Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Freddie the shoplifter? Government for all Guyanese

Government for all Guyanese
I challenge the likes of Robert Corbin, ACDA, Eric Phillips, Rickford Burke, Debra Carter, Karen Jack and Kean Gibson and all those who are peddling their lies of African Guyanese Marginalisation to tell me and the world that this EX-Soldier, a supporter of PNC is wrong, and that he is a racist.

Eric Phillips, you said you didn't get what you asked this Government for because you submitted names and they asked for photos to substantiate the names you submitted.

Therefore you were marginalised.

What a shame.

Phillips, travel to another country without your photo on your passport. Just tell the airport authorities you are Eric Phillips from ACDA. And see what happens.

I am willing to bet my last dollar you will be marginalised at the airport too because you won’t be getting on any flight without your photo on your passport.

Phillips you said that was your last letter---evidence of marginalisation...in Kaieteur news dated April 28,08.

You bet it had been your last attempt to talk about something that you have no knowledge about.

Come again with better facts of African Guyanese Marginalisation in Guyana by this Government.

This letter of the ex-soldier was in the Chronicle dated Monday April 28,08.

I dare any of the above mentioned names to dispute the facts stated by the ex-soldier.

So the case is closed because there is no proof from any of you of African Guyanese Marginalisation by this PPP/C Government.
It is called inclusive Government for all Guyanese.

We must ignore Kissoon’s childish tantrum
I am not in favour of long drawn out attacks in the media on persons in our society. When there is a problem, we should study it carefully and objectively and then determine the root cause. In the analysis for the root cause, we will, more than likely, discover that it is either a flawed policy or a flawed interpretation that resulted in the initial problem, real or imaginary.

I am beginning to get tired of the constant undeserved attention being paid to Mr. Kissoon.

Why are we so bent out of shape over this individual? I guess I found a partial answer today while reading his letter in another of our newspapers. Here’s a quote, “Funny how they saw bad government when a different group ruled Guyana in the seventies and eighties. Now their type is in control, and they are silent about identical forms of bad government. Mr. Benschop was put in prison for five years. Mr. Waddell was assassinated. Mr. Hinckson is now in remand. If Burnham had done all of that, they would have roamed the earth denouncing him.

There is no flawed policy working here. This is a flawed soul. While I am no expert at psychoanalysis, it is very apparent to me that this, Mr. Kissoon is longing for recognition and power. He, I am convinced, knows that reporting progress is boring and will not get him the attention he craves. Therefore, he concludes, he must put some spice in the pot – whether this is irresponsible or dishonest is not relevant.

In his bid to be recognised he pulls out the race card and – what a laugh - defends Forbes Burnham in the same breadth. My good Lord! Who allows such a crocodile to shed his tears in a newspaper?

He said he was fighting the Burnham government. I wonder what was his disagreement with that government.

Now he finds a problem with the police for arresting and charging people, suspected of committing crimes under the law. In the same letter, he even implies that the government is responsible for the death of Mr. Waddle.

Mr. Kissoon, it’s not a question of “If Burnham had done all of that…”. If you are a disciplined and objective observer and if you were one that fought the PNC government you would not have made such a silly statement. You would have known about the destruction in Georgetown and the ethnic cleansing in Mackenzie / Wismar that was perpetrated by the PNC. You want to talk race, let’s talk about the real racists.

My fellow Guyanese and readers of our newspapers, I suggest that we politely ignore the childish tantrum that Mr. Kissoon displays in his articles and letters. He is like George Bush. He will say the craziest things because he has little or no respect for his audience. That, my friends, is the doings of a sick mind. In turn, we should sympathise with him and try to help him – but please, we cannot help him by paying more attention to his sick rantings.

Freddie must tell the people about the big coat in Summer
Frederick Kissoon replied (27 April) to my letter which asked him to desist from making references to me in his writings. As an aside, I also asked him to take a good look in the mirror and try to recognise and come to terms with his abominable activities in Canada which contributed to his failure.

Apparently, this prolific writer does not understand plain English. Instead, what I see is that the cuss bud has returned injured and enraged, this time cussing me together with the whole neighborhood even louder! His “immense resentment” is intensified.

And for what? Because we live and work in “postmodern environments with better toilet facilities” rather than return to Guyana. Well sir, the truth is that Kissoon wanted to continue living in these postmodern environments and use these toilet facilities but failed to make it. Apparently, he could not meet the moral and intellectual standards of maturity and integrity that are required to succeed in these environments. He failed because of his academic incompetence and other uncivilised activities. All of these are deep rooted.

Big-coat Kissoon was a well known student book seller in Toronto . He said he looked in the mirror. Did he see Big-coat Kissoon? Even in summer, this infamous book dealer wore his big coat when he went “shopping”. Have another look in the mirror Frederick, and then devise another way to explain to your family, your students at UG, the whole Guyana, and the diplomatic corps reading KN what the reason was for your big coat.

Or, would you rather try to hide by cussing down the whole neighbourhood again for being “bad people, flawed people, unfair people, powerful people, selfish people, unjust people, exploitative people”? Man, I’ve got to be honest. Dr. Thakur was spot on about your serious Freudian problems. This is a model case of displacement.

The last time it was infantile sexual anxieties relating to Kissoon’s “immense resentment” for the Father figure with better toilet facilities. Freud traced this complex of anxieties to penis envy. Look it up in your Psych. Dic. Freddie and you will see yourself and know yourself.

And seriously Mr. Editor, Frederick Kissoon needs a holiday, a long one, for he has outlived his purpose at KN. Like so many times before, he has again failed. After more than a decade of writing, he has nothing to show for it. He has failed to bring about the violent destabilisation of the elected government of Guyana or to make a good case to cover his tracks.

To Kissoon, I say, frankly, you mash the wrong man corn! Stop hounding people everywhere for freeness. Get a job you think you can be good at and ease up on cussing the neighborhood. It doesn’t work! Dedicate yourself instead to learning the refined arts of living a balanced life.
But, most of all, please don’t wear the Big coat in Guyana. Guyanese, as you said, are poor enough.
KMUT, Thailand

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rickford Burke’s Dangerous Path of Perception; Where is Marginalization?

Where is Marginalization?
Part 4 – A Rejoinder
By Prem Misir
LET me say for the umpteenth time that our findings on marginalization focused on only one type of marginalization, social marginalization; and social marginalization has to do with examining the levels of ethnic participation in the occupational structure.

And in multiethnic societies, knowing the ethnic demographics is a prerequisite for appropriate policy formulation and good governance. Policies have to touch the lives of all of a country's citizens, and no citizen should be left behind. And so knowing the status of various ethnic groups, especially in the occupational structure, would facilitate better planning and execution of effective programs for the good of all Guyanese.

