This nation deserves better from the PPP
Freddie Kissoon column
Kaieteur News
April 27, 2007

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I voted for the opposition in the last general elections. I did not vote for the PNC or ROAR or GAP so I feel to myself that I have no moral obligation to tell the leadership of those parties what policies to pursue in Parliament. I gave my ballot to the Alliance for Change (AFC). By way of this article here, I have signaled my intention to the leadership of that party the things I would like to see them demand, mine you, not request or bargain for, but demand from this government when the President next met with the combined opposition

The President has indicated that he will re-start his consultations with the opposition parties that are represented in Parliament. My argument is that certain fundamental re-thinking on the part of this society is non-negotiable and the Alliance for Change which got my vote must pursue this new journey. I plan to withdraw my vote, (it will be symbolic of course since scientifically, I cannot do that) from the AFC if that party at the very next session does not pursue an agenda of democratic change with the President. And vehemently pressed for the implementation of change as a basis for meeting with the President in the future

If the President refuses the two-item agenda listed below, then I propose to the AFC that they take the struggle for democracy to every part of the globe as the PPP, WPA, GHRA, GUARD and individuals like Father Morrison did in the seventies and eighties. First, the macabre rejection of radio licenses must immediately come to an end. This is unbelievable nonsense. There are private hospitals, private universities, private television stations, private high schools, one of which (School of the Nations) has done away with CXC and only train their students for the Cambridge examinations

When my kid was at School of the Nations, the administration called a meeting to seek the thinking of the parents on the school's intention to do away with CXC. Dr. Roger Luncheon and I were not in favour. I attended one such meeting and it was clear to me that there was no overwhelming sympathy for the embrace of Cambridge O' level but in a democratic country how could you have stopped the school from freely pursuing its programmes. I know that if anything needs investigating is the performance of at least two private hospitals. That will be a separate column

What is so special about the radio that successive PPP governments (God, which so barefacedly proclaims it is democratic!) for fifteen years including the presidencies of Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan (who loves to bash the US every week in the Mirror) and Bharrat Jagdeo have refused to permit citizens of this country to open radio stations? This thing is so uncanny, bizarre and sickening that one wonders if the PPP just has a mental thing about the radio station and really does not have a logical reason for not wanting the establishment of private radio stations

Let's us look at this thing realistically. What can six private radio stations do against the government that channel 6, 9 and other televisions stations cannot do. If the PNC wants to bring out protestors in the streets tomorrow, it will be effective in doing so on channel 9 even if ten television stations are in the hands of private citizens. If channel 6 wants to start an anti-government rumour, it can successfully do so and be forceful about it even if there are anti-government radio stations in existence in this land. The television image is what people prefer. This is a small country with the bulk of the population located on the East Coast of the Atlantic Ocean . Even the family that squats in a cow pen has an antenna attached to a television

The PPP Government is using a subtle argument that isn't subtle at all. It is saying that unless all the major players are satisfied with the proposed legislation on broadcasting then radio licensing will have to wait. But the government has shaped the legislation to suit itself, which the opposition and media owners have objected to, thereby effecting blocking the opening up of the media system. Unless the opposition and civil society come to grips with this trick we will not have private radio stations

The situation is so simple to grasp. The PPP, given its psychotic insecurity (I will review in coming weeks, the latest book on Cheddi Jagan which further dents his political integrity) which Cheddi Jagan took to amazingly higher levels, will not accept private radio stations. It has to be confronted on this act of political indecency. One way of dealing with the issue is to allow the legislation with its pro-government biases to go through.

After the licenses are granted, then if the government resorts to the very legislation to rescind licenses that it claims are in violations of the law then let us cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, my advocacy is that the combined opposition asks the President to table the legislation (as I wrote above, despite its imperfections) and let's close this chapter on a deadly act of betrayal of the Guyanese people by the PPP that fought for press freedom when it struggled with other groups for almost three decades for democracy. Secondly, and finally, the AFC must unhesitatingly demand the increase of the retirement age in all government-owned, government run, government controlled institution. The 55 mandatory retirement age for the public servants is an act of marginalization against African Guyanese. It is an inflammatory situation that the leadership of the PPP must be aware of. The retirement age at UG is 60. The least said about this asininity the better. The point about the need to up the retirement age is commonsensical. Let's look at it from the first angle, then move on to the commonsensical level

This is an extremely poor country. Public servants cannot live on their pensions. It is a certain path to penury. Do you know that a retired Vice-Chancellor, Dr. George Walcott collected three thousand dollars a month in pension. If that is not an indication that this country is a failed state, then show me a more potent example. Secondly, we don't have the skills allow us to retire UG lecturers at 60 and public servants at 60. People are going away at such a prodigious rate that in 40 years time Guyana 's population will shrink just about half of what it is. I guess this is one county that is destined not to have a future