H. E. Brigadier David Granger: What he didn’t tell you is that the very day that I was married I moved into the camp but he was also president of the club next door to my house. So the first words my children learnt came out of the loudspeaker from next door and Hector was the president of the club, I always remember- ‘come alive in ’75’ But I was married in 1970. This is my 47th anniversary but Hector was in charge of the club next door so he was always the stalwart of the defence force. I am very glad he is on his legs today I know he had some reverses but he has a sharp memory and a sharp sense of humour.
Thank you very much for that introduction Hector. I see some other colleagues from the police force and the defence force. I wouldn’t try to call them out by name; I don’t want them to be arrested when they leave the premises but I think that those of us who had the honour and pleasure of serving together would remember those memories- well keep those memories close to our hearts and the friendships we formed. I think we transmitted from generation to generation.
This afternoon I am very happy to be here. As Hector said, part of my childhood was in Queenstown about 200 metres away from here in Oronoque Street. I had to struggle very hard growing up in the shadow of people like Lance Gibbs, Clive Lloyd and the Harper brothers to avoid becoming a cricket champ but I made it, I never became a champ. They got caught in the next door, DCC but Queenstown was a remarkable community.
You had more churches and schools that you had places of entertainment. I don’t want to pick out any place that was in the news recently but those days you know, Queenstown was associated with a sort of quiet quality of life.
They never had any political meetings in Queenstown you know, they always go to Albertown or Bourda. Queenstown was a placid community but it’s good to be back here, it’s good to be here in New Garden Street and it’s good to see that the Harper family is still close to this church. Today, I’ve been asked to address a specific matter and I agreed to speak about this because I felt it so important to the country and to the church.
Unfortunately I won’t be able to stay very long with you this afternoon because of other engagements but I felt I needed to come out this afternoon, regardless of what else I have to do because the topic that we’re discussing is central to Guyana’s future and that theme that you have adopted this afternoon- ‘Men be fathers in the home with love and strength and forgiveness for all’ is not a theme for this conference alone or this church alone or this community alone, it’s something that I believe should pervade the entire republic.
I share the belief that the home, that four letter word, the home is the cradle of the family. I share the belief that families are the foundation of happy communities and neighbourhoods. I share the belief that happy neighbourhoods are the foundations of strong regions and strong regions build a strong nation. Most of all, I believe that fathers first of all belong with their families.
The family is a universal feature of human society. Every ethnic group, every country on planet earth in every epoch of history, the family has been the main vehicle for personal and group identity. Hector could speak of me because he knows my father is a Granger, I am a Granger, my children are Grangers. We belong to one family and that family defines me, it defines my parents, it defines my children and all over the world, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Africa, Asia, South America, and North America. Wherever you go you’ll find the human family.
The family is the dominant feature in all social life and it determines to some extent your status and of course it determines the type of society in which you live. So for me the family is sacred. For us Christians, God consecrated the family. Jesus came into this world as a baby in a family. He wasn’t a street child. He had a mother, he had a father, and he had sisters and brothers, at least according to St Mark Gospel. I don’t know what other gospels say.
So for Christians we feel that the family was ordained by God. We know in Genesis it is written “…for this reason a man should leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” But in Guyana we have emerged out of a very abnormal society and the family of the foreparents of the people who eventually came to what was then British Guiana were not allowed to follow functional or traditional path. As you know it is only next month that the Indians will be celebrating the hundredth abolition of the hundredth anniversary of the abolition of indentureship.
Indentureship was not a pleasant experience and it had to be brought to an end a hundred years ago. It was extremely disruptive. Worse still was enslavement. Enslavement was damaging to the human psyche. People were enslaved in this country for two hundred and fifty years and indentureship as I said, lasted from 1839 to 1917 after which people were freed of their indenture. But what happened under enslavement? People were not allowed to own property, they were not allowed to marry, and their children could be taken away and sold to some plantation at Devonshire or Buckingham. Their wife could be taken away so there was no family. You weren’t allowed to marry anyway.
Even under indentureship Indians, Chinese, Portuguese came but the planters were more interested in manpower. They weren’t interested in families, they weren’t interested in women and children; they wanted men to cut cane. Well, you bring a boatload of men you begging for trouble, so the families- not only among the Africans but also among the Indians were disruptive; it was disrupted by the challenges of enslavement and indentureship. I’m not blaming anybody, all I’m saying is that these two processes by which the majority of people who came to British Guiana were extremely disruptive to family life.