Over the past few weeks, I have been presenting findings addressing the ethnic distribution of participation in the public service. These findings have generated a huge response; but there was one personal attack from Rickford Burke of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy in New York City. But I take whatever comes in good stead, as all this goes with the terrain whether you are in academia or in some other public sphere.
And how about if our findings on ethnic distribution had shown that Africans are not marginalized, would the critics then say that this ethnic distribution is meaningless? Then if by chance, these findings do show that Africans are marginalized, then these findings would have received great accolades. And so this is the nature of the beast that permeates the critics' responses to our findings on marginalization.

I, however, would advise the Burkes of this world that personal attacks merely bring very superfluous, phony short-term gains, but have no sustainable capacity. Our findings are very significant for policy-making measures where we must continue to push for a better quality of life for all Guyanese.

And how about if our findings on ethnic distribution had shown that Africans are not marginalized; would the critics then say that this ethnic distribution is meaningless? Then if by chance, these findings do show that Africans are marginalized, then these findings would have received great accolades. And so this is the nature of the beast that permeates the critics' responses to our findings on marginalization.

The crime I seemingly may have committed, in the critics' eyes, is to release findings on the ethnic distribution of participation in the public service, and which is part of a larger study since 2002; and these findings show that many Africans are well-placed occupationally. These findings also are true of Indians, Amerindians, Mixed, and Others. However, all the responses have focused only on Africans.

However, I did not measure whether or not these well-placed Africans are tokens, are micromanaged, or are controlled by other people; and so I cannot say that they are micromanaged, or controlled. But what I can say is that they occupy senior positions. At any rate, telling a senior African manager who is not a token that he/she is a token, may very well be an insult to that person's intelligence.

But the critics all seem to conclude that well-placed Africans are marginalized, in that they are micromanaged, are tokens, or controlled by other people. Well, these critics would have to provide evidence that Africans in senior positions really are tokens, or controlled by others; this they have not done; capricious examples will not do. What yardsticks or what measures the critics apply to determine their conclusion that Africans are marginalized, or that Africans are in office and not in power. At least, I have presented evidence on the ethnic distribution of participation in the public service.

The critics need to understand, too, that we are presenting findings on only one type of marginalization, social marginalization; and social marginalization has to do with examining the levels of participation in the occupational structure.

Some critics seem confused about the distinction between marginalization and discrimination; they are not the same. And it is common knowledge that in a multiethnic society wherever marginalization prevails, it tends to touch all ethnic groups.

Again the critics seem confused about risk factors for marginalization and marginalization itself. Significant risk factors for marginalization include poverty, unemployment, sickness, physical disability. But risk factors are not forms of marginalization and their presence should not be equated with marginalization. In fact, experiencing social or/economic disadvantage is not necessarily marginalization.

Marginalization is a process, not a condition; and so the individual can experience marginalization in some parts of the life cycle and not in other parts.

This means that it may be hard to differentiate between voluntary and involuntary marginalization; cases may exist where an individual makes a voluntary choice that may involuntarily produce marginalization; or where an individual makes progressive adaptations to his marginalized status and sees the experience as acceptable.

Marginalization involves exclusion from participation in some areas of society. It is important to note that marginalization in one area of social life does not necessarily produce marginalization in others. Simmel, a German Sociologist, explains that marginalization is incomplete participation.

Rickford Burke's Dangerous Path of Perception
Real Data Fail to Support Marginalization
By Dr Tara Singh
IN politics in particular, "perception" is even more powerful than reality. Some critics like Rickford Burke who readily embrace perception and racism have also shown a penchant to unleash them with reckless abandon. Neither caring for authenticity nor the rigors of sound scholarship, and ready to trample on morality, people like Burke operate in a world of illusion, but not without moving aggressively to sway others into their concocted realm of distortions and innuendos. While established science and religion have "truth" as their core principle, that is anathema to them. Accepting the truth will not only mean a massive transformation, but also, lead to the crumbling of their beloved fate of racism.

It's the pursuit of truth that will eventually set us free; no matter how great may be our temporary advantage. Radical perceptionists aim to keep us in darkness, a situation where the blind leads the blind. They continue to bombard us with distortions. And if we are weak, we buckle under their relentless pressure. If we are strong enough, their mission collapses. And how do we become strong? By seeking the truth! The IT (information technology) revolution has endowed us with an infrastructure capable of enhancing our knowledge and wisdom that can eventually tear down the walls of darkness, and erect instead, a fortress of enlightenment. In this way, we can bring their misguided journey to a halt.

The truth must never become a casualty of expediency. We recognize that it carries a high price in the short run, but such sacrifice will pay enormous dividends later. Let's be guided in our deliberations and actions by the scientific method, as well as, by the moral compass of our spiritualism. While there are instances when some type of perception may turn into the truth, more often than not, it remains just perception, and loaded with undesirable connotations. Our challenge, therefore, is never to allow perception to be a substitute for truth.

What's the practical application of this approach, for example, to the social situation in Guyana? Some say that President Bharrat Jagdeo and his PPP/C government represent an "ethnocracy." What's the meaning of this, in layman terms? It's a government of one ethnic group that is also a dictatorship. This is a classic case of perception or falsehood. President Jagdeo and his government were duly elected at fair and free elections. They did not rig the elections, as previous PNCR governments had done. In addition, the Jagdeo government contains 50% non-Indians, compared with the Patrick Manning PNM government of Trinbago that has less than 20% of Indians. If there is a dictator in a CARICOM country, then look to Trinbago, and not to Guyana. Yet, our critics including Rickford Burke conveniently ignore this situation and embrace Manning and his government, especially when Burke recently dispatched a letter to Manning describing the evils of the Jagdeo government and siding with the Manning administration; clearly, the logic here points to Rickford Burke as a racist.

President Jagdeo has shown a remarkable capacity to cross ethnic boundaries. It is known that the PNCR government presided over the economic collapse of the bauxite mining town at Linden, and that it is the Jagdeo administration that has infused it with new life. It's no wonder that the PPP/C won a Parliamentary seat for the first time at Linden (a former stronghold of the PNCR), something which the critics had failed to perceive. The PPP/C won a sizeable number of Afro-Guyanese votes at Linden and elsewhere in the country.

