An incident relating to the theft of books from the National Library by a columnist of a local newspaper is attracting much attention. Last week a former staff member of the Library, who claimed to have witnessed the incident, wrote a letter documenting the details. According to the said staff, the columnist stole eighty-eight books some years ago. The incident was well documented both in the courts and at least one newspaper then.
The incident has since attracted much debate to the point where some, in defence of the columnist, say, to the effect, that the incident is trivial and should be dismissed. They also see it as revisiting the past. What they fail to understand is that when someone is found to be a thief, he/she is a thief rregardless on what is stolen and when it was stolen. Theft is theft. If for example, a lad is caught shoplifting from any store, regardless of what was stolen, it’s theft. That lad can be handed over to the Police and can be charged.
Some may argue whether compassion by the proprietor could prevent court action in such cases. That could be a consideration. But what about the basic moral principle of when one is in need of something, he/she must ask? If every proprietor who loses as a result of frequent shoplifting shows compassion on every occasion, then the severity of such offences would be tremendously diluted. A parallel can be drawn on compassion by law enforcement for traffic offences. In most cases, many unsuspecting persons have lost their lives as a result of careless drivers.
Over the years, many societies have clamoured for drastic action to be taken against errant drivers. Of recent much debate was centred on stringent laws to curb drunk driving. The point is that if things are ignored then they fester and either become acceptable or extremely difficult to control. The fatal consequences of drunk driving are excruciatingly painful. In the case of the book theft mentioned, some have written that the perpetrator, the columnist, must be emulated. Those who have ventured to make such reckless statements in the public domain are directly encouraging others to blatantly break the law.
If those who would have read such irresponsible comments and were to do as advised, then theft from stores and other public places would become a fad and would pose a serious challenge to the law enforcers. What about the financial loss proprietors would incur as a result? Is this the message those who have access to newspaper and television spaces want to send to others, especially young people? The columnist committed a crime by his own admission in his article that followed the revelation of his actions years ago. Why is it then that others are glorifying such a crime?
The current value of the eighty-eight books would be somewhere in excess of two hundred thousand dollars. This amount can be categorised as grand larceny! Is it that those who defend such actions are supporting such larceny? This is ludicrous and must be condemned. Some cohorts of the columnist are questioning the timing of this incident being brought back into the public domain. Given the time that has elapsed since it was perpetuated, they posit that it should be forgotten. Herein lies my reason to differ. The columnist in question goes daily on a rampage in personally attacking officials of government and those who are associated with the administration.
His misrepresented and inaccurate venom-filled tirades spare no one whom he sees as articulating favourably on government policies. Conversely, if anyone is to articulate an anti-government position, he sees that person as his compatriot. His bias and sometimes libellous rants are facilitated unabated in a newspaper which is known for its sensationalism and anti-government position. It is therefore not a coincidence that the newspaper’s editorial policy is similar to the columnist’s writings. They have formed a focused alliance in denigrating government and those favourable towards it.
The way this columnist crafts his writings one would never doubt his high moral standings and adherence thereto. His open castigation of others and his unsubtle threats serve to falsely propel him to the peak of the moral pedestal. He skilfully ensures that the belief of his high moral adherence is not a figment of anyone’s imagination. As a result, none who were unaware of his past book theft incident would believe he was capable of such a crime. If the former Library staff was not meticulous in his detailed description of the incident and was unable to substantiate what actually took place, many would have dubbed the statement a fabrication.
The staff in question was present and was able to debunk the subsequent inaccuracy the columnist peddled. This staff must be commended for exposing such an incident committed by someone who professes to be an advocate for high moral standing and decency. Here is a columnist who daily falsely accuses pro-government persons of being immoral and to be involved in shady activities. His immorality has been exposed. His proclivity to steal books has been exposed. This is not an accusation. How then can he have the gall to accuse others when he has been guilty of theft?
What is even more laughable is that two particular persons have been vehemently trying to defend such immorality. Maybe this is not surprising given that one has been accused of defrauding hard-working Guyanese of their hard-earned money in a scam to get them to a foreign country. He was arrested and subsequently sued the said newspaper that publishes the columnist’s tirades! The other was fired from his position on the Fraud Squad for reasons not known to the general public. Is this a coincidence that three with a questionable past are in unison in their anti-government thrust? Is it a coincidence that their “voice” is being facilitated by a known anti-government publication?