Adam Harris never ceases to amaze nor amuse me. He made it his duty to attend my weekly press conferences while I was General Secretary of the PPP save when he travels abroad.
Harris’ questions are usually loaded and articulated with a view to either kerfuffle or entangle the host. His professionalism as a journalist is overpowered or, better yet, compromised by his political sympathies for the PNC. No doubt about that.
Had it not been for my years of experience in politics and street sense, Harris may have ‘caught me napping!’ at one of my pressers.
Harris’ recent Op Ed in one of the dailies headlined ‘When the Magistrates’ Court becomes a political platform.’ is flawed historically and short sighted to say the least. To claim that the Magistrates’ Court is now a ‘political platform’ simply because of the three cases he cherry picked is injudicious and calculatedly prejudicial.
The Jordan, Ali and Lowenfield cases are of recent vintage. But those who know Adam Harris through the years as a journalist from the Chronicle to the New Nation to the Evening News to the Kaieteur News and finally back home to the Chronicle, would not find his political slant and bias in favour of the PNC and later, the PNC/Reform and now the APNU/AFC surprising in anyway whatsoever.
Harris and Glenn Lall were bound to fall out. It was only a matter of time. Lall is a pragmatist, Harris is dogmatist…politically.
When the chips are down Lall would adjust politically and go with the flow. After all, he has a newspaper to sell. Harris on the other hand, has views he wanted to sell via Kaieteur News, but Lall would have none of it.
In the final analysis, it’s Lall who calls the shots. Like the printer and publisher of every newspaper, it’s Lall who decides the editorial policy of Kaieteur News, not Harris.
Lall determines the political and editorial slant of his newspaper. He must take into account the circulation of his newspaper and the innovations of his competitors. Harris had to fall in line or take a walk. He chose the latter. And like the ‘Prodigal Son’ was rewarded an Op Ed in the Sunday edition of the daily.
Incidentally, David Hinds and Lincoln Lewis have also returned home to the welcoming embrace those who once shunned them.
Harris like anyone who has passed their three score and ten would have senior moments, but when those senior moments are translated into Op Ed’s that are published with a ‘by line’ in his name, Harris, like any other writer must willingly open up to public scrutiny and criticism.
For the benefit of the unbiased reader, it is not today, nor because of the cases mentioned by Harris, that the Magistrates’ Court have become a ‘political platform.’ His claim is misleading. The following in my view, can be considered ‘political platforms’ that played out previously at the Magistrates’ Courts in Guyana:
In July 1973, fifty three activists from Enmore including Indra Dhanraj, now Chandarpal, were arrested and charged for disorderly behaviour. They were placed before a magistrate at Sparendaam Magistrates’ Court;
In July 1974, Arnold Rampersaud, a PPP activist was hauled before two Magistrates’ Courts, charged for the murder of a police constable at the Number 64 village Corentyne, Berbice;
In October 1974, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, then Opposition Leader, was hauled before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court charged with unlawful possession of ammunition and component of a firearm/pistol. Countrywide protests erupted. Dr. Walter Rodney and Father Campbell-Johnson of the Catholic Church were in the crowd protesting outside the Court. Dr. Jagan was found guilty. He was fined $25,000 or one month imprisonment. The decision was appealed;
In December 1976, forty two bauxite workers were charged and brought before the courts first, at the Vreed-en- Hoop and later, at the Wismar Magistrates’ Court. The charge was for unlawful assembly following a picketing demonstration and after being tear gassed while they were detained in the lock ups at the Linden police station;
In June, 1979, following the destruction by fire of the Ministry of National Mobilization and Office of the PNC General Secretary, leading members of the WPA were hauled before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court charged with arson;
In July 1986, Rabbi Washington of the House of Israel, appeared in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court charged for the murder of Catholic priest, Father Bernard Darke;
On June 16, 1989, following protests against the 1989 budget, outside parliament, three PPP activists including me were charged and placed before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court. Two of three were reprimanded and discharged. I was placed before the Court on five charges; obstructing a police officer, assaulting a police officer, disorderly behavior, resisting arrest and taking part in an illegal procession. Clarissa Riehl, the prosecutor told magistrate Stephen Knights that no bail should be granted until the budget debate was over. As a consequence, I spent three weeks in a cell at the Georgetown Prisons;
In 1990, three PPP activists who became known as the ‘Mahaicony Three’ were charged and placed before the court for treason;
In July 2002, Mark Benchop was charged and placed, first before the Magistrates’ Court and later the High Court for treason;
In December 2010, Bruce and Carol Munroe and Leonard Wharton were first placed before the Magistrates’ Court on Treason Charges;
In May 2018, former PPP/C Finance Minister, Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington were hauled before the court charged with three counts of Misconduct in Public Office.
So the question as to ‘WHEN’ the Magistrates’ Court became a political platform, rhetorical as it may seem, did not begin with the three cases alluded to by Mr Harris, on the contrary, the WHEN’ began during the period of the Burnham dictatorship/ Hoyte administration…Mr. Harris!
But it is not really the time factor that Mr Harris is concerned about, his main objective in his recent Op Ed, as he is usually prone to do, is to score political points viz; to paint the PPP/C in a bad light as a vengeful, case dodging political party while seeking to ‘Big Up’ the party he strongly supports as benevolent and law abiding.
Placed in the context of the extant political situation and knowing where his support lies, the line peddled by Harris on this and other political matters is not surprising.
In case Mr Harris didn’t know, every trial, criminal or civil, tried summarily or indictable tells a story. And be they a kangaroo or show trial, they are recorded in annals of history.
In Guyana’s present-day context, there is much that is straightforward about the political show trials, staged during the coalition’s one term administration as it became highly unpopular because of unfulfilled promises, high levels of corruption, squandermania and attempts at fraudulent elections.
As the ‘Magistrates’ Court becomes a political platform’ unfolds, the lines of delineation between the champions of democracy, justice and fair play and those who cling to power illegally, becomes clearer with every passing day. And in that delineation, Harris’ Op Ed’s in respect to who’s side he’s on, is pellucid as pellucid can be.
Clement J. Rohee
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