Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Few Afro-Guyanese feel self-loathing as Ms Gibson

Few Afro-Guyanese feel self-loathing as Ms Gibson suggests

April 30, 2008

Dear Editor,

I wish to state categorically and without fear of successful contradiction that no African Guyanese will accept or share the very low opinions which Kean Gibson has of them and which she expresses in her letter captioned “A case can be made for marginalization without the use of statistics,” (08.04.24).

A very few may accept her views and arguments because they share a similar agenda with her, part of which is to denigrate Africans and blame East Indians for problems they have, but which are common to others as well.
Very few Afro-Guyanese will feel or accept that they have any reasons for self-loathing, or for feeling that they are inferior to any other citizen, as Gibson states, and very few of their fellow-citizens of other races, whether East Indians or others hold such warped opinions of Afro-Guyanese, as Gibson does.

What she accuses the Chronicle and some other media of is without foundation and blatantly untrue and mischievous, calculated to circulate racial disharmony and hatred.

She also takes quotations from the President out of context and attaches them to her spurious allegations of the motives and actions of the state, which is easily recognized by any who read her letter.

Buxton was criminalized by the criminals and some others, to fulfil their agendas, and not by any actions or policies of the state or their agencies, or the Joint Services.

Kean Gibson is definitely out of touch with reality and the truth. Perhaps, she will want to include in her next letter how many African policemen, soldiers and citizens were murdered.

Yours faithfully,
John Da Silva

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I lived through the kick-down-the-door banditry, which caused havoc to Indians; Dr Misir’s statistics disprove claims of marginalisation

I lived through the kick-down-the-door banditry, which caused havoc to Indians

April 29, 2008

Dear Editor,

I couldn’t agree more with the statement by Rakesh Rampertab in his letter captioned “The kick-down-the-door banditry in the eighties was brutal and debilitating” (08/04/27) that with respect to East Indians, “the devastation caused and the extent of the psychological dominance resulting from years of criminal attacks have unfortunately been ignored or taken for granted at times”.

One can argue and debate whether the crime spree of the past few years has an ethnic overtone but those who experienced (personally and vicariously) the kick-down-the-door banditry of the eighties, know that that was a Black on Indian phenomenon with tremendous political underpinnings. However, because of the state of the media under the PNC, reportage on this phenomenon was sketchy and minimal at best. Besides most victims were so fearful that they preferred not to make public their ordeal lest they be vicitmised again. For invariably, the parting words of the perpetrators would be “we coming back”.
Worse yet was the fact that that there were overwhelming evidence of the involvement of both police and army in kick-down-the-door banditry. I personally know of a number of instances where police badges were found at homes that were invaded and when family members turned up with the badges at the police station, they were harassed and threatened, often even locked up for days. I also personally know of instances where both policemen and army personnel were identified (far too often the bandits were not masked) and this knowledge was enough for victims to be fearful of reporting the matter to the law. And I know of many then current members of the army and police as well as then ex-army and police personnel (often unemployed) who lived lives of big spending leisure.

Mr Editor, I can speak with authority about kick-down-the-door banditry not only because I lived through it on the Corentyne and the East Coast Demerara but also because there was a grapevine that informed those of us who wanted to understand the scope and extent of this phenomenon.

And again Rakesh Rampertab is right; this phenomenon was not simply robbery with violence. Were an actual count ever to be possible, Freddie Kissoon and others who were cocooned from this phenomenon because of their suburban existence many well be surprised to learn that the body count was much greater than that of the current crime wave. The difference is that those who were murdered were not businesspersons but ordinary folks, mostly working class, and thus, even if the scope existed, they never made the news. Rape was another aspect. Not only were womenfolk raped in their homes, in front of other family members, but often they were kidnapped, raped elsewhere and then either murdered or brutalised.

Yet another aspect was brutal violence. Every home invaded invariably ended with both murdered family members, and others, including children who were severely beaten and often crippled for life.

The wholesale trauma of kick-down-the-door banditry on Indian communities would perhaps never be fully known. The simple reality, however, is that this phenomenon on reshaped entire villages, forced those living on the outlying outskirts to either move closer to the rest of the population or move elsewhere with the hope that they would be safer. In the process, many homes were abandoned. For those who didn’t or couldn’t move, homes were given up during the nights with families either bunking with others in the vain hope that there would be safety in numbers or choosing to sleep in surrounding bushes.

Also in many, many instances, mobilised by informal community policing groups, (there was no support for these groups from the police), entire villages would come out when homes were invaded but primitive weapons were no match for guns and bullets and often the bandits would shoot their way to escape as villagers tried to scamper to safety. In other instances, the bandits would discharge a few rounds at the first sight of anyone (even heads peeping out of next door homes) and this would be enough to deter frightened villages from venturing outside. Invariably too many families ran - to Suriname, or backtrack to North America or other parts of the Caribbean.
Yours faithfully,
Annan Boodram

Dr Misir’s statistics disprove claims of marginalisation

April 29, 2008

Dear Editor,

According to Abu Bakr “The discourse on marginalisation needs to elevate itself from statistics” (08.04.70).

I am not surprised that Bakr and others will now want to say so, since Dr Prem Misir in his letters and articles has statistically and successfully challenged the allegations that Africans are marginalised under the PPP/Civic administration.
The claim of African marginalisation in Guyana since 1992 surfaced as another ploy by the PNC opposition and others to keep stirring racial feelings among the people.

Their claims of African marginalisation have been debunked by Dr Misir and I am not surprised that in Abu Bakr’s letter he says, among other things “Dr Prem Misir’s use of statistics also leaves one uncomfortable.” It must leave those claiming African marginalization “uncomfortable” because the statistics published by Dr Misir show quite clearly that such claims cannot be justified.

Dr Misir, I recall, in his latest viewpoints, has actually been calling on those who claim
“marginalisation” to come forward and bring the evidence. They have not done so and I daresay will not be able to do, because, in my view, it doesn’t exist.

Yours faithfully,
John Da Silva

Sunday, April 27, 2008

PNC's kick-down-the-door banditry

The kick-down-the-door banditry in the eighties was brutal and debilitating

The kick-down-the-door banditry in the eighties was brutal and debilitating
April 27, 2008
Dear Editor,

During the 80s, kick-down-the-door crime (under Mr Burnham’s tenure) affected the East Indian way of life, even more than an irrelevant PPP under the Jagans. The devastation caused and the extent of the psychological dominance resulting from years of criminal attacks have unfortunately been ignored or taken for granted at times.

I write this after reading what Mr Frederick Kissoon said recently (see article, “Types of Dictatorship,” April 21, 2008), responding to Mr Ravi Dev who argued that kick-down-the-door banditry was a method by which Burnham held control over East Indians:
“Dev informed us…as part of the totalitarian terror under Burnham, there were “kick-down-the door bandits…Mr Dev is pushing questionable “facts” into his case-study. There is a reign of criminal terror in Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica that makes “kick-down-the-door bandits’ look like amateur robbers. I lived in Guyana under the rampage of “kick-down-the-door bandits,” and I can tell Mr Dev that, though it was a horrible experience, the level of sadistic violence and deaths that accompany robberies in Guyana today was absent during those terrible days under Burnham.”

Mr Dev and Mr Kissoon may debate what constitutes democracy and what dictatorship is, but there is no room to speak glibly or lightly of kick-down-the-door crimes.

First, it was not always in existence. Someone invented, sustained, and profited from it and it was not the East Indians. Contrary to what Mr Kissoon said, it was much more than merely a “sociological negativity.” There is not enough room in the letter columns for me to explain the extent of social setbacks and alterations to East Indian life, especially in the country, resulting from these crimes.

Secondly, Mr Burnham as leader knew precisely what transpired but failed to confront or correct the issue. Why? State-owed guns and bullets were used in these crimes; state agents (police and soldiers) participated, thus implicating the state. Further, House of Israel members participated, also, as did members of the earliest form of death squads initially created, I believe, to attack Dr Rodney and the WPA.

It is difficult, given these facts, to say that kick-down-the-doors robbers are “amateur robbers” compared to today’s AK-47 gunmen. On one hand, we are 20 years apart-weapons, crime techniques, and local politics have evolved with sophistication. On the other, so too is our tendency for violence and decadence.

The violence and criminal sadism of the 80s was of its time. I lived during this era and experienced it first-hand. It was brutal and debilitating, much more than just a “horrible experience.” Many of us never had normal sleep for years, a basic right. There was no avenue to complain about health issues such as loss of sleep, poor performance on exams or work. Each of us can measure sadism is our own way.

Sadly, the trouble is that no one bothered to document this violence as it happened. It was sadistic to fling babies against walls or have a woman walk naked for three street blocks with bandits, to hold off villagers as the bandits tried to escape. These are not “jumbie” stories.

The aging mother of a friend of mine was severely beaten and stomped upon by bandits. He was also beaten to a pulp and thrown into a trench to drown. He survived.

She didn’t. The old woman suffered a stroke and died three months after the attacks.

I know of men who could not “mind their own business.” They “peeped” outside and tried to raise an alarm as neighbours were attacked. These good villagers are now dead.

Each time these tragedies occur, it has a rippling effect on villagers. Given the extent of these crimes, one may imagine the spread of fear that pervades East Indian communities. As supporters of the opponent of Mr Burnham, we were under total lockdown.

A leader does not have to execute people in political pogroms in order to be a tyrant. Mr Burnham may not have marched East Indians off to gulags where the women were raped and men beaten or killed. He did not need to. These things were done inside people’s homes by men whose jobs included working for the state; men loyal to the PNC.

This experience is unique to the East Indians of Guyana. Yet, it was public knowledge against which Burnham had no interest. Ironically, every East Indian killed or who fled was one less person to oppose his rule or whose vote Mr Burnham had to rig.

Much of the raw documentation was never done officially and so much of the blood stains have been wiped away, bodies buried, and broken doors rebuilt. The hundreds of millions stolen and/or incurred in expenses to repair (or replace) property, and pay for medical bills, is something that scholars of economics ignored. Why? Why, for example, didn’t Dr Clive Thomas write articles about it as he did about a “phantom economy”?

Why were there not essays about the nexus between the state and crime as there are today? Why then was such a period of excruciating relevance and pain simply not addressed (substantially) in academia and elsewhere? Why has there not been a series of articles about the crimes of the 80s commissioned yet by a newspaper?

Having said these things, it is the historians-writers of the East Indian community who should also bear responsibility for the lack of documentation. It was their job since the PPP was a non-factor during the eighties.

Instead, many of them (mostly “indenture” writers) residing overseas (even in the 90s) such as Clem Seecharran and David Dabydeen worked on topics that are relevant indeed, but safer and too remote in time to improve the situation for contemporary folks.

They ignored contemporary history; a history that was more disturbing and sitting amongst those paling staves, broken door hinges, buried bodies, and shredded garments. Others should not make this mistake and ignore it.

Yours faithfully,
Rakesh Rampertab

Saturday, April 26, 2008

As long as there is an Indian President, you will hear African Marginalization

Cries of marginalization will continue regardless
“A ploy to stir up racial feelings.”

“Produce evidence, not arbitrary examples of marginalization.”

“A case can be made for marginalization without the use of statistics.”

Those are just some of the headlines written by some letter writers on the subject of African Guyanese Marginalization.

Everyone, including African Guyanese and their leaders know there is no such thing in Guyana as "African Guyanese Marginalization"

Like I said before and will say it again. We will always hear the cries of African Guyanese Marginalization in Guyana. It will never stop as long as the President of Guyana is not an African Guyanese.

