Sunday, July 5, 2009



In 2007 Guyana's Home Affairs Minister claimed that Christian protests over casino gambling represented a “threat to national security”. A letter captioned “The Christian protest against casino gambling presents no threat to national security” was later published by SN (see
The day after this story was published, Stabroek News lost its advertising from government. Since then, Stabroek News has changed its website, and eventually relocated and reassigned many documents (see the new version of the story above at They have also regained government advertising.What is interesting is what SN is now choosing to leave out in the reconstituted documents at the new website (see yellow highlights in story below published on January 14th 2007).
What, exactly, is the new focus of Stabroek News?

January 14, 2007

Dear Editor,

There were three major revelations this week as the casino gambling debacle unfolded.

The first was the obvious effort by Stabroek News to carry as balanced a report as possible on the issues unfolding inside and outside of Parliament, and their middle-page spreads on January 11 and 12 were as much a testimony of good reporting as it was of the surprising degree of latitude given by SN’s Editor to reporters Miranda LaRose, Keisha McCammon and Andre Haynes.

The second was the stark contrast provided by the statesmanship and awareness Sheila Holder against the noticeably vindictive opportunism of Ministers Clement Rohee and Desrey Fox. The former translated a statement at a press conference of January 10 that the Christian Community would do “anything within the bounds of Christian conduct” to mean that they had become “a threat to national security”. This would be laughable were it not, as Holder opined, “predictable”.

Mr. Rohee willfully mischaracterized the Christian position as carefully outlined in (i) press releases to seven media houses, (ii) a sixteen-page document on the Church’s rationale for its position, also delivered to seven media houses, and (iii) a six-page Private Petition to the entire House, with an odd mixture of utterances that demand further scrutiny. He seemed completely oblivious to the fact that he alone shared these opinions in parliamentary session, or that he saw “demons” where the media saw none. Christians focused on the evidence, while Mr. Rohee offered none. This is unacceptable and disingenuous.

Mr. Rohee is challenged to show a single word and sentence in these submissions that hinted at a “security threat”, or that represented an occasion where the Minister was justified in acting or speaking the way he did.

Mr. Rohee himself, like the Prime Minister, is challenged to show a single “theological” or “doctrinal” point in any of the submissions by the church to Guyana’s Parliamentarians. If they cannot, then they owe an apology to 57% of the population. Neither of them, quite frankly, appears capable of that simple task.

But perhaps the level of Mr. Rohee’s imagination can only be appreciated by his careful omission of the fact that the Christian community had circumspectly submitted to the Guyana Police Force several days in advance a request for permission to congregate in peaceful protest at Parliament Buildings, and that its Draft Position Paper was submitted to the Guyana Police for scrutiny after request. It apparently passed with flying colours, but Mr. Rohee envisaged barricades as the dramatically appropriate response. It was outlandish and inconsiderate, and spanks of an immaturity that ought not to reside in the office of Minister of Home Affairs.

The Final Position Paper is still available for the general public.

The final development was the fact that it was the Christian community alone, albeit with spirited verbal support from Muslims, which sought to develop a new standard of democratic interaction with Parliament by being brave enough to document, defend and circulate to all concerned the enormity of the social experiment that is being played out in Guyana through the potential of thirty (yes thirty) casinos, since the Bill accommodates up to three per administrative region … and more if the Minister’s unlimited power is used.

In an attempt at true consultation, and to bring realism to the consultative process, every stakeholder available benefited from the Church’s documentation and invitation, and in the process the Christian community accommodated “democracy” far more than Mr. Rohee’s scorn ever did. Surely an appeal to the Commomwealth Secretary-General will show that every action taken by the Christian community was well within the scope of the good parliamentary procedure that the
"Needs Assessment of the Guyana National Assembly 2005” report by Sir Michael Davies accommodates.

Dr. Desrey Fox will soon have enough on her hands to explain her atrocious remarks in the Assembly to the Christian indigenous population, but should now concern herself, as Minister in the Ministry of Education, with explaining the following concerns the GOIP obviously had:

* In jurisdictions much more capable than ours numerous research studies and other statistical information have identified a strong link between the recent increase in legalized gambling and increased societal problems. These problems include increased bankruptcies, suicides, addictions, divorce, child abuse, domestic violence and the exploitation of the poor.

* According to University of California-San Diego sociologist Dr. David Phillips, Las Vegas “displays the highest levels of suicide in the nation, both for residents of Las Vegas and for visitors to that setting.” In Atlantic City, N.J., Phillips found that “abnormally high suicide levels for visitors and residents appeared only after gambling casinos were opened.”

* In Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides increased by 213% (from 24 to 75) in the first two years after casinos arrived. In neighboring Biloxi, suicide attempts jumped by 1,000% (from 6 to 66) in the first year alone.

* That according to the Bill, all a member of the vulnerable indigenous population has to do to gain entry into a casino in his or her locale is to rent a room first … thereby becoming a “paying patron”.

* That she has ignored every part of the Christian reference to INSCR 2006 in their Position Paper. This is unacceptable from a Minister of Education, and she does great disservice to the persons in her charge.

So, while Lumumba may have already counted the “one billion dollars” that he expects from casino gambling, we should ask him: “Now what do you see as the social cost?” … especially since suicides and the abandonment of the rule of law, are hot topics in Guyana.

The question is, can he, or Desrey Fox, see or count that far?

Yours faithfully
Roger Williams
14th January 2007

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