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Jan 29, 2023 Features / Columnists, News, The GHK Lall Column
By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – I found it most interesting that article from Demerara Waves on January 15, titled, “Jagdeo denies defaming Vincent Alexander over IDPADA-G’s use of State funds for “ordinary Guyanese””. What was claimed in defense was surprising. This is where I stand relative to the VP’s assertions, defenses.
I endorse fully what the Hon. VP said on his behalf; there are no ifs, ands, or buts about this. He is a public figure, and he is entitled to his honest opinion and what he called fair comment. It is his due, and there should be no two ways about what he said. I say this even as I tiptoe around Mr. Alexander’s pending defamation suit against the VP, and offer no comment or position on the merits or demerits of either party in this matter now before the Court; and, hence, sub judice.
But there is a particular point that I wish to make separately to the VP, a former national head, and a figure constantly in the public eye, sometimes not for the most wholesome of reasons. The same standard, the same right, the same Constitutional safeguard that the VP embraces for himself, the exact same right, standard, and safeguard to free, unfettered expression in the public arena also belongs to every single citizen of this society. It should never be lesser, or lower; it should never be interfered with in any manner. Or circumscribed and limited by any slick legalistic posturing and maneuvering, about injuries inflicted and reputational desecrations experienced, which are drummed by all and sundry in efforts to claim harm. Those are crutches relied upon for too long, and too often, by PPP stalwarts, and PPP opportunists, which lack substance and credibility, and are the automatic reaction to hard, sharp comment that I have interpreted to be fair. The Opposition has had its flare-ups, dustups, and bust-ups in this regard, but to a considerably and conspicuously lesser degree. In recent years, more than a few in the PPP have made a nice living on going after people that supposedly offended their dignity and standing via the courts.
My position could not be more unambiguous: once there is an absence of malice, premeditated or otherwise, then what the VP claims for himself (some may say arrogate and adumbrates) is also due to every other citizen of Guyana; and not by one invisible speck less. This is nonnegotiable, and should not be any other way. Most regrettably, what the VP puts out as defenses reeks of the disconnect embedded in his disarming, self-protecting elements. This has not been allowed to other Guyanese, (considered to be enemies of the party and leadership) who have crossed either the VP’s or his people’s paths, when they speak out in honest opinion and fair comment, inclusive of criticisms, no matter how harsh. Once malice is lacking, then such opinion, comment, and criticism are considered natural components of the regular territory. As an aside, I should mention that as a public figure, the rough and tough stuff, the hard blows, will come the VP’s way, and unless he proves actual malice, then he is on shaky ground. In addition, facts and truths also serve as affirmative defenses for those hauled to the courts through suits.
The recent record has been of a slew of libel suits employed, escalated, multiplied, and intensified, with hurt claimed, the afflictions of reputational damage, and character besmirched, among other hypocrisies. I have observed PPP functionaries making a case along those lines to shut people up and suppress them, and make some money while at it. The real underlying reasons have been to muzzle and intimidate those who contradict PPP narratives, aggressions, and abuses. It could be accurately said that the PPP and its operatives have weaponized the law and the Courts transforming both into instruments of legalized terrorism. The naked objectives have been to intimidate into silence, to engage in chronic suppressions, to stifle conscientious dissent, and to subjugate the spirit of those Guyanese differing. Those few bold citizens who see or interpret sensitive matters in a different light than the PPP and its brigade of self-seekers and self-enrichers at the expense of country and citizen are made into examples, with some helpful professionals doing their part.
Nevertheless, it is eye-opening and delightful that the VP has settled for this defense -win, lose, or draw. What he seizes for his honorable personage should be the birthright, copyright, and patented right of every Guyana. Thank you, Dr. VP for opening this necessary door. Hopefully, it signals a new day in the amphitheater of free and fair public expression, honest opinion, principled dissent. In short, what the VP claims and cherishes as a right for himself, cuts both ways, does not exclude any Guyanese, no matter how hostile, how obnoxious, and how detestable they and their public verbal and written offerings may be. They also are entitled.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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