His name is Bharrat Jagdeo and is of East Indian descent and he is the current elected President of Guyana for all Guyanese. It does not matter even if every other African Guyanese are employed. It does not matter even if every other African Guyanese owned their own homes. It does not matter even if every other African Guyanese are better off today than they were prior to 1992. As long as an African Guyanese is not the ruler of Guyana the drum beat will roll and we will never stop hearing the cries of African Marginalization.

Under Burnham and Hoyte's illegal rule, African Guyanese and the majority of Guyanese were worse off than they are today.

Yet we never heard their cries of African Marginalization and or Guyanese Marginalization. I bet you, let an African Guyanese especially from the PNC side rule Guyana again. There will be no more cries of African Guyanese Marginalization. So to all those who are crying African Marginalization. To those who are saying bring the proof and those who are saying there is no African Guyanese Marginalization, You now know why the cries of African Guyanese will continue.

Save your time and breath.

Most Guyanese are too clever and too smart to figure this out and not let them rape Guyana ever again.

They will cry and protest the suspension of Sharma TV station, VAT, food prices, gas, housing, water and electricity, pot holes in roads, rainfall in the guise of fighting for the people.

Guyanese are too smart to see what they are really crying and fighting for.
They are fighting to rule Guyana and Guyanese once again the way they did from 1964 to 1992.
It is that simple.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ECD is traumatised, not just BUXTON! PNC's narrow political gains

The whole of E.C.D. is traumatised, not only Buxton

Dear Editor,
Mr. Eric Phillips, in a letter to the Kaieteur News (April 21, 2008), expresses his grave concern over the treatment that has been meted out to the people of Buxton.
He should be commended for providing support for his Afro-Guyanese brothers. Please permit me to ask Mr. Phillips some questions, if I may:
1. Didn’t the Guyana Government provide financial reimbursement to the Buxton farmers for the hardship that they and their children endured as a result of the operation of the Joint Services?
2. Were the operations of the Joint Services in Buxton necessary and long overdue? All law-abiding Guyanese will think so.
3. There are lots of wealthy and successful Afro-Guyanese. Was financial and food assistance requested from them, in addition to soliciting assistance from the various embassies?
4. Does Mr. Phillips agree that Buxton is a haven for notorious criminals?
5. Did ACDA request the Guyana Government for food assistance?
6. Is Mr. Phillips aware that Indians were also brutally and mercilessly gunned down in Bartica, and a fund is yet to be set up?
7. Our country has been under siege for several years by merciless murderers. Does Mr. Phillips agree that most of the criminal elements responsible for the crime surge are from Buxton (and Agricola)?
8. Does Mr. Phillips recognise the psychological impact on the families whose loved ones were senselessly and brutally gunned down by the criminal elements in Buxton? In most cases, sole bread-winners were massacred. Life for the surviving spouses and children will never be the same.
9. Is Mr. Phillips suggesting that only the people in Buxton have feelings and undergo trauma?
10. Mr. Phillips indicated that “Buxton is a severely traumatised community”. What about the entire East Coast Demerara? Many of my relatives who reside on the East Coast Demerara cannot sleep at nights, have nightmares, suffer from anxiety, depression, hypertension, etc. Aren’t they innocently traumatized?
11. Mr. Phillips stated that Minister Rodrigues “is representing a very unjust regime and the world knows this”. This is an irresponsible and dangerous statement to be made by someone who is representing the Afro-Guyanese community. It is not only erroneous, but is also a blatant lie. The entire global community (government and financial) has praised Guyana for its thrust towards democracy, and they unanimously agreed that Guyana is on a progressive track. Why the inaccuracy, Mr. Phillips?
12. No one in Guyana is envious if any village receives money. What makes Mr. Phillips think so, since we are all struggling to make ends meet and to face the global rise in food prices?
13. Indian communities do not receive the “most money per capita”, as he suggested. Where are the numbers, Mr. Phillips?
14. Why doesn’t Mr. Phillips use his influence in USA and Africa to solicit additional assistance? The Government is limited financially.
15. Everyone knows that the majority of Buxtonians are decent human beings. When will Mr. Phillips provide help to the authorities to seek out the very small percentage of criminals who are giving Buxton a bad name? Remember the saying, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel”.
16. Mr. Phillips’s recent write-up on marginalisation lacks substance. When will Mr. Phillips provide credible back-up data?
I, and all law-abiding Guyanese who want a progressive Guyana look forward to Mr. Phillips’s reply.
Anand Persaud

Blame the Government
Abusing a situation for no reason

The labour scene has taken a different direction, and this new direction has nothing to do with conditions at the place of work. There was a time when strikes were related to the job, and if something happened at the workplace that caused the workers to become dissatisfied, then they were allowed to mount a protest. Not so today.
Sugar workers in Berbice have found that things are expensive in the marketplace. What they used to buy a few months ago with a certain sum of money cannot now be bought with the same amount of money.
It would have been understood if the sugar industry had actually cut back on paying the workers and they, the workers, had decided to strike. However, what the sugar workers are experiencing is a global phenomenon that has sent the cost of food items skyrocketing. These sellers know that, if they hold out long enough, they can get even more money for what they sell, so the situation is becoming worse.
Every section of the community has been affected, and there are fears that the situation would get worse, because already the local importers are finding that the people from whom they buy goods are holding back. The entire world, even our relatives in the U.S., are facing the crunch.
At the same time, oil prices have risen to record levels. A few months ago, when the world was waiting to see if the price would reach US$100 per barrel and economists were speculating on the outcome of such a move, the world could only sit back and imagine.
That price has reached and passed the US$100 per barrel of crude oil level, so there is no longer a need to try to understand what would happen. The oil we import, which is refined, is over US$150 per barrel.
The effects are already being felt, and with severe consequences, to the extent that people all over the world have raised their voices in complaint and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries—OPEC—will be meeting once more to see if anything could be done about the rising oil prices.
Commonsense would tell the world that the higher the price for oil, the happier would the seller be. Indeed, he would, like the rest of the world, be caught up in the situation where he would have to spend more on food, but he would have the advantage of having more money so that he could pay more.
Guyana is not an oil producer, so it is caught between a rock and a hard place. It has to pay more for food, and it has to pay more for oil. Can we blame the Government for this? One should not be surprised that this seems to be the case, since Robert Corbin and his supporters are actually making this situation a cause for protest against the Government.
Corbin was in the seat of government when a situation like this happened. Oil prices rose astronomically shortly after his Government felt that it had things under control and scrapped the railway. It happened again in the 1980s, to the extent that there was scarcely enough fuel in the marketplace.
Motorists slept in lines outside service stations, and housewives stood in lines to buy just about everything — from basic rice grown right here, to milk for their children, and soap for the domestic cleansing chores.
Corbin and his Government tolerated no protest, and in any case the people were under the yoke, so they toed the line but waited for the day when they could be free to express their true feelings.
This freedom has been achieved, to the extent that people are abusing it. In the case of the sugar workers, they decided to protest and to strike over something that was not even remotely industrial, or in any way linked to the Guyana Sugar Corporation. The situation that they face is being faced by every category of Guyanese and every worker. The sugar workers, by their own admission, say that they earn $20,000 per week. A newly trained teacher earns about $7,500 a week; qualified nurses earn about the same thing; policemen, soldiers, and public servants do not earn much more.
The sugar workers say that their pay is inadequate, so they struck. The other categories of workers, on the other hand, know that the situation cannot be helped, and they continue to work knowing that the Government is doing everything to make the situation less pressing and stressful.
And Corbin and his friends in the opposition are relishing the fact that strikes hurt the country, and he would want to see nothing better than the country being hurt for his narrow political gains—power at all cost.
He is the primary source of the chant ‘blame the government’ and there are those who, without understanding the reason for the chant, repeat it. The Berbice sugar workers appear to be the latest of the lot.

Bajans discrimination against Guyana Indians

Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have said they have received no official complaints from two Guyanese who reported unfair treatment at the hands of Barbadian Immigration authorities.
Speaking with this newspaper last Monday, an official of the Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the Ministry noticed an article in this newspaper about the men’s plights.
“They have to lodge an official complaint before we can take up the matter officially,” a source at the Protocol office at the Ministry told this newspaper.
The two men, 36-year-old Deonarine Persaud, a Canadian citizen, and Bartica businessman Nizam Kassim, 49, were detained at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados two weeks ago, after they were accused of travelling with false documents.
The men were on their way to Canada to attend a funeral when they were intercepted by the Bajan authorities.
Jaipersaud was travelling on his Canadian passport while Kassim, who was on his third visit to Canada, was in possession of a valid 10-year Canadian visa.

Nazim kassim (left) and Deonarine Jaipersaud shortly after they returned to Guyana.
The men told this newspaper that, upon arrival in Barbados, they checked in and their passports were examined and found to be okay.
They were given a boarding pass and told to check back later with a view to boarding an Air Canada flight to their destination.
“We showed up at the gate to board the flight and the airline representative called us out of the line and took our passports and told us that we cannot go on the flight,” Jaipersaud told this newspaper.
The two men were then handed over to the Barbados Immigration officials at the Grantley Adams International Airport, who accused them of travelling on falsified travel documents.
“I told them that I am a Canadian citizen, and even produced my health card, social security card, and my driver’s licence, but they paid no mind,” the Canadian citizen said.
According to Jaipersaud, the Immigration officer enquired from him where he had bought his Canadian passport, since they believed that it was forged.
“They said that the jail term is 20 years, and if I tell them where I bought the passport from, they will only give me 10 years. I challenged them to jail me for 20 years, since I knew my passport was legal,” Jaipersaud declared.
He was, nevertheless, ordered to sit on a bench, while the Barbadian Immigration officials interviewed his colleague, Kassim.
He, too, was asked where he had bought his passport, and when he replied that it was a legitimate document, the Immigration officer told him, “Talk to me properly”.
After that, the two men claimed, additional harassment was meted out to them, after they were placed in a cell at the airport.
They were denied telephone calls, and the Barbadian officials even refused to secure meals and water for them, although they were willing to purchase things themselves.
“They didn’t even want us to bathe or brush or teeth. We told them about the kidnappings in Guyana and about the need to inform our families of our whereabouts and they refused to pay any attention to us,” Kassim told Kaieteur News.
When the men demanded to know what they were being held for, the Immigration officials did not bother to explain, despite the intervention of a Barbadian attorney.
“They treated us like real pigs. They really hate us (Guyanese),” Kassim said.
The men related that, to make matters worse, the Barbadian Immigration Authorities adopted a different approach to their nationals who were also in custody at the same location.
“One man who is a Barbadian told us that he had sold his passport in Guyana for $250,000 and he was afforded all the courtesies that a detained person should have. But they kept telling us that they did not want to hear anything. We were little dogs,” Kassim lamented.
Jaipersaud, who is scheduled to return to Canada soon, said he will lodge a formal complaint with the Canadian High Commission in Guyana.
They claimed that, apart from Guyanese, several other Caribbean nationals were harassed during the time they were in custody.
Kassim showed this newspaper signs of a rash on his abdomen, which he claimed came as a result of the deplorable conditions in which they were held.
The fact that the men were not charged indicates that their documents were eventually found to be legitimate.
An initial call was made by this newspaper to the Barbados Immigration Office, but no one could provide any information on the incident.
The person who answered the phone advised that this newspaper call back later in the day at a time when the office would have been closed.
A second call was made to the Chief Immigration Officer, Gilbert Greaves, but after waiting for close to 15 minutes, a person purporting to be his secretary related that he was busy and advised another effort be made today.
Barbadian Immigration has, over the years, been very harsh on especially Guyanese, most of whom travel to the island to escape economic hardship in their homeland.
And despite meetings between the Governments of the two CARICOM countries, the situation has reportedly worsened.

