Few things could be more galling to victims in the 1970s, ʼ80s than further compensation for Green

Dear Editor,

I refer to Sunday Stabroek’s report of November 20, featuring the GHRA statement on the Hamilton Green pension bill, which touched on Mr Green’s connection with political repression and the mass exodus of Guyanese, amongst other things.

First, I am absolutely mystified to read therein that the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan, in 1992 drew a veil over the past, which, presumably amongst other things, might have paved the way for Mr Hamilton Green to avoid the courts.  This veil I now learn was drawn in the interest of social peace.  Was there public discussion or participation in this process?   If so, the supposed malefactor needed to come forward and own up.  Otherwise any claim of wrongdoing is no more than innuendo and the process is a waste.  Then what about the compensation element for victims of the offence?  Or at least Mr Green should not have been allowed to continue to offer himself for public office, as he continues to do.

More than this:  Is the current President David Granger aware of the facts and circumstances of the 1992 attempt at ‘social peace’?  If so, has he just as mysteriously absolved Mr Green before conferring on him the Order of Roraima?  On the other hand, if Mr Granger is not aware, then the diametrically opposite position of the latter President of Guyana in awarding the Order; together with the earlier view of President Jagan in perhaps perceiving prosecution instead, is a manifestation of how the society is starkly divided, not just on the service of Mr Green, but on our native view of Guyanese reality.  This reflects on the quality of leadership in the country at the highest level.  Naturally, citizens will follow suit and adopt one position or the other after assessing the divergent positions, rendered by these powerful, executive presidents.

I believe firmly that few developments could be more galling to victims of the political repression of the 1970s and ʼ80s in Guyana than further compensation to Mr Green, quite apart from the proposed bill.  Mr Green was general secretary of the PNC when that office was merged with the Ministry of National Development under the PNC-declared doctrine of paramountcy, and taxpayers’ money was openly channelled to the merged offices.

In 1982 as Minister of Labour, he benefited directly from a money award for libel against the Catholic Standard.  This again was in the era of paramountcy over the state.  The scene was that his government had already established control over local radio and daily newspapers, yet when it came to reporting his street presence as Minister along with the smashing of workers’ picket lines, Mr Green did not rely on the weight of the government-controlled media, but chose to come down on the Catholic Standard which was a mere weekly publication.

Most of all, Mr Green was a continuous and prominent member of the PNC and government responsible for, amongst other things, a rigged referendum in 1978, and the foisting of a constitution on the country in 1980 that had no popular vote.  A constitution from which, as a whole, we are still trying to disentangle ourselves 36 years later, and might I add, disentangle at great financial and other cost.

If your readers sense that this letter rails against the person of the former PNC Prime Minister, then they are correct.  However the ‘railing’ is no more personal than that on the part of those who recommended and conferred the award of the Order of Roraima; some of these very persons benefited from his conduct in the past, and now support the idea that he is deserving of an increased pension due to his office.

As regards his connection to the mass exodus of Guyanese in the 1970s and ʼ80s, this migration is exactly the type of phenomenon leading to lack of people for development in Guyana today, which lack is addressed in Ian McDonald’s column in Sunday Stabroek of November 13.   I share Mr McDonald’s astonishment that this now-chronic problem is hardly mentioned in political speeches or not more discussed in public.

Relevant here is the case of distinguished journalist Ulric Mentus, dismissed at the same time as Ricky Singh from the Guyana Graphic in 1974 in preparation of government take-over.  Both Mentus and Singh were critical of fraudulent elections, and were forced to emigrate.  Around that time the government boasted that it controlled 80% of the economy.  In 2013 Ulric Mentus died, alone and in poverty at the age of 87 in central Trinidad.

And my own case, where in 1980 I was charged without evidence and convicted in the court to cover up an assassination by agents of the state; then dismissed from my post as chief quantity surveyor at the Ministry of Works, with loss of employment and employment pension rights.

And the better-known case of Walter Rodney, denied employment for which he was qualified, in the 1970s.   Without gaining a day’s paid work in Guyana he was killed in the struggle to stop the 1980 constitution in its tracks, before promulgation.  The Walter Rodney CoI concluded that Rodney was murdered by Gregory Smith, a paid agent of the state.

In all this time Mr Green was a prominent member of a party and government, culminating with his prime ministerial office.  It is a period in which his continued office-holding is questionable and in which he maintained access to Guyana’s resources in an opaque manner, though as stated before, he is not the only person.  Hence whereas Mr Green’s supporters may point to his venerable service as a legislator, this service does not include the practice of democracy, the rule of law, human rights for his opponents, and free and fair elections.  And he has benefited already from such.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Rodney

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