SEDITIOUS AND SCARECROW POLITICS
FACED with bigger and better positive news about progress in Guyana, elements in the opposition camp are resorting to seditious and scarecrow politics. Apart from wrongly dubbing the Coalition Government “illegal”, the Opposition engineered the racist “Haitian Takeover” to frighten its claimed “Indian base” and, now, it is driving a new hysteria over “Trini Carpetbaggers”.
No one should anymore be in doubt as to why Guyana has become the preferred destination for investors and visitors alike. The lead articles in the credible media over the past few days, say it all: “Tullow Strikes Oil”; “Guyana 12th in Oil Reserves League” – an appetizing story by Bloomberg that sees our country as the newest and potentially richest “petro-state”; “Private Sector credit pegged at $238.8 billion”; Economic “growth at 4.5%” in 2019 but could reach double digits next year – an up-beat report by Finance Minister Hon. Winston Jordan; and a revolution in the education sector with Guyanese students getting an unprecedented 73% pass in Caribbean secondary school examinations.
Our disciplined forces have also demonstrated that they are prepared to defend our country and to secure her citizens when they emerged with distinction from “Exercise Greenheart”. On Friday, ranks of the Guyana Defence Force, the People’s Militia and the Police Force repelled a simulated enemy attack at the Colonel John Clarke Military School at Tacama.
The GDF and other sections of the disciplined forces have seen noteworthy transformations from what they used to be just four years ago. They have been provided with a new fleet of vehicles, aircraft, weapons and munitions, communication and medical equipment, and an improvised menu of local ration for field operations. Our grateful nation is full of high praises for the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Brigadier David Granger, on behalf of the military/police high command and all patriotic ranks, for showing preparedness to defend our country’s sovereignty.
But it is unfortunate that the fifth columnists would receive every indication of progress and achievements with a malicious and criminal response. The opposition’s mouth-piece, Guyana Times, yesterday declared that Guyana is being “held hostage by the bullyism of the PNC’s David Granger” who it accused with playing “fast and loose with the Constitution”. Guyana Times then asked: “Will none of his supporters rid us of their renegade leader – to even save themselves??” (Eyewitness, page 8, August 17, 2019).
On the face of it, this is seditious libel, the publication of which though sparingly used, constitutes an offense in our existing laws. The published words are inflammatory, and are calculated to foment and incite violence against a democratically-elected Head-of-State.
This incitement is coming from an opposition political rag, which is sheltering under the protection of freedom of the press. As a professional journalist and as the Minister with portfolio responsibility for media in the David Granger Coalition Government, freedom of the press has been guaranteed and fully protected.
However, I suspect that this seditious libel from the opposition ideologues is a deliberate provocation in order to attract a response from the state, in which case I want to place on alert organisations such as Reporters Without Borders and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers that malicious, criminal and reckless writings are not protected as freedom of speech. What Guyana Times is advocating is political terrorism.
I expect that the usually vocal Private Sector Commission would not see this criminal instigation as just another “Tom and Jerry” show!
I have before written about the totalitarian impulse within the opposition ranks, elements of which have been stoking race-hate and, during last year, were urging an “uprising” by Indo-Guyanese against the State. Already, a self-styled “Indian activist” has been talking about “The Next War”.
Coincidentally, while Times was hurling salvoes at the Executive, Stabroek News, in a different context, yesterday carried an editorial under the caption “Hateful rhetoric and its consequences” as it referred to “divisive, racist and xenophobic attitudes” in another country.
But those “attitudes” would apply to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo when he falsely and maliciously screamed that Haitians were at the centre of a massive people-smuggling or trafficking conspiracy.
This is scarecrow politics to drive fear into Indo-Guyanese that Haitians are coming here and are being registered to vote in upcoming elections. In a sense, that too was seditious libel, aimed at targeting the hapless Haitians and putting their lives in danger. This was his version of Jim Crowism, the once hated policy in the United States that was imposed to suppress Blacks, and to keep them in segregation.
The Minister of Citizenship has released figures that show that between January and July this year, close to 7,000 Haitians crossed over from Guyana to Brazil. That nailed the lie that the Haitians were under the beds of the Coalition!
Not learning from its racist offensive against Haitians, the PPP has now turned its hate towards Trinidadians, just as it had done against potential Indian investors. When I last visited India, I was told by investors how they were discouraged by “the Indian party” from investing in the Guyana sugar sector.
I was part of the Investors’ Outreach in Trinidad, and I could testify to the genuine interest shown in Guyana by investors there. While we are open for business, Jagdeo sees the Trini “carpetbaggers” giving bribes to get their sleazy hands on Guyana’s lands. Again, like Jim Crowism, Jagdeo has imputed an American pejorative term, carpetbaggers or scalawags, once used by southerners to label and libel northerners, to describe Trinidadian investors.
WORDS HAVE POWER
As journalists, we have always been reminded that words have power. We have learned about the halocaust against Jews, genocides against Kampucheans, and Serbs and Rwandans, which were fomented by hate speeches and writings. During the PPP’s term in office, an ex-soldier, Oliver Hinckson, was charged in 2009. Then Mark Benschop was slapped with treason indictment in 2010, followed with incarceration of a couple– Major Bruce and Carol Monroe. They were all arraigned on charges that stemmed from words that they had allegedly uttered.
They were all eventually acquitted, but the point I wish to make here, and now, is that the opposition knew the power of words, and understood that the State had a duty to protect itself.
It is apparent that faced with a series of setbacks, the latest being the validation of house-to-house registration and denial of a September 18 elections date, the opposition camp is engulfed in deep division and sheer confusion. The extremist elements, within and without, may see this as an opportunity to act.
This is why the reckless advocacy by Guyana Times should be condemned roundly, even by the PPP, before any harm is done in Guyana.