I am aware of the threats of libel that hangs over my head as a commentator. The threats come from the corridors of power. I am aware of the trouble I can cause the newspaper I write for and the price I can pay if the newspaper is annoyed. Years ago, I received a libel from Dr. Hughley Hanoman as a columnist with the Stabroek News.
I will never ever forget the thought that went through my mind as I stepped onto the Robb Street pavement outside the Stabroek News. I couldn’t believe what Mr. David de Caires told me when I was in his office to discuss the libel. I looked to the skies and I wondered to the stars where in my life did I go wrong.
The issue was the milk controversy surrounding Dr Hughley Hanoman. All the private media, including the Stabroek News, wrote what I penned in my column but only I got sued.
Mr. de Caires informed me that I have to secure my own attorney because the paper’s lawyer, Mr. Miles Fitzpatrick would defend the paper only and not me. A good lawyer came to my rescue. In my memoirs which I hope to complete before I die, there will be a lengthy discussion on the venom and dislike Mr. Fitzpatrick has directed to me.
He is one of the persons I resent in this life because of the things he has done to me. But I learned from that incident that when you write, be careful, because if you get the newspaper into trouble you can end up in boiling water.
So I am about to pen a statement here that I am fully prepared to back by calling on the Registrar of the University of Guyana to deny what is written below. I know Mr. Vincent Alexander very well. I believe he is a person of integrity. We were born a corner from each other in Wortmanville.
Here is my challenge to Mr. Alexander. In December, the Faculty of Social Sciences held a retreat in Essequibo and it was financed by the Office of the President. I call on Mr. Alexander to deny that. I call upon the two independent dailies, KN and SN to ask Mr. Alexander, President Ramotar and the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr. Paloma Mohamed, to deny that.
How can the University safeguard its independence when the Office of the President finances a retreat of lecturers from a section of the University to discuss internal business? Dr. Mohamed invited the President to attend; he did so and gave a partisan speech.
A retreat is a very important strategy meeting for brainstorming to which outsiders are not invited. Any management specialist would tell you that. I was told by five lecturers that they were not informed that the President would be coming. That, of course, doesn’t mean that lecturers were not notified.
Dr. Paloma Mohamed heads a committee to plan the 50th anniversary of the University. Dr. Mohamed nominated President Ramotar to be honoured on the occasion. Nothing can be more curious than this decision. I may be wrong and I am subject to correction, but before he became President in December 2011, Mr. Ramotar never worked in the public sector.
As a young man he was employed at GIMPEX, the PPP’s commercial arm. Then at GAWU, then left for eight years for Czechoslovakia, then at Freedom House then became the General Secretary of the PPP.
After the PPP came to power, he lived in a State-owned house in Castellani compound by the swimming pool. I wrote about that and the Government replied to say that Mr. Ramotar was entitled to live in a government home because he was a director at GuySuCo.
At the time I did not and still do not recognize that as a public service job. A director of GuySuCo, the Post Office, Forestry Commission, UG Council etc., is not engaged in public service in the mainstream sense of the word. That is my opinion.
Dr. Mohamed has to explain on what basis Donald Ramotar, only one year into his presidency, is being honoured on the 50th anniversary of UG. What are the criteria used? It cannot be his contribution to academia. He has never been a practicing academic. He has no outstanding record as a UG student. He did not graduate with distinction (by the way; he was a student of mine). He never lectured at UG. Donald Ramotar has no record of substantial contribution to UG.
Can this anniversary committee please explain? Jagan started UG. Burnham made it come to life. Jagdeo created its Berbice arm. Why Ramotar?
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