In one of my columns, I repeated a rumour that was circulating that Mark Benschop had agreed to a covenant for his release on treason charges.
That bond would be that he would eschew active political condemnation of the Government of Guyana. I met Mr. Benschop and put that rumour to him. He denied it and agreed that I could interview him where he would speak his mind.
I will do the interview. I did not repeat in my column the hearsay. I stated a fact that there was a gossip. The existence of the allegation is a fact. I am not saying the allegation is evidentially based.
What I did in that column was to juxtapose the gossip against the absence of social commentary in the press by Mr. Benschop. Interestingly, Mr. Benschop replied to my juxtaposition in a letter that is almost half a page (SN, Wed., Dec 17.) It is interesting for one particular reason.
Where and why did Mr. Benschop find time to compose a half page (newspaper) letter in reply to me and couldn’t find the same time and energy to state some of the perceptions that are contained in his response?
Why was there no missive like the Wednesday one before? Why no letter on the denial of bail to Mr. Hinckson? Why no composition on what the Government did to Critchlow Labour College? Why no letter on the mind-boggling refusal of the Guyana Government to have a Freedom of Information Act?
I guess we have gone past that now. Mr. Benschop will be writing now. I take some of the points he made in that Wednesday viewpoint. I have a column. He hasn’t one. But what about the letter page of the two independent dailies? He made effective use of it on Wednesday.
Anyway, as I wrote above, we have gone past that. I need to touch on a definite fact contained in that Wednesday correspondence. Mr. Benschop asserted that the state does not like me but it has not gone to the lengths to hurt me as it did to him. I do not want to ever downgrade the severity of the five years of unjustified jailing of Mr. Benschop.
It was wrong. I couldn’t say it while the charges were before the courts. You play into the hands of the authoritarian state by commenting of issues that are sub judice. In several pieces of mine I rejected the state’s denial of an early trial for him.
After he was released (I chose the word “released” rather than “pardoned”), the next day, my column was titled, “Benschop doesn’t owe the President anything.”
In other assessments on this page, I went on to say that I did not believe the state could have proven the accusations made against him.
People that I know told me that Mr. Benschop was not in the vicinity of the Presidential Secretariat when the invasion occurred in the compound of the Secretariat.
I also do not believe that the prosecution could have provided evidence. I further believe that no jury would have convicted Mr. Benschop. It is not easy for a husband to be taken away from his family for five years and placed in jail.
The Mark Benschop treason trial certainly damaged permanently the image and credibility of the PPP, not that I believe the PPP had any of those values remaining after 1992.
So where do we go from here? Is there a new Mark Benschop? I return to the same discussion about what the state has not done to me but has done to him.
I can only speak for myself. I have always lived a life of political activism and I have never bent when the consequences came upon me.
My daughter was just five years old when I was dismissed from the University. I fought back. I suffered a broken back and was hospitalised for weeks after being thrown off a moving UG bus by PNC students during the turbulent days of Burnham’s dictatorship.
I fought back. My anti-GNS activism caused me to be thrown in Camp Ayanganna for 29 days during my UG student days. I fought back.
I cannot understand fully how Mr. Benschop feels after being wrongfully imprisoned for five years. I can begin to. Most people try to. But only the victim knows the true dimensions of that experience.
But Mr. Benschop should fight back. Why endure five years of wrongful imprisonment only to come out and adopt a reticent attitude?
Mr. Benschop needs to give hope to his supporters by publicly condemning the wrong things elected dictatorship is doing to this country.
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