Making an issue out of nothing
There is a lot of talk about the publication of photographs of the home of former President Bharrat Jagdeo. People closely associated with the former president have conspired to contrive a news storm over the aerial shots.
Some claim that the publication reflects the invasion of the former president’s privacy; that it represents a security threat to the former president and that it is something that should attract legal proceedings. This is one of the strangest reactions to the publication of photographs.
Certainly the spin doctors who appear to be reacting to anything that appears to feature the former president have gone overboard. It is no secret that the former president has been in the spotlight from the time he began to flaunt what many thought was untold wealth. The Attorney General, in a press statement, described the former president as perhaps the only head of state in Guyana who did not own property before he acceded to office.
The nation has been exposed to the residences of the former presidents. Forbes Burnham was touted by the then political opposition as one of the richest men as attributed to Forbes magazine, in the days when the information superhighway was not as pervasive as it is today. That rumour was allowed to flourish.
Burnham built a house that was modest by any standards. That house is now owned by ‘King’ Solomon and stands along the East Coast Demerara public road. That house stood in full public view and did not appear to have all the security features that adorn this mansion that the former president now has.
The Jagans also had a modest home in Bel Air village. Again the public hardly paid any attention to the home because it was unpretentious. The same could be said of the home owned by the late Desmond Hoyte. It stood in full public view along North Road in close proximity to Bourda Market. Again there were no major security considerations.
Former President Jagdeo happened to attract national attention after he sold a prior home for $120 million, far more than any of the homes owned by his predecessors. As the Attorney General said, this was not the first instance of anyone building cheap and selling dear.
What he did not say was that under the conditions that the land was sold by the Ministry of Housing, there could not have been any sale until a prescribed time had passed. The Ministry, however, turned a blind eye to that sale, although the former President Jagdeo had breached the rules.
One would assume that with the money from that sale he set about constructing this new home. There is nothing to stop the former president from building a home of his choice and there is nothing to stop the nation from wondering at the cost of the structure.
And it is the same with the news media that opt to show the nation the home of the former president. By his own standards, he is a private person, but to make it appear that he is a cloistered virtue, that he is the essence of secrecy, is really stretching the national mood.
It was Jagdeo who reminded former President Janet Jagan of her status when she became involved in the Stabroek News advertising issue. Mrs Jagan had contended that withholding Government advertisement from the newspaper was wrong. When this was pointed out to the then President Jagdeo, he said that Mrs Jagan was a private citizen.
Jagdeo is by his own admission a private citizen and is therefore not entitled to any special considerations. Ordinary people have had their homes photographed without a peep from any section of the society. Why must Jagdeo be seen in a different light? Being a former president does not make him any different and does not make his home any special security concern.
Surely, President Donald Ramotar’s home would not attract any such attention. For people to make an issue of the photograph of Jagdeo’s home something of monumental concern, is to seek to place Jagdeo in a realm that only his sycophants could create.