Jagdeo vs. Kissoon libel case…Columnist presents research material to justify article
By Zena Henry
Former University of Guyana lecturer and Kaieteur News columnist Frederick Kissoon presented evidence yesterday in the Bharrat Jadgeo libel suit case to justify claims he made in a Kaieteur News article – that the former Head of State exercised ideological racism while functioning as President.
Kissoon claimed that the findings were documented in a research paper he had prepared, entitled “Ethnic Power and Ideological Racism-Comparing Presidents in Guyana”, and which he had presented to the Annual Conference of the Guyana Historical and Research Institute in June 2010.
The former president is suing Kissoon, the National Media and Publishing Company, publishers of Kaieteur News, and Editor-in-Chief Adam Harris for over $10M, claiming libel in a Kaieteur News article published two years ago.
Kissoon appeared before Justice Brassington Reynolds at the High Court and was the only witness of the day. Questioned by one of his lawyers, Nigel Hughes, Kissoon testified that in his research, he made comparisons of Jagdeo to past Presidents who served Guyana, in particular, Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham.
Kissoon said he compared the former Presidents’ exercise of power in relation to ethnicity. Those aspects related to employment practices, composition of white collar class workers in public service; land allocation, state concessions in a wide range of areas and personalized attitudes towards national stakeholders.
Kissoon later explained that in studying “Ideological racism: the manifestation,” he zeroed in on the “Composition of the hierarchy of a number of essential state co-operatives and concluded that there is a graphic manifestation of ethnic pre-dominance within a comparative context of time”.
He said when compared, over time, he saw a great shift, in a number of Afro-Guyanese presence being replaced by Indo-Guyanese; to assume a complete ethnic replacement. His conclusion, he continued, was that he did not see this trend of ideologically-driven employment practices in the Burnham and Jagan presidencies that would allow him to describe the two former presidents as ideological racists.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Bernard De Santos, objected when Hughes sought to have Kissoon relate certain aspects of his research document. The objection was overruled, since the Judge noted that there were at least 65 pages of evidence, and he would like to be specifically led to what needs to be considered.
As the proceedings continued, Kissoon noted via his research, that of all important state sectors pivotal to the life of the Guyanese nation, fundamental institutions listed were headed by Indo-Guyanese. The document highlighted 78 names of top hierarchy officials governing various organizations; of the 78, he said none was Afro-Guyanese. Those organizations he related, when asked, included the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Judiciary, the Registar and the Chief Magistrate.
The National Communications Network’s entire hierarchy, Kissoon explained, was “captured” by East Indians and his information source was the annual meetings of state companies and some information in the public domain. He made the same observation, when speaking about the Guyana Sugar Corporation, that the head of the organization is East Indian, as is the Deputy Head, as well as the managers of all the estates.
On the issue of divestment of state companies, Kissoon said that of the seven officials of the Privatization Board, only one was Afro- Guyanese. In the divestment of state properties, Kissoon said he studied the ethnic make-up of the purchasers and found that only one out of 45 was Afro-Guyanese.
For industrial estates, Kissoon showed that state land allocated for manufacturing activities was granted to 13 businessmen, of whom only one was Afro-Guyanese, and he received the smallest plot of land -1000 acres. The largest land allocation was 36,000 acres.
For Government concessions from 2003-2008, Kissoon said his research showed that of the 285 companies that received Government money, 15 were owned and run by Afro-Guyanese.
The Kaieteur News columnist stated that his research proved an installed rise of young Indo-Guyanese into strong, managerial positions. Those installations, he said, (list of names provided) came by virtue of blood relation or political affiliation.
That information, Kissoon said, was gathered through published reports of the particular institutes where those persons worked and through direct research inquiry.
The matter will be called again on November 8 for the continuation of Kissoon’s testimony.