We must not forget the sufferings under the PNC

We must not forget the sufferings under the PNC
I am a strong believer in putting the past behind us and move ahead as we say life goes on. But we must not forget the sufferings we endured in this country under successive PNC governments.

Today many letter writers including myself make our own assumptions and opinions regarding issues that need addressing or maybe just a commentary.

Many letter writers seem extremely angry at the current administration and are fanning hatred amongst the populace.

When will this all end? When will people move this country ahead and stop the undemocratic bashing?

Yes, I may sound like a broken record but it needs repeating until the message gets across loud and clear.

Why are there so much hatred and disagreement with the PPP/Civic government that was democratically elected by a landslide? Many will either disagree or agree with this comment but if every election were held free and fair in Guyana during the twenty-six odd years of PNC dictatorship, the PPP would have won every one.

Why, when there were international observers in 1992, the PPP/C won those elections and all others that followed?

The PPP never rigged an election as their predecessors did during their time in power.

The PNC brought this country down to the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, unemployment was at a record high, they opened up the KSI shopping complex where party faithfuls and their friends were fully supplied with food items, while other Guyanese were forced to line up for hours just to obtain a few basic food items.

Banning of basic necessities was the order of the day in those times when the “Kabaka” was ruling supreme.

Potable water shortages, extended periods of black outs, broken roadways, no public transportation, were only some of the woes the Guyanese people faced in those days.

I am certain the Guyanese people would not like to see a return of those days.

How many demonstrations were allowed during the PNC regime? Freedom of expression was nonexistent during the days of the PNC and no one was allowed to vent his or her frustration.

These are important points the people need to know before making foolish statements.
Toronto Canada

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Where were they when dictator BURNHAM was brutalizing Guyanese?

Where were all these voices when the PNC was
committing excesses?

Dear Editor,
In 1968, the PNC ‘won’ 55 per cent of the votes cast through extensive fraud by a padded voters’ list. In the 1973 elections, the PNC told the world that it made a “breakthrough” for over two-thirds of the Guyanese electorate.
In 1973, fraud was expanded and a new dimension was added: army intervention, the seizure and tampering with ballot boxes.
Similarly, in those days, the PNC regime resorted not only to attacking those who criticise it, but also putting pressure on those who were courageous enough to expose and demonstrate the electoral fraud.
It had re-enacted the fascist National Security Act, which permits detention without trial and violations of the rule of law.
Without rigging, the PNC could not have won an election. By placing restrictions on the importation of newsprint and printing equipment, the PNC regime had severely curtailed the freedom of the press.
During the period May 1972 to May 1973, the Mirror newspaper was forced to close down three times for a total of two months because of the Government’s refusal and delay in granting licences for the importation of newsprint. Where were these voices then?
Even worse took place after the announcement of the date of elections. In early June, 1973, the Customs Department seized a consignment of newsprint for the Mirror.
It was not until strong pressure and condemnation from many quarters both inside and outside Guyana took place that the Government finally released the newsprint.
The PNC Government was trying to close down the Mirror newspaper, a paper closely associated with the People’s Progressive Party, which has for years been a severe critic of the PNC Government, yet no one protested outside the Office of the President in solidarity with the PPP.
Criticism of the Government for this move came from the Commonwealth Press Association which condemned the control of newsprint as a form of press control.
Seventeen-year-old Jagan Ramessar and 43-year-old Jack Bhola Nauth (Parmanand), the father of five, were shot dead at No.64 Village, Corentyne on election day by the Police. Where were CN Sharma and his friends then?
The rebroadcast three times of someone calling for the killing of the President cannot be condoned in any civilised country, and Mr. CN Sharma is responsible for any programme aired on his channel; the bottom line, he is the owner.
Mr. Robert Corbin is trying to exploit the situation because he is unpopular among his party comrades, and he should let good sense and judgment prevail and do the honourable thing.
Mohamed Khan

Discipline must be enforced on the airwaves

Dear Editor
The verdict is out and CNS-Channel Six is off the air.
I must say that discipline is lacking on the airwaves in Guyana and thus I fully agree with the decision of the Government. No media house must be allowed to publish or broadcast irresponsible statements that cannot be validated and are of a threatening nature.
Guyana has enough violence to now be faced with verbal TV violence.
I would like to empathise with Mr. Sharma, since he has done a service to Guyana by offering the “Man In The Street” an outlet in expressing themselves on the programme “The Voice of the People”. However, freedom of the press comes with a cost – the cost of ensuring that the published or broadcasted material is free of slander, free of libel and free of threats. I would like to encourage Mr. Sharma to invest urgently in a delaying mechanism to edit out the audio of irresponsible statements so that he can continue to serve the Guyanese people in a lawful manner.
Sasenarine Singh

President Jagdeo should not reconsider the action
taken against CNS Channel 6

Dear Editor,
I agree with Ramjattan that freedom of the press/expression is the lifeblood of any liberal constitutional democracy; but that notwithstanding, I am not aware that such freedom gives one the right to libel, slander, threaten, denigrate, malign, or ridicule people.
Similarly, freedom of movement does not give one the right to trespass, riot or loot.
Sharma is noted for his cynicism against public officials, for whom he has shown an abundance of disrespect, and this is reflected in his continuous re-broadcast of distasteful comments against members of the public, especially Government ministers.
Maybe people do not take him seriously in professional journalism, but continuously and knowingly re-broadcasting a threat to kill the President shows the contempt this man has for authority.
Of course, it is expected that the usual cabal of dissenters will support him, since this same cabal would even accuse the Government of farting if there is a bad smell in Georgetown.
With respect to the employees, they should be paid a severance pay, since the period of four months will create some hardship, and they should not be made to suffer because of Sharma’s ignorance.
The President should not reconsider his decision.
D. Sookdeo

Where is marginalization?

PART 3 - Housing
In 1992 when the PPP/C formed the Government, there was no national policy on housing. The 1976 PNC Administration’s slogan ‘Feed, Clothe and House the Nation’ had minimum impact on national housing needs. And the PNC regime in 1983 pulled out the housing portfolio of the Ministry of Works and Housing and placed it in the overloaded Ministry of Health and Public Welfare.

A National Housing Plan was drafted in 1986, but it was not operationalized. And the Ministry of Housing was disbanded in 1990, and its functions transferred over to the Central Housing & Planning Authority (CH&PA). In short, no national policy on housing existed in 1992, suggesting minimum political commitment to the housing sector.

The PPP/C Administration formulated a national housing policy in 1998, and created the Ministry of Housing and Water. This Ministry’s mandate is to “formulate policies in the Human Settlements and Water Sectors and to monitor the Implementation of Plans, Programmes and Projects designed to satisfy the Housing and Water needs of the population.”

Land distribution for shelter and settlement and house lot allocation are the responsibility of CH&PA which is statutorily mandated “to make provision with respect to the housing of persons of the Working Class and purposes connected therewith” (Housing Act Ch 30:20). The CH&PA has representatives from the six municipalities, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Central Board of Health, the Private Sector, and the main Opposition Party.

The PPP/C Government implemented several land reforms that produced significant benefits. One, the GLSC, with a diversified governing Board of Directors, is an autonomous Commission and is no longer a department of the Ministry of Agriculture. It has responsibility for public land distribution, an important component of nation building. Two, tenure of state land leases rises from 25 to 50 years, enabling lessees to access bank loans and to convert to freeholds of up to 15 acres of land that had a land use for 25 years. Three, there is a national tenure regularization programme for providing titles for occupants of state lands. Four, a public lands register is now in place.

Equity and transparency in the land distribution process, enabling all Guyanese to become beneficiaries, are important principles of good governance. We now examine the data on house lot allocations to determine the implementation status of these principles.

Indians and Others received 53% and Africans 47% of house lots in the ten (10) Regions between 1993 and 2002. Indians and Others were the beneficiaries of the largest proportion of house lots in Regions 2, 5 and 6 while Africans found their largest allocations in Regions 3, 4, and 10. In fact in Region 10, Africans received almost all the house lots allocated. The Amerindian areas have benefitted from a small but growing number of house lots.

Over 70,000 house lots were distributed between 1992 and 2002. The major ethnic groups are recipients of fair proportions on the basis of their respective demographics, as evidenced by the Housing statistics. 91 housing schemes and 65 of the 120 squatter settlements received regularization status at the end of 2001. Also, there is a strategic plan to issue about 7,000 land titles per year. In March 2002, the Minister presented a White Paper in Parliament, addressing national land distribution policy for all Guyanese.

Again, the budgetary allocations in all these years from 1992 for housing embrace all ethnic groups, as attested through the neighbourhoods mentioned.


Violations focus on Jamaica and Guyana
By Rickey Singh
THE RIGHT TO press freedom and the wider freedom of expression is best protected by an obligation on the part of journalists and media enterprises to appreciate how indivisible are freedom and responsibility.

Over the long years of my involvement in Caribbean journalism and working relations with regional media enterprises, I have been increasingly sensitised to the twin pillars of freedom and responsibility and how well the concept serves the interest of the media profession, media enterprises and the public we seek to serve. I am grateful for the education.

I have also been exposed to the irresponsible behaviour of some media practitioners and media houses that often betray a penchant for irresponsible journalism that shows contempt for the concept of 'freedom with responsibility'. :|

They are among those quick to passionately shout "denial of press freedom", or "danger to freedom of expression", when their individual/collective abuses are challenged and threats of sanctions are raised, or enforced.

Why am I engaging in such observations at this time? It relates, primarily, to two separate media developments of current interest and debates--one in Jamaica, the other in Guyana.

Both are examples of what can happen when owners/operators violate the letter and spirit of a broadcast licence to the serious hurt of private/public individuals in facilitating reckless abuse of freedom of expression by failure to ensure application of relevant regulatory mechanisms.

Jamaica examples
The first case involved the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ) and Universal Media Company (UMC), operator of "NewsTalk 93FM" jointly owned by the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus) as majority shareholder, and Breakfast Club Limited. Managing Director of the radio station is Anthony Abrahams.

As broadcast licensee, UMC was accused by the BCJ of having committed "an extremely grave breach" of Jamaica's 'Television and Sound Broadcasting Regulations as well as the "Children's Code for Programming" in the transmission of its "NewsTalk" broadcast on January 2 last.

The highly reputable BCJ, currently headed by Dr Hopetun Dunn, a media and communication specialist, conducted an investigation into the offensive "NewsTalk" programme. The probe revealed that the programme hosted by Dr Kingsley Stewart, had indulged in an "uninterrupted monologue" lasting in excess of half an hour, laced with "highly derogatory, shameful, shocking and improper language" against a female administration staff member of the UWI.

While in the process of considering recommended sanction, the UMC's "NewsTalk" call-in programme, again with Stewart as host, further complicated the problem of violations of its broadcast license, by permitting the transmission of "racial slurs and derogatory remarks about persons of Indian descent (in Jamaica)..."

The regulations prohibit transmission of "any statement or comment upon race, colour, creed, religion or sex of any person which is abusive or derogatory. It also violated the 'Children's Code for Programming' with the use of prohibited language..."

Significantly, as noted by Chairman Dunn, it was only after the Commission had made recommendations for suspension of the UMC's licence, unless appropriate disciplinary action and remedial measures, including internal relevant internal controls, were pursued, that some efforts were made for compliance. There are provisions for suspension of a licence for up to three months, if necessary.

However, following the intervention by Minister of Information, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, the path to recommended suspension of licence was avoided, based on an understanding that disciplinary action, remedial measures and effective management oversight will be undertaken. For a start, Dr Stewart was not hosting the "NewsTalk" call-in programme-- at the time of writing.

