Jul 13, 2018
Against the background of the Simona Broomes incident outside the New Thriving Restaurant at Providence, I would like to offer brief notes on the nature of narratives, discourses and polemics in Guyana. It is not a pleasant horizon. It is a landscape filled with mines that can explode under your feet at any moment.
My experience with Ms. Broomes tells me she is not inclined to be written about once there is an element of criticism, but Minister Broomes is simply another manifestation of a society that just does not value intellectual polemics. We will return to the minister below.
There are very few persons from civil society and the political sphere in this country who would tolerate being criticized, even though they speak on people, issues, places and events all the time. Their motto is simple – do not write about me.
I should start with GHK Lall. Never spoke to the gentleman. Never met the gentleman. Never saw the gentleman. Never wrote about the gentleman. I believe as a social activist and public commentator, I should face criticism. So one day I read a very nasty, libelous letter on me by a person who signed his name as GHK Lall. He asserted that three businessmen built my home and that I have become a contaminated person (a word for which I could have sued for libel). I ignored Lall. This was many years ago.
Since that time, Lall has penned vicious criticism of me and the newspaper I write for (two days ago, he referred to Kaieteur News again as a rag). On April 17, I replied to Lall’s excessive and ugly incessancy of “cuss down” writings. Lall replied, with the caption of his letter intriguingly titled, “I feel tainted.”
To understand Guyana, it is essential that you remember these words of GHK Lall when he was criticized; “Now I regret that I have to venture into the gutter that has become part of the local lifeblood and so dominant in the national mainstream. I feel stained and tainted and utterly disgusted. Is this what this country has become? Is this the emblematizing of national pastimes dedicated to malice, putridity, vulgarity, the dishonourable, the sickening, and so much more under the guise of journalism and public commentary? Again, what kind of country is this? What kind of society is it that spawns this degree of ugliness, lunacy, and embedded leprosy?”
It is simple to understand what kind of society this country has become. Lall’s position is straightforward – do not criticize me. And you see this attitude all the time. Travis Chase of HGPTV Nightly News asked me two weeks ago how many libels I got in my media career and I didn’t name names. But the list would surprise many – Christopher Ram, Ralph Ramkarran and Tacuma Ogunseye, among others. Of course you all know the notorious one – President Jagdeo.
When you see Ramon Gaskin on television lambasting those he thinks deserves to be criticized, you would never believe that Mr. Gaskin reacts very angrily to those who put him under the microscope. Mr. Gaskin has recently formed a political party. As an analyst, it is my job to survey his electoral prospects. After the publication of that column, my editor, Adam Harris called me to say that Gaskin was upset. Only in Guyana, the leader of a political party would be annoyed when the media assesses his chances of electoral success.
Do you know a trade union that is a blood relative of the PPP, GAWU, sued Khemraj Ramjattan, for Ramjattan simply saying that GAWU provides funds to the PPP? You would think a controversial trade union would hardly pay any attention to such a harmless observation; probably so elsewhere, but not in Guyana. GAWU lost the case a few months ago and rightly so. We now return to Simona Broomes.
I don’t think I ever met Ms. Broomes, but I got to know of her thinking when I did a short stint as editor of the letter pages of this newspaper. I am not going to go into details, because I don’t need another libel. But during my experience in that capacity, I got the distinct impression that Minister Broomes would not accept public publication of any criticism of actions she was engaged in, if others felt such actions need to be commented on.
I will leave an analysis of Ms. Broomes’ display for another column, but I will end with a reminder – a society will never be free and accept the outspoken word, if those with status and power seek to shut off the free spirit of intellectual discourse.