We respectfully quote the entire Stabroek News' editorial of Sunday May 16, 2010.
Public adulation, extravagant receptions, congratulatory advertisements, laudatory billboards – what head of state could ask for more? If it weren’t for those pesky, geriatric critics gulping down their bitter brew in the dark recesses of their favourite cake shops, our President’s cup would have ‘runneth’ over and left him standing knee-deep in a syrup of flattery.
Certainly no president since Burnham has been the recipient of this amount of public ‘adoration’ – and no one needs to be told how popular he was with large segments of the population, especially in his later years. Both the Jagans as well as Hoyte were very unpretentious people, and while the protocols necessary for a head of state were observed, there was none of this level of glorification. While President Jagdeo has won a UN award, for which he deserves appropriate congratulations, it appears to have gone way beyond this, and been made the excuse for a major publicity campaign to exalt him in the eyes of the populus. But why, one wonders? Has he been such a failure that his spin-doctors find it necessary to try and boost his reputation to distract from his poor image? If he had a good image in the first place, then it would hardly seem necessary to go to these lengths. After all, why gild the lily?
And what about the President himself? What does he think driving around Georgetown seeing these billboards sprouting like mushrooms bearing his own face smiling back at him? Does he not feel even a tad uncomfortable? Did he ask whose genius of an idea this was? And most of all, did he ask whether the taxpayers were footing the bill for this bit of seeming narcissism? Or is this a generous donation from one (or more) of his admirers? If it is, who gave permission for the city’s parapets to be utilized for this purpose? The Mayor and City Council?
All of this may play well with the President’s support base, and perhaps even with the Amerindians who are geographically removed from the political shenanigans of the Lower East Coast, and whose dancers are brought down to perform at the adulatory functions, but surely the spin-doctors know that this kind of saturation acclaim really convinces no one else. In fact, it may succeed in alienating them further; many will see it for what it is: an example of rank propaganda. Have the architects of this campaign forgotten so soon what it was like during Burnham’s days? How the population took all the promotion of personality and the fawning by some noisy disciples with a pinch of salt? How they picked up the Chronicle every day and read between the lines? How they watched with a cynical eye as the motorcades and outriders zipped past at full throttle?
So again, what are the spin-doctors trying to accomplish? Surely they don’t think that because the foreigners have given the President an award, the local population will be overwhelmed. Can they seriously believe that Guyanese are incapable of exercising their own judgement? Despite what they think, in the end the electorate of this country is primarily concerned about what he does now and has accomplished here, and where that is concerned elements of his record are in question and will not be erased by any number of outside awards. It might be mentioned in passing that in any case the UK only last week asked for an independent inquiry into the phantom squad at the UN meeting in Geneva.
It might be said that this whole campaign is coterminous with a sudden flurry of projects, foremost among which is Amaila Falls, closely followed by a revivified Marriott Hotel. The most problematic of the two by far is the first-mentioned of these. As was asked in SN’s editorial of April 19, for a project which has been hovering around for about thirteen years, why the sudden rush now? Amaila will involve a huge undertaking and has been promoted by a small company which has absolutely no experience with hydro facilities and at best could only act as a middleman. Mysteriously it has recently been awarded the preliminary road project for Amaila although it appears to have no experience in road-building either. Despite persistent questions asked by a variety of sources, there have been no clear answers from the government.
Is this what the hagiography campaign is all about? Distracting from Amaila? Or is it for the benefit of an overseas audience which would have to provide the funding? Is the message: here is a President who has accomplished great things on the environmental front, not just abroad, but at home as well; the Amaila Falls project forms a part of this, and he has the unequivocal support of a grateful population? Even if that were what the propagandists wished to convey, it does not answer the question of why the haste to take on Amaila at this late stage?
We have, of course, a national election supposedly coming up next year. Is this campaign connected to that – in some labyrinthine way?