Guyana scenario
While Jamaicans were focused on the BCJ's case against UMC's violations of its broadcast licence, controversies were spreading over the decision last week by Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo (who holds responsibility for information and communication), to suspend for four months the operational licence of the privately-owned television station, "CNS Channel 6".

The core of the dispute was that the station, owned and operated by Chandra Narine Sharma, a businessman, opposition politician and host of a regular "Voice of the People" call-in programme, had transmitted a broadcast on February 21 that contained criminal incitement, specifically against President Jagdeo. Worse, it was thrice repeated without any editing of the offensive remarks, in particular a threat to "kill Jagdeo".

The offensive broadcast by CNS Channel 6---one of some dozen television stations operating in an unregulated, wild-west atmosphere in Guyana--in direct contrast to what obtains in Jamaica--had touched a very raw nerve with one female caller making the threat: "I am going to kill (President) Jagdeo if anything is going to happen to my family..."

That programme was first broadcast at a time of widespread tension and fear against the backdrop of the massacres at Lusignan and Bartica that sent President Jagdeo engaging in public meetings with appeals for peace and assurances of firm actions against armed criminals.

Having offered an apology for the offensive threat to "kill", following an intervention by the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB)--which has neither the stature nor power of a regulated body like the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica--Sharma's station was to repeat, unedited, the controversial programme--THRICE, only to offer some clumsy excuses, including blaming staffers for errors made.

In the circumstances, and given the gravity of the threat to "kill" the President, Sharma was invited, first by Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, to show cause why his broadcast licence should not be suspended.

When he failed to show up for the meeting with Luncheon, another was arranged with President Jagdeo. By then Sharma had moved with his lawyers to the court to prevent the contemplated suspension sanction.

As Head of Government and holding responsibility for information and communication, Jagdeo felt there was really no remorse by CNS 6 for the transgression that had taken place with the threat to commit a criminal act. Therefore, he suspended the station's licence for four months.

There is no doubt about the recklessness on the part of CNS 6 and the politics being played out in a country that stands in great need for appreciation of the concept of media freedom with responsibility.

Yet, the four-month suspension seems very harsh--even for a licensee like Sharma, noted for unpredictable behaviour. It deserves to be revisited. The suspension case has reached the High Court and the Attorney General, Doodnauth Singh, is scheduled to make a written submission to the presiding judge by Wednesday.

Whatever the outcome of the CNS 6 suspension issue, it is evident that, as in the case involving "NewsTalk 93FM" in Jamaica, there are lessons to be learnt by the broadcast media and all advocates of freedom of expression to have a regulated environment that respects the necessity to blend freedom with responsibility.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Agriculture key to regional food crisis
- Agri Forum set for early June
By Wendella Davidson
Against the backdrop of a looming food crisis and a general threat to food security facing the region and the world at large, along with a bludgeoning food import bill, agriculture is being seen as the key in the CARICOM region.
President Bharrat Jagdeo along with, from left, CARICOM Secretary General, Edwin Carrington and Chairman of the RAIF Task Force, Mr. James Moss-Solomon, next to him, admires the poster promoting the June 6-7 Regional Agriculture Investment Forum, which they unveiled at the CARICOM Secretariat yesterday.

To this end, the CARICOM Region is signalling its intention that it is ready to do business with its renewed focus on the agriculture sector, as is emphasised in the Jagdeo Initiative which has been embraced by political leaders of the Caribbean Community.

A further heightening of this focus will be on June 6 and 7 next, when Guyana hosts a Regional Agriculture Investment Forum (RAIF), which aims at promoting agriculture business as an area for good investment and facilitating match-making between potential investors and agriculture entrepreneurs and promoters.

And, at a press conference and launching ceremony yesterday at the CARICOM Secretariat, Liliendaal, President Jagdeo, who has lead responsibility for Agriculture in CARICOM; Mr. Edwin Carrington, Secretary General, CARICOM; and Mr. James Moss-Solomon, Chairman of the Task Force on RAIF, unfurled a banner to officially launch and promote the forum.

President Jagdeo speaking at the press conference yesterday, with CARICOM Secretary General next to him

The forum seeks to attract private investors in the region and beyond who are seeking new and profitable ventures; fund managers and venture capitalists seeking to diversify their portfolios; bankers who have clients operating in the sector; and companies that are seeking strategic alliances with other businesses.

And, in remarks to a gathering of representatives of diplomatic missions in Guyana, CARICOM Secretariat staffers and media operatives, prior to the unveiling ceremony, President Jagdeo underscored the importance of agriculture in the Region, and hailed the input of the CARICOM Secretariat, the Private Sector and other organisations in helping to realise yesterday’s activity.

And speaking directly to the representatives of diplomatic missions present, he urged that they not only be involved in the up-coming forum, but also spread the message of great involvement, opportunities in the region, and the need for private sector investment in agriculture in the region.

In addition, with the early recognition that agriculture is important for the region, the question being asked is what is responsible for the soaring import bill of the region and the growing food insecurity, and why hasn’t the agriculture sector become a more competitive export industry.

The President suggested that maybe too much emphasis has been placed on other sectors such as petroleum, tourism and other services, resulting in neglect for agriculture.

It was pointed out though, that even though the sector’s contribution to the GDP region’s has shrunk, the employment ratings for agriculture remain quite high.

Reiterating the need for greater involvement from the private sector with Governments playing the role of facilitator, President Jagdeo said the time has come for the region to take advantage of existing framework to develop the sector.

And while Guyana has major possibilities for agriculture, President Jagdeo said the focus will not be on Guyana but on the entire region.

To this end, he urged that the media and missions play their part in spreading the word that the region is “ready to do business”.

Chairman of the RAIF forum, in lauding the Jagdeo Initiative, identified predictability, pre-preparation and being proactive as three key areas in the blueprint for which he publicly commended President Jagdeo for being forthright in selling the concept.

Noting that the elements which now plague the region, for example World War 1 and 2, as well as recurring cycles of man-made disasters and food shortages, all of which had happened before, Mr. Moss- Solomon said the region has nevertheless spent very little time dealing with these issues in the past.

Additionally, the region has not sought to find out how to cope, what strategies need to be developed to be forewarned.

Reminding his audience that throughout the week the regional media has been focusing on food shortages, the RAIF Task Force Chairman said President Jagdeo had been addressing the issue well over two years ago, adding that the ‘Jagdeo Initiative’ addresses the art of communication and a strategic plan.

He warned though that the region must be pro-active in implementing a plan about its own survival highlight.

Noting that the issue of food crisis is a serious matter, Secretary General Carrington urged that the region “Stand Up, Face Up and Consume.”

And alluding to the huge food import bill of the region, he said there needs to be a change in consumption habits.

He said, too, the time had come when everyone must get on board.

Government to expand lands for cultivation of feedstock crops
By Tajeram Mohabir
GOVERNMENT will allocate lands in the Mahaica /Mahaicony /Abary (MMA) scheme, and the Intermediate and Rupununi savannahs to cultivate feedstock products, particularly rice, soybean and corn, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud disclosed yesterday.

The venture is part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s newly launched “Grow More” campaign which is aimed at satisfying local food demands and to cushion the impact of the steep hike in global food prices.

The campaign is also geared to reposition Guyana as the bread basket of the Caribbean, helping to alleviate their current food crises.

Persaud made the announcement at a livestock feed seminar called to assess the current state of the industry and factors affecting availability. The seminar was convened at the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara.

The seminar sought to focus on the importance and the role of livestock feed production locally to meet present and future needs.

Against this backdrop, the awareness of the challenges facing the industry, the promotion of livestock feed alternatives and the way forward for the sector was discussed.

It was attended by farmers, top ministry officials as well as representatives from the private sector including Bounty Farms Limited, Guyana Stock Feeds Limited, the National Milling Company (NAMILCO), Maharaja Oil Mill and the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).

According to Persaud government is awaiting proposals from investors willing to cultivate the available lands strictly for feed stock purposes.

He said a group of farmers plan to extend the cultivation of corn which they started on a small scale along the Berbice River. The minister disclosed that these farmers will be linked with manufacturers and the same will be done with for those who will undertake the soybean project.

Meanwhile, the administration is still awaiting the seed materials promised by Brazil to kick start a soybeans project here and according minister Persaud, he intends to “touch base” with that country to ascertain the status of the undertake.

FOOD:Guyana better than most; Kisson is an in tellectual pygmy

We seem to be better off than many
AS I read the newspapers of April 17, I saw two headlines that attracted my attention and encouraged me to read further – Rough Seas ahead and Rough Times ahead – Mia. Now this surely cannot augur well for the country involved which is Barbados and by extension its Caribbean counterparts.

Opposition Leader Mia Motley’s warning must be seen in a broader context of what effects the fuel hike will have on the country’s production and transportation sectors. She has indicated that the rise in prices in that tourism-based economy will lead to job losses and some suffering. Her colleague Dr Omar Davies also warned that this could threaten social stability of the island which has seen increases in chicken, rice and flour over recent weeks.

Motley has rightly projected that spending power of Barbadians will contract as they will have to spend more on the same items they are accustomed to buying.

Motley even went further to state that if there is a reduction in spending and investment these will have a negative effect on the economy.

The fact that diesel is the affected commodity says a lot which brings me to our own situation, and while I don’t praise this administration I must say that in comparison Guyanese are doing far better.

The fact that Guyana recently zero-rated diesel so as to cushion the effect of the rising prices on the consuming public tells a lot that the administration is perhaps looking into the nation’s welfare. The government has said that this move will cost the treasury some three billion dollars. It’s in times like these that Guyanese need to be appreciative because the administration could have gone the route of Barbados as oil is now trading at close to 115 United States dollars per barrel.

Now is a good time to push conservation of energy, and for people to turn to the soil to assist in self-sufficiency.
Govt. has a good record
VERY recently they were some sectors of the Guyanese society that were venting frustration just about every and anything in Guyana.

While people have rights to their opinion, to get the facts we must weigh and create a balance.

The democratically elected governments of Guyana were elected by the majority of the population and this was done very freely and openly.

First of all I am not affiliated to any party or government organizations, but Guyanese need to take a good look at their country and see where they are today compared to that of twenty six years of PNC rule.

We were at the very bottom of the list in terms of stability, economics and growth. Since the PPP/Civic took office Guyana has moved up the bracket and things are better off. Guyanese must be proud of their government for the achievements made over the years.

Take a look at Guyana today we have modern roadways, better sea defences among other things.

We were living in fear during those days. We remember the long lines for basic food items, shortages of potable water, limited electricity, non existent telephone systems and the list goes on and on.

Look around Guyana today. We see a different picture, one that tells you of a better future for all Guyanese.

How many still remember the words:” Guyana the poorest in the western hemisphere”. We are happy that those days are behind us and we can now look ahead towards working together to continue to build this beautiful country.
Some are born great
“SOME are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” I don’t want to get carried away here, but I firmly believe that “Tiger’s” heroics in that match against Sri Lanka qualifies him to fit neatly into any or all of those categories so well articulated by Shakespeare. Here is a guy, facing the prospect of losing the match, carted the final two balls of the game for ten runs in the most authoritative fashion possible. Only legendary players can summon the will and courage, not to mention skill, to pull off a victory in the face of almost certain defeat. By achieving this phenomenal victory for his team, Shiv strode into the annals of cricketing’s greatest accomplishments like a colossus. All Guyanese and West Indians should be very proud of him.

