In what is a clear case of political spitefulness against its critics, members of Guyana’s ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration, used its majority on the University of Guyana’s board in the past week to publicly fire longstanding political science lecturer Freddie Kissoon, as sweet revenge for years of criticism and helping the opposition unearth startling facts pertaining to race relations and discrimination in Guyana and PPP governance of the country.
Kissoon, 61, for years has been the country’s leading government critic on social and political issues and of course has never been a favorite of the administration.
Kissoon wrote a column in the daily Kaieteur News newspaper for years until editors in recent months clipped off two days of his submissions each week. But this did not deter or discourage Kissoon from examining various aspects of life in Guyana, with an intense focus on widespread corruption and excesses by the previous Bharrat Jagdeo administration.
His firing came just hours before Jagdeo, President Donald Ramotar and a close circle of wealthy friends dined at Jagdeo’s 49th birthday at a leading Chinese city restaurant.
For those in authority, Kissoon’s dismissal was sweet vengeance and a ‘fitting birthday gift’ for Jagdeo who had been labeled “an ideological racist” by Kissoon in a Kaieteur News article. The two are bitter enemies.
That racist label obviously put the two together in a memorable libel case brought by Jagdeo against Kissoon late last year when it became clear, based on evidence, that Kissoon had scored an important political point about Jagdeo and his policies after 12 years as president.
Giving testimony on behalf of an absent Jagdeo Cabinet secretary and former close confidant, Roger Luncheon was forced to tell the court and nation by extension, that no Guyanese of African descent was worthy or “qualified” to represent the country as an overseas ambassador; hence the fact that all barring one of European extraction was an Indo Guyanese. Two Blacks have since been made foreign envoys.
Luncheon’s stunning remarks came during withering if not humiliating cross examination from the country’s leading attorney, Nigel Hughes.
Hughes also forced out facts pertaining to widespread preferential treatment of Indo Guyanese by the Hindu-led administration especially in the area of infrastructural development. In one such bizarre case, the sports ministry decided to place the national athletic track in an Indian dominated area on the west coast, far from the city where many Blacks and acclaimed sportsmen and women reside.
Indians traditionally, hardly participate in track and field disciplines as Luncheon was forced to admit as it became clear that race and politics were the main reasons for locating the track there. The same is true for the national Olympic swimming pool on the east coast, located in an Indo enclave.
What is clear in the case of Kissoon, Jagdeo and the government, is that they are blaming him and the evidence emerging from the ongoing libel case that the facts about race might have energized and angered voter apathetic Blacks into coming out in record numbers at the November 28 general elections to help the PPP lose its parliamentary majority to the main opposition APNU and AFC. Government now can’t do much in the assembly unless the two decide to give it a pass.
Kissoon, seen as a national hero in opposition quarters, has said that he is waiting to see how the opposition and civil society whose causes he so brilliantly championed, react to his dismissal. So far, University lecturers have staged demonstrations on campus but it is unclear what will happen this week when the semester begins.
Ironically, President Ramotar, his wife and many of those in power and business influence and their children were taught political science by Kissoon. Few complained about his abilities or that be had blurred the line between good academic work and politics in the classroom.