So what we found over the years is that there were several factors which militated against family life. One of them was poverty. Obviously the people who came here as indentured labourers or who were enslaved were not rich people and many of them remained poor and up to today we still have a lot of poverty in Guyana.
We have people who live in poor households. The day before yesterday I was in the largest ward in Georgetown, 21,000 people in that ward and I went there to open the first railroad. They’re now getting running water, they’re now getting lights and it’s the largest ward in the city of Georgetown, 21,000 people but most of them are poor and there are other places you know in this country where there are still slums, there are still shantytowns; there are still squatter settlements.
So poor people live in these places and these are not conducive to stable households and to happy families. If you go right now you will see people living on the street, sometimes children, sometimes older folk, sometimes vagrants these are people outside of their family, the traditional family. So poverty is a pressing factor which militates against building homes and maintaining families.
The second factor we need to consider is marriage. Poorer people are not completely but they are more likely not to marry. Sometimes even when a girl gets pregnant she is likely not to marry or even to bring up that child out of wedlock. So poverty has an adverse effect on marriage. Most of the middle class and people who are richer would try to marry and have a nice wedding but many of the poor people sometimes they have children without getting married.
Sometimes the young woman may have children for more than father and this creates serious problems and of course the third factor is the actual structure of the households; many of the poorer households tend to be headed by women, the men are invisible.
So the responsibility for bringing up the children is not only sometimes on the women but also on the mothers of the mothers, the grandmothers of the children or by the aunts or by the elder brothers and sisters.
So those are three important factors which militate against the family: poverty, marriage and the households. Now in other places I had told of the experience of the persons, who were enslaved and were emancipated on the 1st of August, 1838. By 1839 they started to move out of those plantations because plantation was no place to bring up your children.
Many of the Africans on the plantations they didn’t live in logis, you hear some people talk about logis, they didn’t live in logis, they lived in hovels. If you could cut lil bush wood you could make a house but planters didn’t provide a house for them.
When the indentured came they were given logis but the slaves didn’t have logis. If you had a few fowls well the fowl is in there with you. So as soon as they got the opportunity they would sell a few chickens on the weekend market or something put together some coins and they bought plantations. Why did they buy the plantations?
They were not lazy people, they were not stupid people although many of them couldn’t read and write; they bought those plantations to build homes for their families to get out of the hovels, they bought plantations, named them Victoria, named them Buxton, named them Bagotville, named them Queenstown so that they can get their families together and it was an amazing story that people who were sold to different places, different people that as soon as they got their freedom they started to walk back. They walked back to find their wives and their children to consolidate the family.
So that is what these villages were all about, consolidation of the family. I’d like to say that those villages were erected on four pillars. The first pillar was the home- the house, where a family could live. The second pillar was the church. They built the churches with their hands.
They didn’t go to Central Housing and Planning Authority. They built the churches; they built the schools so their children could learn and most of all- they worked. All of them had farms. When a village was bought people had backdam and the front. They lived in front; every household had a farm attached to it. They didn’t go to Nigel’s or Mattai’s to buy food, they ate what they produced. So those were the four pillars on which the villages were established: the home, the church, the school and the farm.
So immediately after enslavement people tried to erect these villages on those four pillars like a house that is built on four pillars. If you kick down the pillars, the house would fall down. If you kick down the church, you kick down the school, you kick down the home, you kick down the farm the house will fall down and sometimes you see people who don’t work, don’t go to church, don’t go to school and have no fixed place of abode and you realize that they have no future.
So historically, people wanted to get away from those plantations because freedom meant freedom to worship, freedom to be with the family, freedom to go to school and learn and of course freedom to work for themselves. So we now come to a situation in which in Guyana today we need to look closely at- what I call parenthood, and for me parents are mother and father. I never see a father get a child on his own; I never see a woman get a child on her own. She had to get help but mother and father have different roles to play in the family.
Well, Hector let the cat out of the bag; he knows what my father was like. From fathers you learn rules, you learn discipline; you learn order. From mothers you learn love, you learn compassion; you learn care. So the child learns from both. The child learns its care and love and affection from the mother and orderliness and discipline from the father. When one is absent, I’m not saying that you can’t learn but perhaps you can’t learn as much or learn as quickly. You need the two, you need mother and father because they have different roles and those roles complement each other.
The Holy Bible in which we believe puts a lot of emphasis on fatherhood. We read in Timothy, Timothy says that a father who doesn’t take care of his children is like an unbeliever. The actual words Timothy uses are “…but if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” Not my words. Those are not my words. “…if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.”