Now that I have doled out the kudos, it’s time to hand out the “brickbats.” I was astounded by reports that Shiv left in the middle of a game to attend an awards function in Trinidad. Important as that function was, it was rude, crude, and disgusting for a player of his calibre, or any player for that matter, to display such arrogance and disrespect not only to his team mates, but more importantly to the FANS who pay to watch him play. If the circumstances are as reported, such rank indiscipline and contempt should have been met with some form of disciplinary action by the Boards. Such behaviour requires “tough love” and should have been sanctioned with heavy fines and or suspension. Respect for the game and its fans should always be paramount and are mandatory concomitants of greatness; they are not mutually exclusive! My preference would have been NOT to enjoy his heroics in that game, rather than have him perform miracles in the context of a situation where this cloud was hanging over his head.

If I missed anything in this matter, or my information is in anyway inaccurate, then it would be appreciated if the solid facts can be publicized. I would be the first to withdraw these comments and apologize for nailing my favorite player for what came across as unsportsmanlike conduct on the part of one of the greatest players of his time.
Dangerous food situation
WE are saying that the food situation here is very critical without even looking at what is happening in other countries which are very hard hit by the same problem. I saw in the Chronicle of yesterday April, 18, that the situation is much worse in Trinidad and Tobago.

It looks as if the people in that CARICOM country are finding it very difficult to make ends meet, although they work for a lot of money. To my mind the situation there is going to explode soon if the government of that country does not implement measures to bring about some ease to the rising cost of living.

People are threatening Supermarket and shop owners because of shortages and high prices. While the people vent their anger on these business people, the restaurant owners are calling on the government to issue them with firearms.

The situation there is frightening. I know not only Trinidad, but also other CARICOM countries are facing severe food shortages and high prices. Some people are also resorting to looting food trucks in order to get food supplies.

We in Guyana are not so bad off after all. The government here is making moves to make sure that we get enough of the basic commodities at reasonable prices.

Government ministers are going all over the country, holding meetings with the various communities to discuss the food situation and food prices.

The government is also asking the people to share their advice in an attempt to help in the situation, and it seems as if the exercise is not doing too badly. The government has already taken certain steps to make sure that there is enough rice in Guyana for the people at reasonable prices.

Apart from that we have a lot of vegetables and ground provisions and fish. This puts us in a better situation that our brothers and sisters in other countries in the region.

I hope the situation in the region concerning food will improve soon.
Kissoon lacks decorum
IN any society, particularly in the media, some level of decorum should be kept.

The “Kaieteur News” so called columnist, Mr. Fredrick Kissoon lacks this completely. I often wonder if he can appreciate what it means to be decent. It appears that he lacks morality. He is totally amoral.

His columns are mainly personal abuse on those that criticize him, or disagree with his positions.

Let me say from an intellectual point of view, Kissoon is a pygmy to most, if not all the persons he attacks. When persons like Walter Persaud or Randy Persaud etc. write one gets the impression that they are people with depth. Their letters and articles make far greater contributions to the people’s understanding of issues than Kissoon’s.

Mr. Kissoon uses the K N to spew insults on persons he cannot argue with on subjects or a particular issue.

While he attacks persons who dare to write anything favourable about Guyana particularly those who reside abroad or have resided abroad, Mr. Kissoon is either mum or praises person of similar status but who attacks the government.

Kissoon often writes about his contribution to the struggle in Guyana to restore democracy. Indeed most of what he writes about that period is distorted and really turning events on their heads. As for his contribution at most he was a spectator and that’s the truth. His contribution pales in the light of persons like Ricky Singh, not to mention Rohee.

Helicopter was a good buy

Helicopter was a good buy
WHEN President Jagdeo confirmed at a press briefing of Friday, February 15th last that the Administration would boost its security substantially by the procurement of helicopters, the aircraft that had been loaned to the Government by the Trinidad authorities was operating within specific locations and areas along the coast and elsewhere.

Similar to several Caribbean countries, Guyana has a limited indigenous capacity to maintain over a period that could be protracted (3: 6: 9: months) helicopters that are costly to acquire, to maintain and operate. In the case of the Bell 206 a number of points ought to be examined and understood.

* The heliship conforms with the manufacturers’ regulations that sets out under what kind of conditions – tropical, temperate or artic -- the helicopter would be operational.

* The features, components and technology that the Bell 206 carries also is a matter that the buyer must regard as a security principle. The buyer even after the aircraft has been paid for entirely, has an obligation to ensure that the relevant technology does not become stolen, or copied by another agency or manufacturer.

* The helicopter differs from the Type 412 in that there is a limitation on the numbers of passengers that can be transported. Additionally, the GDF 412 reproduces considerably more “blowback” or gravity/earth to “air push” when the craft is about to land or become airborne.

These are only some of the comparative advantages that the Bell 206 possesses in terms of its utility for crime-fighting, for discharging repellants as a deterrent and most important for a rapid low altitude (or below cloud) deployment as a surveillance machine.

But I would be reluctant to dispute with those who would have preferred the repair and rehabilitation of the Bell 412. What is certain is that the time factor must have impacted on the alternative/s. Further if one examines the performance of the Bell 206 (admittedly alongside of more powerful rotor driven aircaft) in instances such as search/rescue at Katrina, Hurricanes Mitch and Dean as well as during the most recent El Nina flood storms at the beginning of this year, then it would emerge that the Guyana government has made a good decision.

Broadcasters are held to a high standard of public

Broadcasters are held to a high standard of public

April 19, 2008

Dear Editor,

In 2005 when the licence of CN Sharma’s television CNS
TV6 was suspended at the time of the flood disaster by
the Prime Minister, who was then the Minister
responsible for telecommunications, for what appeared
to be a deliberate attempt to make the President
appear contemptuous of the conditions of the flood
victims, I wrote at some length endeavouring to
provide information and explain what we should expect
of a licensed broadcaster.

It seems appropriate, given the suspension of CNS TV6
licence, to, once more, repeat much of what I said

In every case the constitutional protection offered to
every citizen of freedom of expression has been
invoked on behalf of Mr Sharma. However, what we are
yet to understand, far less accept, in Guyana is that
the broadcaster is held to a much higher standard of
public responsibility in exercising freedom of
expression granted by his licence than is a newspaper,
printed publications or the ordinary citizen.
A broadcaster is granted a licence, in a democracy, on
the condition that he uses it to serve, to use the
language of the USA’s Federal Communication Commission
(FCC), “the public interest, convenience and

The broadcaster, in essence, is granted the privilege
of using the broadcast spectrum, to serve as a “public
trustee”, while benefiting from its commercial use
because he is being allowed the use of a limited
public resource, the broadcast spectrum.

The conditions under which the broadcaster must
function as a “public trustee”, are spelt out in the
licence and are governed by the regulations under
which the licence is issued.

In effect, the broadcaster who is granted a licence to
use the electromagnetic spectrum for commercial
purposes, is granted exclusive free speech rights
denied to others and, to justify this privilege, is
constrained to serve as a “public trustee” of the

Unlike the rest of the media, the broadcaster is bound
by statutory and regulatory obligations to serve the
public interest in a defined way which would abridge
the constitutional right of free speech which other
media and published speech enjoy.

There is no constitutional right to hold a broadcast
licence and monopolise a broadcast frequency to the
exclusion of others as some in Guyana seem to believe.

Where there are adequate broadcasting regulations, a
potential licencee must first justify at public
hearings by the regulating authority, his or her
qualification to be granted the right to a broadcast

In Guyana licenced broadcasters were, unfortunately,
given licences without hearings, without having to
establish their qualifications for a licence, without
any public justification for being granted the
privilege. Our broadcasters were granted licences
simply because they either first squatted illegally on
the frequency, or the government was persuaded to
grant them the licence.

The US Supreme Court has, as has every other Court in
the major democracies of the world, consistently
upheld the requirement that the broadcaster must serve
as a “public trustee” of the licence he holds and must
“conduct himself as a proxy or fiduciary with
obligations to present those views and voices which
are representative of his community and which would
otherwise by necessity, be barred from the airwaves”.

The Federal Communications Commission of the USA in
July 1960, issued a “Report and Statement of Policy”
which summarise the Commission’s powers over a
licencee’s programming and the responsibilities of the
broadcaster in this regard. These operational
guidelines should long ago have been applicable to the
granting of television broadcast licences in Guyana,
had not both the governing and opposition parties,
ever since we became independent, refused to agree to
a professionally drafted broadcasting act and
regulations to be implemented by an independent
Broadcasting Authority:

* The principle ingredient of the licencee’s
obligation to operate his station in the public
interest is “to make a positive, diligent and
continuing effort to determine the tastes, needs and
desires of the public in his community and to provide
programming to meet those needs and interests”.

* “The licencee, is, in effect, a “trustee” of the
public interest in the sense that his licence to
operate his station imposes upon him a non-delegable
duty to serve the public interest in the community he
has chosen to represent as a broadcaster”.
* “Broadcasting licencees must assume responsibility
for all material which is broadcast through their
facilities. This includes all programmes and
advertising material which they present to the public.
With respect to advertising material, the licencee has
the additional responsibility to take all reasonable
measures to eliminate any false, misleading or
deceptive matter and to avoid abuses with respect to
the total amount of time devoted to advertising
continuity as well as the frequency with which regular
programmes are interrupted for advertising messages”.

* “The broadcasters should consider the tastes, needs
and desires of the public he is licensed to serve in
developing his programming and should exercise
conscientious efforts to not only ascertaining them
but also to carry them out as well as he reasonably

* “Broadcast stations should not become the private
preserve of certain individuals or groups to serve
their special interests nor should they serve the
exclusive interests of certain social, economic,
political or religious philosophies or of particular
business enterprises”.

* “Broadcasters must have a wide range of discretion
and freedom of choice in deciding on their individual
programmes and are to be judged by the overall
operation, presentation and balance of programme
measured in terms of satisfying community needs”.

CN Sharma’s use of his broadcast licence and the
unique privilege it grants and his right to continue
to broadcast are, therefore, conditioned by the
regulations under which he is granted the licence and
which hold him to observe the standard accorded to a
public trustee of the frequency he is allowed to use.

If Mr Sharma or any other broadcast licencee
broadcasts material which violate the standards set as
a condition of the licence, the Constitutional right
of free speech does not of necessity, guarantee him
the right to continue to hold a broadcast licence.

The Amended Regulations made under the Post &
Telegraph Act (Cap 47:01) Section 63(5) governing the
granting of a licence issued for the operation of a
television broadcasting station contains the following
conditions amongst others:

(a) the licencee shall ensure that nothing is included
in programmes which offends against good taste or
decency or is likely to encourage or incite or to lead
to public disorder or to be offensive to public

(b) the licencee acting reasonably and in good faith.
Shall ensure that any news given (in whatever form) in
the programmes of the licencee is presented with due
accuracy and impartiality; and

(c) the licencee shall ensure that due impartiality is
preserved by the person providing the service in
regard to matters of political or industrial
controversy or relating to public policy.

The Amended Regulations establishing the Advisory
Committee on Broadcasting defines the appointment and
composition of the Committee and its functions. The
functions include advising the Minister (at first it
was the Prime Minister and is now the President) “on
compliance with the terms and conditions of licences
or otherwise” and recommending “appropriate action” to
be taken and “including revocation of licence”.

It is the responsibility, therefore, of the ACB to
advise the Minister on the action which should be
taken if or when any licencee, in the opinion of the
ACB, fails to comply with the conditions of the
licence set out in the Amended Regulations of June 27,

The legislation does not empower the ACB to do
anything or take any action which is not within the
functions of advising the Minister, unless the ACB is
specifically directed by the Minister under Clause 23
B 4(c).

