I stole two roses Weekend With Freddie
Kaieteur News

June 13, 2004

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I was literally dumbfounded when co-founder of the Stabroek News, Mr. Miles Fitzpatrick once told me he doesnít think a newspaper should have columnists. A newspaper commentator is equally important as the journalist who describes the events that have occurred. After description comes interpretation. No matter how under-educated some of our folks are, the Guyanese people know their politics as they know their cricket. And they want to hear what commentators have to say about the event of the day, the happenings of the week and the stories of the month.

For the past two weeks, I have encountered many persons who wanted to talk to me about the Chief Magistrate, Mr. Christopher Ram and Mr. Nigel Hughes. These are well known persons in the public eyes. who I have castigated with my pen within the space of two weeks. The consensus question is: am I afraid that if I slip, all these people that I have criticised would chew me up and spit me out.

When I reflect on what they told me, the idea came to me to write this column to answer their questions which I didnít do during our conversations.

I know if I commit any grievous harm to others, I will make the news and there will be a Ďget Kissooní campaign. But why should anyone want to do that to me if the record can show that I have not been malicious or devious in my commentaries and analyses. And why should I be afraid that if I slip I would be mauled by my detractors? I live a quiet, uneventful life. No one in the embassies, the cocktail circuit, the sybaritic business class and the socialite community knows me. I am a loner, who keeps to himself, and my sins are almost non-existent. Within recent memories the only wrong I have committed occurred last week.

I ran into Fazal Khan, husband of Minister Gail Teixeira, and ex general-manager of the now defunct Guyana Airways, in the chambers of Moses Nagamootoo and Khemraj Ramjattan, while I was on a visit to get legal clearance for one of my Kaieteur columns. I hadnít seen Fazal Khan in the longest while. We talked and it was agreed that Fazal, Moses and I would have a ďlimeĒ at the Celina Atlantic Resort. While waiting for Moses at his home, I helped myself to one of his flamingo pink roses. When we drove off, he asked me if that rose was from his garden, I said yes and he smiled.

We arrived at Fazalís house in Queenstown to collect him. Moses waited in my car and I went down a pathway to call on Fazal. I saw these wine red roses hanging over the fence, and within the space of five minutes, I helped myself to another rose. In the car, I told Fazal I had picked one of his roses but he promptly told me it was the neighbourís. So there you have it; I am a self-confessed rose thief. That is perhaps the only wrongdoing of mine within ages as far as I can recall. Now that Glen Lall knows I steal roses, I guess I may not have an invitation to his home because I heard he has a rose garden with varied species, especially the deep cream kind.

So why do I have to be afraid that others are going to decimate me if my sins are exposed? But there is another dimension to this answer here that I should have explained to those nice folks who asked for my interpretation. The truth is I have nothing against and mean nothing personal about the Chef Magistrate, Mr. Ram and Mr. Hughes.

The Chief Magistrate is someone whose office should be respected and I do respect her and her office. You have to admire a magistrate for taking such a task that does not carry the emoluments that go with the job in other Caribbean countries. I hope the magistrate never take my disagreements with her bail structure as a personal attack on her. I would never do that. I had intention of writing the Chief Justice on her bail inconsistencies and I have shelved the idea. But in all honesty, I could not have remained silent when someone is placed on $45, 000 bail for robbery under arms while stealing cloth from your employer fetches a million dollar bail. I hope the present discord between Magistrate Holder-Allen and I, is over and look forward to a more logical bail system from her court.

A Kaieteur News journalist told me that Mr. Nigel Hughes had a small conversation with her and he wasnít particularly pleased with my Wednesday column on him. Again, nothing personal was intended. On commenting on the incident with the tape at the murder scene in Buxton, I was doing what every political commentator would have done Ė offer an opinion given the gravity of the situation.

In all honesty again, tell me which newspaper would have failed to discuss a story in which one of the leading criminal lawyers in the city takes out a tape from a surveillance camera from a place of business where the owner is murdered; and when the propriety of what he has done is questioned, he defends himself by saying, the Crime Chief of the Police Force gave him permission. The situation deteriorates when the Crime Chief rebuts by saying no such permission was extended to the lawyer. Tell me if this is not the stuff that you find in the media when they occur? And all I did was to make a commentary on it and give my opinion

Now for Mr. Ram. Unfortunately, Mr. Ram has sued me and the Kaieteur News for libel. It is very unusual for a commentator to sue another since we are all in the business of speaking out so the society can be a better one. Mr. Ram passed my way twice on Friday at the AGM of DDL while I was in the company of Kaieteurís journalist, Andrew Richards, and twice, as we passed near to each other, he refused to look my way and I mentioned that fact to Andrew. Maybe Mr. Ram feels guilty of suing me.

As in the case of Nigel Hughes, I simply picked up on a story that had enormous implications for the country. Mr. Norman Mc Lean was quoted in the April 27, 2003 issue of the Stabroek News (page 3) as saying Omai has not made a profit as yet. Dr. Kenrick Hunte of the PNC/R picked up on Mr. Mc Leanís statement and in a letter to the same newspaper of June 1, 2003 challenged Mr. Mc Leanís pronouncement showing where Omai made profits to the tune of US$153.3 million. Mr. Ram came into the picture because he audits Omaiís books. Since his Business Page analyses companies in Guyana, I then called upon him to state publicly if Omai in fact has been profitless. Mr. Ramís position is that he cannot comment publicly on companies he audits. This is all I did. And this is exactly what Peeping Tom has said about Mr. Ram in his column, yesterday. Peeping Tom went on to repeat my opinion Ė Stabroek News should then have a business analyst that is not in the auditing business. So will Peeping Tom be sued for libel? I hope not.