Kaieteur News – What follows is an academic analysis of things in Guyana. An academic has to do his/her work assessing people, places, events and history so a body of research material becomes available for others to possess and further create more receptacles of information that could be used for people to gain knowledge.
People should understand that individuals, institutions and organisations create and participate in the broad stream of events that shape society and history. The social scientists and historians are not being personal when they write, and society must understand this, if not, society and academia become poorer.
Against this background, let me assert with pellucid emphasis – I don’t know and ever knew anyone in management at John Fernandes Ltd (JFL) and Banks DIH (BDIH). I only know two persons at Stabroek News (SN) and simply know them by saying hello over the years. One is board member, English woman, Josephine Whitehead, and current editor, Anand Persaud. With those introductory words, the analysis begins.
BDIH, JFL and SN were founded by members of the Portuguese elite class. It doesn’t mean as Portuguese citizens, they are racially driven. I have no evidence of that. What I know from living my entire life in Guyana as an academic that studies his country is that these three entities symbolise the historical presence of the Portuguese and they consciously carry that cultural beacon in their existence. They see themselves as belonging to that ethnic community and they patronise people of their type. Indians and Africans do the same.
BDIH and JFL are business entities that are not functional in the sociological realm and show absolutely no active (emphasis on “active”) interest in class, politics and culture; culture in the narrow, political sense. When it comes to SN, this is a different ball game altogether. I have received several emails (quite a number) in and out of Guyana indicating a curiosity on my comparative take on the SN and the Kaieteur News (KN), including a person well connected to the PNC.
Here are brief notes. The two newspapers were born in different circumstances for different reasons by persons with different class backgrounds. The SN was founded by two men – Miles Fitzpatrick and David DeCaires – who were considered from the 1950s onwards as the crème de la crème of Guyanese society. Even Forbes Burnham as prime minister deferred to the two men. Burnham never even in the most harmless way tried to victimise them even though they were relentless critics of his government.
SN was founded, funded and preserved by the Portuguese bourgeoisie with money from the American government. It became an integral part of light-complexion class structure. Its motivating instinct was that there should be an instrument to preserve middle class ethos in Guyana. There was a cultural, ideological, and class foundation in the decision to birth SN,
The founding of KN had no such fulcrums. A small, Indian businessman in the Stabroek Market, Glenn Lall, not even belonging to the Indian moneyed stratum, was persuaded by a journalist who was his friend and another friend from Canada to start a newspaper. There was no ideological perspective determining the idea. There was absolutely no thinking that the paper had to serve certain class interests.
Whenever I hear the name, David DeCaires mentioned in the media, I think of two incidents. One is that long, long ago, Dr. Mark Kirton told me that when his father was a journalist at the Chronicle, he went to the home of Percy Wright, the owner of Fogarty’s Store, to interview him. The attendant let Kirton in and when Wright came up, he admonished the attendant for ushering Kirton through the front entrance rather than the back door.
The second one is when DeCaires refused to shake Glenn Lall’s hand at the Water Crest Hotel on Quamina Street. DeCaires thought that such a person did not belong in his league and should not own a newspaper. I wrote for SN and came face to face with Portuguese/Mullato/Creole cultural aristocracy that I missed out on growing up in Wortmanville but that my father told me about. And imagine this was as recent as the early nineties in Independent Guyana.
Space has proven a problem again. But briefly, the ownership of the two newspapers rest on different class positions. Management of KN is not driven by the psychology of past class yearnings and has no interests in judging power and people in Guyana using ideological criteria. KN’s approach to power is situational. Today it lashes government, tomorrow it lashes foreign investor, the next day it praises government. Read carefully SN’s approach to journalistic coverage, which civil society groups it gives space to and who it employs at senior levels then the big pictures emerge.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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