Why do we, Guyanese embarrass ourselves interminably in the eyes of the world? Why our only university appears so disheveled in the eyes of the world? It was announced several times in the newspapers that the Department of Government and International Affairs at UG was hosting a presidential debate. I am a member of that department–have been teaching in it for 26 years.
With due respect to my colleagues in that department all of whom are quite nice and decent persons, I know of no formal meeting of that unit that planned a presidential debate.
If there was such a meeting I would have strenuously objected to TUF being invited. No one in this country can be that myopic to think that TUF is in the category of a substantial political organization with meaningful membership. In every national poll from 1992 onwards, the parliamentary seat TUF was given was done through top up votes to bring it to the required figure.
Controversy surrounded its seat in 2006 when some political observers and commentators said that the showing of the Justice for All Party was in the same category as TUF and should have been topped up too. It is my opinion that the event was debased by the invitation of the TUF.
Secondly, there was no way I would have agreed to the limitation of four questions from the audience. There aren’t words to describe that absurdity. And the absurdity was immensely embarrassing when you think of the large turn out and the important people in Guyana and from the Caricom Secretariat and diplomatic missions that were there. UG made itself look utterly stupid in stipulating four questions only.
I did not make the event. At the time I was traveling to Kwakwani. But this I can boldly state to readers; if I was present I would have demanded my right to ask questions since I was part of the sponsoring agency. The advertisements said plainly that the Department of Government and International Affairs was hosting the affair.
That department did not meet at anytime to plan this debate. If it did, I know of no such session. But since that name appeared as the host and I am part of the hosting party, I would have insisted on my right to put questions to the panel.
A columnist in the Stabroek News, the next day, rightly ridiculed the four-question fisco and lamented the fact that an opportunity for relevant inquiries about UG was sadly missed. The columnist mentioned the request by Government for the immediate dismissal of a number of lecturers.
UG never fails to embarrass this nation. How could the presidential candidates come to UG in the midst of a boiling national controversy of the Government’s demand that some lecturers be instantly fired and not a word about that manifestation of dictatorship was voiced all because only four question were allowed?
I sat about eight feet from Gail Teixeira at a special meeting of the Council of the University. That meeting was requested by seven of the eight members representing the government, incluiding Mrs. Indra Chandarpal who did not sign the petition for the confabulation.
Ms. Texieira, looking directly at the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, proposed the instant termination of the contracts of the lecturers because she told the Vice-Chancellor, “You were not the person to sign their contracts therefore their contracts are illegal.” Across the table, came the voice of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Pulandar Khandai. He demanded the contracts be immediately abrogated. Then shortly after, he left the meeting.
Further down the line at the table, Dr. Prem Misir told the meeting, “I have a list of those lecturers to be dismissed.”
The Director of the Berbice Campus of UG, then requested that I leave the meeting since it would not be appropriate for me to be there because I am one of the lecturers in the group whose contract was being discussed. The Chancellor, Dr. Compton Bourne, ruled against the proposal on the basis that it was a number of lecturers being focused on rather than a particular individual so there was no need for me to leave the meeting.
This madness took place in real life, was ventilated in the media and by the political parties in the present election campaign. Yet when the presidential candidates came to UG, students were allowed only four questions and that madness was not aired for the university community and the nation to hear the response from Messrs Granger, Ramjattan and Ramotar. Only in Guyana, man! Only in Guyana!
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