The Wireless Telegraphy Regulations of the Post &
Telegraph Act at Section (63) 5, Clause 26(1&2),
however, provides for the Minister to act without the
intervention or advice of the ACB to cancel or suspend
the broadcaster’s licence for a period up to 12 months
or more, if he considers that the broadcaster has
failed to comply with any of the Regulations under the

The President, therefore, certainly had the right to
act. Did Sharma fail to comply with the conditions of
the licence?
In making that judgment, the President will have taken
into account the fact that the country remains under
threat of the heavily armed criminals who have
massacred 23 people and are still at large.

Clearly, in these circumstances, broadcasting a threat
to kill the Head of State and then re- broadcasting it
on a number of occasions is wholly irresponsible and
could be said “to encourage or incite or to lead to
public disorder”.

The Constitutional protection of free speech does not
protect a broadcaster from losing his licence if any
of the conditions set out in the licence are
considered by the Minister to have been violated.

Broadcasters, however, regardless of the conditions
which require them to serve as “public trustee”,
remain entitled to the common law protection of
“natural justice” and there is no precedent in
broadcast law which denies the broadcaster the right
to a fair hearing prior to any punitive action being
taken by a regulator against him.

The President did give a hearing to Mr Sharma and his
attorneys prior to taking action to suspend the
licence of CNS TV6 for four months.

It’s unclear exactly what advice, if any, was given by
the ACB to the President. It’s also unknown whether
the President sought the advice of the ACB, though,
given the existence and intent of the Regulations
establishing the Committee, it’s reasonable to expect
that he would have done so and in writing.

In any event, as I have already pointed out, under the
law the President does not have to rely on the ACB’s
Mr Jagdeo and Mr Hoyte did enter into a political
agreement that, as a condition of Mr Hoyte’s
endorsement of the Amended Regulations, the government
would not act independently of the ACB’s advice. The
Agreement does not legally bind the government to
honour it.

Was the President’s decision fair and reasonable,
taking into account the prevailing conditions in the
country as well as the fact that this is the second
serious offence committed by the station? The fact
that the law gives the power to the Minister and, in
this case, the Head of State who was the subject of
the threat, is unfortunate.

Guyana now remains the only major country in the
Caribbean without modern broadcasting law instituting
a politically independent Broadcasting Authority to
administer and regulate broadcast licences.

The legislation establishing the ACB was, at best, an
interim measure agreed to by the two major political
parties to bring some minimum order to the use of the
broadcast spectrum.

We have had broadcast legislation, in one form or
another, in draft in Guyana since 1969, but, to date,
the political will to legislate a modern Broadcasting
Act which will relinquish political control over
broadcast licensing and regulations, remains absent.

At the end of the day, Mr Sharma, because we are a
democracy, is getting his day in Court. We should,
nevertheless, remember that free speech is not an
absolute right, and, for the broadcaster who is
granted the privilege of a licence, it is a right
abridged by very specific conditions demanding
standards of public trust which all of our
broadcasters, including the State owned television and
radio stations, continue to treat with little respect.

Yours faithfully,
Kit Nascimento

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

SHARMA wrong and strong; GUYANESE can make it

Tough times ahead, but Guyanese can make it
THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) has sounded the warning and the people in the Caribbean, including Guyana, can brace themselves for some very harsh economic times. This is due mainly because of a slowdown in economic growth over the next two years as a result of a recession in the United States.

This a matter of grave concern to all of us as the IMF has painted a gloomy picture in terms of growth in the region which the institution says will slow to 4.4 percent this year and slowdown even further in 2009. Already the region’s people are buckling under severe food shortages and rising prices which have already led to social disorders in some countries in the region.

Global warming and climate change have already had telling effects on the world’s population and the prognosis is that millions of people will face starvation this year. This is indeed a sad tale, and quite rightly, Caribbean leaders have come together to form a common front to tackle food shortages and rising prices.

However, this will be an uphill task since the IMF has suggested that the Caribbean should not expect any relief from the rising cost of living which has hit countries across the world. The IMF has also predicted that prices in the region will increase by 7.9 percent this year while it is likely to drop back next year to 5.7 percent.

Only recently we saw riots in Haiti, Asia and Africa etc. which were prompted by soaring food prices that are hitting the vulnerable very hard.

The Guyana government has been keeping abreast with the situation and has already started taking certain steps to cushion some of the effects the rising prices will have on the people. The people recognise that in Guyana there are abundant supplies of food, especially agricultural produce, but some adjustments will have to be made to our eating culture.

Our Ministry of Agriculture has made tremendous strides and implemented numerous projects and programmes, to ensure that food supplies are sustained and not out of the reach of the average Guyanese. Some of the positive moves by the Ministry recently include diversification and a heavy injection of funds in the pig sector. Guyanese are aware that we have enough pork, beef, mutton, chicken, eggs and fish, vegetables and ground provision, rice and sugar, and in a move to bring down or regularize the price of flour and flour products, the government recently withdrew the licencing regime for the importation of the commodity.

At the moment we are in the process of harvesting a bumper rice crop which will satisfy both local demand and external markets, and when the state of the art sugar factory at Skeldon comes into operation later this year there will be increased sugar production from which the entire Guyanese nation will benefit.

While the signals are a source of worry, the Guyanese people are not likely to be so much affected like their CARICOM counterparts who depend largely on food imports to satisfy their needs.

The Guyana government must also be lauded for taking a firm position not to divert agricultural products for the manufacture of Ethanol fuel. This practice of using up large stocks of corn, wheat and other grains for the manufacture of Ethanol has significantly contributed to the shortage of supplies of these crops, and has also caused prices to increase.

We believe that with the resilience of the Guyanese people, it will not be too difficult for us to get out of this period, especially against the backdrop of our huge agricultural potential which has not been fully unleashed as yet.

Mr Sharma must be more professional
April 15, 2008
Dear Editor,
I really cannot understand the role of television personality Mr CN Sharma. I was told that Mr Sharma aired a person on his ‘Voice of the People’ programme calling for the death of the President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Now to my opinion this brings freedom of speech and professional journalism into disrepute. It is my gut feeling that Mr Sharma believes he is a powerful individual in this country. He speaks carelessly without due care and consideration. No intelligent person who pretends to be in the journalism field and is the owner of a television station should behave in such an irresponsible manner. He does not have any respect for the law but cries out when strong penalties are carried out against him. Not one of his advisors seems to know better because they are supporting him when he violates the law.
The President of this country is a human being like Mr Sharma and all others. Therefore from time to time he would make mistakes but how useful will it be if we join with the illiterate to use strong inappropriate words against him without thinking of the results.

I have one piece of advice for Mr CN Sharma, tone down and please do not get carried away with the support you are receiving with your ‘Voice of the People’ programme. This is the way people react when they can obtain something free of cost.

Think for yourself and apply just a small amount of professionalism when you are hosting your programme. I can tell you very honestly you were totally wrong to encourage that illiterate caller on air. Please accept your fault and let this ban be the last for your television station.

Yours faithfully,
Tajpaul Gainda

Support closure of Sharma
IT is most unfortunate that it has reached a stage where a local TV station has to be suspended because of unethical broadcasting. But the offence is very serious.

I fully support President Jagdeo for his action to ban the operation of Mr. Sharma’s television station for four months due to irresponsible broadcasting and breaching television protocols.

As I understand it, President Jagdeo did not suspend the Channel because of the remarks made on the first day but because of the presumptuousness of Mr. Sharma to air that exact programme three times without deleting or editing it. This is an act of sheer recklessness.

I read in the newspapers, Mr. Sharma is taking the issue to Court because his lawyer Nigel Hughes advised him that Mr. Jagdeo being the subject of the complaint was in no position to close the station. But Hughes did not tell Mr. Sharma that President Jagdeo is the Minister of Information and can make his rule in this regard and more so him being the threatened subject.

Sharma said he believes that the Government is not pleased with his decision to allow regular airtime to the Opposition Parties. Why would the Government be upset with this decision? I would more think that the Government feels sorry for Sharma since he is being used by the other so-called Parties as a tool to attack the Government, hoping to destabilize it.

Mr. Sharma you are wrong but want to play strong in this situation. Put yourself in the President’s boots. I think you would have revoked the licence rather than enforcing only a suspension.

Why don’t you come out of the clutches of your advisers? Don’t you realize they are using you, Mr. Sharma?

Govt. was elected by majority of people
ONCE again we are hearing that threatening the life of the President in the public media is freedom of speech.

Once again all must be reminded that freedom of speech comes with consequences.

It is most ludicrous for the AFC to compare the ruling PPP/C Government to Burnham and Hoyte illegal governments of the past.

The AFC must be reminded that this Government was elected by the majority of people for the people of Guyana.

Channel 6 and Sharma were very lucky to be on air for so long.

It's about time action be taken against this vile TV station and its owner.

AFC has to be out of its mind to say this Government is dictatorial and worse since the days of Burnham.

First of all, if this Government was dictatorial and worse, Sharma would never be on the air to make his mischief.

Secondly, the AFC would not be a political party to come to the defense of Sharma.

Thirdly, the AFC and Sharma will never be able to call for mass street protest in Guyana.

Fourthly, Sharma and the AFC would never have any news media in which to write about this episode.

If this PPP/C Government was dictatorial, the voices of Sharma, AFC and PNCR would have been silenced a very long time ago.

It's about time this Government act as it is mandated to act for the majority of people that elected it to Govern.

So it's bravo to the PPP/C Government and good riddance Sharma and Channel 6 are gone.

Sharma must learn from mistakes
FREEDOM of speech and expression is healthy in any democratic society such as ours in Guyana.

However when threats are being uttered to any particular individual or groups then it’s not tolerated. And it’s being viewed as unwarranted and unwelcome.

Therefore a strong message is being sent to the proprietor of Channel 6 to be responsible for what the station is broadcasting to the world.

I must give credit to CNS Channel 6 for showcasing most of the shortcomings in society.

Many contents aired on Channel 6 are in the interest of the underprivileged. No one will deny that but there is the use of intemperate language that separates what is being considered acceptable.

There are certain limitations and guidelines that a medium needs to adopt and unfortunately this specific channel needs to understand that being controversial and not screening certain comments will end up in this current dilemma that they are being faced with in having their broadcasting licence revoked for four months. This is not the first time Channel 6 was warned for unwarranted comments and unhealthy contents aired to the populace.

When a democratic Head of State is being threatened with death, it’s totally unacceptable. And maybe this channel will understand and reconsider what is allowed to be broadcast to the world.

These days in Guyana everyone easily criticizes the government even for the heavy rainfall … There was once a time when Guyanese could not even hold peaceful demonstrations. How soon we forget.

I sometimes wonder if a television transmission licence would have been granted to so many independent broadcasting houses in Guyana if the opposition PNC regime were in power. Let alone criticizing them.

Any democratic society in the world will do exactly what was done to Channel 6. Some will go to the extent in revoking their licence indefinitely,

So Mr. Sharma during this suspension period its time to rethink and learn from the mistakes that Channel 6 had made to cause harm to itself and tarnish its image.
Toronto Canada

PPP says Channel Six has a history of violations
THE People’s Progressive Party (PPP) yesterday commented on the suspension of Channel Six licence, which, it claimed, is causing opposition forces to make the issue one of freedom of speech.

A press release from the ruling party added that Channel Six has had a long history of violating broadcasting rules, and to talk about killing any individual is unacceptable. To do so in relation to the Head of State is much worse.

The statement said it should be noted that if the Channel Six proprietor recognized that a caller talking about killing the President was a violation when it occurred live on television, why should he continue to rebroadcast the same programme at least on three occasions.

The PPP noted that this is not the first time that Channel Six sought to create problems and incite the people.

