When we die
When Mrs. Janet Jagan died, the next day my column painted an unflattering portrait of her. The editor and publisher told me that I was out of protocol. Their point was that it was too soon to be so harsh on the dead. The international reality does not support this view and it never did.
All over the world, when a controversial figure dies, the media does not preoccupy itself with the concept of respect for the dead, meaning that it is too early to be critical. I do agree that at the time of death, there should be no vulgar, or a description of the actual death and suffering reported in bad taste.
I honestly have not seen this “too early” approach in the international media. Once a person with a checkered career passes away, the assessment begins immediately. I have seen this so many times that there is no need to give any example. Pinochet got a bad press; Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi got mauled. So did many other dictators.
Read the global press if Mugabe should die. Think of what large sections of the American media will do to a fallen Castro. Rush Limbaugh will get some terrible evaluations from the mainstream, liberal media should he pass away.
So is it morally wrong to assess the faults of a controversial figure when he/she die? It all has to do with the choice of words. Once there isn’t a descent into distasteful semantics, then editorials and commentators should offer their judgements and they do. It happens around the world. Of course, the family’s grief should be taken into consideration. It is ethical for the family to see and read negative things about their loved ones when they die?
Again, it depends on the style of language. But surely, the public should be allowed to read the assessments of highly powerful personalities both in public life and those who achieved a high profile in the private realm (as in business etc) whose life came to an end. A family is entitled to their grief but that family should know that when their relatives were alive, egregious things were done to others that never should have happened. Victims are also entitled to vent their feelings in a respectful way.
In Guyana, without a doubt, two top policemen passed away within a quick space of time – Laurie Lewis and Henry Greene. I would say that of the two Lewis is by far the less problematic. I knew both men well though I would say not close enough for them to tell me secrets that form an important part of Guyanese history. I knew Lewis better than Greene, though Greene was a Wortmanville personality for a long time and lived just a block away from me.
Laurie Lewis had a long career with many highs and lows. In terms of the lows, I would say the Monica Reece unsolved murder was a terrible sin he committed. The investigation was horribly incompetent as if the police wanted to the killer to escape. It was beyond belief to know that the suspected vehicle was examined a week after it was alleged to have transported the victim.
One day, I met Laurie at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital and I castigated him for not charging the alleged killer. He said to me that he didn’t think the evidence would have held up in court. That was not for him to determine but a judge and jury. I honestly believe Laurie was not telling the entire truth.
Henry Greene’s career was far less illustrious than Lewis’s. The government is singing praise to Mr. Greene but an indepth analysis of Greene’s tenure would reveal a shocking lowering of the standards of police conduct. Under Greene some very nasty murders and attempted murders went unsolved and we in the media knew why.
The particular shocking one involved a woman who stood to inherit stupendous sums from her family business. She agreed to be extra generous with her driver of long years. There was an attempt on the driver’s life. That was an open and shut case but under Green the police are yet to catch the conspirators.
Some well know drug trafficking dons were allowed to continue their trade while Greene was Commissioner. Mr. Greene’s span in the GPF was marked by his association with dubious characters that led to visa cancellation by the US Embassy.
The cancellation of all types of American visas to a Commissioner of Police would have brought his downfall in most countries in the worlds. Surely, the US Government had evidence on Greene.