By David Hinds
In a recent interview with the Guyana Times (March 26, 2017), the AFC General Secretary, Marlon Williams, boasts about Guyana being a “beautiful” democracy. But there is nothing democratically beautiful about removing independent voices from the state-owned newspaper. And Mr. Williams cannot not know of the direct and indirect role AFC leaders played in removing me and Lincoln Lewis from the Chronicle.
We are now reliably informed that a senior AFC Minister has over time been raising at the Cabinet the issue of Hinds and Lewis columns. It was that same Minister who gave the instructions to the Editor-in-Chief to axe the columns. The to add insult to injury, two top AFC members, Sherod Duncan and Geeta Chandan-Edmond voted at the Board level to rubber stamp the decision, citing the legal right of the Editor in Chief to make the decision. Whether Duncan and Chandan-Edmond knew they were rubber-stamping a political decision is not known, but It would take a lot of convincing to assure me that did not know. I hereby challenge the AFC to deny this version of events.
The Chronicle and the rest of the State Media are controlled by the AFC as part of the distribution of spoils after the election. The Prime Minister has direct oversight of this sector. He is a journalist by profession, but we have not heard a single word from him on this matter. The AFC, as a party, has not said a single word. The AFC has from time to time hinted that is being shortchanged by APNU within the government. It is hypocritical to complain of being bullied when you engage in similar behaviour in areas where you exercise authority.
Days before receiving the letter from the Editor-in Chief, I had been tipped off that the column would be discontinued and who were behind the move. I learnt that the EIC was tortured by the situation, but he had no choice in the matter. Armed with that information, I wrote to him asking for an explanation regarding the non-publication of the column for two consecutive weeks. It was then that he sent the letter informing me of the decision. We now know that he did so without the knowledge of the Board.
What should be known is that in addition to my column, I have written scores of editorials for the newspaper, most of them complimentary to the government. That they dispensed with the column while wanting to retain my services as an editorial writer speaks volumes about the mindset—they cannot stand my criticisms but are comfortable with my writings that sanitize them.
I always knew that my independent stances were causing concern among government ministers–some of them have told me directly. I often wondered why they are so uneasy about self-critique. What is it about us that we cannot deal sensibly with dissent. Despite, the uneasiness, I remained at the Chronicle as a matter of principle. I took the position that they must shove me out and prove to Guyana who they really are. And true to the tradition of Guyanese leadership culture, they have done just that. What a shame!
The PNC section is being blamed for what was executed by the AFC. But the public utterings of the party’s General Secretary, suggest that they have no problem with the action—a case of the AFC doing the dirty job for them. One must ask if a government is prepared to encourage that kind of behavior towards a coalition member, how would they behave towards presumed enemies. There is something very ugly about government leaders stifling free expression and still preach about the beauty of democracy.
For me, my lifelong struggle for a better Guyana continues. My voice will not be silenced. I will continue to speak back to power and the powerful and challenge them to do better. I am determined that this government must break the cycle of authoritarian governance. In this regard, I am inspired by the words of our national poetic voice and conscience, Martin Carter:
No I will not still my voice/
I have too much to claim …
if you see me
looking at your hands
listening when you speak
marching in your ranks
you must know
I do not sleep to dream,
but dream to change the world.
Professor Hinds is a Political Science Lecturer in the United States and Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance