After eleven years... Frankly Speaking...
By A.A. Fenty
Stabroek News
January 30, 2004

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Today marks one of two anniversaries I observe or "celebrate" over this interesting Aquarian weekend. Just after the People's National Congress (PNC) lost the 1992 Jimmy Carter-influenced elections, the no-nonsense business-savvy, witty Managing Director of Stabroek News suggested, with her special brand of mischievous levity, that I "continue writing pieces for the PNC" on a weekly basis. (She had thought that I was wholly responsible for all the PNC 1992 campaign ads and propaganda/PR print work - and probably had temporary "sympathy" for a loser...)

I accepted the offer, but from a different perspective when the Editor-in-Chief proposed I try hand, mind and pen at satire. My first long-winded effort appeared on the last Friday of January 1993. Except for the non-appearance of the Stabroek, strikes or certain holidays, I've missed not a week! The "only discipline I have," I always say. I no longer need to "bring out the dancing girls and brass-bands". I've claimed no profundity or scholarly analyses. Just an experienced man-in-the-street viewpoint from a personal level with as much balance or bias that is "acceptable". Others, many others, have come and gone. And I'm under no illusions that any significant change for the better has occurred after my own 11-year contribution herein however, eschewing the vulgar, gross, even yellow-tinted talk-name tone of some of the more qualified, gifted and academic, I know that many a week, I've stimulated thought and provoked perhaps occasional introspection. Thanks for staying with me.

The President and the press

I now break one of my own self-imposed rules this week: Rushing to offer comment on an issue which all others will attend to: (I suppose I set my own precedent in either pre-empting or studying the Gajraj bashing over the past weeks).

After Friday last, I can no longer describe our country's leader as "the under forty President" an old expression once advised that "life begins at forty" but the political life being charted by - or for - Bharrat Jagdeo casts doubts on the proverbial beginning. His opponents are hell bent on making his political life as miserable as they can, with the grand objective being his government's farewell to power.

Space here never permits a proper delineation of any personality, a biography so far. But just who is President Jagdeo? Who is the "press" here, these days? Both parties managed to upset each other over recent days. And though, frankly speaking, the emergence of Bharrat Jagdeo might not be my business, it becomes so because he is my country's leader.

In a nutshell, this is a young politician who was strategically "fashioned" to fill a perceived void. As I've stated it's really his party's business. But to me, the old matriarch adroitly manoeuvred the former PYO, Moscow-trained economist into her vacated Presidency. As an interested outsider, I always wondered whether the patriarch Cheddi would have approved. I knew he appreciated the economist in young Jagdeo. Professionally, despite what Aubrey Norton, Claude Chang, Jerome Khan, Kenrick Hunte, Clarence Ellis or Christopher Ram think, I know that Bharrat Jagdeo is highly recognised - if not respected - by the decision makers in those international financial institutions he has to "negotiate" with. Though I guess that any of the gentlemen mentioned above is eminently qualified to criticise or deconstruct Jagdeo's efforts and policies, the facts and achievements of this highly-indebted, poor nation.

If Jagdeo's administration had not been subject to siege so consistently over his four years at the helm, I know much more would have been accomplished in the interest of all including non-narco investors. And yes, even if allegations of corruption discrimination and nepotism would have been proven (concomitantly) true. There can be competence within mischief!

Assessing that Jagdeo is still a better political prospect than the baggage-filled grumpy oldsters or the new ambitious, young-Turk candidates being offered by his opponents, I do have a few problems with Jagdeo the person and President. To me, he still allows himself to be petty when annoyed with enemies or colleagues, his still-relative inexperience makes him use the wrong or inadequate, inappropriate language whereby his opponents can pounce on unsuitable expressions. (Dr. W. Ramsahoye would have his own brand of strong opinion on this!) I also discern his political petulance when rankled by critics I suppose administering a decades-long blighted society like ours, can fray the nerves of even the young.

What Press?

Space again won't allow any analytical treatise on this. But just do the following if you're interested. List all the newspapers that are major; also our television channels and our lone radio station. Then list the personnel who are influential within those entities - their age, experience, preferences and "professionalism".

You would, most likely discover that there is amongst other related considerations, immaturity, amateurism, political bias, conceit and elements of self-aggrandisement - especially amongst the under-50 "journalists" practising here. Pity the politics. Incidentally, I'm no trained, experienced or qualified journalist - by any yardstick Cecil Griffith or young Enrico would apply. I acknowledge that. I suppose, however, that as an observer who writes, I hold my own - like certain academics, entertainers and accountants. My discomfort lies with the so-called older heads. Not with the younger brigade who make their elementary mistakes.

President Jagdeo, of course like me, knows the journalists of whom he speaks. I swear he would not mean the entire, the whole "press" - all media operatives. Many are still principled, ethical and professional even as they have their various allegiances, which they're quite entitled to. Even if he doesn't agree with say, a Stabroek editorial writer, I doubt whether he would dump that editor in the same barrel as he would the Idi Amin-like teleactivist who openly or subtly preaches division, or the other one who boasted that he would have shaken hands with the escapee he might have met at another bandit's funeral, or the reporter or anchor who was in touch with the bandits before, when or after certain video tapes were being "produced." At least, I hope not.

Again I say that the partisan politics of this land, peopled by limited numbers of persons with vested interest, often result in known sections of the media fashioning and furthering points of view to promote agendas of mischief. Everyone knows particular journalists' preferences. Audiences have to be sensitised to separate fact from deceit, from evil interpretations. For example who or what is the "Guyana Press Association" as presently constituted? Respect its presence, if you must, but as one interest group not unlike others in this blighted land.

The President would be upset, knowing that sections of the media here have helped to shift focus and blame from the history, the record, the evil, tortures, sponsored terrorism and national wreckage which certain opposition groups were guilty of. This current generation won't know or care to know of the horrors executed by past administrations. Its business is with the present and future. This is good for the current opposition. Rigging, corruption, discrimination, killing squads, economic depression are all now PPP/C phenomena - to the young and to those "old" who welcome manipulation and revision of history. Pity the poor President (PPP)!

Peace and Hope?

1) Wilkinson's wickedness: I don't suppose Bert Wilkinson actually told the Editor of the NY Amsterdam News (January 15-21) to post the caption: "Minister hires hit-men to kill blacks". But if one reads the story one could excuse the editor of this prestigious but misinformed paper.

Assuming, God Forbid, that Minister Gajraj is guilty of any of the allegations made against him, could he ever be guilty of instructing some group to execute only African Guyanese!? So apart from being guilty of everything else, he is Ku-Klux-Klan-like racist? I have to agree with the government's response to this Wilkinson piece. In a word for the innocent Americans, it reads like the script for a Channel Nine "Nation Watch".

2) Let me be provocatively "controversial": if the bandits, the crooks, the killers are in the majority, of one race, could the police - or the bounty killers - be expected to kill members of another group?

3) Name one high profile reform member who routinely hangs out with alleged members of the Ghost gang.

4) "Buy from your own". Even when they don't have the service or the item?

5) Don't wind (read "wine") with Gajraj's people on Mash Day. There could be two "mashes" once again. Hope not.

'Til next week!