Freddie Kissoon performs the duties
of an intellectual gadfly
Even though many have advised that I should leave unanswered, what I dubbed in 1992, “Mr. Fredrick Kissoon’s querulous polemics”, I do believe that he performs a yeoman task in this country – that of a public intellectual gadfly.
This is not an inconsiderable contribution in the creation or maintenance of a democratic society. But I do wish he would be a tad more careful with some of his utterances that he issues so definitively as “facts” – and when these are shown to be erroneous, blithely goes on to make other, just as outrageous, allegations.
In his Monday (14-04-08) column, referring to my use of the words, “our country (meaning his and mine)”, he asserted: “I need to point out to Dev that Guyana is my land. I hold no passport for another country, unlike Mr. Dev.” To drag this allegation into a discussion about the regimes of the PPP and Mr. Burnham’s PNC could serve no other purpose than to burnish Mr. Kissoon’s patriotism vis a vis mine, and confer on him a greater legitimacy to this land. I responded unambiguously: “I have never had a passport other than a Guyanese one in my entire life, unlike what Mr. Kissoon claims so categorically. It has been said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, but I do believe that Mr. Kissoon has earned the right to say, “Guyana is my land”. Without even an acknowledgement of his misstatement, much less an apology, Mr. Kissoon veered off to declare that as far as “patriotism as a refuge of scoundrels” was concerned, in “Freudian terms” I was thinking about my “friends in the US” and some named expatriate Guyanese, with whom he disagrees. Evidently, overseas Guyanese cannot be as patriotic as Mr. Kissoon, because they enjoy “luxuries” abroad.
I raise this issue at this time because this tactic is an old one with Mr. Kissoon – he made the same allegations about myself back in the early nineties. He further claimed that I “chose to attack someone like me (Mr. Kissoon) who fought for the re-creation of the circumstances that would allow Dev and the PPP to be free once more…” Isn’t this ploy reminiscent of the “Where was Ravi Dev?” from the very PPP, whom Mr. Kissoon excoriates for using “dictatorial” tactics? What I would like to remind Mr. Kissoon, once again, is that overseas Guyanese played a vital role in the struggle for free and fair elections here.
The group of which I was part (and of which Mr. Vishnu Bisram also was) and so many others, lobbied Senators (especially Kennedy), Congressmen, the National Endowment for Democracy, and numerous US institutions including the Carter Center, to consider Guyana’s plight.
We picketed PNC officials when they appeared and hosted (as well as gave financial support) to all opposition parties. An essential point I would like to make about the overseas Guyanese involvement is that it would have been easier for them to enjoy their “luxuries” then (as today) but it was their love of this land that made them get involved.
Today, if the MFI’s can comment on our affairs because they have forgiven some debts, then Guyanese who send back over US$400 million annually have certainly earned the right.
But Mr. Kissoon does not deny all Guyanese the right to comment on Guyanese affairs – he has quoted approvingly from some of his old colleagues in the WPA who are also presumably enjoying those crass “overseas” luxuries, with nary a censure from him - but only those whose views differ from his politically.
Is this the mindset by which he hopes to build democracy in Guyana? Remember the old adage: ends are merely consummated means and thus the two can never be disjunctured. And isn’t this one of the practices of the PPP that Mr. Kissoon also castigates?
Finally, unmindful and unrepentant of his recent categorical misstatements (that the African Security Dilemmas was added to the Indian one “to save my sinking ship”; that I was a citizen of another country, etc) Mr. Kissoon offers another whopper: I have a “niche at Freedom House or New Garden Street”. All because, to his assertion that, “I believe the rule of the PPP has degenerated in forms that are worse than under Forbes Burnham.” I wrote: “Analyses of social phenomena, by their very nature, suggest strategies of action for the citizenry. In a country where some have launched violent attacks on citizens and state, care should be taken when an analysis may justify such strategies for regime change.” The words, “care should be taken” are interpreted as an “attack” by Mr. Kissoon. If I knew even an iota as much about Freud as Mr. Kissoon asserts he does, I may be tempted to suggest (not assert) that Mr. Kissoon is a bit paranoid. He should have waited for my analysis of the PPP’s regime in next Sunday’s Kaieteur News.
Finding another noisemaker
The word dictatorship is becoming increasingly popular in the vocabulary of many people these days and chief among those who are keen to use the word is Freddie Kissoon, who has a perennial grudge against the government and the opposition political parties.
Ever since the government decided that it would no longer tolerate the lawlessness that passes for so many things, including freedom of expression, it is being characterized as a dictatorship.
The first time this began to happen, the government allowed it to pass unnoticed because it was certain that this was just a passing phase in the game that is currently being played by all and sundry who feel that there is nothing better to do than to blame the government.
They wanted to see a reduction in the value added tax and thus a reduction in the quality of service being provided to the less fortunate in the society and when this did not happen, they said that they were living in a dictatorship.
The accusations continued more recently with the decision to suspend the broadcast licence for CNS Channel 6.
The PNCR decided that the government was a dictatorship but only after Freddie Kissoon concluded that Bharrat Jagdeo was worse than Burnham.
The pattern is that any time the government does not accede to a demand by the various forces arrayed against it then that government is a dictatorship.
On Tuesday, President Jagdeo decided to break his silence over the Sharma issue.
The Kissoons and the Corbins and the Ramjattans all decided that Sharma was an angel and that the government was picking on him. When people began to point out that Sharma was known for intemperate language, the clarion call was that Sharma was harmless and that he was uneducated.
This, to their mind, was that Sharma should be allowed to say and do what he pleased because he did not know better and that he was only for entertainment. If that was the case, how then could so many people take their woes to him and provide him with a platform to accuse the government of every conceivable ill under the sun?
If Sharma could be allowed to say and do as he pleased on the public airwaves, because he was harmless, what was there to stop other broadcasters from doing the same and pointing to Sharma as their example? In Guyana people have a way of pointing to the ills of others to justify their own.
But that argument never occupied even the smallest portion in the minds of the critics, among them people who claim to be journalists and who rushed to the side of Sharma knowing all along that he would not have been allowed to broadcast in any other part of the world.
They then concluded that a dictator had picked on Sharma because he was a critic of the government.
The government and other rational minded people in the society pointed out that Sharma had committed an infringement, a fact that the critics were forced to acknowledge and to change their tune. No longer was the issue that Sharma was innocent and harmless but that the penalty was too severe.
If a man commits a crime and the penalties for that crime are clearly stated, how is it that all of a sudden the penalty should only be imposed at the whims and fancies of the critics?
This time around, the penalty, which could have been much more severe had the authorities stuck to the rules clearly stated on the broadcast licence, is too severe.
By the same token a three-year jail term for smoking a “little weed” should be considered too severe and should evoke the same level of protest that we see now.
But such is not the nature of the critics who pick the issues that could give them maximum attention.
The focus has suddenly shifted from Sharma to the people employed at the television station.
The dictatorship has taken bread from the mouths of people and is forcing them to join the breadline. The man who goes to jail for his “little weed” is also being removed from his family for whom he is a provider. There is no protest, however.
Sharma created the conditions to cause his staff to suffer. The blame is all his but the critics do not see it that way. For the sake of talking and blaming the government they jump on their hobby horse and blame the government.
In a matter of days the dust would have settled and the issue would fade from public view because the critics know that they are on shaky ground but rest assured, there will be something else that would allow the Kissoons and the Corbins and the Ramjattans and the Woolfords and the Chabrols to blame the government.