Last week, I promised to deal with the issue or Race and Wealth in Guyana, but due to a couple of factors, I've been unable to finish it in time. In the interim, I've decided to make to put this edition of "The Minority Report" - a version of which has been sent to the independent papers as a letter - on the current Freddie Kissoon effective firing from the University of Guyana.
From all appearance, despite the opportunity for soul-searching and retooling itself for operation within a more competitive democratic environment, the People’s Progressive Party seems to be stuck in the anachronistic attitude that carrying and using a big stick to crush (or to attempt to crush) it’s opponents is the most effective form of governance.
Now, I have no doubt whatsoever what the reasoning behind the termination of Kissoon’s contract was: Freddie Kissoon actions – his columns, the revelations of his libel trial, and finally his mounting of the AFC platform – in sum constituted an unchecked tenacity which eroded the myth of political omnipotence which has kept the followers and many opponents of the PPP in check;ergo the non-renewal of his contract not only takes away the financial base which allows him to write his critical columns, but sends a message to everyone else that “We are still very much in control, Parliamentary minority notwithstanding.”.
That is the logic of the impotent and the petty and the incompetent and the corrupt – an incumbent administration that is honourable, effective, principled and strong does not attack independent academia, nor the media, nor civil society. Indeed, the critics of an otherwise good government, as rabid as they may be, serve the purpose of being the remoras of that particularly political ecology, feeding as it were on the parasites of the polity, leaving the more useful elements to their proper function. The only circumstance in which there is no place for the political critic is that wherein the polity is primarily parasitical, thus the critic becomes anathema to the primary function of the government of the day, i.e., the usurpation of the resources and powers of the state.
The non-renewal of Freddie Kissoon’s contract is not an objective measure with regard to enhancing the human resource capacity of the University of Guyana, since a case would have to be made that Kissoon was either incompetent or inattentive in the performance of his duties relative to objective criteria of assessment, and/or, he irredeemably contravened some code of ethics established by the University. Seeking refuge in what may be a legal right of refusal to renew his contract in no way detracts from the appearance that this is a petty and vindictive and personal act; and, insomuch as Kissoon has targeted the ire of his pen against the President himself, then this counterattack can be construed to be with the blessing of Mr. Ramotar.
The government and its sycophantic outliers may argue from now until the cows come home that the days of Burnham are over, but this is essentially Walter Rodney redux, that particular tragedy this time repeated – as Marx, ironically enough, warned – as farce. In the revocation of the ban on Gordon Moseley, President Ramotar effected what was a relative positive, yet sum neutral, act vis a vis the restoration of Guyana to the unending path towards the democratic ideal; the attack on Freddie Kissoon, ultimately ineffective as it may be with regards to the cessation of Kissoon’s criticism, constitutes a demerit far worse than the Moseley ban in that Kissoon functions both as an academic and as a journalist, and the attack on him wasn’t simply a specific restriction on his function in either capacity, but the complete cessation of his functioning in one of those capacities.
Kissoon has been hired for, I believe, upwards of two decades as a lecturer at the University of Guyana, hence he is a qualified university lecturer – in arbitrarily denying him employment in an environment where he can only function in that capacity under a system the government controls, the government has denied an academic his right to work, because of his journalism. The fact that Kissoon can apply to other universities outside of Guyana is irrelevant – what is salient is that he cannot work, not even in a temporary capacity, at the state-owned university of his country of birth and citizenship although he is qualified to do so.
This is a clear case of the Niemoller Test of public moral fortitude. If you are a regular social commentator, or even an irregular one, either you stand up not simply for Kissoon but against what this travesty implies, or by your silence you signal your support for it, and hence – when the descent it implies reaches you – you should expect no voice clamouring in your defence.