the US in Caribbean history. I am well aware of the risks. When I made the decision I felt as if I were backed into a corner and left to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Why should I have to feel this way, Mr. Luncheon? Why should I have to sit in my country and feel that I cannot trust my leaders? It is the tragic story of our country. We do not trust each other.

And there is the other question too, why should the US have to come into my home and clean for me? Can I and my brothers and sisters not do it on our own? I have decided that I will clean my own house. Democracy is not a gift that someone can simply hand us. Democracy is a journey, a path of self discovery, which we must take alone and together all at once.

You know, back in 2011 when I spoke to my peers about voting many of them had the same thing to say; they said that voting did not matter because none of you (politicians) were worth it. Outside of the PPP/APNU/AFC followings another tragedy was taking place. Young people were giving up on their democratic right because, and this is my belief, our political machinery has robbed them of hope.

Why has our political system done this to us Mr. Luncheon?

Do not worry though, I have since told these young people that there is always hope. I have told them that we must become responsible for our own well being and the well being of our country. I have told them that we are the final shred of hope to which Guyana clings. I have told them that we should not give up on our country. I will keep telling them until they hear, until they see, until they act.

So Mr. Luncheon, there is something much greater than the LEAD project that is struggling to take birth; that will be born.

For my people and country

Without Wax

Sara Bharrat.

P.S: Perhaps, I shall take a walk to the post office later to ensure that a copy of this at least makes it to your office. I know how easily such things get lost in the cyber world.

To Ian McDonald

Dear Ian McDonald,

As I sit here this cold, grey morning in Craig Old Road my mind and heart and soul wander through the moments you’ve remembered these past decades. I see now, Ian, if I may be so bold, that there comes a time when a girl must rise and burn the leeches from her skin so that she may forge a sword of metaphors.

Swords, I’m sure you must know, are not only meant for blood. No Ian, some swords have been created to carry flames; flames from the same fire which has kept your dear Martin, our dear Martin burning until now. It is the same fire, Ian, which I have seen in the soul of my Martin.

I have witnessed much more than the man Ian McDonald in A Cloud of Witnesses; I have witnessed my country and region and world. But more importantly Ian, I have been taught by you to see so much more than I’ve been willing to see. And even though, I may not agree with some of what you say, I am honoured that I could drink from this reservoir of yours. Knowledge is never enough. It seems that I have been condemned to thirst until death.

In some ways Ian, I envy you. I am not jealous of Martin, no, I have my own Martin, but I am sorely jealous that you have been able to experience that thing which died long before my birth. You are right though, not all ages can be golden. I am certain that this is an age of lead.

But still, hope is an eternal friend (or foe) of man and so once my Martin lives I have hope. I await the day when the nation recognises that my Martin is really our Martin. You see Ian, men like my Martin (and even your Martin) and maybe one day I may be able to say women like me were not conceived in a womb but in the university of war.

Eternal Gratitude,
Sara Bharrat.

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.

Dear Man-Who-Works-With-Hands

Dear Man-Who-Works-With-Hands:

Life only gets harder and time is a wench who tricks us into believing that things will be different as we grow older.

The harder we try to avoid certain outcomes, the more certain is our arrival at that destination. So what’s the secret to happiness?

I’ve found that happiness is as easy as what we choose. Like right now, I’ve chosen to dwell within me where I’m so full of you; where you and I don’t need a conjunction to become apart of a single idea.

So when you’re sad baby, just remember that happiness is a choice we make.

Yours Always,
the Woman-Created-For-Those-Hands-Of-Yours.

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.