Some people like to boast about how many children they have. They don’t know the names of the children. They don’t know the names of the children (Cedric I didn’t recognize you, please, my regards) some years ago you know, there was an incident on the west coast in which a Trinidadian road building company had knocked down a house and I saw this note in the paper, house of father of 59 knocked down, so I thought the man was 59 years old.
I mean y’all laughing this good Sunday afternoon. So I went into a certain village and I was repeating the story and somebody says “I know the man. Is 59 children he got.” Well I have two children and I can tell you the cost of the shoes, the cost of the fees, the cost of the medical attention and I can’t imagine having to bring up 59 children and the trouble is I don’t think he bothered about bringing up 59 children.
I don’t know him, I don’t want to accuse him, I don’t know if he is present today in the congregation but I wouldn’t have liked to be one of those 59 even if he cared you must have seen about once every two months, every sixty days when my turn come around but this is a dangerous practice, when we have fathers who do not pay attention to their children’s needs. I am not a pastor; the pastors are wearing black in front there.
So accidents will happen but I ask fathers to accept that responsibility. The child, I don’t know if any of you have ever held a newborn baby in your hands. Not women, men. That child is completely helpless. That child can do nothing without care, without warmth and you know every Christmas morning my wife and I go into the maternity ward and see some scenes there, sometimes not very happy scenes. See sometimes the little girl there she should be playing lithe and she is there with a baby.
You know, my wife a few months ago when the Queen’s grandson came here, Prince Harry, she had a function with some unwed mothers and Prince Harry went to one of them, “how old is baby?” he said. “Twelve weeks three days.” “How old are you?” “Twelve years, three months.” How y’all so laughy-laughy this Sunday afternoon?
What is the joke? The Prince nearly dropped down. The Prince just dropped back. This girl is twelve years, three months. Don’t ask her who is the father, sometimes you really don’t want to ask who the father is; long ago you used to ask where is the father, sometimes in some communities you use to ask- who is the father? But don’t let me give you any more bad news today.
The point I’m trying to make is that that girl didn’t get pregnant on her own, and some adult male had done something which will take her out of school, she probably would never go back to qualify and have a satisfying career. So very seriously I see men as being the pillars of happy families and men have a responsibility to their children and to their partners and to the upkeep of their homes.
Fathers belong in the homes. There is no place for outside men, outside children. They belong inside, not outside and men must not be afraid of that commitment. The absence of men from the home creates a burden for women, a burden for mothers, a burden for the aunts, a burden for grandmothers because they have the responsibility; the women have the responsibility of raising the children sometimes without the support of men.
Mothers need help; mothers need the support of husbands who are of course the fathers of their children and the child needs the support of parents. Society needs men to be part of the family. In order to reduce the incidence of what I call dysfunctional households because it is within those households that anti-social behaviour will flourish and I’m sure in your own daily lives you have come across so many examples of what happens in the houses where you only have perhaps one parent or what we like to call a signal parent.
It is really something of a tragedy. My other colleagues in the Cabinet are reporting the frequency of pornographic images now on cell phones and young girls at school, boys of course and adults who are exploiting their sexual behaviour; trading those films or sending them on. And a few years ago some of you might have heard the story, it’s not an anecdote, it’s not a joke it’s a true story in which in a certain school in Georgetown teacher- headmistress I think was passing and she heard this giggling and she opened the door and she went into the room and she saw a boy and girl making love on the bench and she collapsed next day she died; she died she died from a shock, from heart attack.
It’s not a joke, she literally dropped dead. I had a personal experience too; I’m still alive of course. I had a personal experience. I had a little enterprise once and a member of my staff forgot something at home and went home around mid-morning to collect it not too far away and there was her son and his girlfriend, in school uniform- well parts of the school uniform because they had removed part of the school uniform already in bed ten O’clock in the morning. But now they have cell phones you could record it and pass the experience on to others.
All I’m trying to say is that it is my view that this type of behaviour could be diminished. If we had fathers exercising those functions of orderliness and discipline and the mother exercising the role or playing the role of the caregiver or somebody from whom affection could flow.
I’m not blaming single parent families; because many people come from single parent families and do well but what I am saying is that the likelihood of failure is greater when parents are absent and I recall during the ‘troubles’ sometimes we came across some very young people who got involved in some murderous acts and as far as I could tell in many of those cases the youngsters some of them don’t even have moustache or beard, they still in their thirteen and fourteen years old. They had neither a mother nor father, they were living on the street; they were taking their guidance from ‘fine men’, ‘fine boy’ I don’t know who it is they taking the guidance from but they no longer live in families- they had no respect for policeman, for pastor, for headmaster; they had no respect for authority at all. They had never grown up in homes.