By the pursuit of sound policies and "inclusionary" measures, the Bharrat Jagdeo government has even made greater inroads into interior communities, the once traditional strongholds of the TUF and the PNCR. But the process of "enlightenment" that sweeps across the country has not left the Amerindian communities untouched. In gratitude, they delivered, for the first time, a number of Parliamentary seats to the PPP/C. And how can we forget about President Jagdeo's recent appointment of Ms Carolyn Rodriguez, an Amerindian, to the high-profile position of Minister of Foreign Affairs! What ethnocracy are they talking about? Are they using marginalization as a surrogate for exclusion from Cabinet-level power? "Rickford Burke, snap out of your dream, Burnham and Hoyte are no longer there."

Rickford Burke, a PNCR activist, desperately fighting for Robert Corbin's position, now a so-called democratic guru of the worst kind, and a bitter critic of the Jagdeo administration, has launched a scathing attack on Dr Prem Misir. Again, the basis of his argument is grounded in perception and innuendos. "Prem Misir, the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, continually demonstrates his proclivities for blatant partisan politics, which manifest Guyana's ruling People's Progressive Party's (PPP) philosophy of racism. His prejudices are openly and recklessly promulgated by pen in the daily media, as he enmeshes himself into his party's ethnocratic politics and promotes their nefarious propaganda as the State apparatus' misinformation czar."

This type of incendiary outburst by Rickford Burke is not scholarship, but a sordid attempt to demonize an outstanding Guyanese, one who rose from the sugar plantations to become the Pro-Chancellor of UG. The "racist" epithet better fits Rickford Burke and not Dr Misir, who has shown a capacity in his writings with seven (7) books to his credit and several research studies and articles, as well as, in his life to rise above racism.

And Burke claims, too, that Misir is exploiting the gowns of academia to dispense partisan politics. The University of Guyana (UG) has several senior academics and administrators who are clearly aligned with various political parties, and blatantly dole out partisanship. And let it be known that there is no such thing as a class of literati at this UG, who has the capability and integrity to recognize anyone for scholarship. No one in academia at the present UG could merit recognition as a scholar; and their political leanings are astounding.

Don't confuse Dr Misir's disdain for PNCR politics with racism. To some people, to criticize the PNCR is tantamount to become a racist. Don't "pull down" Dr Misir because he is bold enough to show via research that Afro-Guyanese have not been marginalized by the PPP/C, as claimed frequently by critics. Upon what evil and racist road is Rickford Burke's one-man Guyana Caribbean Institute for Democracy sliding?

Let's examine the notion of marginalization. At the level of the Permanent Secretary, both Indo and Afro are fairly well represented. However, Afro-Guyanese hold an advantage in all other senior administrative and executive positions, such as, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Principal Assistant Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Accountant Heads, and Senior Personnel Officers. "There is an evolving ethnic mix in the hierarchy of control throughout the Public Service," says Dr Misir.

Most Heads of Nursery, Primary, and Secondary Schools, are Afro-Guyanese. Only at the Primary level do Indo-Guyanese show competitiveness with Afro-Guyanese for Headships. Under the PNC/R regime, 70% of Afro-Guyanese were Regional Education Officers (REDOs). In 2006, Afro-Guyanese constituted 55% and Indo-Guyanese 45% of REDOs. There is a disproportionate number of Afro-Guyanese over Indo-Guyanese academic staff at the University of Guyana. "The ethnic imbalance among academics is astounding -- 22% of Indo-Guyanese, as opposed to, 67% of Afro-Guyanese that occupy faculty positions." Only in the Natural Sciences, is there any competitiveness in staff allocation.

Again, there are data in other areas of public life to refute the thesis of Afro-Guyanese marginalization. Between 1992 and 2002, for example, over 70,000 house lots were distributed to Guyanese, of which 29,287 were allotted to Indo-Guyanese and 25,810 to Afro-Guyanese in the 10 regions. This equitable distribution holds good also for Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese in the Education State Boards, as well as, other State Boards (Source: Where is Marginalization, Part 2 by Dr Prem Misir).

Having reviewed these data, we are puzzled to understand why these critics still speak about ethnic "marginalization." Was marginalization a concept ever developed during the Burnham era? If so, why wasn't it applied then to the social conditions of Guyana? Critics seemed to be more concerned about preserving the "rights" of a few, who had stolen power, rather than with the pursuit of the truth. Perhaps, if they dared, they would have been liquidated! For other critics, their time had come, and accountability was less important than enjoying the trappings of office.

The PPP/C government inherited a grave problem that they never created. Economic collapse, a huge foreign debt, double digit inflation, high interest rates, negative foreign reserves, and a battered population who managed to survive, but were left hopeless by years of PNCR tyranny. For 28 years, the PNC/R had been unable to lift the Guyanese people (Afro-Guyanese, Indo-Guyanese, Amer-Guyanese, and Others) out of poverty and despair, and brought them instead to economic ruins. Yet the same critics had failed to chastise the PNCR government for their ineptitude.

Over the succeeding 15 years (1992-2008), was it reasonable to have expected the PPP/C to pull Guyanese out of that abyss of despair into which they were hurled? While most of the available evidence is positive, we must indicate here that most Guyanese are not yet happy with the fight against crime and corruption. The failure to capture the notorious Buxton Rawlins' gang, despite massive injection of assets into the army and police, and other law enforcement agencies, still leaves Guyanese baffled. Will this gang be ever apprehended? Will the infusion of additional capital assets into the Police Force in particular necessarily lead to attitudinal transformation? Will this help to change the "culture" of the police?

On the positive side, inflation is in single digits; the national debt is less than

US$700 M; there is a healthy foreign reserve; growth is positive; and never before in the history of the country had there been a more inclusive governing structure than presently. In the absence of shared governance, inclusive governance is a step ahead of the Westminster Parliamentary model.

The government can do much better if only it gets the support of the PNCR and other opposition elements. Distortions and the spreading of fear hurt everyone. Poverty and unemployment exist, but these cannot be equated with marginalization, which is a conscious policy to leave defined groups behind in the process of development based on colour or ethnicity. No one believes that the PPP/C government is engaged in this deprecatory practice.

Let's continue to bring alleged cases of racial discrimination to the Ethnic Relations Commission for adjudication. And yes, let's stop peddling false information, and work together to build our country. More than ever, Guyana needs builders and not destroyers.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Marginalisation requires detailed analysis, it can’t just be asserted

Marginalisation requires detailed analysis, it can’t just be asserted

April 26, 2008

Dear Editor,
I wish to respond to Kean Gibson’s letter captioned “case can be made for marginalisation without the use of statistics” (08.04.24)

This flimsy assertion is an attempt by Ms Gibson, to make a claim and not see the need to prove it. She cannot make wild accusations and then say you don’t need any proof. That suggests her claims are not grounded in reality but are based on hearsay and rumours because any sensible person will ask questions such as, how, when, where, show me. Like I have said before to others who make similar claims of marginalisation of African-Guyanese, where are the statistics to back up the claim you are making?
Ms Gibson goes on to say that African Guyanese are referred to as “criminals, murderers, rapists, lawless, two-faced, untrustworthy, violent, only interested in sex and drugs etc”, in the Guyana Chronicle. I don’t recall ever seeing these terms used to describe African Guyanese in the Chronicle. I challenge Ms Gibson to give a specific example.

