Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2023, 11:56 by Denis Chabrol
by GHK Lall
Most would agree that the Guyana Energy Conference started off on the wrong foot. In caustic terms: the independent press is not welcome; the free press should not bother to put in an appearance. And when the door is opened, then members of the press, those known characters that trouble the PPP Government, and are feared by it, must ensure that they obey orders, as in following the steps laid out for them. This is what has irked the Guyana Press Association, and with good reason.
I am struggling to appreciate what could be a secret, or so much of a secret, that members of the independent media are barred from the fullest presence, and participation in this conference. Guyana’s energy riches and potential is being showcased to an array of international presences of rank, of prowess, of reputation. There are Prime Ministers present, and we find it necessary to block, however partially, or subtly, the unfettered access and involvement of our independent press. I keep pinpointing independent press, which means non State entities, and does not include other entities favored by the powers of the State. Also, independent does not recognize those who return PPP government press favors granted (in different incentivizing forms) by selling sweet stories to the public; stories that more conceal that reveal.
I recall Prime Ministers in attendance were very visible and vociferous during the bitter 2022 elections stalemates and standoffs. Some of the Prime Ministers present at today’s energy gathering have to be asking themselves, if this is what they lent their energies, their own independence, and their reputations on the line for, viz., this barbarism meted out to the Guyana’s independent press. The locals screeners put in front are just that fronts, and nothing more. It is my position that this energy conference clearly exhibits signs of having some invisible hands, minds, and other muscular attributes. I have difficulty sourcing those powerful components to those stepping up and saying that this is our brainchild, our engagement, and our territory to manage as is wished. There is already too much that gives off a rather deep and suspicious odor. I assure one and all that it is not the perfume of Ralph Lauren, or Chanel.
In the small span of approximately two and a half years ago, those Prime Ministers had free rein to run across the range of Guyana’s fraternal feuds, take up conclusive postures, and say whatever had to be said. It was for free and fair. This cannot be what “free and fair amounts to, not when the matter at hand is an energy conference, and does not involve national security. I should gently inquire of His Excellency President Ali, the host of this star-studded gathering, what could be so confidential about people from across the region and wider latitudes huddled together to discuss oil and gas visions, developments, and prospects, among numerous other matters of burning interest.
If one thing is transparent, it is that what Guyana’s President insists that he is about is nothing but a figment of some hallucination of his, a now standing fiction about the way things are. If this is what is being done to the independent press of Guyana before a gathering of international delegates, then not much is left either to objective reasoning, or the imagination, as to what the true state of certain freedoms is in this country. There are freedoms, then there are shades of them, and shavings of them.
I assert that this is what is at work, when questions for the conference must passthrough a filtering system that lacks credibility, and also recognized for the role that it is assigned and embraced, and now clearly relished. It is rewarding to be that kind of a gatekeeper. That is, to keep out the inconvenient in what is not wished to be addressed; or steer away those making nuisances of themselves (and who have a well-earned local reputation for being combative); or to rearrange and dilute what is likely to provoke alarm in high places in Guyana. Again, I ask this simple question: what is feared? What is there to keep away from the public? Is this what potential foreign investors desire to come here for, and be a part of, while turning their faces, and pretending that all is well? Or that these are domestic matters and, hence, none of their business? I caution that this may not be good for their investment; not when there is a population that increasingly senses that it is being spoon fed or indoctrinated along certain lines, and taken for a ride.
Considering all this, it is appalling that more members of the independent Guyana Press are not kicking up a royal stink. What has happened to their backbones today? Into what dark hole has the independent Guyana press cohort buried principle? Is it only during passionate elections seasons that the entirety of the press crawls out from under the rocks below which it lives? It would have been encouraging to observe all the members of the independent Guyana press bloc standing in solidarity with those barred, even if only one from their ranks. Even if it meant a total press boycott, and a complete news blackout.
I have warned about Stalin and Goebbels and North Korea repeatedly, in apprehensions that Guyana has thick strains of all three present since the return of the PPP to power. The energy conference stands as the resounding confirmation. For the last time: what is there to hide? Fear?