“We recall that during the 2005 floods, Channel Six aired a programme showing the President dancing with Minister Gail Tiexeira. The impression conveyed was that while a large section of people were suffering, the president and ministers were enjoying themselves,” the release said.

It pointed out that in fact the clip showed on the station was taken at a Christmas party a year earlier.

“This type of behaviour is unacceptable in our democracy,” it continued.

“We must have standards and ensure that in our society laws are upheld,” the release said.

The PPP said that it hopes that such violations of the broadcasting licence would not be repeated by Channel Six or any other medium in the future

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Racist Caribbean Media?

Dear Editor

I am being charitable to the Caribbean Media by not agreeing with my friend from Ozone Park, Queens, who describes the Caribbean media as "racist". He asked which Caribbean country will allow someone to go on TV and threaten to kill the Head of State? Not once, but twice. Well, the truth is I can't see it happening in the New York where I live. The media here are much more responsible than Sharma's CNC in Guyana; they will not allow any crazy kook to go on aair threatening the President of the Unites States or for that matter, any politician.

I doubt that would be allowed in Trinidad, or Barbados, or some of the smaller islands that are still British colonies. Jamaica? Maybe, but I don't think so. Anyway, the TV station's license in Guyana was suspended for four months. You would not believe the hypocrisy and double-standards of Caribbean media who let loose a fusillade against the Guyanese government, screaming and whining about 'freedom of the Press', blah blah blah.

Recently, they were screaming about Stabroek News not getting ads from the government. Now, friends, you tell me if all the media in Trinidad are allocated same number of Government ads. Everyone knows 95.5fm is the 'official' lottery station and gets more ads than most radio stations; Newsday is the favored newspaper, getting more ad than other print media. Indian-oriented radio stations receive less.

Someone should have a friendly chat with these hypocritical Caribbean media about thei disgraceful anti-Guyana Government stance while they ignore imbalances in their homeland. Like I said, I don' think they are racist by attacking the Indian-based Government in Guyana. I give them the doubt that they are honourable men and women.

Fortunately, we have some journalists with integrity and honour, with the testicular fortitude to go against the hypocritical stance of the majority of Caribbean media. See below for Rickey Singh's article "MEDIA ABUSE AND FREEDOM", KAIETEUR NEWS' Editorial and Columns, and letters published in the Guyanese media. Oh no, not the Stabroek News, they are now the unofficial mouthpiece of the Opposition and are rabidlty anti-Government, anti-Jagdeo.

How many of these self-righteous Guyanese media would have been allowed to rant and rave under the Burnham dictatorial Mugabesque regime? No, they are not racist, they simply can't live with a Government lawfully and legally elected by the Guyanese people, a government that just so happens to be supported by the majority of Indo-Guyanese while the anti-Government media is more than 75% Afro-Guyanese.

I urge you to be objective: don't listen only to the PNC lackeys and anti-Jagdeo marhcing band in the Guyanese and Caribbean media; there are many other journalists in Guyana, or who know of Guyana, with the real story. I am sure the Caribbean media, including the Trinidad Express, will print this letter and Rickey Singh's column, who is carried regularly in the EXPRESS newspaper.

Richard Seecharan
Caribbean Center for Democracy and Social Justice, Intl.
Queens, New York

Guyana Chronicle, Sunday April 13, 2008
An Editorial Viewpoint
IN GUYANA, following the political culture of party paramountcy that smothered press freedom, there has evolved, over the years, the twin problem of gross abuse by the private media in opposition to government's policies and programmes and, on the other hand, sycophantic misuse of state media to propagandise achievements.

Much of these scenarios are often played out primarily in the electronic media sector where what passes for "television networks" operate in a virtual wildwest atmosphere. The anti-government media bawl 'foul play', when challenged by reports in state media, and both often engage in a mix of arrogance and poor professional judgement. The ultimate losers in the process are, of course, the Guyanese people who are quite familiar with examples.

Regrettably, media organisations representing practitioners of the journalism profession get caught up emotionally in the cross-fire between the government and the private sector media. A common cry is of "denial of press freedom".

With next month's observance of "World Press Freedom Day" (May 3)--an occasion designated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the media--we will no doubt be treated to some old and new developments in Guyana and elsewhere about media freedom and responsibility.

This past week in Guyana came news about the resumption of public sector advertisements to the Stabroek News. It is a welcome development, though no official explanation was offered up to the time of writing.

It's quite likely that no such official explanation may be forthcoming, particularly as it was never publicly announced when the actual crude implementation of decision to suspend the flow of ads was taken 17 months ago--to the benefit of another privately owned newspaper.

Then followed announcement of the decision by President Bharrat Jagdeo (also Minister responsible for Communication) to suspend, for four months, effective from midnight yesterday, the licence under which "CNS Channel 6" has been operating by its owner, businessman and politician Chandra Narine Sharma.

The action followed recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB) that had investigated a highly inflammatory "Voice of the People" programme on Channel 6. There were subsequent invitations to Sharma, first by Dr Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, and later by the President himself, to discuss infringements of the licence granted Channel 6 and to show cause why sanctions should not be taken, including suspension of licence.

The transcript of the relevant offensive claim of "incitement to crime" with a specific threat by a caller to "kill (President) Jagdeo", was released to the local and regional media by GINA. The alleged "crime" was made all the worse by an unedited repeat of the relevant programme, even after the ACB had received an apology from Sharma.

Without going into details and implications of this case at this time, those who have quickly jumped to the defence of CNS Channel 6--starting, predictably, with the opposition parties--but surprisingly including also the Guyana Press Association and one editor who should know better--some attention ought to be paid to a current related controversy in Jamaica.

It is the case of recommended sanction by the Jamaica Broadcasting Commission (JBC)--the first such body to exist in CARICOM--against the "NewsTalk 93FM" radio station for transmitting "derogatory and abusive comments" by one of its talk show hosts (Kingsley Stuart) that included verbal salvos against an employee of the University of the West Indies, and failure to offer an appropriate apology.

The matter has been referred for relevant action by the Minister of Information (Olivia 'Babsy' Grange) with suspension of the station's licence as an option, but with the minister having the right to exercise discretion, depending on a written response from the management of "NewsTalk 93 FM".

A decision in this matter may be forthcoming within the next 48 hours. Those in Guyana who behave, quite expediently at times, as if developments about freedom of the press have no relevance to their own expressed local concerns and agendas, should, with some humility, restrain themselves in responding to the current case of CNS Channel 6 and the Jagdeo administration.

My column
Turning a wrong into a right

Today, I run the risk of being ostracized because I have a view that may not coincide with the rest of the crowd over the suspension of the licence of CNS 6. I may not be the best there is to argue a point and I am not going to fool myself that I am a paragon of virtue but I must add my two cents here because on Friday night I saw many of my colleagues rushing to support Mr. Chandra Narine Sharma in the wake of the revocation of the licence for his television station.
As I sat at Kaieteur News trying to put the Saturday paper to bed, I watched some of my media colleagues making their appearance on the CNS 6 screen and condemning the suspension. There were those reporters and other staff members who know me very well and know that I am never one to shy away from a confrontation, especially if I believe that the person at the receiving end is being victimized. They jokingly asked me why was I not at CNS 6, knowing fully well that I still had the paper to put to bed.
Overwhelmingly my colleagues contended that President Bharrat Jagdeo was wrong to order the suspension. Some contended that the penalty was too harsh and still others took the moral high ground that since the President was at the centre of the issue he should have recused himself from passing judgement against Mr. Sharma.
I am inclined to support the latter view because I firmly believe that if one is aggrieved, one is not likely to be impartial. I have been the victim of such a scenario and the pleadings got nowhere.
Early last year Justice B.S. Roy contended that I had committed contempt against him when I wrote a column questioning his ruling, or more particularly, his decision to grant an injunction against businessman Umraow. My lawyer was none other than Khemraj Ramjattan who was also the lawyer for Mr. Sharma on Friday.
While he did say to me that Justice Roy should not hear the contempt, he never made such an argument before Justice Roy because he knew that such a pleading would have fallen on deaf ears. It had happened numerous times before and in each case the judge heard the contempt. There was precedence for President Jagdeo's action and set by none other than the court.
About the President being wrong I hold the opposing view. Immediately I recalled the Super Bowl half time show during which Janet Jackson performed and inadvertently had her breast exposed. It was an accident but the people who regulate the American media landscape, even if they did think so, decided that a wrong had been committed and they were not sparing with their punishment. No amount of apology saved Janet Jackson or the television station that broadcast the show.
The fine levied against the television network would have crippled the Guyana economy and I can say nothing about Janet Jackson's punishment. There was no hue and cry by the 250 million Americans because they know the rules.
My contention is that Mr. Sharma knew the rules and therefore he should have been prepared for the sanction when it came. This may sound harsh but I am not inclined to allow my emotions to determine any issue.
Many years ago, ever since I was the Editor-in-chief with The Evening News, I often heard Mr. Anthony Vieira say that he would not be caught broadcasting any live call-in programme. He knew the angers and he took great pains to avoid the pitfalls.
In the case of Mr. Sharma, I recalled talking to him about a delayed broadcast system some seven years ago. He said that it was not necessary because the people were educated enough to know that they cannot say certain things on live television. Others of my colleagues contended that there was none, such is the level of broadcast knowledge among my colleagues.
Mr. Sharma, for all the faith in the people, ended up getting cussed with the foulest language on his own programme. That should have been a wake-up call but for some reason it wasn't. He continued along his merry way, undoubtedly working in what was for him, the masses who had no voice in the society.
Mr. Sharma has had his licence suspended before, on one occasion for one month and his move to the court did not save him. By the time it came up he was back on the air. There were also threats of suspension against HBTV Channel 9 and in one case that station had to go off the air for three days. With a measure of compassion, the people who instituted the penalty allowed the sanction to occur at a time when the station would have lost the least revenue. This was not the case with Mr. C.N. Sharma who later bemoaned the fact that he was not given adequate notice. He had advertising commitments and to be given no time to honour them would seem harsh but the legal minded people would argue that compassion is often not crucial to a decision.
I must now examine the perceived threat. The caller proclaimed that she would kill Jagdeo if anything should happen to her family. On Friday night, Mr. Sharma described her as a 78-year-old woman. The legal representatives said that the government should have gone against the caller and in my book they should have. But it is here that I see another problem. The very public would have cried shame on the government for picking on an old woman.
It happened when a woman poisoned her two children. She had killed in a most horrible way but the society felt pity for her and none other than Dr Cheddi Jagan, as President, proclaimed that the woman would not suffer the death penalty even before the case was determined in the courts.
Then there is the case of the 71-year-old woman who is accused of battering her reputed husband. Believe it or not, there were people, among them reporters, who felt that the woman should not have been charged. They would not have held the same view had the killer been a man.
Guyana is a peculiar society that tends to ignore petty wrongs until these become monsters. A boy kicks a man and the man slaps him, rest assured that the people in the vicinity would cry shame on the man. It is our penchant for ignoring the little things that has made us the complaining people we are when these things come back to haunt us.
Mr. Ramjattan said, Friday night, that the government was using a hammer to kill an ant and that may appear to be the case. Interestingly, none is disputing that Mr. Sharma broke the rules and some punishment is due. It is the severity that has people talking although I wonder whether there would not have been talk had there not been any punishment at all.
Having said all that, I must find fault with the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting. The body, on February 29, informed Mr. Sharma that he was forgiven for the broadcast on February 21 and that his apology was accepted. The committee went on to state that there would be no action for the ill-advised broadcast of the old woman's comments.
Then on March 10 the very committee decided to punish him because he had rebroadcast the offending statement on February 22 and again on February 23, long before the very committee had exonerated him. That is gross inefficiency.
The suspension issue would be talked about for some time because some people are put of a job at this time when living conditions are not any easier. I hasten to say that Mr. Sharma is not a poor man and he may consider paying the staff during the period of the suspension because when all is said and done, he is in part responsible for their unemployment.