What I do see in the papers is the reference to people involved in crime and murders as killers and rapists and thieves. What would you like us to call them, Ms Gibson?

The writer goes on to make all kinds of assertions about the police and army killing black men. Ms Gibson, the men who have been killed in shootouts with police in the large majority of cases, were armed, wanted, or suspects in crimes.

I challenge you to compare the number of arrests made, as opposed to those incidents when someone was killed in a confrontation with the police, and you will see that the latter is a tiny part of the whole.

But, Ms Gibson, I think you have touched on a very contentious issue in your claim about African Guyanese being described as criminals, etc. The problem here is that the media refuses to describe suspects according to race. When a crime is committed, and the victims have seen the perpetrators, as in Enmore and Bartica, their description should be made public in the media. This way there will be no dispute of who is being labelled a criminal, and who is not.

I know that the large majority of African Guyanese are not criminals or thieves or murderers or rapists. I know that many are decent, hard-working people. However, it is clear that there is a segment of the African Guyanese population that is bent on crime and is congregated in certain areas - Buxton, Agricola, Albouystown, etc. They have been used and are being encouraged by the black right-wing to cause mayhem, make Guyana “unmanageable and “ungovernable”. When people see African Guyanese committing these crimes and being used to instill fear and cause chaos in the society, do you not understand that they would associate them with criminal activity? You cannot blame the government or Indians for that.

If you care to respond to this letter, please don’t go blaming the present government for the high crime rate among African Guyanese. This was the case under Burnham and Hoyte as well, and Indians were the victims then also. Take the time to look at structural, cultural, and political influences within the black community, as explanations for this phenomenon.

It is the same whether you look at Indians and Africans in Trinidad or Fiji or Uganda or South Africa. We must have the wherewithal to do an honest analysis instead of looking to blame others for our problems. Only then can we begin to solve them.
Yours faithfully,
Mohan Singh

The President had to take firm action to end provocative broadcasting

The President had to take firm action to end provocative broadcasting

April 26, 2008

Dear Editor,
The temporary suspension of Channel 6 for four months is a necessity. And it needed to be done with the full force of the presidential executive order to get other media houses to act responsibly in the discharge of their duties.

While I am no great fan of presidential executive orders as they can lead to a situation in which a President, feeling he/she is under siege, can use these excessively. The requir-ement to act was necessary.

The importance of the President’s act is to ensure that Guyanese media houses do not disintegrate to the level of Rwanda that led to the mass killings of hundreds of thousands of people. Had a certain radio station not broadcast the need for ethnic cleansing in Rwanda I would have agreed that the decision to temporarily close CNS 6 was excessive.

Against the reality of the misuse of the media in Rwanda it was a wise decision to put the full power of the President behind the decision. Else, you would wake up one day and find more people in media houses calling for the killing of other politicians and for civil(?) society calling for the killing of people under the guise of “armed struggle”.

In Guyana already there are calls for killings of people under the guise of “armed struggle” that has possibly been responsible for the Lusignan and Bartica killings.
This is the reality of Guyana.
Yours faithfully,
Cliff Persaud

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The show must go on

The show must go on
It is often said that when events of a national flavour take place, all are involved, regardless of which political party is in power. Lo and behold, in the wake of CARIFESTA X coming to Guyana soon, PNCR leader, Robert Corbin, had during a recent protest march declared that if the CNS channel 6 suspension was not lifted, there would be protests to make the tenth Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) which is to be held here later this year “unmanageable”.

Guyanese are dismayed and disgusted with such a statement coming from the lips of the leader of the PNCR, Robert Corbin, which, according to Culture, Youth and Sport Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony, is “irresponsible and potentially disrupting to national life”. This is nothing short of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is nothing short of child’s play.

Guyanese are flabbergasted at the infantile behaviour by Mr. Corbin in making such a declaration. They say this type of behaviour strikes at the very root of the PNCR which has over the years mastered the art of creating disturbances, disruptions and mayhem. Indeed they say that the PNCR has a proud and rich history of this kind of activity, known only to uncivilized societies.

The Guyanese people remember that CARIFESTA was the brainchild of the late founder leader of the PNC, LFS Burnham, and the first ever CARIFESTA was held in Guyana in 1972. Now some 35 years later, this very colourful Caribbean Festival of Arts is coming back to Guyana. The Guyanese people see Corbin’s disclosure as an insult to the founder leader of the PNC.

The people believe that if Mr. Corbin goes ahead with his plans, it will throw a damper, not only on Artistes coming from sister CARICOM countries, but also on Guyanese artistes and the entire Guyanese nation as a whole.

Culture, Youth and Sport Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony, in a reaction to Corbin’s outpourings said that the opposition leader’s statement was “unreasonable”, adding: “ it is surely foolhardy for any responsible national leader to threaten to sabotage an international event in Guyana to which the world is coming, based on certain local issues with both legal in the case of CNS TV 6 suspension, and global implications, the latter having to do with food prices and the cost of living challenges”.

Guyanese are fed up with this type of behaviour from the major opposition party and are questioning the attitude of some of its leaders. The people agree with Minister Anthony when he said “to threaten an international event full of socio-economic and cultural benefits for the nation is a virtual abuse of the freedoms guaranteed by the government”.

The people are saying that the PNCR and Corbin should not be allowed to carry out their plans to cause any disruptions to the smooth running of CARIFESTA X. The Guyanese nation points to the theme under which CARIFESTA X will be held:

“One Caribbean; One Purpose; Our Culture; Our Life”, and call on the leaders of the PNCR to pay special attention to it.

CARIFESTA X will boast an impressive line-up of activities, including the opening and closing ceremonies, culinary, visual, literary and performing arts, community festivals, grand cultural market, child/youth fora, symposia, workshops as well as signal events and super concerts.

The Guyanese people are looking forward for the hosting of this great and majestic event.


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.

Oppositional elements are tearing this country apart for no good reason

Oppositional elements are tearing this country apart for no good reason
The CNS TV suspension has triggered some kind of revival within the PNCR and a few other opposition elements. It’s always good to have an effective opposition; but it is always problematic when the opposition presents a distorted framework in their move to address issues of the day. Their presentation on rising cost of living seems to suggest that the Government of Guyana is totally culpable for the increased food prices.

