In these troubled times when Guyana seems to be hit by a double Tsunami – tensions over the disputed results of the 2020 Elections, and fears associated with the COVID-19 pandemic – the mass media has a responsibility to ensure that whatever information is disseminated to the public is not inflammatory. Those in particular who are privileged to share their thoughts and opinions to the public have an obligation to be tactful and objective without compromising facts that support their viewpoint. Irresponsible writing could rattle frayed nerves and ignite a firestorm of bitterness and anger, the flames of which may be difficult to douse.
Recently, a regular columnist of this prestigious newspaper exploded into a rant, first admitting his anger and then identifying his ethnicity, which from observation seems to have coloured his opinions, even if some of his thoughts were intended to convey a universal appeal.
His general contention that individuals and groups have the constitutional right to seek redress in the courts on issues relevant to their interests can hardly be disputed. However, if legal action is used as a tactic to obfuscate, stall and create diversion when a pre-court remedy is in place and endorsed by your leader, then your action raises suspicion, particularly if your leader expresses lamentation over such action. Conversely, if legal action is taken to correct a wrong witnessed and criticized universally, then legal redress has an incomparable justification. That fair-minded, morally upright citizens decry the former action and support the latter is hardly a cause to stir anyone’s ire, unless the issues are viewed through jaundiced lens.
Uncertainty hanging over the 2020 Guyana Elections, occasioned largely by the contumacious defiance of the Chief Justice’s pointed legal direction on how Region Four verification should proceed, is cause for alarm. It should be recalled that the deafening silence of GECOM’s Chairperson, notwithstanding a repeat bungling of the process by one of its officials, and the immediate unanimous condemnation from accredited observers prompted a call from Mr. Granger to Ms. Mia Mottely for CARICOM to participate in a solution. I need not repeat what subsequently followed, which has left the country in a disquieting limbo.
It is unfortunate, that the columnist is silent on the verification fiasco, GECOM’s ineptitude, and the stubbornness by a Returning Officer to follow the use of SOPs, as was used for verifying results of the other nine regions. Additionally, if the direct recount of the votes for Region 4 is the unvarnished best approach to verify the results, why is there such great resistance by GECOM and APNU/AFC. According to the law, GECOM is an autonomous body, but its recent actions hardly reflect its touted independence. Additionally, politicians with vested interest may put on the façade of detachment, and non-interference, but an unholy silence could be the character of a Machiavellian touch.
The columnist’s wrath seems to be directed against “internal and external forces manipulating our ethnic differences to stir up animosities.” I do hope that if he assesses the situation with dispassion, he would agree that the condemnation of GECOM’s verification process in the 2020 elections has been universal, excepting for a completely opposite reaction from APNU/AFC. Is this a grand conspiracy? If so, what may be the grounds for it? If we remember, when the results of the 2015 Elections were declared, and foreign observers deemed the outcome as free and fair, the cry of foul was from the PPP/C. Was there any condemnation then by the columnist or APNU/AFC?
In a prior article titled “Int’l Observers are not arbiters to the electoral process in Guyana,” the columnist decried the presence of foreign observers, and went on to state that “events… suggests that the time has come in our dear land of Guyana when we must ask ourselves whether some observers are overreaching their mandate.” In relation to the vigilance and diligence of the observers who voiced their disapproval of GECOM’s mismanagement of the verification process, our wise columnist declared, “We must ask whether these behaviours are not in effect a transgression of our sovereignty under the guise of “observation and reporting.” His true sentiments and leanings were exposed, and the target of his fury is known.
Sadly, the distinguished former Heads of the Armed Forces, Police Force, Foreign Ministry, and the business community, among a host of other reputable Guyanese, who have urged for an untainted electoral process, have come under the wrath of the columnist, though not specifically named. They “set themselves up as morally upright…. and cover their deeds with a pretensive cloak of uprightness.”
What we write in the mass media could influence the thinking of thousands. Some prefer to throw Molotov cocktails that constantly ignite bitterness and rage. For decades Guyana has succumbed to race politics which has left the country starkly divided. Fear, doubts, mistrust, and cynicism have plagued this beautiful country for too long causing it to languish in poverty. Language is a power weapon that could either provoke hate and division or build bridges of trust and harmony. We can still hold strong opinions and assess situations from different perspectives, but the honesty and sensitivity with which we write can make us instruments for positive change.