Those prejudicial comments by Christopher Ram

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NOT for the first time this election season we are forced to call out a prominent citizen for unbecoming public comments. This time the culprit is well known Chartered Accountant and political commentator, Mr. Christopher Ram. In a recent letter published in sections of the media, he sought to explain why he would not vote for the APNU+AFC coalition at the coming elections. This publication supports Mr. Ram’s right to determine his electoral choice and to express such support in the public arena. But as we have editorialised before, prominent citizens should take care that they exercise those rights in ways that do not amount to unwarranted abuse of their fellow citizens and a muddying of the political environment.

Mr. Ram has for some time been a fierce critic of the coalition, which by his own testimony he enthusiastically supported at the 2015 elections. What caused his drastic change of heart is anybody’s guess. He was one of the most relentless attackers of the government in the wake of the no-confidence motion of December 2018. In fact, he was one of those critics who had moved to the courts to frustrate the government’s attempt to exercise its right to Judicial Review. He has also been part of a small group of public commentators who have ceaselessly and maliciously been berating the government for its handling of the oil contract with Exxon Mobil.

We cite the above to make the point that Mr. Ram has developed a track record of wild hatred for the government which some have speculated may have been exacerbated by the rejection of his candidacy for chairmanship of GECOM. We do not know the accuracy of that charge. But the fact that he has made the appointment of the chairman of that institution one of the centrepieces of the missive in question only gives credence to such speculation. It is one thing to objectively criticise governments and national leaders, but to be driven along that path by personal grudges often results in prejudicial rants and public abuse.

Others have already taken Mr. Ram to task for his latest tirade. But this publication wishes to draw the public’s attention to two aspects of his letter which we think border on the unkindest cut. Mr. Ram charges President Granger and the government with racial discrimination against Indian Guyanese. He cites the now discredited narrative of the government’s discrimination against sugar workers and what he refers to as the Africanisation of the Public Service. We shall give him a pass for now on the latter charge, largely because it is laughable for a man of his calibre to engage in ridiculous political gossip. But his charges of racism against sugar workers must be engaged.

Mr. Ram knows full well that in our fragile ethnic environment such baseless charges could incense race-hate. He himself a few years ago had cause to initiate private charges against the now opposition leader for expressing similarly reckless sentiments. Clearly, one has a right to comment on racial issues, but in a tense election period, one needs to exercise caution in doing so. It is our considered view that Mr. Ram has failed to so do in this instance. To put it bluntly, his charges of racial discrimination are part of an invented narrative that has the potential to incite ethnic aggression against the coalition.

His letter ignored the context in which the closure of the sugar estates were carried out and the great extent to which the government has gone to ensure that affected workers are duly compensated and diversified into other sections of the industry or other sectors of the economy. He deliberately ignored the fact that only recently President Granger announced a bold plan to make lands available to those affected workers should he be returned to power. Here is the president in his own words: “We are going to set up a State Land Resettlement Commission so that sugar workers would be able to go onto those lands and those who want to farm, will be able to farm, and those who want housing, will get land for housing. This is what a caring government does.”

Mr. Ram also paints the president as a dictator who has no respect for the constitution. Here again he is clearly driven by a deep subjectivity that is obviously not grounded in fact or fair comment. Mr. Ram is confusing the president’s right as chief executive to challenge interpretations of the constitution with which he disagrees on the one hand and disobeying the constitution on the other hand. No fair commentator could cite any instance in which President Granger flouted the constitution or the rulings of the court. No doubt, Mr. Ram, who has appointed himself as the sole determinant of what is constitutional, has invented a charge and then finds the president guilty. He completely ignores the fact that many of his fellow commentators, including some who have been critical of the president, have contended that President Granger’s record on human rights is supremely impeccable.

There is no doubt that Mr. Ram’s letter is part of his campaign for his new-found friends on the other side of the political divide. His freedom of association is guaranteed and should be protected, but in exercising that right he should take care not to descend into the political gutter, which is where he has found himself. It may be too much to ask him to apologise to the president, but surely, he should hang his head in eternal shame for his unfortunate journey to the bottom of the silly heap.