by Rakesh Rampertab

What do Rakesh Rampertab, Mr. Vic Puran, Dr. Walter Ramsahoye, Mr. Annan Boodram, Mr. G.H.K. Lall, and others like Dr. Cheddi “Joey” Jagan, Jr., have, more or less, in common? They are all regarded (by the PPP) as anti-government critics and as such, cannot see their views in the supposed “state-owned” Chronicle. Perhaps there is a list, possibly headed by the names Ravi Dev and Ryhaan Shah, the ultimate archvillains. Those who like to claim that Mr. Frederick Kissoon is the only critic of the PPP, like Mr. David Hinds, should remember what they have read here.

Over the past few years, I have admittedly been a bit luckier than some of the mentioned gentlemen, with the Chronicle. In fact, on numerous occasions, the Chronicle published my letters that Stabroek News refused. While we all have our bad “letter” days, I once had 5 consecutive letters suppressed by SN. Yes, five. Those who claim SN is too lenient, may want to recognize this.

Surprisingly, Mr. Frederick Kissoon, despite his criticism of the PPP, still gets his views in the Chronicle. His long, sensational piece on the Black militants-gunmen was a hit for them. He once complained that SN suppressed some of his letters; e.g., one responding to PNC front man, Mr. Deryck Bernard. (Mr. Kissoon believed that SN has, if I may say, a soft spot for the PNC figure.) I am tempted to agree with him, because I also had a vital response to Mr. Bernard dropped by SN. I believe that Mr. Bernard was very fortunate that day.

But Mr. Kissoon also got his share of protection from SN. The paper did not print a letter of mine, and response, to one of Mr. Kissoon’s letters on VS Naipaul. In it I detailed six “literary” reasons why Naipaul matters. SN allowed one trained in politics to judge a literary figure, but refused one trained in literature to do likewise. It is such things that often frustrate us “young people,” the absence of commonsense in common criticism. Fortunately, the Chronicle printed my letter. I suppose I am indebted to the Chronicle, but this does not mean that I regard it as a “state-owned” enterprise. In practice, it seems more like party-owned or, to be specific, PPP-owned.

Regardless, if the Chronicle is interested in improving “its” position, whatever that position is, it must open its door. One of the reasons for it losing sales over the past three years is its policy of excess censorship (which no one was honest enough to mention at its last annual “Board” meeting). Ironically, some people now refer to the Chronicle as “Burnham” paper, a reference to its PNC-propaganda days. It sounds odd, but for two parties with the same origin, the reputation of the Chronicle is where the PPP and PNC become one again.

Let’s forget about the general pro-PPP coverage of regular news and substandard and often irrelevant editorials momentarily. The heavy presence of pro-government letters (and anti-GIHA, etc.) instead of serious, positive, and fertile criticism of the PPP in the Chronicle, has created a terrifying tradition of propaganda, which serves to keep PPP supporters uninformed and misinformed. And, as is natural, it is the civilians without information who often become violated first when trouble comes.

I believe we can do without letter columns where unreal and real names like Sabrina Edwards and Elizabeth Reid (and some that are strangely half-Christian, half-Muslim/Hindu), have done almost as much psychological damage to the reading population as criminals recently. In this letter column, anything that embarrasses the government such as the recent NACTA poll is likely to receive a counterattack. (All of a sudden, PPP loyalists have become poll experts, talking about how the poll was not scientific enough etc., not to mention wrongly accusing Mr. Bisram of being a ROAR man [and what exactly is wrong with being a ROAR supporter again?]). These Miguel Street characters and their sickening letters prove that once politics fails, language also suffers.

[Editor’s Note: Published in Stabroek News (SN) in September 2003. Three days after its publication, the acting editor-in-chief, Mr. Calder responded saying that the Chronicle does have an open-door policy, blaming a faulty E-mail address as the reason for many letters not being published. What the Chronicle has to understand, is that by refusing certain people, it forces us to publish our views at SN, and this has over time, made SN become very powerful. As it is, SN has too much power in the media circuit.]

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September 2003
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