Dangerous extremes

To The Editor
Guyana Chronicle
May 27, 2001

DEMOCRACY operates best in societies where people make educated choices and where there is much soul searching about such choices before they are put into effect.

A society where the majority of the population engages in intelligent introspection and acts humanely towards each other can go a long way towards utilising the democratic process to facilitate growth.

The opposite of this is happening in Guyana.

Here, the attributes of informed objectivity are lacking and the resultant abuse of democracy and freedom are being taken to ridiculous and dangerous extremes.

Some sections of our population militantly refuse to think and reason for themselves. Some have resorted to violent tactics to preserve this way of life which is mainly responsible for the continuing deterioration of their living standard.

Nevertheless, these groups vigorously guard their association with unscrupulous political organisations which in turn has transformed them into a mindless army ready to carry out the party's bidding at the first word.

The simplest minds are the easiest to control. No wonder that political underlings are rushing head over heels to "dumb down," contrive, rework and whitewash many of the utterances being made by our political leaders.

The public relations (PR) operatives work to gloss over the cruder aspects of the presentations with specious stories meant to justify many unreasonable political acts and irresponsible statements.

The current PR campaign centres on the laws relating to sedition.

The political "spin doctors" send letters almost daily to the newspapers arguing among other things that sedition laws are old and can be misused by authoritarian regimes.

Mr. Gordon Burnett writing in the Stabroek News of Wednesday, May 23, made a convincing argument for the need for proper broadcasting legislation.

But in his comments about sedition he maintained that the law can be "used as an instrument of repression and to settle old political scores."

Indeed, this exact fear was voiced many years ago when the dictatorial People's National Congress (PNC) regime re-instituted the death penalty.

Human beings "hanging" to death was thought of as a primitive and archaic practice and was believed not to be a true deterrent to crime. There was also concern about the possibility of the "setting up" of political opponents to be hanged.

The PNC ignored the public outcry and went ahead with hanging.

I wonder what was President Hoyte's rationale then? Maybe he felt that the prevailing social conditions demanded the most stringent response.

Perhaps the present authorities feel similarly about the need to revisit some old laws - maybe they feel that certain situations now clearly require the application of the law regarding sedition.

In intelligent and civilised democracies such issues are settled in the courts of law.

Let's observe the nature of the mechanisms that some Guyanese will use to act upon this issue.