Too many words, too little exactness

Cassandra's Candid Corner
Stabroek News
January 21, 2001

You see how education is important. It allows us to decipher legalese. Unfortunately, every time you think you are on top of lawyers' prattle, you get a word like vitiate, as in "The 1997 elections were vitiated." I know all you English experts (experts in English, that is) scurried to your dictionaries, blew off the dust and wiped away the cobwebs, so as to get a clear meaning of this ill-chosen word. Well my 'Oxford' has one meaning being, "to impair the quality of." The other meaning is "to make invalid." Why can't these lawyers say what they mean and mean what they say.

So, friend Ralph and his colleagues are obviously going to go for the first meaning. Yes, there was a little irregularity here and a bit more chicanery there, but all in all there was just an impairment - even minor - in the quality of the elections. The Silver Fox and his coterie of legal luminaries, on the other hand, are clear on what vitiate means. It means invalid which means null and void. DWD - dun wid dat. Worserously, if the elections were null and void then obviously no one could have been elected and that "no one" could not have abdicated and passed the mantle. Further, this means that all contracts signed by the "no ones", and all the budgets that have been so far passed in parliament were debated by jumbies and ratified by ghosts. Consequently, the Elections Commission itself, inter alia, is illegal.

But there's more. After all this invalidity and voidance, Ralph argues that the goodly lady did not order that the government must demit office. And Rex counters that she can't ask you to demit office, if you never were in office. You can't build substance pun nutten. The truth of the matter is that we are in uncharted waters, not lastly because of too many words and too little exactness. But one thing is clear. This same much maligned 1980 Constitution does not allow for a condition called 'No Government.' So all this noise about close down the country because there is no government is just humbug and hogwash.

Look, if you find levity/acidity in my words, it is because I'm just totally exhausted by the twists and turns; by promises and broken promises; by legal hocus pocus and substanceless leaders; by unwillingness to compromise and exhibit elementary decency; by leadership weakness which not only allows honest and virtuous people to be besmirched but is also conducive to anarchy; by posturing peace on one hand and manufacturing inflammatory statements and writings on the other.

No one likes to take blame. And some people/agencies go to great lengths to circumvent the blame even before it arrives. For example, in many auto repair shops (whether it is the bottom-house version or a well-equipped firm of good standing) there is a sign saying that vehicles are left in the establishment at the owner's risk. Now, what sort or nonsense is dat. You mean to say that I, who in good faith left my vehicle to be serviced/repaired, am responsible when your brukanic mechanic - under the influence of alcohol - takes my vehicle for a joy ride and smashes it. That is like the admittance of guilt my friend offered when accused of "contributory negligence" after a lady driver buss through the traffic lights and side-swiped his vehicle. He said he saw when she entered her car early in the morning and he should have known better than to come out on the street with his vehicle that day. Since he did not take that evasive action, he agreed that he was culpable in the matter of the accident. OK, so it is an old joke - perhaps not even reflecting any truth - but you get the point.

So, similarly, of what value is it when a radio or TV station puts a disclaimer after a 'viewpoint' or a 'talk show' or an interview. You know "The views expressed on this programme were not necessarily the opinion of this Station." What does that mean? Can someone come off the street, utter the most slanderous, incitive, racial statements, and then leave - and you are not responsible? Look, if viciousness is spewed six days a week, it is quite logical to assume that reportage on the seventh day will not smell of roses. In other words, the parent stations know, a priori, what's coming and therefore cannot be exculpated by offering a one sentence disclaimer to the public. Anyway, that's my opinion and I recognise that it took a very convoluted approach to make the point. This means I'm learning from the master himself.

In Guyana today, there are still people who have lived their lives virtuously from day one. Others, very early on, realized that they could not live in an environment of dishonesty and hate-mongering, so they made a switch to moral rectitude and remain on that path. Yet other decent Guyanese have excelled in one field or the other and are head and shoulders above the rest in that particular area of endeavour. Such persons should be recognized for their goodness, their integrity and their contribution to Guyanese society. They should be designated National Living Treasures. My first nominee would be Eusi Kwayana. Of course, being Eusi, he would not accept such an accolade. He might even be embarrassed at being considered and he would probably reject the idea as he once rejected a national award.

In this debate about what to do with the Bourda cemetery, my vote would be to retain it and even spruce it up. All the arguments in favour of maintaining the cemetery have already been published in wise editorials (SN, January 7 & 12, 2001) not so long ago. However, I do believe that Charlotte Street (Lacytown and Bourda) should be joined. We can do this by erecting Guyana's first flyover (over land) without disrupting the burial site. Dead people don't get headache.

The ultimate irony: All those who are now pontificating about the illegality of the voter ID cards had (in all probability, including Justice Singh) used the same cards to vote in 1997.

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