Letters to the Editor
August 12, 1999
Manipulating the constitution
I could not but feel extremely sad as I noted how the constitution is being manipulated in order to permit Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo to become President. I am not a politician, neither am I up to date with all the politics of our hemisphere, however I have never heard of a prime minister resigning in order for another person to be appointed prime minister so that the new prime minister can be sworn in as president when the present president resigns; the former prime minister then being reappointed as prime minister.
I really am embarrassed as I consider what the other Caricom countries and other nations worldwide are thinking of Guyana and its people.
This formula was announced a long time ago so it is no surprise. When Prime Minister Sam Hinds was appointed from the Civic element in the government it was on the assumption that he would not succeed to the presidency if anything happened to President Janet Jagan. In other words, he was not to enjoy the normal right of succession inherent in being appointed Prime Minister. It was indicated that if anything happened he would step down to allow Mr Jagdeo to be appointed and Stabroek News reported this.
As we have said in previous editorials this is an undesirable manipulation of the constitution. In addition, it is not fair to Mr Hinds as it reduces the stature of his appointment. However, Mr. Hinds accepted the appointment on this basis and it is not unlawful.
The PPP has never fully worked out the ramifications of its relationship with the Civic element. In this case, the Civic is being used as window dressing and both the man and the constitution are being reduced in stature. In principle, someone should not be appointed prime minister if it is not intended that they will become president. That degrades the constitution. The PPP should reconsider this matter.
Mr Norton's view of democracy is severely blinkered
Mr Aubrey Norton (SN 6.8.99) seeks to justify street protests on the basis of a blinkered view of democracy developed no doubt from his long years of membership of the PNC, a party whose leader can assume the power of Congress and which has not held a single free and fair elections in its entire 28 years rule.
The existence of democracy is premised on free and fair elections held periodically. There are many other elements which can enhance and strengthen democratic processes such as local democracy, effective consultation, broad participation in the decision making process, and so on. But to argue that democracy does not exist because ministers do not resign as a result of a negative report of the Auditor General or that PPP/Civic supporters criticise the government's policies is so puerile that it is not worthy of a person of Mr Norton's undoubted intellect.
I am advised by my legal friends that election results, once declared in accordance with the law, are valid and binding until a court of law says otherwise. Justice Claudette Singh is yet to rule and until she does, I am entitled to give an opinion and so is the Stabroek News that the elections were free and fair. In fact, I am advised that I can point out that the Report of the Electoral Assistance Bureau concluded that the elections were free and fair and the best held in thirty years. Among the Directors of the EAB were Miles Fitzpatrick, Neil Chan, David Spence, Hugh Cholmondeley, Winston Moore, and many others of similar stature. Mr Norton would have us believe that they, the international observers and the Caricom Audit were all wrong. And he would have the Stabroek News, on the basis of his own misunderstanding of the law (again according to legal advice given to me) refrain from saying that the elections are free and fair because this accords with his party's posture.
As far as the conduct of the case is concerned, Mr Doodnauth Singh will have to defend himself. But I recall reading in the newspaper reports that about 500 statements of poll were not signed or were improperly signed. Is Mr Norton suggesting that Mr Singh, on behalf of his client, should decline to address this and other such issues in the case so as to satisfy Mr Norton's and the PNC's agenda that the case be concluded by a certain time?
I have left Mr Norton's analysis of the street protests for the last because it takes the cake. He suggests that the street protesters "analysed" the situation and "arrived at rational conclusions". Such "rational" conclusions include "power sharing". Mr Norton's protesters who had to be "planned, organised and coordinated" were "efficacious". They did share power efficaciously, Mr Norton!
They shared it on innocent Indian Guyanese on January 12, an event which Mr Norton is yet to apologise for. But this is not surprising in view of the failure of his party to apologise for its years of authoritarian rule.
Who are these people that are aggressively pursuing their ethnicities?
I was rather surprised by Mr Desmond Hoyte's statement as reported by SN of 2/8/99 that "the survival of African Guyanese in this country depends on their urgent effort to consolidate their identity as people of African origin" and "in our small society there are many ethnicities and the other ethnicities are aggressively pursuing their own identities and we have equally to pursue ours".
If Mr Hoyte had associated with the broad spectrum of Guyanese, he would have been acquainted with the fact that only some of the people of African and Indian descendants (and none else) are aggressively pursuing their own identities.
In a letter captioned "Ethnic leaders" (7.8.99) Mr Trevor De Santos said "It is time that the leadership of the PPP also have the courage to identify themselves as Indians". A hilarious picture will unfold if President Janet Jagan, Mr Roger Luncheon, Mr Anthony Xavier, Mr Clement Rohee, Mr Satyadeow Sawh, Mr Henry Jeffrey, Mr George Fung On, and Ms Gail Teixeira, stood up in a neat line and chanted "we are Indians."