I am not sure whether the opposition elements are aware of a global food crisis that had its origins in 2002; and where in 2007 alone, global grain prices increased by 42%.

We now know that food costs as a percentage of disposable income have skyrocketed. Nowhere is this clearer than in developing economies where nearly 75% of a person’s disposable income is expended on food.

The World Bank in a recent report concluded that wheat prices increased by 181% within the previous three years, with global food prices escalating by 83%.

And while crude oil price is US$117 per barrel, we need to note that Guyana purchases refined oil, meaning that that Guyana’s cost of oil per barrel is more than US$117.

Some causes for the rising food prices are well documented and now fully in the public domain. These causes include high oil prices; increased world population producing greater demand; limited supply of wheat due to drought; agricultural production, especially corn used to produce bio-fuels; and climate change.

The opposition groupings also should know that this Government has made effective responses to cushion the effects of the rising cost of living; and such cushions are greatly comparable to our CARICOM neighbors. Some cushioning includes an increased zero-rated VAT list; no excise tax on diesel, kerosene, and cooking gas; lifting of the Common External Tariff (CET), the current aggressive campaign to grow more food, and indeed, the Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture (JIA).

The JIA had its origins from 2002 when President Bharrat Jagdeo wanted help from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), together with CARICOM to transform the status of agriculture in the Caribbean. The JIA is expected to prioritize the Caribbean agricultural sector, in order to reach the level of sustainable development.

And then we have the CNS TV 4-month suspension issue that has attracted wide publicity and titillated the imaginations of the opposition forces and others. Any threat to kill any President of any country is more than serious; and a caller on the CNS TV ‘Voice of the People’ made such a threat. The broadcaster on CNS TV acknowledged the difficulty presented by this caller; and so CNS TV, through this broadcast, violated the conditions of the Licence as well as the law. Yet CNS TV effected three unedited rebroadcasts of this programme; the television station had sufficient time to edit out the ‘threat’; but failed to take corrective action.

Then there was the other charge by some groups that the President should have recused himself from the hearing as he was the aggrieved person. Well, the CNS TV team proceeded to file a court order to prevent Dr. Roger Luncheon, the President’s delegate, from administering the hearing on the ground that Luncheon had no authority to administer such a hearing; the CNS TV team succeeded.

According to the CNS TV team, it also sought a court order earlier to prevent the President and Minister of Communications from administering the hearing; but the court did not make a ruling on that day, as the matter was scheduled for hearing the following week.

And so the President in the presence of the Attorney General heard the Licensee. The Licensee was found to have violated the conditions of his Licence by broadcasting on four occasions content that encouraged the killing of the Head of State. I think it is important to note, too, that the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB) is a purely advisory body that makes recommendations.

And then we have the usual suspects presenting the usual distortions of the political history of this country. Here are some examples of their distortions: Guyana has no democracy; Guyana is a fragile state; Guyana is a failed state; Guyana has an elected dictatorship; and so on.

Transition to democracy came in 1992 after 24 years of authoritarianism; when no institution made the government accountable to its people; an age of coercion where the People's National Congress' (PNC) rulers saw no limits to their authority, and regulated all social life.

Today, the Guyanese people do experience democracy, albeit a fragile democracy. But if there is no democracy, as some claim, then there is authoritarianism.

If these ‘authoritarian’ things are really part of the woodwork in Guyana, then columnists in the print or electronic media would not be able to dispense their regular opposition and deception; but these ‘opposition’ commentators do spew out their regular diatribe within the ambit of the daily newspapers and the electronic media, without any governmental censure. I do not think a dictatorship would allow the opposition to use the spectrum and the print media in this way.
Wake up Sharma!
What is really going on in Guyana? I just read in the newspaper that the Opposition Leader in the country is saying that Carifesta is going to be affected if something is not done to remedy the Channel 6 suspension matter. I have to ask “What does that issue have to do with Carifesta?”

Is Guyana going to be remembered as a lawless country where people can just break the law and then be as the old folks would say, ‘wrong and strong’?

So, the Opposition Leader is now using Sharma’s story to cause problems for Guyana and its image to other countries. This is really ridiculous!

You know, I have to commend Stabroek News for its cartoon where it is depicting Mr. Sharma as a jackass being ridden by the Opposition Leader and others. I always thought this was the case but could never get the picture right. The cartoonist got it perfectly right. The Opposition Leader definitely does not care about Guyana or Mr. Sharma. Mr. Sharma’s story will now be placed in the book of other stories to be used as the excuse for the Opposition people wanting their way ‘or the highway’. This nonsense has to stop. Mr. Sharma broke the rules and is now paying for it. This is sad because that lady was out of place.

But Sharma cannot see that he is being used all around by the Opposition Leader, by the Mayor, some news media persons, the poor people who only use his programme but don’t vote for him, the callers who only call because that is the only channel where they could call and talk about any trash that comes to their mind, by the lawyers who set him up knowing full well that the President was also the Minister of Information, by Joey Jagan, by the Doctor with the fancy accent who said he would put his life on the line to defend him (we all know this is a lie), by everyone he comes into contact with…and I can go on.

As for Carifesta and whatever is being planned by Guyana’s selfish Opposition, this will only make Guyana look bad. Is this what Guyanese really want?

The Opposition leader and his Party and the others riding Mr. Sharma are simply selfish. Wake up Sharma! Politics is such a dirty game and Mr. Sharma has done a lot for the poor people. I sometimes feel sorry for this man.

Monday, April 21, 2008

SHARMA: blatant infringements of basic broadcast rectitude, total ignorance in the belief that freedom rights will protect him from slandering govern

By David de Groot
“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” This age-old adage readily comes to mind whenever I encounter television owner Sharma, whilst flipping through the channels to settle on something that can stimulate my mind and attention.

On reflection, I am reminded of the advent of the Sharma channel on the television screen of our sets some years back. The recent history of this advent will disclose that it provided comic ignorance and became a light diversion from the more serious and informative programmes. In other words, no one took him and his station seriously, if only because of the abysmal ignorance being displayed by the politically aspiring Sharma.

There was blissful ignorance in pursuing a course of blatant infringements of basic broadcast rectitude, total ignorance in the belief that freedom rights will protect him from slandering government ministers, heads of public sector entities or any other public figure. Well, he will soon learn that freedom of speech does not permit anyone from bellowing “fire! Fire!” in a crowded and packed auditorium or cinema or any other similar situation.

