Feeding the PPP’s paranoia
Wednesday Perspective with Freddie
June 30, 2004
The political/racial division among the Guyanese population runs so deeply in the psychology of a majority of us that sometimes I believe that we have lost that valued instinct of an independent perspective. We have lost it to the extent that it will take generations to reclaim it.
Any small, developing country that hopes to become a truly great nation in the distant future cannot sustain its culture, its creative imagination and its zest for life. It is does not have a tradition of independent, intellectual contemplations.
It is the instinct to criticize without fear and prejudice that makes a country think, learn and invent. A thinking county is one in which people do not accept theories and beliefs because it comes from their race or party or their relatives. The United States took this tradition from English society after its successful struggle for independence and became the greatest territory in the world after the Cold War.
Russia failed miserably to build on its glorious past because Stalinism virtually denied the flow of the Russian spirit. Many historians today are questioning the direction American society is going and the uncertain path that lies ahead because they see a country that is moving away from its founding principles.
Today the United States is becoming as sharply divided as our country for that very reason.
After the fading of the PNC government at the beginning of the nineties, many independent bodies in Guyana, whose historic task was to maintain the radical perspective, became mentally uncompromising at the unanticipated shape of the new government.
But instead of seeking to use that culture of independent understanding to reshape state behaviour, an anti-government formation took hold, entrenched itself and today they see every state policy in an anti-government way.
We are either pro-African and anti-Indian or Pro-Indian and anti-African. We are either anti-government and pro-opposition or pro-government and anti-PNC. I have no doubt in my mind that groups that should have been independent like the WPA, the GHRA, the Red Thread, and an institution like the University of Guyana, and a media house like the Stabroek News have contributed substantially to the divisiveness that so threatens this nation.
But I think it would be correct to say that the Stabroek News is not as far gone as the others.
The birth of the Kaieteur News and the working presence of the Carter Centre with the NDI, and their sponsored programmes have sought to re-introduce a the system of independent intellectual thinking in this country after the nasty and ugly encounters among political antagonists we have experienced since 1992.
But we are a long way from there. The Carter Centre and the NDI have sent our politicians, academics and civic leaders to study other political societies and to observe how thinking countries handle political criticism but still Guyana remains an acerbically intolerant society.
Through grants from the different western embassies here in Georgetown, our media people have gone to participate in international seminars but nothing has changed. Our media community is a replica of our warring political order.
The recent “election” of the Guyana Press Association is another pitiful reminder of the ominous clouds that continue to prevent an incandescent glow over Guyana’s political horizon. I don’t want to discuss the contentious issues that did envelope the annual general meeting on Sunday; I will leave that for another time. However,
Wilfred Cameron of NCN told me that he estimated the turn out at between 15 and 17 persons. I asked Jamine Sahoye to confirm that and she did. She went further and said that it was 17 out of a figure in excess of 150 members of the Guyana Press Association.
Monday’s Kaieteur News listed 13 persons that make up the executive. Really! How can a general meeting of an organization in which 17 persons attended elected an executive of 13? This looks as if it was a family gathering in which persons elected themselves?
The question is: did 17 persons attended and what are the numbers in the general membership?
For me that is not the issue. The troubling part is the presence on the executive of David Granger. If Robert Persaud had been placed on the executive, the reverberations would have been heard in certain political and journalistic circles. The talk would have been that the PPP is trying to take over.
Now we have David Granger on the executive committee of the Press Association. But by the nature of its job, isn’t the Press Association supposed to be independent of party affiliation and race groups?
It was unbelievable to hear the publisher of one television newscast saying the that Government doesn’t like him because his newscast is the only opposition to them (the government).
It is no secret that Mr. Granger is an adviser/ consultant to the PNC/R. He appeared on many of their in-house meetings; the last one being a retreat at Ocean View Hotel early last year in which he presented a paper disagreeing strongly with the two anti-crime Bills. I made reference to his analysis of those bills in one of my Kaieteur columns
I can hardly see how Mr. Granger with his political attachment can seek to become a member of the executive. When these things happen, the PPP gets more insecure and feels there is a myriad of plots against them. Now Mr. Granger was a former head of the GDF, and is a successful publisher of a monthly magazine. He is as far as I know a very decent and committed Guyanese. But he has political affiliation and political affiliation does not go with press functions, which must be independent.
One can argue against this and say that Mr. Kit Nascimento is on the executive too and he has moved closer to the government. But there has to be a distinction between the government and the party. Thousands of persons work for the state, including the acting Chairman of the PNC, Vincent Alexander. Does that make him an agent of the PPP? This writer also works at the same place as Alexander-- at the University of Guyana. I am certainly not a PPP spokesperson.
I cannot see how the Press Association can have on its executive party analysts whether from the PPP, ROAR, the PNC or others. A Mirror writer carries a party line. A New Nation writer carries a party line. That writer performs a political function not a media function. Loyalty is to party first.
This is fundamentally different from what a journalist does. And I need not spell out the sacred principles of journalism. There are rumours of a rival press group. If true, I bet it came about because the PPP feels that the other press body is out to get it. Can you blame them after what happened last Sunday?