So we have a serious problem there and one of the most disturbing periods of your life is adolescence all of us have passed through adolescence and we know what it feels like, you know hairs starts to grow in strange places and body start to change, your voice change, you use to chase away the girls now you get vex when the girl chase you away. But you start taking interest in the opposite sex and sometimes you want more. But it’s a period of confusion and is a period when people most need guidance from that father figure and from the mother.
It is a period when you need guidance and this is the period when you’re trying to do CXC and CAPE and you’re texting; you have homework to do and you’re texting, trying to get a date trying to make yourself attractive with one set of hair style. So it is to the young people that you need to direct that care and attention, that’s when you need strong figures of a father and a mother; that’s when you need a strong household.
All young people are rebellious, questioning- somebody to do something: why? You know you’re a student, you’re protesting. You’re always in a state of rebellion- in the home, at school, on the playground and that is good because you learn your lessons, you know you get blow when you’re adolescent, you know you wouldn’t get blow when you’re a big man; you have to get the bruises in your adolescence you know.
It’s a tough time, but it’s also a time when you most need parental guidance and some people don’t see it through up to now in Guyana we still have about four thousand boys and girls dropping out of primary and secondary school, every year. Some of them wearing stud can’t event spell stud; illiterate, very, very difficult for some people to stay in school or to go back to school that is one of the reasons why we started this program of buses and bicycles and boats. You go up the Pomeroon River parents are spending five thousand dollars to get their child to Charity Secondary School; you go to Trafalgar, West Coast Berbice; a girl going to Berbice High School from Trafalgar village spending five thousand dollars a week. When you can’t afford it you don’t go to school.
In Houston Secondary School there; some children are going two days because they can only afford to go to school two days. That is why we need parents who can keep their children in school; work hard to make sure that every child stays in school. See that child through that confusing period of life.
So my brother and sisters all that I have been saying comes down to the quality of manhood; if we are speaking about childhood if we are speaking about parenthood if we speaking about family-hood all of that depends on the quality of manhood. You know growing up you hear about manhood, you hear about manliness, you hear about mannishness, you hear about masculinity but these are slippery concepts.
I think maybe women don’t know what goes through the mind of a boy when he is trying to be mannish or when he trying to demonstrate that machismo or that masculinity but sometimes those of you who watch you know, wildlife shows National Geographic can see what manhood means sometimes you know it’s no room for two, one animal has to die. I’m not saying that in civilised society somebody has to die but the urge to win could sometimes be almost murderous.
So a lot of young men in their desire to be manly or masculine could easily be misled by some of their peers who are more successful with the girls and this is the time when daddy ain’t making sense hey yah know! Daddy ain’t making sense; he’s going to follow the leader of his group. He is going to follow somebody in school, in class, somebody in the football field because that is what he sees success to be and this is where we have to turn to the church, to the clergy.
The clergy has a vital role to play in the lives of their congregations in these stages or phases of life- from childhood, manhood to parenthood. The clergy has an important role to play because is what has been defined for us for eternity- go to Genesis, go to Timothy and you will see that the family is central to Christian life and we have to restore the centrality of family hood in Guyana if we are ever to have a successful society.
So the home and housing are important. When I first came to Georgetown as brother Hector Stoute would tell you, a lot more people lived in yards, there was no privacy in some of those yards and by the time a girl reaches puberty, she couldn’t meet the public road from the back of the yard without running into some unpleasant experience. In the ranges there was no privacy husband, wife, auntie, grandma- everybody in one room; people bathing with standpipe, fetching water.
That is why years ago we embarked on this massive housing program and we will continue this housing program because unless we get the people out of the ranges and out of the logies you’re not going to be able to consolidate the family and our foreparents knew that in 1839 and we have to rediscover it: the importance of home, the church too; people have to rediscover the message which God gave at the beginning to Adam, he gave Adam a wife.
You have to rediscover the importance of schools so that in every single community where ever you are no child must be wondering around the street 10 O’clock on a Tuesdays morning. Those who have- buy a bicycle, maybe rent a bus, make sure that the child goes to school, at the end of the road I’m sure if you keep that child in school that child will be able to get a job and maybe come back and thank you and say, were it not for that bus, were it not for that bicycle, I would have never graduated from UG or I would have never been able to come to this standard of living and enjoy this quality of life.