This brings me to what I consider the uncalled hullabaloo that has been mounted by all the various elements that are opposed to the government over what must be a case of straight forward appropriate action against Sharma and his television station. There is clearly no doubt that he is guilty using his television station to advocate the killing of the president of the country. He is clearly wrong, and it is an infringement of the conditions of the licence under which he is permitted to operate a TV station. Indeed, Sharma himself pleaded guilty to the charge and attempted to apologise, but he deliberately and almost immediately committed the infringement by again airing the specific advocacy of the killing of the Head of State, not once, but thrice! What disrespect for the rule of law!

Now that there could be no doubt that Sharma is guilty of a severe infringement of the conditions of the licence granted to him by a government agency, and considering that the very Sharma and his station were previously taken off the air, the infractions of another serious complaint, it is my view that the suspension of four months is extremely light. Serious consideration should be given towards closing down the station by the withdrawal of the licence.

To permit any television station to operate and to project the degree of non-educational programmes is tantamount to a national disgrace. The misuse of the English Language and generally poor quality of the programming on Sharma’s channel is clearly having a negative impact on the education of the younger generation of the viewing public.

Maintaining a higher standard must be a core intent of any properly-run station. Unfortunately, Sharma is obviously ill-equipped to undertake the kind of responsibility that is necessary to aim for the desired standard required.

To introduce specious arguments on the question of the denial of some freedom or other are quite palpable attempts at politicising the issue. Also for Sharma to cry out about his 30-odd workers being deprived of their earnings, he should have had them in mind in the first place. So as I started, I will end by emphasizing that: “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Putting self-loathing joker Kissoon on warning; Inciting violence

Putting Kissoon on warning
I AM tired of seeing Freddie Kissoon referring to me in his articles. In his response to Ravi Dev on 17 April in Stabroek News, this is what he wrote:

“Did Dev have in mind those who turned their backs on the country of their birth like Dr. Randy Persaud and his brother, Walter, David Dabydeen, Rickey Singh, Vishnu Bisram and countless others who live and work in classy environments in post-modern countries and use ultra-modern washroom facilities at their work place while in Guyana…”

I don’t know why Kissoon writes such things about me or why I am an object of his “immense resentment.”

Anyway, whatever the reasons for his intense resentment, I would like to ask Mr. Kissoon to desist from making references to me in his future columns. My reason is that I believe his writing is not constructive. More often than not, it seems to be deliberately trying to aggravate people and sow conflict in Guyana. He and Sharma seem to be bedfellows. Whatever may be his problems, one thing is for sure: he has become a liability to Guyana.

Moreover, Mr. Kissoon ought to take a good look at himself in the mirror when he goes about condemning one person after another, all of whom are more qualified, successful and honorable than himself.

About turning my back on Guyana, well, destructive people like Mr. Kissoon have indeed made Guyana a difficult place to live. It makes constructive use of my knowledge and experience difficult in Guyana, and tolerates all forms of violence that are inimical to my nature. Mr. Kissoon can celebrate this achievement if he likes; that is the kind of thing he works for.

Meanwhile, I am very happy where I am and all I can say to Guyanese in Guyana is that I feel sorry for you for having to put up with a destructive person like Mr. Freddie Kissoon.

Again I would urge his boss to give him a long holiday to sort himself out. He deserves it.
Dr. Walter H. Persaud

Those who incite violence must be dealt with
THE letter by Khushi Kumar published in the Friday’s edition of the Kaieteur News raises some important points. It questions whether the threat made on Channel 6 by a caller and repeated on three occasions was illegal. Kumar’s argument is that the call was made at a time when fear had gripped the minds of many people and therefore should be treated lightly.

Kumar seems to have more information than most since he knows that it is a 71-year-old woman who made the call. But the reason for the action as pointed out by the President and supported by two other notable persons in the broadcast media (Adam Harris and Tony Vieira) was the re-broadcast of the call.

I am not sure that Kumar heard the call, but I did. To my mind it had the potential to incite persons to commit the act, so even if that person did not commit the act she could have caused some one else to act, the fact that it was repeatedly shown made it even more volatile.

Abu Izzadeen or Omar Brooks, a British citizen, was found guilty in a British court of ‘inciting terrorism overseas’ for a speech he made at a mosque in London. He had previously heckled the Home Secretary John Reid during a speech in London. He and five others are facing the possibility of life imprisonment – that is the UK today. If something like that had happened in Georgetown, Guyana, the Opposition and all other critics would have been protesting and claiming discrimination.

It is good to forgive, but when persons are bent on leading innocent persons to commit all manner of evil due to their ignorance, they must be dealt with or there will be anarchy.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

KISSOON ashamed he is Indian; Noisemakers

Freddie Kissoon performs the duties
of an intellectual gadfly

Dear Editor,
Even though many have advised that I should leave unanswered, what I dubbed in 1992, “Mr. Fredrick Kissoon’s querulous polemics”, I do believe that he performs a yeoman task in this country – that of a public intellectual gadfly.
This is not an inconsiderable contribution in the creation or maintenance of a democratic society. But I do wish he would be a tad more careful with some of his utterances that he issues so definitively as “facts” – and when these are shown to be erroneous, blithely goes on to make other, just as outrageous, allegations.
In his Monday (14-04-08) column, referring to my use of the words, “our country (meaning his and mine)”, he asserted: “I need to point out to Dev that Guyana is my land. I hold no passport for another country, unlike Mr. Dev.” To drag this allegation into a discussion about the regimes of the PPP and Mr. Burnham’s PNC could serve no other purpose than to burnish Mr. Kissoon’s patriotism vis a vis mine, and confer on him a greater legitimacy to this land. I responded unambiguously: “I have never had a passport other than a Guyanese one in my entire life, unlike what Mr. Kissoon claims so categorically. It has been said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, but I do believe that Mr. Kissoon has earned the right to say, “Guyana is my land”. Without even an acknowledgement of his misstatement, much less an apology, Mr. Kissoon veered off to declare that as far as “patriotism as a refuge of scoundrels” was concerned, in “Freudian terms” I was thinking about my “friends in the US” and some named expatriate Guyanese, with whom he disagrees. Evidently, overseas Guyanese cannot be as patriotic as Mr. Kissoon, because they enjoy “luxuries” abroad.
I raise this issue at this time because this tactic is an old one with Mr. Kissoon – he made the same allegations about myself back in the early nineties. He further claimed that I “chose to attack someone like me (Mr. Kissoon) who fought for the re-creation of the circumstances that would allow Dev and the PPP to be free once more…” Isn’t this ploy reminiscent of the “Where was Ravi Dev?” from the very PPP, whom Mr. Kissoon excoriates for using “dictatorial” tactics? What I would like to remind Mr. Kissoon, once again, is that overseas Guyanese played a vital role in the struggle for free and fair elections here.
The group of which I was part (and of which Mr. Vishnu Bisram also was) and so many others, lobbied Senators (especially Kennedy), Congressmen, the National Endowment for Democracy, and numerous US institutions including the Carter Center, to consider Guyana’s plight.
We picketed PNC officials when they appeared and hosted (as well as gave financial support) to all opposition parties. An essential point I would like to make about the overseas Guyanese involvement is that it would have been easier for them to enjoy their “luxuries” then (as today) but it was their love of this land that made them get involved.
Today, if the MFI’s can comment on our affairs because they have forgiven some debts, then Guyanese who send back over US$400 million annually have certainly earned the right.
But Mr. Kissoon does not deny all Guyanese the right to comment on Guyanese affairs – he has quoted approvingly from some of his old colleagues in the WPA who are also presumably enjoying those crass “overseas” luxuries, with nary a censure from him - but only those whose views differ from his politically.
Is this the mindset by which he hopes to build democracy in Guyana? Remember the old adage: ends are merely consummated means and thus the two can never be disjunctured. And isn’t this one of the practices of the PPP that Mr. Kissoon also castigates?
Finally, unmindful and unrepentant of his recent categorical misstatements (that the African Security Dilemmas was added to the Indian one “to save my sinking ship”; that I was a citizen of another country, etc) Mr. Kissoon offers another whopper: I have a “niche at Freedom House or New Garden Street”. All because, to his assertion that, “I believe the rule of the PPP has degenerated in forms that are worse than under Forbes Burnham.” I wrote: “Analyses of social phenomena, by their very nature, suggest strategies of action for the citizenry. In a country where some have launched violent attacks on citizens and state, care should be taken when an analysis may justify such strategies for regime change.” The words, “care should be taken” are interpreted as an “attack” by Mr. Kissoon. If I knew even an iota as much about Freud as Mr. Kissoon asserts he does, I may be tempted to suggest (not assert) that Mr. Kissoon is a bit paranoid. He should have waited for my analysis of the PPP’s regime in next Sunday’s Kaieteur News.
Ravi Dev

