A response to President Jagdeo
Freddie Kissoon Column
March 11, 2007
The day after President Jagdeo delivered his speech to the Annual Officers' Conference of the Guyana Defence Force (Thursday afternoon), in which he mentioned my name within the context of rumour-mongering, the amount of people, including media colleagues, that have told me about it keeps expanding. I have been urged by several of them to pen a reply.
There isn't much that I can say to rebut the accusation the President made against me. Had he enumerated the instances when I was involved in rumour-mongering, then I could have engaged him.
My point is I do not believe that any of my assessments and analyses since I became a columnist in 1988 was ever deliberately shaped to present rumours as facts. There are times you get it wrong. When that happens, you have to apologize. I have apologized so many times that the Stabroek satirist that does “Wednesday Ramblings” once poked fun at me. So did KN's anonymous writer, Peeping Tom. You can never be right all the time if you do 365 columns a year. But being incorrect is a long way from the world of rumour-mongering.
Let me say unambiguously, if President Jagdeo can cite a case where in my columns for this newspaper, I have invented and spread rumours about the Presidency and the Government of Guyana then after tending a written regret, I will cease to write.
No one can defend me better than me and I say without even an infinitesimal grain of hesitation, none of my columns has contained rumour-mongering. Having said that, I will examine the main weakness in the President's delivery, and that is the comparative method he used to examine corruption in the US .
On the fact of the existence of corruption in governmental sectors in the US , it would be foolish to say no such thing happens in the US . There is corruption in the Government of the USA and maybe every other government in the world. Corruption seems to be to government what a cigarette is to a match. So I have no quarrel with President Jagdeo's position of graft and financial irregularity in the American system. Where I will confront the President is on the total lack of prosecution of highly placed corrupt officials in Guyana . The record is more impressive in the US .
I don't normally look at television, but Friday morning I glanced at the set and Enrico Woolford's newscast was on. The item was on the President's speech. Woolford was guilty (to my mind) of editorializing on a news item, when after reading the part of the President's speech on the drug trade, he said that the Guyanese big fishes are being arrested out of Guyana but never in Guyana.
Woolford is right of course. A huge ship of cocaine left Guyana in lumber and was intercepted in Wales in the UK . Arrests were made in that country. Another massive amount was detected in molasses shipped to Holland . Arrests were made in that country.
Why is it that in this country that is a major transshipment point, we have had no prosecution of a big fish but just little guys who are couriers? Let us find a reason for this and move on with our argument.
The reason is that the police are not good enough to catch these people.
But, what about corruption?
Here is where the comparison with the US makes the President looks bad. There have been successful prosecutions of wealthy American citizens and powerful government employees in the US by the US Government. There have been jail terms for people that have money, political power and status for all types of crime, ranging from serious traffic crimes to tax evasion, perjury and graft.
To list them will take up pages and pages in this newspaper. Of course there are cases in the US where some with influence and resources escape the hands of the law but the point is some don't.
We don't have to look far. Movie stars, sportsmen and sportswomen are worshipped in the US , yet they go to jail for tax evasion and traffic violations. Just last week, a very strong ideologue in the Republican Party and a high level aid in the Bush Administration, Mr. Lewis ‘Scooter' Libby was found guilty at his perjury trial. Bill Gates was placed before the courts two years ago, for unfair trading practices by his company Microsoft. He was found guilty. Of course, here was the richest man in the world being charged for a serious offence. Can that happen in Guyana ?
In Guyana , people in the corridors of power and their friends seem to wear Teflon clothes. They just never get a call from the police even though the evidence and proof of wrongdoing are mountainous.
Has there ever been a successful prosecution of powerful and wealthy people for criminal traffic offences in this country? President Jagdeo accuses me of rumour-mongering. I ask readers to judge for themselves if what is listed below constitute rumours or the brutal, cold facts of life in Guyana which honestly I believe will not happen in the US with the frequency with which they occur in Guyana
Kaieteur News crime reporter, Dale Andrews and I got word that a wealthy businessman, under the influence of alcohol drove into a group of cyclists. We journeyed immediately to the Georgetown Hospital where we spoke to some of the injured and their grieving families. Our next stop was to accompany the investigating traffic ranks to the Woodland Hospital to get a glimpse of the driver. He wasn't at any of the hospitals in Georgetown . He couldn't be located. Next, we went to Brickdam station to see the state of the car. The next day the car was returned to the driver. He was never charged.
A UG employee, a real, living human being that existed, not one Freddie Kissoon fictionalized, was instantly killed on the road on his way home when the 4X4, driven by someone with connection to wealth and power, smashed him up. There were no charges. End of story.
I implore President Jagdeo to act on these two cases, the files of which are in the possession of the police. A ministerial advisor admitted that he exported animals that was on a prohibition list and further confessed that he was not a licensed wildlife exporter.
He retains the same position he had then. It wasn't Freddie Kissoon that invented that story.
The Guyana Revenue Authority, not Freddie Kissoon, found a very high state official blameworthy of signing 50 bogus duty free letters after a lengthy inquiry. He is still in his same job. A ministerial advisor got into a nasty brawl at an international boxing match at which diplomatic personnel, including then British High Commissioner. Stephen Hiscock, and prominent Guyanese had to run for safety. The scuffle took place in close proximity to where President Jagdeo was sitting. This is not a rumour circulated by Freddie Kissoon. It was an event witnessed by hundreds of Guyanese including the sports correspondents for all the newspapers in this country.
What does President Jagdeo has to say about these factual situations?
If I have engaged in rumour-mongering, then I sincerely apologize to the President and my readers. Having done that, can the President offer his response to the cases I have listed above? Last August, days after the national elections, the President invited me to have an exclusive interview with him.
I agreed but I didn't hear from him again. I guess he was busy. But I am still waiting. There are more true stories I have for him but I will reveal them in the interview.
I end with a strong belief of mine – there is a greater chance of high level politicians being charged for corruption in the US than in present day Guyana .