Eyewitness: Chilling effect…


…of Granger’s libel suit

Now we know why Granger had converted his Pearl home into a bunker – reminiscent of the one Hitler had holed up in at the end of WWII – the Führerbunker – as the Allied troops closed in on Berlin. In our scenario, defeat was also staring Granger in the face as, one by one, his moves to keep his dreams of ruling Guyana crumbled. Both election petitions are gone for channa; his choice of the banal Harmon as his surrogate Leader of the Opposition (LOO) backfired; challenges to his leadership have come from within and without and so on and so forth!

What to do? What had his army training taught him? Well, he could’ve gone back to WWI and dug in behind trenches. Or create his own Maginot Wall to keep out the attackers. Or, as he just did, just bunker down and plan a counterattack. After nine months of gestating, he seems to have finished planning and has now launched his counterattack: the $2.6 billion libel suit against Kit Nascimento and three private newspapers who published the former’s letters giving his opinion on Granger’s shenanigans.

Now your Eyewitness isn’t going to get into the merits or demerits (a larger target) of his case, since the matter might be considered sub judice. What he’d rather do is comment on what the lawsuit reveals about Granger’s position on the fundamental democratic principle of free speech. After all, this is a man who studied journalism in the US – courtesy of a scholarship issued by the American Government! And did this when he was quite long in the tooth, three decades after his army career began!

So you’d think he wouldn’t have treated the stint as a frat party and would’ve paid attention to the lessons on free press, journalism and their relationship with Governments. The first lesson, of course, is that it’s a fundamental premise of the free press to view Governments with a (very) jaded eye. And always assume they’re out to hold on to and buttress their power and the devil take the people who put them in office.

He’d have learnt that to protect this value, the press has the right of “fair comment” when it comes to writing about public figures. Formally it’s a “common law defence [that] guarantees the freedom of the press to express statements on matters of public interest, as long as the statements are not made with ill will, spite, or with the intent to harm the plaintiff”.

No matter how harsh, wasn’t Nascimento merely concerned about democracy in Guyana – a matter of “public interest – rather than “spiting” Granger?

But Granger, like Burnham, can’t brook criticism and will use the jackboot to quash it!

…on electoral reform

When discussing “electoral reform” in Guyana, we’re really talking about either rectifying the PNC’s corruption of the electoral system or plugging holes in it to prevent them from rigging elections! It all started in 1968, of course, when Burnham decided to dump his coalition partner – the United Force of D’Aguiar – and rule unencumbered. The US declassified files from that era tell that sordid tale. And there are reports from international observers that denounce their electoral larceny in 1973, 1980, and 1985. The most apt one being “More crooked than barbed wire”!

So when Harmon expresses “concerns” about the International Republican Institute (IRI) offering its assistance to the Government to implement the electoral reform it had promised, you know there’s more in the mortar than the pestle! And what’s in the mortar is the PNC’s knowledge that after its shameless and blatant rigging attempt last year, it has a snowball’s chance of surviving in hell to get back in power via elections!
Hence his “concerns”!

…of the COVID-19 numbers

Never mind the announcement of nine deaths from COVID-19 might’ve been from a slip-up in reporting. No matter how we slice it or dice it, our COVID death rate is heading towards a crisis inflection point.
Lockdown, anyone?