I write to acknowledge and refute some claims by Mr. Vishnu Bisram in his letter published in Kaieteur News May 24th edition, captioned: “Freddie Kissoon is bold, courageous, objective and independent.” His letter was prompted by my criticism of Kissoon which he disagreed with. I respect his right to glorify Kissson. However, Bisram in his letter committed some of the very “sins” Freddie is guilty of. This letter is my response to those matters.
Much of the acclamations Vishnu Bisram attributed to Kissoon I have no problem with: Kissson’s ‘iconic status,’ ‘courage,’ intellectual, knowledge of history/philosophy, celebrated writer, the greatest number of readers, etc. On those I offer no contest. Notwithstanding Bisram’s gushing praise of his hero, I contend that Kissoon’s iconic status brings with it a responsibility greater than that of the average letter writer to adhere to respectful polemics, civility in public discourse, truthfulness and a willingness to accept criticism of one’s offensive behaviour and correct it. Kissoon’s practice has been to evade a response when he is caught out. Bisram announced that Kissoon is the most read columnist who writes daily. This actually places Kissoon in a privileged position of having exposure to thousands of unsuspecting Guyanese minds. And Kissoon often takes advantage of this position and wages war on persons and organisations. I now pose these questions. Mr. Bisram, given Kissoon’s “iconic status,” will you agree that it comes with responsibility? Is this asking too much from your hero, albeit new hero?
Mr. Vishnu Bisram ended his letter: “It is Ogunseye and Walton-Desir who are behaving wrong and strong.” Something is seriously wrong with Bisram’s logic and sense of fairness here. For him to infer that criticism of the PPP/C and its allies in the Walton controversy is being wrong and strong is pathetic. His position that the PPP/C and its allies’ attacks on MP Walton is not being “wrong and strong,” but appropriate/right behaviour says it all. My contention is that if the ruling PPP/C with its access to government and state assets, is unable to produce the text of Walton’s statement to make its case based on truth how on earth a few lines from me in defense of the MP amounts to being wrong and strong?
Now let me address more important issues in the letter: Bisram wrote, “When he (Kissoon) spoke out against attempted electoral fraud in 2020, he has become an Indian bad man for Ogunseye.” This gentleman is applying the tactics of his “hero” that is revisionism, distortion and outright lies. Readers should note that in my May 19, 2021 letter which is the subject of Bisram’s missive, there is no reference to the 2020 elections or Kissoon’s advocacy on that matter. Yet Bisram went out of the way to make his erroneous claim. A careful reading of that I said has to be seen in the context of what I was addressing – the Walton controversy. I said, “Kissoon’s motive is not objective or fair, but driven by his unending desire to be recognised as an Indian “bad man” and to satisfy his lust for public attention amid an inability to write beyond a few narrow and repetitive topics.” What this has to do with Kissoon’s advocacy on the elections can only be explained by Bisram.
In stating that I see myself as an African rights activist and write from an African perspective, Bisram is doing like Kissoon, denying the fact that my writings and politics reaches beyond African interests, and have a national imperative. To ignore this, knowing better, can be construed as intentionally racist. On the contrary, I operate from the premise that African interests are a legitimate part of national interest and the two cannot be separated.
Bisram writes, “It was writers like David, Ogunseye, Vincent, Lincoln, who were all defiant about the rigging. Not once, did they condemn rigging”. A more correct observation is that having realised electoral malpractices were on both sides, I urged for a solution where there are no winners and losers.
Bisram continues: “I also note that not once did they call for sharing power on March 4.” If Bisram literally means elections day he is correct since I said nothing about the election results on that day, more so calling for sharing of power. What sense would that have made? He writes, “They and the coalition defenders claimed victory for the first week after the elections and then fraud thereafter when it became evident that the coalition lost, only on August 2 when GECOM was about to declare PPP the winner, they called for power sharing.” Here again Bisram’s reference to me is not correct and is misleading. I never in the first week after the elections defended or thereafter, wrote or said that the coalition was victorious at the elections since I was in no position to prove such a claim and to date I have not made such a pronouncement. On this matter Bisram has made a “quantum leap.” I am not careless with my politics as Bisram seems to be with his writings and polemics. His contention that I did not call for power sharing before August is a fiction of his imagination. As pointed out above, very early in the crisis I advocated for a national solution based on power sharing, so that we could have no winners or losers from the tainted elections. The record will show that this was done for example on Walter Rodney Groundings, (WPA TV programme CH 9) months before the GECOM was in a position to declare a winner. I challenge Bisram to prove otherwise.
It is unfortunate that many who seek to influence the nation’s consciousness are unmindful of their responsibility to the people. To easily engage in distortions, half-truths and at times outright lies, while pontificating that they are contributing to a better Guyana and improving race relations are key features of Kissoon’s and Bisram’s polemics. I welcome public discussion and will continue to do so, but will urge that there must be some “red line” that we don’t cross. For a start there should be a commitment to contest/challenge what a person or an organization says or writes, and not to imagine or fabricate what they say or write. On this matter keen and objective readers of our daily newspapers will know that this is often not the case with Freddie Kissoon, and the same is true for Bisram in his letter.