It appears to me that the few racists of African and Indian descent are using the term "multi-ethnic society" to justify their racist principles. They should not involve peaceful Guyanese, many of whom are neither Indian nor African but are mixed or of other ethnicities and are not part of any conflict. They must stop using us to further their dubious cause and Guyana will be a better place.
Mr Hoyte and the PNC are being given an excellent opportunity by the PPP government to win the next election; the government has abandoned the people who are crying out for law and order to be restored. The end to misery should not only be death. Most of us would like to enjoy the fruits of our labour in peace and tranquillity, but because the government has turned a blind eye to lawlessness all Guyanese suffer.
A report in Stabroek News on July 26, 1999 headlined "Some 200 vehicles held in traffic campaign", said a total of 203 motor vehicles were held overnight in 'A' and 'C' divisions, on charges of (unlicensed, uncertified and unlighted motor vehicles as well as unlicensed drivers)". This goes to show how much lawlessness there is.
Mr Hoyte has shown a tendency to encourage private enterprise. If he also comes out against lawlessness he should have every chance of winning the next general elections. Mr Hoyte should tell the people what his plans are instead of opposing everything the PPP does or says and should not get involved in racial division.
Media must unite to demand respect
I refer to reports in both of Guyana's daily newspapers on the way local media personnel were treated during the recent visit here of Indian Superstar, Shahrukh Khan and his troupe.
As a member of the local media, let me say that this is not the first time Guyana's news carriers have been treated in such an unprofessional and rude manner. We have been punched, stripped, slapped and even shot at and yet we remain quiet on most occasions. I strongly believe that the time has come for us to unite and ensure we are treated with respect and dignity, if not for ourselves as human beings, for the job we do. For too long we have been talking about setting this and getting that. It's time we stop the cheap talk and get down to action, action that will bring respect and better treatment by all Guyanese. The only way we can ensure such treatment and respect is when we unite whether we are Guyana's largest readership, the News of Stabroek. The Capitol and Evening Edition or on at 6. There is a great need for us to put our differences aside and have a united front. Support those reporters who do not or would not put up with shabby treatment.
We have been used, abused and even refused at times and we continue to just talk about it. Come on my media colleagues, the bearers of the news, be it good or bad must command respect, for they deserve it.
Member of the fourth estate
Medical Council needs restructuring
I support the Minister of Health in his bid to restructure the Medical Council of Guyana. For years the Medical Council has been undermining the welfare of patients by protecting certain doctors who are working out of their qualified fields.
The old quote that all surgeons are doctors but not all doctors are surgeons does not seem to apply to Guyana because many doctors who are not qualified as surgeons are being allowed to perform surgery at both public and private hospitals in Guyana. This ungodly practice must certainly come to an end very soon.
Also the Medical Council has not published a list of the qualified doctors/surgeons/specialists for the last four years. This new list is badly needed so that patients can know which doctor is qualified as a surgeon in case they need to have surgery done. When published this list will make it hard for doctors to mislead patients, especially in certain specialist fields.
I implore Dr Henry Jeffrey our good Minister of Health not to back down from the challenge of the Guyana Medical Association and I can assure him that almost every Guyanese will support him.
By the way speaking of challenges, I hereby challenge Dr Max Hanoman of the Guyana Medical Association to a public television debate to discuss the general issue of the need for the Medical Council to monitor the profession closely.
Bryan Max Mackintosh
Give the new President a chance
The resignation of our President although expected has come as a surprise if not a shock to many of us.
Georgetown businessmen in particular must be breathing a sigh of anticipated relief, a relief in that those elements who have been clamouring for a locally born president and threatening to make this country "ungovernable", will give this youthful Guyanese the chance to govern.
Yes, Mrs Jagan has given this nation a youth, a young man with ability, forthrightness and above all simplicity of character. Paternity is admitted. He is our flesh and blood. He is a Guyanese. What more can we ask for? Is that not what we wanted?
We having received what we wanted the question now is what can we do for him? I am sure His Excellency, if asked this question would say, " Please give me a chance." Yes I say, "Give him a chance". He has up to the end of this century. If he does not make us proud taking all the prevailing circumstances into consideration, you being the judge like the man on the "Clapham Omnibus" decide his fate at the next elections.
To our President I humbly ask you to put in the proper places people of character and ability notwithstanding their political affiliations.
There are many who you can count on. You have been entrusted not only with the shield but with the sword as well. You have everything in your favour, but with limited time
I remember reading a verse years ago which goes something like this:
Unto every man there openeth a way,
And the high man seeks the high way,
And the low man, the low,
And in the midst the rest gropes to and fro,
But unto every man there openeth a way,
And it is he who decideth which way his soul shall go.
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