Finding another noisemaker

The word dictatorship is becoming increasingly popular in the vocabulary of many people these days and chief among those who are keen to use the word is Freddie Kissoon, who has a perennial grudge against the government and the opposition political parties.
Ever since the government decided that it would no longer tolerate the lawlessness that passes for so many things, including freedom of expression, it is being characterized as a dictatorship.
The first time this began to happen, the government allowed it to pass unnoticed because it was certain that this was just a passing phase in the game that is currently being played by all and sundry who feel that there is nothing better to do than to blame the government.
They wanted to see a reduction in the value added tax and thus a reduction in the quality of service being provided to the less fortunate in the society and when this did not happen, they said that they were living in a dictatorship.
The accusations continued more recently with the decision to suspend the broadcast licence for CNS Channel 6.
The PNCR decided that the government was a dictatorship but only after Freddie Kissoon concluded that Bharrat Jagdeo was worse than Burnham.
The pattern is that any time the government does not accede to a demand by the various forces arrayed against it then that government is a dictatorship.
On Tuesday, President Jagdeo decided to break his silence over the Sharma issue.
The Kissoons and the Corbins and the Ramjattans all decided that Sharma was an angel and that the government was picking on him. When people began to point out that Sharma was known for intemperate language, the clarion call was that Sharma was harmless and that he was uneducated.
This, to their mind, was that Sharma should be allowed to say and do what he pleased because he did not know better and that he was only for entertainment. If that was the case, how then could so many people take their woes to him and provide him with a platform to accuse the government of every conceivable ill under the sun?
If Sharma could be allowed to say and do as he pleased on the public airwaves, because he was harmless, what was there to stop other broadcasters from doing the same and pointing to Sharma as their example? In Guyana people have a way of pointing to the ills of others to justify their own.
But that argument never occupied even the smallest portion in the minds of the critics, among them people who claim to be journalists and who rushed to the side of Sharma knowing all along that he would not have been allowed to broadcast in any other part of the world.
They then concluded that a dictator had picked on Sharma because he was a critic of the government.
The government and other rational minded people in the society pointed out that Sharma had committed an infringement, a fact that the critics were forced to acknowledge and to change their tune. No longer was the issue that Sharma was innocent and harmless but that the penalty was too severe.
If a man commits a crime and the penalties for that crime are clearly stated, how is it that all of a sudden the penalty should only be imposed at the whims and fancies of the critics?
This time around, the penalty, which could have been much more severe had the authorities stuck to the rules clearly stated on the broadcast licence, is too severe.
By the same token a three-year jail term for smoking a “little weed” should be considered too severe and should evoke the same level of protest that we see now.
But such is not the nature of the critics who pick the issues that could give them maximum attention.
The focus has suddenly shifted from Sharma to the people employed at the television station.
The dictatorship has taken bread from the mouths of people and is forcing them to join the breadline. The man who goes to jail for his “little weed” is also being removed from his family for whom he is a provider. There is no protest, however.
Sharma created the conditions to cause his staff to suffer. The blame is all his but the critics do not see it that way. For the sake of talking and blaming the government they jump on their hobby horse and blame the government.
In a matter of days the dust would have settled and the issue would fade from public view because the critics know that they are on shaky ground but rest assured, there will be something else that would allow the Kissoons and the Corbins and the Ramjattans and the Woolfords and the Chabrols to blame the government.

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

KISSOON ashamed he is Indian

What a pathetic slob is this Kissoon guy! Now, he is exposed by a fellow columnist and by Moses Nagamootoo
Peeping Tom

