Monday, May 17, 2010

Forget the cake shops, deal with the issues

We are falling in love with the approach of Stabroek News. Not that Kaieteur News is not doing a good job.... but these last two editorials of Stabroek News are analytical, pragmatic and honest.

We think soon both newspapers will lose their Gog ads.... if only Kaieteur joined the struggle a little while back on the ads.... in unity lies strength. Both Stabroek News and Kaieteur News should join in the fight.... if the Gov't pulls ads, then they, in effect, wont be placing ads, because no one reads the Guyana mis-time and the lying-chronicle. Unite fellas!

Here is Stabroek's editorial of May 17, 2010
There would likely have been many cake shop owners and patrons who would have been bemused and taken some offence at President Jagdeo’s recent description of reportage on the controversial Amaila Falls deal as cake shop journalism. After all, cake shops not only provide heavenly fare such as salaras, sponge cakes, buns and frosty beverages on sweltering days; they are also a forum for important community discussions. Perhaps, the reporters covering the Amaila Falls shenanigans should take the president’s remarks as a solid compliment.

The President is an old hand at trying to demean valid criticism and never tires of trying. One would have thought that in the week when he was quite properly recognized by his cabinet colleagues for his UNEP award he would have been more accommodating of those who are asking important questions on behalf of the people of this country.

If one were to follow the cake shop analogy it may be the case that the President sees his government as the delicatessen or patisserie. That’s all well good but it doesn’t infer that it is any more scrupulous or vital than the humble neighbourhood cake shop. Moreover, the bar is set higher for the government; it runs the country and must be accountable all of the time to all of its people; not only the reporters and the stakeholders in the cake shop.

This brings us to the question of accountability and Guyana’s appearance before the United Nations Human Rights Council last week in Geneva. Several years ago the government gave a commitment to improve the timeliness of its reporting to the various UN treaty bodies and at the same time to extensively canvas Guyanese on all issues to be reported on. It failed comprehensively to do this. Last week its delegation surreptitiously flew into Geneva without a word to the public or without the report which was to be the subject of the relatively new Universal Periodic Review being distributed locally.

If the government thought it would have escaped piercing scrutiny of its woeful human rights record it miscalculated big time. The information that it tried to keep from the Guyanese public was readily available and so were embarrassing questions by heavyweights such as the UK and Canada and a statement to the committee by the United States.

Numerous questions were put to the Guyanese delegation including concerns about extrajudicial killings, police brutality, rights of the indigenous peoples, violence against women and children and discrimination against the lesbian and gay community but in the rarified Geneva atmosphere the bombshell would have been the recommendation in front of the committee by the United Kingdom and Canada that Guyana convene an independent probe of the abuses committed by the phantom squad between 2002 to 2006 and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

This call by London and Ottawa is what the PPP/C government has obstinately and quite improperly refused to institute. Despite numerous appeals locally and the patent need for such an enquiry the Jagdeo administration has filibustered at every turn and thrown in red herrings such as the need to investigate abuses going far back into the past. When calls were made for a forensic probe of the Clico (Guyana) collapse President Jagdeo said he would acquiesce if the PNCR agreed to one of Globe Trust. When his bluff was called there was no change in his position.

He may want to continue with his refusal to agree to an inquiry into the phantoms as his term in office is swiftly coming to an end and he doesn’t need to face the electorate again. In so doing, however, he is leaving the ruling PPP/C with an enormous burden to bear and no matter which party wins the next elections there will have to be a full-fledged inquiry into the phantoms. In the same manner that rigged elections was the albatross on the PNC, the operations of the phantom squad will be the PPP’s millstone as the present government has failed to convince the public that it had no ties or knowledge of what was going on.

For those who would immediately rebuff this argument by asking what about the other criminals who ran amok after the prison-break in 2002, we say that all of the arcane violence of that period must be properly investigated and as far as possible the masterminds, the triggermen and the accomplices brought to justice. The stupendous violence of that period traumatized the lives of many thousands of Guyanese on a daily basis. Many scars remain. Many voids have opened in many lives only to be filled by gnawing emptiness. Many questions remain about the direction of the violence and its intersections with sections of society. An inquiry would provide a catharsis that the entire nation needs, except that this government remains fearful of what could be revealed especially when it contemplates what the recent drug trials in New York have revealed about the underworld here and its connections with officialdom.

Whatever happens, the government now faces a bigger problem than the media and political parties clamouring for an investigation into that period. The clamour is now resounding in the halls of the human rights council in Geneva and the call is coming from the United Kingdom, Canada and others. As is evident Washington, London and Ottawa have become increasingly irritated by the stance of the government on human rights and security issues most recently manifested by the UK’s decision to withdraw its offer of security sector assistance. The pressure by the western countries will undoubtedly grow and could have unpleasant repercussions on aid and other forms of cooperation with Guyana.

It is revealing that many of the same human rights issues that besieged the PNC confronted the PPP/C government last week in Geneva and it was left to its spokespersons to trot out lame excuses. Responding to the questions, Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues revealingly said that in relation to the “so called” phantom squad the government wished to indicate that the “allegations are currently being addressed and investigations are ongoing…The public has been invited to assist in providing information that will aid in the successful completion of the investigations”. Really? This is the type of statement that President Jagdeo might have intended to label as emanating from those wonderful cake selling shops. It is high time that this government shrugs off the cake shop talk and deal with the substantive issues. Is it now ready to order an investigation into the phantom squad and all of the associated violence of that period?


Anonymous said...

What Bharat Jagdeo needs is some good wholesome whole weath patacake.