Is the PPP now into Censorship? by Ralph Seeram


MARCH 3, 2013 | BY  | By Ralph Seeram

The phone calls were coming in from powerful people of the day, some abusive, some threatening and some accusing me of being an “enemy of the state”.

The term “enemy of the state” was used against persons who criticized the then PNC government, or took any action that appeared to make the government look bad. It was in the seventies, the height of PNC power where criticizing the PNC meant losing your job.

So what was it that caused the higher up in the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Police force and senior PNC officials to harass me on the phone? I was then working for the then state owned Guyana Broadcasting Service in Berbice, I filed a story that a GDF officer and two of his colleagues were charged for transporting flour, a banned item at the time.   

The army truck was being used to transport dozens of bags of flour and other banned items such as potatoes, onions and sardines. The army truck was used because it was not subject to search at the toll booths along the Corentyne road.

This of course was an embarrassment to the army so when I filed my story, my editor and mentor, the late Cecil Griffith, questioned me whether I was sure, to which I replied that the Army trio just appeared in the Springlands Court before Magistrate Arthur Roberts. He carried the news and “hell broke loose” later in the day the story was dropped from the news at the direction of the political directorate. Whether the facts were true did not matter, it made the government look bad so the story had to be killed. I could cite many instances of censorship by the then PNC government, which was highly criticized by the PPP then in opposition.

One time I filed a story that Guyana had an outbreak of dengue fever. The country had never heard of dengue fever in those days, but a distinguished doctor who by the way was a Rhodes Scholar, Dr. Niamatalli, who experienced outbreaks in Jamaica assured me it was dengue fever.
The Ministry of Health came out “swinging” at the doctor and at the radio station, the story was killed. I spoke again to the doctor about his diagnosis, he assured that he sent samples of blood at his own expense abroad to be tested. True enough the samples came back positive and the Ministry made an about face and launched a health campaign, by then the epidemic was in its waning stage.

Burnham had a great system to control the press, print what you want if you can find newsprint and ink and other printing accessories. For those who are young, the PNC government at the time controlled who can import newsprint etc. and you had to get a licence to import. No newsprint, no paper, it was simple as that.

Now fast forward to this week and Robeson Benn, the PPP Minister of Works, mind you not Information. He was displeased with the lyrics of certain calypsos so he marched down to the Government stations to express his displeasure (to put it mildly) and before you know it the songs were off the air.

According to him they were slanderous and insulting. What is calypso about? It’s mainly about social commentary in a satirical way; it reflects what the ordinary man in the street thinks. If it’s slanderous you can run to the courts as the PPP has been doing recently, if it is insulting, too bad, if you can’t take the heat get off taxpayers’ payroll.

Let me remind Benn and those other PPP ministers who think they are above criticism. You are servants of the Guyanese taxpayers, you are their servants and not the other way around. They pay you to do a job and if they feel you are not performing they have the right to criticize you. If you were in the private sector you would have been fired.

The actions of this Minister can be interpreted as ARROGANT and BULLISH.  The PPP is doing EXACTLY what they accused the PNC of— CENSORSHIP.

Recently a friend who is close to the upper echelons of the PPP told me that I was “ knocking the PPP hard” in my recent columns. Well my interest is not with the PPP, PNC/APNU or AFC, my interest is with the Guyanese public.

How can you not criticize the PPP; it keeps falling over itself; it has a public relations nightmare. Starting with the road to the hydro falls with Fip Motilall, to the more recent Chinese television and the Marriott project.

The Marriot fiasco however takes the cake. How many explanations have the Guyanese workers been given justifying why no Guyanese workers are employed at the Marriott construction site? It all boils down to this— Guyanese workers are lazy, unskilled.

One idiotic official of the PPP government even went so far as to inject race into the issue.
This week the Chinese construction company came out with its version of why Guyanese workers are not employed at the Marriott hotel site. They should have kept their mouth shut, because they only piled on the insult to the Guyanese labor force.

Yes, the job called for “highly skilled workers” that can only be found in China; yes, these foreigners have the nerve to imply that the workers are illiterate, so unskilled that they can’t, use a hammer, a drill, sweep the floor, pick up garbage, load of fetch materials, use a drill, screw a bolt, climb a ladder, mix or spread cement and the list can go on.

