Kaieteur News – Those are not the words of Frederick Kissoon. They were said by Mr. Ralph Ramkarran on a panel discussion with Ramkarran, David Hinds and Nigel Hughes. The words were said by Mr. Ramkarran after he told the panel he made some critical remarks about civil society and that was the reaction he got.
I now quote from my own column: “Class analysis of the Ravi Dev incident” of Tuesday, April 19, 2022, “I cannot count the times I have laughed on the occasions in which I was criticised yet proven right; not just in passing but in ways in which the society can glaringly see for itself.”
What is the importance of the reaction Mr. Ramkarran got? Before such an analysis is offered, context is everything so let’s discuss context. Mr. Ramkarran is not a PPP supporter and is not viewed as a person who endorses the government. He heads an opposition party named ANUG which in months from now will have one of its leaders sitting on the opposition side of the House.
Here now is the importance of “the cussing out” Mr. Ramkarran received. Since the March election fiasco ended and Dr. Ali was elected as president, there have been two types of occurrences in society. One is the sudden boldness of existing organisations that have morphed from quasi-independent entities to consistent anti-government actors.
These groups have been silent during four episodes – the departure from the Carter formula for GECOM chairmanship by the then ruling party; the refusal of the incumbent APNU+AFC to hold general elections three months after the no-confidence vote and thereafter the invention of both comical and dangerous shenanigans to remain in power; the crude and hilarious methods to rig the 2020 elections; finally post-election violence in Region Five that turned into ethnic attacks.
There is no scope in this column for explaining this behavioural metamorphosis, but briefly I think there was a shock to the system at the loss of power by APNU+AFC and those groups have become mentally inclined to confront the PPP government even when criticism is not justified. These groups are going to pick on any inconsequential issue to confront the government.
The second occurrence is the formation of new anti-government groups masquerading as independent activists. There seems to be an air of both political and intellectual superiority about these new formations. They have derecognised the traditional modus operandi of pressure group activism, pay little respect to the constitutional entitlement that elected power receives from being elected and make extremely pompous demands of the government as if elected power has to respond to their edicts.
One example should suffice. President Biden announced recently that the US government has awarded leases for fossil fuel exploration. Every environment and climate group in the US was shocked because it was a departure from his stated policy. The conspicuous dimension to this announcement that even the blind can see is that he did not seek the approval of these groups, civil society in the US and the opposition Republican Party.
One of the disturbing things about these two occurrences in Guyana is how the intellectual superiority is manifested. People with no training in engineering, science and technology want changes with regard to government’s policies in these areas. If you have no training in agriculture, land use, and water technology, what gives you the right to demand changes in government’s aqua-culture investments?
The second way in which this intellectual superiority shows itself, is the reaction Mr. Ramkarran got. In a column without any specific reference to any person or organisation, in a very general comment, he suggested that groups could contribute meaningfully to the lives of Guyanese by avoiding the focus on negative happenings in Guyana which has sex appeal (his words). I think he means publicity which is the term I normally use. He suggested that they concentrate on exigencies that need the society’s attention like traffic insanity and alcohol abuse.
Out of this scenario emerges not only a mentality of superior thinking but an intolerance to criticism. Herein lies the diseased double standards. You can highlight the faults, flaws, errors and bad behaviour of the state but your own faults cannot be commented on. Mr. Ramkarran said in the panel discussion that he got cussed out and for what? For expressing an opinion on civil society.
So where does that leave us. It leaves us with me. Sorry to sound like a show-off. But it leaves us with me. For decades in my media career, my academic life and my social activism, I have warned this society that not every anti-government critic is a democrat. We need to understand that urgently.
(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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