Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram
Controversial Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon made inaccurate statements on or about me (Vishnu Bisram) in a riposte to my missive in Stabroek News. Kissoon has had a history of writing on peoples’ personality using untruths and or misleading statements. I attempt to correct some of his erroneous comments.
Kissoon claims I have “a preoccupation” and “obsession” with him because I penned many articles in response to his commentaries. I plead guilty on writing a lot on Kissoon. But Kissoon wrote many more articles on each of several Indian intellectuals including Ravi Dev, Swami Aksharnanda, Rhyaan Shah, etc. The articles I penned were not on Kissoon (as a person or his character) but corrections of his (mis) interpretation and (mis) understanding of social, political, economic theories as well as historiographical and factual errors. In one case, for example, Kissoon referred to a White Englishman anthropologist (Prof Raymond Smith) as an African Guyanese political scientist. Should it not be corrected? As another example of Kissoon’s misinformation that needs correction, he accused Ravi Dev of living in America and being an American citizen. Dev has been living in Guyana for the last 25 years and does not hold US citizenship. Dev ran for office and was elected to parliament. How could Kissoon not be aware of this fact? Is that not an example of preoccupation with someone to go to the extent of penning false information when public knowledge reveals otherwise. Should I not have corrected that factual error? And what does citizenship or residency have to do with one’s intellectual ability. Dev is among the most brilliant minds who does not attack people. Yes, he is a remigrant like myself and several other Guyanese who have the country at heart. Kissoon, like several others, previously lived or went to Canada, US, Grenada, Trinidad, Barbados, etc. seeking residency and or citizenship
I have been writing in the Guyana and international media since 1976 penning some 10,000 articles. I never attacked anyone personally and never penned misinformation. In my years in journalism, I never came across a columnist (writer) as Kissoon who penned as many inaccurate comments as him. Few of what I sent to countless publications were rejected except those sent to Kaieteurnews when Kissoon was letters editor.
Kissoon admits he blocked my letters when he was letters editor of KN. The very articles Kissoon rejected were published in SN and or other media outlets. So a claim that the content in my letters were “sickening” holds no water. I write factually and never attracted people. I should note that letters of Lomarsh Roopnarine, Devanand Bhagwan, Swami Aksharnanda, Baytoram Ramharack, etc., exposing Kissoon’s poor scholarship, were also blocked. Was the content in their letters also sickening?
On the issue of censorship, Kissoon admits that he approached Ms. Tusika Martin, editor of Times, not to carry my responses on him. Kissoon also admitted that he influenced Dale Andres as KN letters editor to stop carrying my responses to his misinformation. How does the public know Kissoon did not approach KN editors to prevent Isabel de Caires’s response to his attack on David de Caires. Ms. De caires charged that Kissoon lied about her father. What is new? No editor who is schooled in journalism blocks letters or censors views except in authoritarian states. I served as editor for several publications for decades. I never blocked letters or censored views. Mr. David de Caires, Annan Persaud, Anna Benjamin, and others never blocked letters in KN; they edited articles to remove libel. Even Chronicle under the PPP administration allowed a right to response.
Let me assure Kissoon I don’t have any obsession with him. But I do read his articles whenever time permits. I feel sorry for readers because they are being misinformed. There are re so many inaccuracies and factual errors in Kissoon writings. I only responded to Kissoon when he began attacking me around 2001 for refusing to use him as a consultant for polls I conducted. I responded to him when Ms. Anna Benjamin (SN letter editor) as well as others persuded me that that I addressed the queries raised by Kissoon.
On the issue of obsession, Kissoon penned some 69 articles on or about or made me over a ten year period. During the same period, I penned 34 articles that responded to Kissoon. They were not on Kissoon but the contents of his commentaries. So if obsession is about numbers, then Kissoon is possessive of me. Kissoon’s writings centred on my place of residence, work and immigration status, employment, academic achievements, means of income, etc. What do these have to do with issues? Kissoon went to the extent of contacting my places of employment and universities I studied to obtain information on me. Is that not obsession?
Kissoon claimed I was not a university grad, not a teacher, and that I worked in real estate and lived in a basement. What does the preceding say of the character of Kissoon or on being obsessive with others? What kind of university lecturer engages in those kinds of guttural comments? It is in the media that Kissoon appealed to the press body to query about my academic background. When he was informed that I hold multiple undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as doctorates in varied natural science, social science, humanities and education disciplines, he was awe struck.
And on obsession and preoccupation with others, Kissoon routinely wrote scores of articles on the character of Ravi Dev, Baytoram Ramharack, Rhyaan Shah, Swami Askharnanda, Devanand Bhagwan, Lomarsh Roopnarine, and other Indian intellects. Using the Kissoonian definition, is that not obsession?
Kissoon also misinforms on the encounter with Mr. Glen Lall who never arranged for a meeting for me to present a complaint to his staff. In a phone complaint, Lall asked that I visited his office and he would serve as “a mediator” between Kissoon and myself. Kissoon and I met briefly in Lall’s presence. He asked us if we had problems with each other to which we both answered negatively. It was understood that my letters would be carried in KN. On that very afternoon, Lall was holding a staff meeting and invited me to be an observer. The meeting was on the structural operations (assignments, etc.) of the paper and not on me as Kissoon insinuated. Apparently, he was not informed of why I came to KN office. I was not a speaker or a subject of discussion. Varied issues and complaints about operations were discussed. Lall asked if there were anything else staff would like addressed about the paper. Kissoon raised his hand and said as letters editor he would not carry my letters contending they would negatively affect KN readership. Kissoon did read from two letters: one was on my condemning the “fecal assault” on Kissoon but also noting that Kissoon engaged on countless “attacks” on people with his pen and he should cease and desist. Kissoon said he would not carry that piece for referring to attacks of persons in his writing as fecal matter”. Another of my letters made references to rape in national service and bureaucracy citing sources. Kissoon said the allegations (which were not mine) would cause KN to lose African readership”. It was inexplicable how Kissoon reached that conclusion since I never accused anyone by name or any ethnic group of participating or condoning rape. And the points I raised in both letters were not originally mine; they were raised in letters published in SN.
I asked Lall for an excuse from the meeting since I had to prepare for my travel, and as such I had “to leave the meeting quietly” so as not to disturb its proceedings.
For the record, almost all of the letters rejected by Kissoon were published elsewhere including SN, Times, and internationally. There is a principle in journalism called “right to response”. It is practiced in SN and Guyana Times. The editor of KN should have carried Ms. de Caires response to Kissoon and my letters to correct factual errors.