My blood boils with anger over this situation, these Chinese companies think Guyanese are imbeciles. I wonder whom they think constructed all the buildings in Guyana. I can point to one project that those “highly skilled Chinese” built— the Skeldon sugar factory. After a quarter of a billion United States dollars and three years running it still can’t function right. Now we have to get the South Africans to correct the shoddy work of those”highly skilled Chinese”.

Suppression of information is another form of censorship. The government has been using taxpayers’ dollars on this Marriott project but had bluntly refused to disclose who else is investing in the project. What is the big secret?

There should be no secrets where taxpayers’ dollars are involved. I can assure you that if situation had occurred here in the US quite a few people would be sitting in prison.

Ralph Seeram can be reached at email:

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  • Cyril Balkaran  On March 4, 2013 at 9:23 am

    In the 21st Century, Freedom of the Press is of paramount Importance and as the media houses grow bigger and better able to diseminate information in every nook and corner of this global village, Governments better watch how they perform and shape up as the world of 1930 is not the same as that of 1960 and 1980 or even 2000 and now 2013! The logic of Governments and Ministers are based on Egos of the personalities that we call Ministers and Prime Ministers! The word cooperation with the media houses is a necessary evil. We must tell our stories as we are the history makers and news makers on a day to day basis.
    The Tyranny of Forbes is understandable but this does not mean that the PPP must engage its Constituents in the same way as Forbes did. We have fought for our Freedoms and the Carter Foundation has helped us to reach where we are today so let us preserve our DEMOCRACY and Mr Benn must assist us to do so also. The Price of FREEDOM is always High and we must not let any POLITICIAN take that away from us!

  • Cyril Balkaran  On March 4, 2013 at 9:30 am

    The Marriott debacle must come to an end. There must be some percentage of the local Labour force that can be engaged in the support services on the ground as this hotel is under going construction. An amendment to the original agreement is what is need to bring on the Guyanese Technical and non technical labour Forces. This does not require a Parliamentary majority!

  • de castro  On March 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    A free press is as or even more important in today’s democracies
    ..and more so is a strong opposition in parliament.
    …a government is as strong as its opposition…
    The free press allows for opinions to be expressed…
    It is for the public to decide who to believe/follow.

    Impartiality in publication is best judged by its
    Readers,….we must read/listen to both sides
    Before our decisions …rationality.

    We are dependant on freedom of information in order
    To make rational judgements politically…politicians
    Suppress this freedom at their peril…the ballot box
    is our decision…to select/de-select.
    On the above subject it is for the employers to
    act under public/media pressure and do the right thing…

    When completed hopefully most if not all jobs will
    be for Guyanese…
    Forever the optimist !


  • deen  On March 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I’m a strong proponent for a frree press and free speech. The fundamentals of a democracy is free speech and free press. However, we must not abuse these rights by deliberately promoting slander, lies, or pernicious and libelous material.
    With regard to the Marriot issue, I think Guyanese workers have the skills and ability to be qualify to do construction work and should be included in the construction. The Chinese should not be allowed to dictate and exclude Guyanese from the project……perhaps in China, but not in Guyana. How can the Guyana government allow this?

  • Eileen Russell  On March 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Russell…NYC : My fellow Guyanese wake up….today it is the Marriot construction….next it will be the entire country…..China is what we know as the sleeping giant…their whole plan is to take over as many countries as is will allow them to…WAKE UP…it is almost morning.

  • Eileen Russell  On March 5, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Russell:= Moderation of comment—Guyanese must be included in the construction of the Marriot…We are all intelligent persons who, excel in many fields…..we are also eager to learn a new skill especially if there is a good wage attached….We have to be vigilant and be involved in every aspect of construction in the development of Guyana, whether it be Hotels or warehouses. Guyana should always belong to Guyanese.. We cannot go to China and build anything with only Guyanese workers..It is something to think about.

  • pabloq65  On April 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for finally writing about >Is the PPP now
    into Censorship? by Ralph Seeram | Guyanese Online <Liked it!

  • gobin  On September 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    amm, why do we need a Marriott in Guyana?
    Why are the streets filthy in Georgetown?
    Why can’t the garbage be picked up?
    Why don’t major airlines fly to Guyana?
    Why does it cost so much to get to Guyana?
    Where are these tourists going to come from to fill the Marriott?
    Why so many tiefmen and soup drinkers in Government?
    Why so many young clueless CEOs, Ministers and Directors in Guyana?

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