by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 01 July 2007)
I have heard politicians say some low-down things. I have heard politicians lie and I have seen politicians dodge the truth to save their own rears. However, I have never heard a politician insult her/his own people the way that Prime Minister Samuel Hinds did to the people of Guyana this past week.
According to a Stabroek News article from June 27, the Prime Minister said, “You have a dynamic situation and it is changing and evolving so maybe we may not be ready for radio and maybe when radio gets going there may be some excesses and abuses but one would hope that it would be constrained.”
The Prime Minister of Guyana actually had the gall to tell the nation that they “may not be ready for radio.” You have got to be kidding me. What impudence!
Guyana is not ready for privatised radio stations? How so? Is Mr. Hinds saying the people of Guyana cannot handle the responsibility of freedom of expression on the radio waves? Does the government think so little of the people to make such a statement? How utterly pitiable.
Could it be that it is the PPP that may not be ready for radio? Perhaps it is the government that cannot handle the idea of putting so much responsibility into the hands of the people by allowing them to have full access to the most modern aspects of freedom of expression through the radio waves.
In the Guyana Chronicle’s version of the Prime Minister’s statements, it reported, “According to the Prime Minister, there is no monopoly in television because when this government came into office, TV was open and it allowed it to remain that way.”
The government allowed television to stay open? Oh, isn’t that just so benevolent of them? They allowed the people to have an avenue by which to express their thoughts. I suppose they probably allowed the newspapers to remain open too.
Funny, I thought the government was the one serving the people. This feels oddly like it is the people who are doing the bidding of the government.
The issue of the government monopoly of the radio waves has been going on for far too long. Hinds himself, while giving the history of broadcast legislation, talked about the beginnings of this issue in 1994. That is 13 years ago! And yet still today the monopoly continues?
Still today there is no consensus on broadcast legislation? Still today – in 2007 – the PPP has yet to relent its control on radio broadcasting and allow the Guyanese the right to use their own radio waves?
The Stabroek News article also noted, “[Hinds] later told reporters that the issue of broadcast legislation was a sensitive topic and one on which the government has been unable to gain consensus in the nation. However, he said it was a process in which every citizen could be involved.”
It is at times like this that I wished with everything inside me that I lived in Guyana. I would march straight to the street and start talking to every person I came across and ask whether they wanted more radio stations – privatised radio stations - or if they were happy with the current situation.
I would bet money right here and now that nearly every single person would demand more radio stations that are not government controlled. If Samuel Hinds wants a consensus on this issue, perhaps he should do just that. Ask the people!
You know, the ones who the government has vowed to serve. The ones who pay Samuel Hinds salary. Oh, and the ones Hinds thinks may not be able to handle the responsibility of freedom of expression on the radio waves.
But this situation is not about the people or what they want. This is about the government and what it wants. It is afraid of what would happen if the people were actually allowed to broadcast over the radio waves. What would they say? Whom would they support? Whom would they critique?
Even Thomas Jefferson, a US president who faced more critical press than any president in recent times, said, “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn't hesitate to choose the latter.”
For once, I wish the PPP would comprehend that this whole thing is not about them. This is not about their survival in the next term. This is not about political manoeuvring. This is not about their fat wallets or nice houses. This is about the people of Guyana.
It is not important if the PPP is around in ten years time. What is important is that Guyana is around. For once, I would like to see the PPP put the people of Guyana ahead of their own selfish agenda.
The 13-year-stalled broadcast legislation is nothing more than a manifestation of the PPP’s fears of what would happen if the people were able to open their mouths and say what they truly feel about the government on the radio waves.
I do not give a rip about the fears of the PPP. Their selfish agenda means nothing to me. In fact, it makes me sick. All that matters is that the people are the ones in control of the nation – not a handful of elitists who withhold from the people what is rightfully theirs to enjoy.
When a politician has the audacity to stand up and condescendingly tell his fellow countrymen that they “may not be ready for radio” when the rest of the world seems to be able to handle the radio waves just fine, it is an insult to the intelligence of the entire nation and a betrayal of the good will that put him in office in the first place. And it makes me sick.
Can you handle that, Mr. Hinds?