Jan 17, 2018  Features / ColumnistsFreddie Kissoon 

President Granger is certainly not incapable of understanding how dialectically connected is the exercise of power to all the veins of a society. State power has a presence in every sector of public life. Even in the private realms of citizens’ existence state power intrudes. Such is the nature of the world.
When the president exhorted the Guyana Press Association to discipline erring journalists he said nothing unusual, nothing out of the ordinary. If the media does not regulate itself, it invites the State to intervene. That has far reaching consequences. It would be best, then, for the journalistic community to compose and carry its own mechanism of obligations to society.
But even if the press refuses to walk in that direction, there are redresses available, one of which is extremely common in Guyana more than other countries – the act of litigation. The most depraved human with an extensive criminal track record is willing to sue the press. Guyana produced a spectacle for the world to see when a former GPL manager, wanted in Guyana for a serious criminal offence and hiding out somewhere in the world, sued this newspaper for billions of dollars.
Having urged the media to make its defaulting members accountable, it is only logical for the citizenry to expect the president to do the same in his sphere of operation – government. The president has enormous authority as anyone can see from just a glimpse of the constitution. Under the 1980 Constitution, the Executive President has more power over Cabinet members than the Prime Minister did in the 1966 constitution.
The President then can intervene in literally countless situations to make his servants of government accountable and to punish them for wrongdoings. It stands to reason, then, that if the head of state would like to see a responsible media community, the population expects him to administer a state machinery in which power is practised with legal and moral decency.
His comments on the media now obligate him to ensure servants of the nation are disciplined when they commit abominable transgressions. There are endless situations where Mr. Granger is expected to intervene. It burdens the commentator to know where to start. But we can begin the discourse with the president with a member of the media itself.
Claudette Fredericks, the mother of a man shot to death by a member of the city police is a practising media operative. She once worked at this newspaper.
freddie-kissoon-300x273She told the media that after her son was arrested by the city constabulary, she asked for the specifics of the alleged crime(s) he committed but was not given any clear details. Is this the way the city constabulary is run by the Georgetown City Council whose administration is controlled by a party that is headed by the President himself? The son was shot dead in the presence of his mother and the ambulance took one hour to come.
President Granger who just advised the press association to discipline its erring members should put himself inside the mind of Ms. Fredericks. In the 21st century, a citizen is arrested, is in custody and his mother cannot get the details of his alleged crimes. That is utter nonsense. Once he is booked, a paper trail is then formed. His mother or his father or his wife or his lawyer must be told why he is in custody.
Let Mr. Granger tell me, a long standing media activist, how much the police force under his presidency has changed in terms of observance of the rights of accused and adherence to strict police protocol. Mr. Granger cannot escape his responsibility in the context of his advice to the press association. But let us stick with Mr. Granger’s party control of the City Council.
Mr. Granger is one of those politicians who told the nation that the long-awaited local government elections will usher in an era of local government democracy. It hasn’t at the Georgetown municipality. I am asking the President if he doesn’t see a corrective role for him in the breakdown of discipline in an area of local power where his party is in charge.
What is the president’s balance sheet on disciplining leaders and administrators of the Georgetown City Council?
Is President Granger comfortable with the way the parking meter contract originated? Does he believe that such an important document should have been signed by only three of his party’s councillors? If the answer is no, then as party leader what disciplinary procedures were applied? Some advice to the President – don’t let those words to the press association come back to haunt you. Maybe they will.