YOU must have heard of the biblical saying, “Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath Day to the Lord your God and you shall rest.”
I generally do live by this adage, but of recent times, I find it impossible. Why? Not because of another biblical saying, “There shall be no rest for the wicked.” Rather, it is down to Guyana’s Number One tabloid newspaper, Stabroek News, with its associated tabloid journalism. With this alarmist newspaper, it is impossible to rest. And when one does, it is imperative that it is done with one eye opened.
Let me say from the outset, I no longer read the Stabroek News, apart from the occasional letters. But a good friend shared with me an article published on October 20. The title of the article is, “NICIL sells land to Junior Agriculture Minister”. I went on to read the article, which has as its opening paragraph, “Just over one acre of State lands has been sold by NICIL to Junior Agriculture Minister Valerie Adams-Yearwood.” I went on to read, with the hope of being confronted with first-class investigative journalism. I read that the land was at Richmond Hill, Mackenzie; I also read that this is the junior minister’s hometown. I got very excited; but then in Guyanese parlance, Bradaps! The story ends. No climax for me, at least not from this article.
Then I sat back, disappointed, and questioned myself as to what was newsworthy about what I’d just read. In my disappointed state, many unanswered questions were flowing through my cerebral cortex:
1. What was the market price of the land, and how much did the minister pay?
2. How many persons had bid to buy the land?
3. Was this land in a prime location in Guyana?
4. Did the junior minister use her position and political clout to purchase the land?
Because none of those questions were answered, I had to put down my stethoscope and be an investigative journalist. I made a few phone calls, not to the junior minister in question, but government ministers, Members of Parliament or anyone in high society in Guyana. I do not have any of their numbers. I called a few friends in Linden; I was told that Linden is a wasteland after the PPP destroyed it. I was also advised by persons that they would not even accept those lands if they were given free by the government. I was told again that folks would be surprised that the junior minister would invest in a piece of land, the only use of which would probably be as a burial ground.
Armed with that information, I sat down to take it all in. In the effect the Junior Minister of Agriculture Valerie Adams-Yearwood, legally bought a piece of wasteland just fit for a burial ground in her hometown that nobody wanted. Anand Persaud found it newsworthy to publish that to insinuate that the Honourable Minister was nefarious in her action. Anand would assume that the readers are cerebrally challenged like he, with hair follicles both outside and inside of our heads. Master Persaud, I have news for you. Unlike you, we have brains inside our heads. Brains; not hair follicles. As a result, we would not fall for such low-level, tabloid-type sensationalisation tricks. It is this type of disingenuous journalism that is creating mistrust in your newspaper, with its associated reduction in readership. In the event you may wish to cover genuine cases of stolen State lands, you can take the drive up the East Coast of Demerara to locations known locally as, Pradoville 1 and Pradoville 2. When you do make that sojourn, please give your good mate, Bharrat, my regards. He may be surprised to see you, since, for 23 years, you ignored any of his genuinely questionable actions.
Dr. Mark Devonish