SN should publish Bisram’s polls as a regular news item

Dear Editor,

I write to in relation to Frederick Kissoon’s missive that ‘SN should make a decision on Bisram’ (SN, August 18) and advocate that you publish the man’s polls as regular news items in the same way you published the polls of Dick Morris and Peter Wickham (Cadres).  The findings of the NACTA poll were on target, reflecting the actual outcome of elections in Guyana. The polls of Morris and Wickham were not reflective of reality and were still published by SN and the election of 2006 proved Morris wrong and Bisram right. For Kissoon, it is okay to publish the fraud of other pollsters but not the authentic findings of Bisram’s polls. Mr Kissoon’s real problem that is he can’t stand the success rate of the NACTA polls in predicting the outcome of all the Guyana elections and as such he has been on a mission for years to discredit the man, his polls and NACTA.

Mr Bisram has been employed as a teacher since 1985 and prior to that worked at CCNY where I was also employed. Mr Kissoon tried to make trouble for Mr Bisram by contacting the school’s principal (about two years ago) telling him he was looking for information. This was after it was repeatedly confirmed that Bisram had been employed as a teacher. Dozens of people confirmed in SN and KN that Mr Bisram is among the longest-serving teachers in the system. The issue of Bisram’s employment was long settled by SN and Ms Anna Benjamin, and at any rate has no relationship to his polls. Mr Bisram’s employment should never have entered into any discussion.  Bisram never claimed affiliation of his polls with his employment. Why does Mr Kissoon bring this up again and again; what is the motive? There is nothing manifestly false about the man’s employment and SN was able to verify his employment status. Why then does SN allow those disproved comments to be published? Freedom of the press does not give someone the right to pen lies or incorrect information.  And SN has an ethical duty to edit out false statements from a letter.

Mr Kissoon refers to the polls as phantom. I can attest the polls were/are genuine. I travelled with Mr Bisram and Dr Baytoram Ramharack on numerous occasions to conduct polls in Guyana, Tobago, Trinidad, etc. Other teachers also accompanied us. Ravi Dev also moved around with us in Guyana for the TRPI polls. On at least one occasion, Mr Kissoon showed up in front of UG library where we met with interviewers (responding to an ad placed in SN) and distributed questionnaires to them to canvass opinions on issues including how they planned to vote. Mr Kissoon disparaged our questionnaire and made all kinds of strange criticisms.  Like Dr Ramharack, Mr Bisram used mostly his own funds to finance the TRPI and NACTA polls including paying the interviewers. Those of us who us travelled with Bisram and Ramharack paid our own way, including for accommodation and meals throughout Guyana. At times, peoples hosted us in their homes and we are extremely grateful to them – on the Essequibo Coast, West Coast, Georgetown, East Coast, Corentyne, etc. For their privacy and own security, we will not identify them but they know who they are. They were gracious hosts.

Mr Mike Persaud, himself a teacher, travelled with Mr Bisram on at least two occasions and travelled separately on other occasions and made assessments reflecting the findings of the polls.  Mr Persaud can comment on whether he saw Mr Bisram utilize canvassers when he accompanied the pollsters to conduct polls. So the polls can’t be phantom.

With regard to NACTA, the organization was the brainchild of Dr Latchman Narine, one of the unsung heroes of the free and fair elections liberation movement, and myself. Mr Bisram and others contributed financially to it as did Dr Narine and myself. It was I who insisted that Mr Bisram do polls under the NACTA acronym to give our organization publicity and credibility because of his popularity as a community worker in New York . Over the years, we organized lectures and public forums on a variety of issues. We constantly donated supplies for educational institutions in Guyana and other countries. In addition, Mr Bisram, himself, made financial contributions to educational institutions in Guyana. I know for a fact he donated financially and distributed educational supplies to underprivileged students in Africa, India, Cambodia, Vietnam and other parts of Asia.

All of Mr Kissoon’s claims have been disproved. Mr Bisram’s employment has been ascertained. His polls are authentic, not fiction like the claims of Mr Kissoon. I cannot understand why a credible and professional paper like SN allows itself to be intimidated by Mr Kissoon and why the paper continues to pay attention to the nonsense spouted by him.

Yours faithfully,
Vassan Ramracha

1. Stabroek News did not carry the results of the Dick Morris poll on the same basis as we did Bisram’s poll in 2006. Apart from anything else, we ourselves had commissioned the latter and published all the relevant details in relation to it, in conformity with the Media Code of Conduct. The Morris poll, in contrast, came out of a press conference in July 2006, and we undermined the declared results by reporting then Editor, Mr Anand Persaud as saying that the poll did not meet the criteria of the Media Code of Conduct and consequently only the bare outlines would be carried by SN “as a concession to public interest.“ It was clear, however, that the AFC had commissioned the poll, and it was open to readers, therefore, to draw their own conclusions.

In the case of the CADRES poll, there was every reason to believe that a poll had actually been conducted. Subsequently, the appropriateness of the sample Mr Wickham had selected came into question reflecting on the accuracy of his results, the details of which this newspaper published in full.

2. Ms Anna Benjamin did not independently verify Mr Bisram’s place of work. She asked him, among other things, where he was permanently employed and he responded, but told her he did not want that information published. SN did not consider it necessary to check what he said since it had no relevance to that matter of the validity of his polls.

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