Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What am I afraid of, Stella? - Freddie Kissoon

Here's Freddie's column today:
Stella Ramsaroop in her KN column yesterday entitled: “Why is Freddie acting like the PPP?” expresses dismay and chagrin at what she interprets as my deliberate avoidance of any analysis of the ongoing Roger Khan drama, from the time it started until the Americans applied rendition measures and snatched him away.

Stella ponders a question and comes up with an answer. I quote her: “Could it be that Freddie is afraid of what the mighty US might think if he says a cross word or two against them?”

I know a majority of people who read this column would not have perused all my columns from 1988 until now. Furthermore, I don't think my readers would have been acquainted with all of the daily articles for this newspaper. So, Stella, I would like to bring to your attention a dimension of my life as a columnist and a commentator in which I stand alone without a comparison. I have been the only opinion-maker in this country that writes a column under my name and have been critical of the US Embassy when that Embassy has offended the dignity of Guyanese.

I am assuming that when you refer to me being afraid of the Americans you really mean the US Embassy here, since the US Department of State would get their information about Guyanese writers and Guyanese academics from the US Embassy in Georgetown . I am assuming also that you are specifically referring to the Roger Khan drama because, as an academic, I have written many critiques of US foreign policy at international conferences and as a newspaper columnist. Which Third World scholar has not criticised US behaviour around the world?

I am not afraid to speak my mind, Stella. It is a genetically driven condition. One day it may undo me, but that is the life I know, and I will stick with it.

No other commentator both in the electronic media and in the print media has ever voiced any criticism or shown annoyance at something the US Embassy has done to individuals in this country.

They are simply fearful that if they do that they may have a visa problem. In all fairness to the US Embassy here, I don't think they will do that. I am sure Glenn Hanoman and Vic Puran will faster get an American visa than many applicants.

I have done several columns of hurtful attitude by the US Embassy against particular individuals, and I was not afraid to write what I believed in.

I remember way back in the eighties when I was a weekly columnist for the Stabroek News, I penned a piece entitled: “Who can get an American visa?”

It was done after legitimate applicants complained bitterly to me at how they were treated.

One person told me they lived in the US for four years as a student, then returned home. That person then applied for a visitor's visa but was turned turn on the basis that they would not return. That didn't make sense since the person had all the opportunity in the world to stay in the US .

We had a case where a UG student was given two consecutive visas while on exchange programmes. The third year the visa was refused. Again this didn't make sense because that student had enough time to remain in the US illegally

Last year, I did a column voicing deep frustration at the US Embassy for denying visas to seven children from the School of the Nations on a student exchange visit to Puerto Rico , even though the parents were not accompanying the kids. In another article, I chided the US Embassy for refusing a young woman from seeing her dying mother in New York .

I remember in that composition I mentioned the nonsense we have to put up with here in Guyana with Oprah Winfrey.

If that person was denied a visa by the Cubans or Venezuelans to see her mom in New York , it would have been all over the news.

I went on to state that people like Winfrey show us the plight of sick people in the US that need a new kidney or a new lung, but if you have the very same ailment in Guyana, chances of getting a visa to seek treatment in the US will be a remote possibility if you cannot show millions of dollars, even though your family will provide for you.

These aspects of my writings you are not familiar with, Stella. No other commentator in Guyana will go in that direction. They fear for their visa.

I hope I have managed to convince you, Stella, that I am not intimidated when it comes to expressing my feelings on wrong-doing, even if it involves the US Embassy. So why would I be scared to write on Roger Khan because I dread a negative reaction from the US ?

My life doesn't work that way, Stella. I did refer to Khan in several articles of mine. Then two Sundays ago, I demonstrated my understanding of what Khan stood for and the role of Winston Felix.

I guess you missed that one, Stella. I also did two articles on the rendition treatment Khan received. Rendition is illegal in international law.

Now, Stella, there are a lots of things you need to know about your adopted country, Guyana .

Let's start with the guy you like to poke fun at - Robert Persaud. When Joey Jagan threatened to slap me, only two organisations denounced that attack on the free press - my own newspaper and the Guyana Press Association. Robert Persaud told the media that he couldn't comment because he wasn't there.

I will add nothing further on that asinine response. The Stabroek News was totally silent. You can't look me in the eyes, Stella, and tell me you don't know why.

Because it was Freddie Kissoon, a guy that on many occasions has exposed the Stabroek for unprofessional journalism.

What is my point, Stella? Independent writers in this country have to tread carefully when we write on the drug trade and other sensitive matters.

Do you think, Stella, the PPP and PNC will mourn if I am hurt?

I am sure you know the answer. This is Guyana , Stella. I cannot answer your questions on why I am not writing on Roger Khan because you have to be more specific.

Tell me what aspects of this tragi-comedy you would like me to reflect on, and I will gladly oblige if I can. What motifs of the Roger Khan intrigue you want me to touch on? Tell me quickly.

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