So we have to keep our children in school just as our foreparents discovered 175 years ago. So I would say there are only two things members of the clergy that I would like to leave with this congregation this afternoon: the first is- respect. Men must treat women as equals when we hear about women being half the population, it is not just a matter of statistics and really I don’t see why we have to wait as a country until David Granger becomes President to appoint the first three women as Senior Council.
I mean, you go downtown half the women are lawyers. How is it that in fifty years you can appoint one senior council well that done now; that done now. We have to recognize that women are equal. I don’t want to tell tales out of school, but I did some consultation and the people I consulted never put up a signal woman; it’s a good thing I consult higher authority and now it has happened; the hullabaloo is over and nobody has questioned the qualifications of those women to be Senior Council.
Fifty percent of the population and last year I know you don’t measure it with a ruler, but several women were given the Golden Arrow of Achievement and the number of women who received the Golden Arrow of Achievement is almost exactly equal to the number of men; that is what I mean by fifty percent. So we have to get accustomed to respecting women; womanhood and seeing them as an equal component in our population and it must start in the home- that father must respect mother and boys must learn to respect girls when they go to school and not record those vulgar images on their cell phones and treat the girls in school as if they are a playthings. But something must tell those youngsters that hey, I’m not part of this. That image on that screen could be my sister and they will take that respect to their teachers. They will take that respect to the elders that they meet in society.
It’s all about respect and if you don’t respect women, if you don’t respect each other we will always live in a brutish society- brutish, so clergy, pastors, I would just like to leave that word with you- respect. Some people get upset when I go to a Hindu ceremony or an Islamic ceremony, but it is all about respect.
I am an Anglican and when my parish priest, he knows that I am an Anglican not very often, but it’s all about respecting people and their beliefs; other people and their beliefs and I respect womanhood and motherhood. On the 23rd of February, I released nine women from jail because I believe that woman’s place is with their children and I only released women who were mothers and who had not got blood on their hands or trafficked in cocaine.
Those were the three criteria: you had to be a woman. So I have been accused of discriminating against men, you had to be a mother again, I have been accused of discriminating against men and third, I didn’t release anybody guilty of manslaughter or murder or who trafficked in cocaine but I really believe that a woman’s place, a mother’s place is with her children in the home. Sometimes you make a mistake, sometimes you meet somebody who backslides but I’m going to keep on keeping on, keeping on and some people actually say thanks.
Sometimes people drop me a note and say thanks. Some people don’t say thanks, but I try not to make mistakes, but I have clear criteria and I try to ensure that women are reunited with their families and that they learn their lessons of being in prison and they don’t commit those crimes again.
The second word I want to leave with the pastors this afternoon is responsibility; not only must men respect women, but men must demonstrate responsibility to their children, to their women folk and to their families. You know, sometimes you reach a situation in which you speak to a young man, you’ve got to get a license to own a gun, you have to get a license to drive a car, you don’t have to get a license to get a child, you know you; you don’t have to get license to get a child, you have the equipment to get a child, just go out there and get a child, you don’t have to get a license.
But can you imagine that, the most important (it’s a fly bothering me, you think I’m saying hello, you see me waving) the most important thing you can do is to bring a human being into this world and he could be s drunkard, he could be a criminal, a smuggler but you could just go out there and get a child.
So the Church I think has a responsibility for ensuring that sense of responsibility is shared by men folk. That you must make responsible choices, choices in terms of whom you marry; choices in terms of your ability to bring up children and to keep those children in school and I am confident that once men have that sense of responsibility we will have happier households.
It’s no point going out around the country and just raising children wherever you stop like some drunken sailor; not that I have anything against sailors hope there are no sailors present. I know there are lots of solider here, but those are the two words I want to leave with you pastors: Respect that respect must be taught to the younger people, so they learn to respect the girls and the girls must respect themselves too.
And the second word is- responsibility. That we must in our relations with one another demonstrate that sense of responsibility so we do not undertake important enterprises like marriage without thinking of the consequences and the responsibility for bringing up those children.
I do believe and that’s why I’m here this afternoon that the church is essential to building a happy Guyana. I see the church as an instrument of hope. I think the church has got the greatest book on earth to guide them- the Holy Bible to in terms of the attention and the attentiveness of the Bible to the family.
And when you speak of the Kingdom of God, I believe that that Kingdom could be established when you have a society in which we respect each other and we behave responsibly to each other.
May God bless the AME church and I congratulate you on your seminar this afternoon