Peeping Tom

If the order closing Channel 6 for a period was made by the President, then there is nothing that anyone can do to reverse that decision no matter how wrong, right or indifferent it may be anyone feels about that decision.
One of the lawyers supporting Mr. Sharma claimed on television that the President was breaching the law. I do not agree.
It was further suggested that in cases where the President acts ultra vires, that his constitutional immunity does not hold. I also do not agree with this point because the constitution is far from mute on this score.
The actions of the President cannot be inquired into by any court of law. As such the sanctions imposed by the President cannot be the subject of judicial review.
Article 182 of the Constitution of Guyana provides that no act done by the President shall be challenged, whether criminally or civilly, in a court of law. This speaks for itself.
The fact of the matter however is that there is no need at all for the President or his advisers to even invoke Article 182 in his defence. The President is the subject minister for communication. The subject minister has certain powers under the law amongst which is the suspension or revocation of a broadcasting license. So the President as the subject minister for communications cannot be acting ultra vires in the case of CNS Channel 6.
I equally reject the argument that the President cannot stand in judgment of himself. It has been argued that the President is the subject of the complaint made against Mr. Sharma and therefore it constitutes a clear case of bias for him to be adjudicating on the matter.
Those who advance this argument seem to have missed some important things. The first one is that the President is not the subject of the complaint. The President did not need to make a determination as to whether the statements made about him were appropriate.
Mr. Sharma through his apology to the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB) implicitly deemed the statements as inappropriate.
So there was need for the President to pronounce on the comments made about him.
The issue was not so much what was said about the President, but rather, having heard what was said, why were the comments allegedly rebroadcast. Therefore, the only issue at hand was the question of the penalty to be imposed.
In this regard, it has been argued that the ACB merely asked Mr. Sharma to apologize. I am not aware that the ACB has any such powers to impose sanctions. The ACB is merely an advisory body.
The second thing that was missed by those who claim that the President cannot sit in judgment of himself was that the President did try to have someone else hear the matter. He did ask Dr. Luncheon to deal with the issue but Mr. Sharma through his lawyers filed an objection to Dr. Luncheon hearing the matter.
So what other options were there open to the President, as the subject minister, other than to conduct the hearing himself? I hope the Guyana Press Association which through its President indicated that it was interested in an impartial and transparent process would appreciate the objection that was made when the matter was to have been heard by Dr. Luncheon.
Further, I do not agree that the President in summoning Mr. Sharma to a hearing was usurping the functions of the ACB. As indicated before, the ACB was constituted as an advisory body to the subject minister.
I am not aware that the ACB has any standing in the law but I am subject to correction. Even if however it does, the ACB is not the adjudicating body. Those powers are vested in the subject minister who is advised by the ACB but who is not compelled to go along with this advice.
The ACB, it must be recalled, emerged out of discussions between former leader of the PNCR, Desmond Hoyte and President Jagdeo. The ACB came about because of the fears that the powers granted to the subject minister in the wireless laws could be used in an arbitrary manner. Those powers, as is known, give the subject minister the right to suspend or revoke the licenses of television stations.
Hoyte was interested in ensuring a fair process and of ensuring that the subject minister would not use these powers at his whim and fancy. Thus, it was agreed that when it comes to applying sanctions for alleged violations, the subject minister would be advised by the ACB. Whether this was implemented in law, I am still not certain.
The agreement between Hoyte and Jagdeo provided for the opposition to recommend one of the persons on the ACB. But it must also be clear that person does not represent the PNCR. That person is there in his professional capacity.
It is a similar situation with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). The opposition nominates some commissioners but this does not mean that those persons are opposition representatives.
The ACB was constituted by Hoyte and the government as an advisory body to the subject minister. However, later when a television station aligned to the PNC was taken off the air for a few days, the PNCR by its public pronouncements de-recognized the very ACB that it helped establish.
During that episode, the PNCR was highly critical of the ACB and it was surprising that as part of the defence of Mr. Sharma, the PNCR referred to the admonitions of the ACB.
As things stand, therefore, the only issue having regards to the apologies offered by Mr. Sharma was the nature of the sanctions to be imposed on his station.
The station will now be off the air for four months. Those who say this is too harsh should therefore indicate whether they would have agreed with a lesser penalty. But in so far as to whether the President acted within his powers, there can be no doubt that he did.

Sunday April 13m, 2008

Consistency is the key
The decision by President Bharrat Jagdeo to suspend the licence of CNS 6 has been the talking point ever since that station went off the air at midnight on Friday last. There have been a lot of legal pronouncements, and even laymen have been arguing law as they see it.
One argument is that the President had no locus standi to effect the suspension, given that there was no recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting for such a suspension.
Indeed, the Advisory Committee is merely what the name suggests—advisory. There can be no stipulation, therefore, that the advice must be accepted, as is so often the case with most advice proffered by people entrusted with such a task. The argument, therefore, is that if there is no advice then there should be no action.
It would suggest, therefore, that those people who have been appointed to advise the President are the people who must dictate whether he acts or not. But in no part of the world must the tendering of advice precipitate action. Life does not operate that way, and surely no people, having voted for a leader, would expect that leader to act only when he is advised to do so.
The guideline that governs the ACB clearly states that the ACB would act on complaints from the public and would make a determination, then advise the Minister of Information about the recommendation for execution. By the same token, the Minister, of his own volition, could be a complainant.
No law would recommend that the complainant under such circumstances, report to the ACB, which would then listen to the complaint and then make a recommendation to the very complainant for determination.
The complainant this time around was President Bharrat Jagdeo who, because he was the aggrieved party, opted to have his Cabinet Secretary determine the issue. The person against whom the complaint was made decided to move to the courts, precluding the Cabinet Secretary from hearing the matter on the grounds that he had no locus standi.
This meant that the President, who is also the Minister of Information, was made to act in that capacity; and act he did, much to the annoyance of sections of the society, to the extent that people are citing social reasons.
What must be taken into account here is the fact that a wrong was committed and there was action, no matter how harsh that action may be. Harsh actions invariably hurt people, and there is bound to be some fallout.
When all is said and done, the real problem appears to be the application of double standards. A prevailing view is that justice is not dispensed evenly, and it is here that one must now call on the relevant authorities to ensure that justice must not only appear to be done, but must be done in a manner that the same punishment for the same offence is meted out to the errant individual or group.
This time around, the errant broadcaster is CNS 6 and that station has been dealt with condignly. One is now left to wonder whether similar condign action would have been taken against a broadcasting entity that might have committed a similar breach.
Make no mistake, there have been some serious breaches of the broadcast licences by all and sundry who accommodate live call-in programmes. Some of the vilest language could be heard on stations dubbed as entities that openly support the Government, and one cannot at any time recall any sanction—at least a sanction to which the public was privy.
To make matters even worse, things are such that rumours begin to surface. One rumour was that armed ranks had surrounded the home of Mark Benschop because he dared to call in to CNS 6 in the wake of the report of the closure. This was not true but it surely highlighted the way in which people see the Government acting against its critics or those perceived to be perennial critics.
If justice is dispensed fairly then there would be no such rumours and feelings of ill will and charges such as we are hearing at this time. Perhaps no one has gone on any station with a threat to kill anyone; perhaps that threat was what provoked the suspension.
It is time that there be consistent approaches to breaches of the regulations.

Sharma was ill advised
The decision by CNS Channel 6 owner and host of the 'Voice of the People' programme, CN Sharma to go to the courts to cancel a meeting called by the Head of the Presidential Secretariat with him was ill advised.

The meeting as I understand it, was called for Sharma to show cause why his license should not be revoked or suspended following remarks made by a caller to one of his live shows a few weeks ago.

I was listening to that programme and from the response that Sharma gave to the caller, I am of the opinion that he knew that he was in trouble immediately as the caller uttered the damaging statement.

Sharma is no dunce; he may not be very proficient in his articulation, but he 'knows where it's at'. He even went as far to apologise after the caller was cut off. So, why the big fuss now?

As far as I am aware the Government or Bharrat Jagdeo has never made any attempt to close down Channel 6 or have his programme pulled off the air. With the number of infringements being committed daily on that channel it would be the easiest thing to have the license suspended and or revoked.

I have heard persons being vilified, abused and threatened on that channel, some by name and some by their designation and place of employment. There seems to be no attempt at 'quality control' so persons do and say as they please in the name of freedom of expression.

It is not uncommon for you to hear persons threatening senior public officers by telling them that "I will put you on Sharma." Sharma and the Management of the channel need to be weary of this. This could also backfire on them.

There is a movie by the name of 'Some Times in April' which was shown recently on several channels. It is a movie that tells of some of the atrocities that transpired during the genocide in Rwanda when the Tutsis were being killed by the Hutus.

That Genocide was sparked by some irresponsible reporting that led to one journalist being taken before that international criminal court for crimes against humanity.

These are things that persons who advise, Sharma if they had his interest at heart, would have been telling him. I can understand Corbin and the PNCR jumping, it seems, to his aid, after all they have their free air time to protect.

Sharma needs to be careful with these guys; he would do well to remember the treatment meted out to him after the failure of CREEP (committee for the re-election of the President) to have Hoyte re-elected in 92.

We all know that there is no part of the world that any person would have been allowed to 'carry on' the way that Sharma does and get away with it. The freedom of speech, like any other freedom, has its limitations. Whenever these freedoms are exercised, they should not cause other persons to not enjoy their freedoms also.

To issue a threat is unlawful in any part of the world notwithstanding the freedom of speech. The same goes for libel and a number of other offences that could be committed by speech.

If it is that Sharma did not willfully allow the infringement, then he should not be fearful of attending the meeting and presenting his case. He will have to present a defence anyhow. We have this attitude in Guyana that it is inappropriate for the authorities to ask some one to explain their actions. We see the same thing happening when the police stop persons during their routine operations.

This culture has evolved as a result of the propaganda that continues to be published by opposition elements. This could be one of the causes of the daring disregard for the rule of law and order that has be exhibited by some sections of the society.

Sharma has a golden opportunity to come good; he should apologise and use his programme to educate, while entertaining.

I am not at all surprised by the PNCR statement on the issue, given the quality of the party's weekly dose of hate speech in the form of the Nation Watch programme. They have every thing to gain by conflict in the society and so they will encourage conflict where ever they could create it.

The claim that government is harassing Sharma is amusing. It seems as if it is all right for Sharma to sit in his studio and harass whomever he chooses daily; but if any person should call him to account for his actions, then it is harassment.
Jean Ramroop

I wholeheartedly agree with the Government
Many will suffer in terms of providing for their families, etc, for the next four months, now that CN Sharma's TV Channel- Six has been pulled off the air. Well I wholeheartedly agree with the Government on this matter, and Mr. Sharma had better be thankful that his channel wasn't suspended for a longer period. That is the result when those who have been entrusted with the disseminating of the day's news, current affairs, etc, cross the parameters of good journalism and enter into an arena that promotes hate, and discord.

Surely, the next four months will allow Mr. Sharma to think about what he allowed to happen on that call-in programme that brought on this whole mess.

Surely, this must be an example to others who may want to emulate this kind of political grandstanding. They must realise that in Guyana there is the law of the press, and boundaries that should not be entered and crossed. If they do, then there would be consequences.