Friday, November 18, 2005

The mind is infinite - Freddie Kissoon

Here's Freddie's column from today's Kaieteur News addressing the "Gang of Three" and their Parliamentary seats. Start here for my columns on this issue.
The Kaieteur News and the Stabroek News have taken an editorial position on the Gang of Three – Khemraj Ramjattan, Raphael Trotman and Sheila Holder.

Both papers feel that these three parliamentarians should resign from the House. Kaieteur News columnist, Stella Ramsaroop, is on the same wavelength.

There have been three letters in the newspapers calling for the resignations, but we don't know if these are ghost letters written by people with an agenda.

Let's manoeuvre our way through this jungle to see if in fact we are in a jungle. To date, there has been no outpouring from real people and established organisations about the parliamentary status of the Gang of Three.

The Kaieteur News and the Stabroek News have not cited the attitude of the Guyanese people on this issue - quite rightfully so, because no survey has been done to ascertain how the Guyanese people stand on these parliamentarians.

Let's start with Stella Ramsaroop. I have patience with Stella because Stella means well.

But Stella isn't doing well when it comes to arguing her cases in the university of the street. She seeks comfort in a very fragile kingdom.

Two weeks ago she put me in the docks and demanded that I answer her question in legal monosyllables – should they resign, Freddie, yes or no? I wasn't in the docks because I refused for anyone to put me there.

I wrote back to tell Stella that life is not as simple as she makes it out to be. Fundamental principles of morality cannot be answered in monosyllables.

I quoted from some of the greatest minds in human knowledge to adumbrate a philosophical complication that prevents a ‘yes' or ‘no' answer. But she would have none of it. She fell back on a level of hackneyed argumentation of which I know she is capable of rising far above.

She simply said to me that my philosophical explanation said nothing. But that is an old, worn-out stratagem.

Anyone could read your dissertation then, in order to mask their self-opinionated stance, exclaim: “Your defence was long and learned, but it said nothing.”

I have heard that banal expression countless times in my long university career.

Stella Ramsaroop has a second flaw in her presentation. She speaks for the Guyanese people. She quotes the feeling, disappointment and frustration of the Guyanese people, about what the Gang of Three is doing.

Well, I live in Guyana in a working class district. I work at an important institution. I travel around Georgetown. I am not seeing this feeling among the Guyanese people that Stella has discerned.

On the contrary, the people I have spoken to are so fed up with the PPP and PNC that they want Ramjattan and Trotman to remain in Parliament.

I don't know if Stella did one of those surveys that NACTA comes to Guyana to do. If so, then I think she should let us know the results.

The third weakness in Stella's discourse is that she presents no argument for the reason she gave why they should resign. She said it is not morally right. That is fine. Well, tell us why?

This is where I have answered the question with an argument.

Stella then said your argument said nothing. Well, let's hear your moral reasoning, Stella. Do not keep lamenting that it is morally wrong to retain the seats. Tell us why that is so.

We come to the position of the Kaieteur News. The paper accepts that there are no strong legal grounds that should compel the Gang of Three to leave Parliament.

This is the way the KN editorial put it yesterday.

“Although their refusal …might not breach the laws of the land, that does not mean their stand is principled.” So law is out of the question. Morality becomes the issue here.

Let's quote that KN editorial again. “If any of these representatives leaves the party, that person no longer represents the interests of the elected party and automatically ceases to represent the electors who voted for that party.”

There are serious moral complications in this argument. On the surface, it looks good. A guy is elected on the list of party AA.

He leaves party AA and joins party BB. It sounds morally good if you ask him to vacate his seat and let party BB give him one of theirs, and let party AA choose whom they want to have to replace him.

But there are deeper meanings to ethical choices. I tried to show Stella this by using the arguments of Immanuel Kant on morals. I will not return to that route, but let's explore the moral foundations of the issues.

Why can't Ramjattan and Khemraj postulate that the two major parties no longer represent the interests of the electors?

Within the framework of the contract theory of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, the ruling party has violated the social contract therefore Ramjattan has a right to rebel.

Ramjattan should not give up his seat because he embodies the covenant of the social contract and not his original party.

Take security; all three social contract theorists (yes, surprisingly, including Hobbes) have agreed that the subject can break the social contract if their security is not provided for.

The state in Guyana cannot provide security. Why then should Ramjattan's argument for retaining his seat not be considered in the light of this revelation?

There are more arguments and again Kant would be useful here, but let's leave him out this time. Let's visit the position of the World Council of Churches (WCC) when that body decided to give money to the ANC of South Africa and freedom fighters in Rhodesia before it became independent Zimbabwe.

The criticism that greeted this decision was that these groups used violence to attain their goals. The WCC retorted that the violence was used to achieve a higher goal – freedom.

Could this moral justification be linked to the abortion issue? A woman aborts the unborn child because she fears for her health. Isn't a higher goal involved here?

Why can't it be argued that the PPP and PNC have lost moral legitimacy, therefore both Ramjattan and Trotman are serving the moral good of the electors by staying in Parliament and fighting for a higher goal?

The arguments are not simple. The mind is infinite. It can come up with moral defenses for the Gang of Three that are as strong as the opposing ones.

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