There’s nothing wrong with a politician claiming libel and slander by the media.
But there’s a finesse to it, an articulation that adds credibility to it, that shows why the politician feels that the news organ is saying things that are intended to malign, messaging with malice, tainting the character of the purported victim.
Some of us who follow these things may remember when Prime Minister Forbes Burnham made a contact sport out of suing news organs…winning a small fortune from the New Guyana Company Limited that published the PPP’s Mirror….suing Peter Taylor ’s Argosy … at one time a friend and PRing platform for Forbes and the PNC subsequently, incurring his wrath….
When Forbes articulated why he had to sue these media, he addressed the electorate with a poise we couldn’t dismiss, even if we thought his claims were suggesting a suppression of reporting and a muzzling of freedom of speech. His reasons never sounded like the unsophisticated bar room style brawl we’ve been hearing recently from political buffoons like Donald Trump, America’s candidate for president who wants to revoke freedom of press and much closer to home, the unpresidential, vengeful, crass, threats that Bharrat Jagdeo have mouthed from his guilt-ridden corner when the media exposed his many misdeeds …. still under forensic audit…
So, threats by Ministers of the government to sue media, that seem like a shake down, that issue demands for apologies and threaten deadlines for compliance with an intonation of ‘or else’, come across as actions that carry protracted consequences and for a variety of reasons, could extend all the way to the polls.
It should never be assumed that the electorate is not summing things up. They know that there was/is a contentious relationship between Glen Lall and Brian Tiwari. They know how both have jockeyed for government favor. They know that Harmon, latitude and all, embarrassed President Granger with the Instrument of Appointment as Ministerial Advisor he signed for Brian. They know the general perception of Harmon is that of a man with potential but with a political bad behavior that constantly requires his boss to be on the defensive.
This threat to Kaieteur News is meant to serve a multiplicity of purposes, simultaneously. It Makes Tiwari feel that the full range of his services, pre and post elections, has been well received and is duly appreciated. It also makes him feel that Glen Lall’s media support may have been well received and equally appreciated but not as well and equal as his.
But there are a few political fall outs here, as could be expected of strategy with one dimensional expediency.
The forcefulness of the demand for Kaieteur News to apologize, offer a retraction and make a 13 million donation to the Veterans Foundation is cumbersome on several fronts. Making a donation to the Veterans Foundation doesn’t make the gesture magnanimous, at all. On the contrary, it comes across as insulting to many veterans who feel that their status, acquired because of incomparable service to country, is being exploited for Mr. Harmon’s political gain.
And, maybe his lawyers feel that they can show that Kaieteur News is responsible for collective opinion on Harmon’s – “shady dealings, is unfit to hold Ministerial Office and the Office of the Secretary of the Defence Board; unfit to be Member of Parliament and unfit to hold any other public office….would think that Harmon is corrupt, oppressive and dishonest” – the reasons proffered by his lawyer’s in the filed suit.
But how would they account for the opinions formed outside of Kaieteur News, opinions which seem to be prevailing and many? Yes, it may be a sociological fact that the news helps form opinion and the lawyers need just latch on to this to make their case but they would certainly have to prove that Minister Harmon’s trip to China, every aspect of it, every name on the flight manifest, each line item charge to the country’s treasury for this trip was a figment of Glen Lall’s imagination to make this libel charge stick.
Minister Harmon did give explanations for the “lone photograph” on the Chinese jet and why he ordered the Guyana Revenue Authority to hold off for two weeks before seizing vehicles on which the Chinese had refused to pay taxes. But public opinion of Chinese relationship with government precedes this government’s tenure in office…so he would have to confess that, armed with that knowledge, he should have taken the necessary steps to formally brief the President and the Cabinet – the protocol he said was a prerequisite to meeting with foreign officials on the people’s behalf to discuss investment – or not have the meeting until it was approved by them. By not doing that he breached protocol.. the “code”.
And the public does remember how duly suspicious Minister Harmon was of the Chinese and their relationship to government when he was in the Opposition. They remember how misrepresented they felt under PPP governance when Bai San Lin was given unbridled access to the country’s forests. They remember giving, then, Member of Parliament Harmon credit for helping to unravel the convolution, peeling back the layers that seemed superfluous, existent more to mask than as a matter of operation, bureaucratic layers designed to hide the extent of Chinese involvement in Guyana – from forestry to real estate, to citizenship and importation licenses for a variety of small businesses to flood the market with substandard product.
Now, all this suing and righteous indignation coming from the Ministry of Presidency does the one thing it has been doing since Minister Harmon committed his first post- victory blunder by declaring that he had no apologies to make for the steep pay hike government officials were taking, then went out and began donating his pay hike to select villages to ‘apologize’.
It is showing a hubris that this government should not support, demonstrating a political jeunesse that undermines the strength we know this government possesses and places President Granger in an, almost, perpetual posture of deflection and defense.
Minister Harmon needs urgent image repair.
And, just like demanding a pay hike then donating it to select villages to cover up a political blunder failed to make any significant changes to public perception, suing Kaieteur News and demanding a donation of 13 million to the Veterans’s Foundation to halt the suit fails to make Minister Harmon rank amongst the political noblesse.
Maybe it’s time for this team to seek additional advisors and public relations personnel.
We’re not ready to give up on them just yet.