Very few have been spared the wrath of Freddie Kissoon’s pen. He has attacked all and sundry in his long stint as a columnist, first with the Catholic newspaper, then Stabroek News, in his own television programme, and now as a daily feature in the Kaieteur News. In that regard he has been consistent and credible.
But while he has flayed far and wide, his most vicious swipes have been reserved for Indian academics and intellectuals.
He has railed against even his old comrades, including on occasions against Dr. David Hinds, but he has reserved the greatest venom for East Indian intellectuals such as Ravi Dev, Dr Prem Misir, Dr Cheddi Jagan and Dr. Randy Persaud.
He even went emotionally overboard one day and said that, because of the way East Indians voted in the last elections, he was ashamed to be an East Indian.
He should be forgiven for that faux pas, because he is not against any race, much less his own.
No one should make the mistake of concluding that Freddie has anything against his own people. No one should mistakenly assume that Freddie does not identify with his own race. He does, and does so deeply, so much so that the main reason why he reserves his most forceful assaults against East Indian academics is because he wants to be seen as the ultimate Indian hero of Guyana, the number one Indian academic and columnist.
He ensures that no East Indian voice other than his gains prominent recognition locally. Thus, no sooner does any credible East Indian voice attain prominence or threaten to do so, Freddie takes that person apart through his arguments.
Even Vishnu Bisram, who does not fall into the category of an intellectual, has faced the fury of Freddie’s pen. Kissoon would not allow Bisram to gain a valuable foothold as an opinion-maker. No, that place is almost exclusively reserved for Freddie, who wishes to be seen as the ultimate East Indian hero of Guyana.
I have studied this character for some time now, and I am convinced that Freddie is driven by the fear that other East Indians will steal his thunder as the chief opinion-maker.
He would, like he did yesterday, lash out against others whom he sees as threatening his position. In yesterday’s edition he made some sweeping statements about Ravi Dev; and then, as is he prone to do, misrepresented what the man had said some time ago.
Ravi is capable of defending himself against the likes of Kissoon. In fact, he is far more than capable.
Dev, however, continues to engage in fruitless exchanges with the professor, because he does not understand the psychology of the man. Dev sees Kissoon as someone who, unlike himself, is willing to deny his ethnicity.
He is wrong. Kissoon, in attacking East Indian commentators, is merely fulfilling his aspirations as the ultimate East Indian hero of Guyana.
Kissoon patterns himself after his Bollywood hero, Amitabh Bachchan. Most persons believe that Uncle Freddie sports a hippie hairstyle because he has a romantic obsession with the seventies of his radical youth. In fact, his long hairstyle is an imitation of his film-star hero, Bachchan, the man who in movies railed against all injustices.
Freddie used to go to the Empire cinema to see Bachchan, and this is why he has never cut his hair. Deep within his psyche he desires to become a real-life hero, fighting the same sort of injustices as Bachchan did in the movies.
By not understanding the psychology of Kissoon, Dev continues to engage in fruitless intellectual exchanges with a man who will consistently place spin on what you say so as turn it to his advantage; or, like he did recently in accusing Dev of inventing the African ethnic security dilemma, display selective amnesia.
Kissoon ought to have known that, long before anyone else, and way before the PPP came to power, and with remarkable and matchless insight, Ravi Dev was the one who outlined these twin ethnic security dilemmas, a postulation that was formerly spurned but which is now, to Kissoon’s great dismay, gaining widespread acceptance.
Kissoon’s trademark defence is misrepresentation and spin. These must be corrected, because they are often wicked and devious. For example, he says that in 1992 Cheddi assured the Americans that he was no longer a Communist and thus was allowed to rule Guyana.
This is intended to remake Jagan as someone who would trade his beliefs for political power, a view that supports Kissoon’s own theory that both Burnham and Jagan were only interested in power.
Jagan never assured the Americans that he was no longer a communist. Jagan went to his grave as an unrepentant communist. What Jagan did in 1992 was to issue a statement just prior to the elections that the building of socialism in Guyana was not on his agenda.
It could not have been. The world had changed and the splintering of the mighty Soviet Union meant that it would have been impossible for a small country like Guyana to pursue the leftist path.
On Sunday, Freddie also misrepresented Dev by accusing him of saying that, had it not been for Indians, Guyana would have been a wasteland. What Dev said was quite different from the spin that Kissoon places on it.
Dev said that without Indians the coast would have been returned to mangroves. As a historian, Kissoon himself should realize that it was East Indian immigration that saved the sugar industry, which dominates the landscape of Guyana’s coastal plain.
Dev never said that Guyana would have been a wasteland. That is a wicked and devious interpretation by Freddie, the man with ambitions to be the ultimate East Indian hero of Guyana.

MOSES NAGAMOOTOO - Freddie the Fart dead wrong

Kissoon is dead wrong about Burnham’s rule

Dear Editor,

I was tempted after a more recent event has come to pass, to admit that the Kaieteur News columnist, Freddie Kissoon, was almost right - even strangely prophetic: he had interpreted my reconciliation with the PPP’s government and party leadership as an act of political suicide.
Before I could do so, my attention was drawn to an article (April 6, 2008) in which Kissoon named several PPP leaders whom, he claimed, “enjoyed democracy under Burnham’s presidency”.
Kissoon wrote: “No central committee and executive committee member of the present or part PPP were (sic) ever put in jail by Burnham”. Then he named me among others who were “never charged by the police under Mr. Burnham’s watch with even the minor offence of resisting arrest. They were never touched by Burnham’s police.”
That article presented a complex “Kissoon factor” that made him appear so right at one time and so wrong at the next. In relation to me, Kissoon is wrong, dead wrong in his categorical assertion that I have never been charged under Burnham’s watch or touched by Burnham’s police.
For the most part, Burnham’s rule was an abomination. Under his rule, in my callings as political activist and journalist, I was on several occasions arrested, detained, jailed and put on trial. I was beaten, threatened with execution and survived attempts on my life. In the presence of my wife, I narrowly escaped being kidnapped by Burnham’s police and thugs.
In a nutshell: I was detained and/or jailed at Springlands, No. 51, Whim, Sister’s Village, Blairmont, Fort Wellington, Cove and John, Kitty, La Penitence and Brickdam Police Stations and at Eve Leary CID and Police Headquarters.
I was slapped with politically trumped-up charges ranging from resisting arrests, assaulting police officers, threatening behaviour to unlawful possession of firearm. Not once was I convicted on any of those spurious charges.
Each of those carried its own harrowing details, which I am not going to recount here. A few glimpses of my brush with the Burnham Era would, for now, suffice.
Once, whilst sharing the platform with the revolutionary hero/martyr Dr. Walter Rodney at the Kitty Market Square, a thug threw a bottle of formalin at me. I was knocked into unconsciousness.
I was an active member of the PPP Central/Executive, but in the eyes of the goons and thugs of the regime that status did not attract any enviable privilege.
Walter helped to revive me with cold water, and put me back on stage. When I returned, this time naked to my waist, I told the thugs: “next time you want me off this stage, you have to remove my dead body!”
On another occasion, as I got into the car of Ms. Janet Jagan outside her Bel Air house, a policeman suddenly put a gun to my head. With the gun cocked, he screamed: “don’t move!” I was dragged from Ms. Jagan’s car, pushed into another vehicle, and forced to by knees in the back seat. As the vehicle drove off, one of the men in the vehicle tried to wrest my camera away from me. When I resisted, the policeman with the gun, extinguished his lighted cigarette on my chest.
I was a journalist. My crime? I photographed some suspicious-looking men sitting on a culvert in the vicinity of the home of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, then Leader of the Opposition. I was first held at La Penitence and later taken before Crime Chief, Skip Roberts. He relieved me of the roll of film in my camera, and let me go.
Before that, I was beaten mercilessly by known PNC thugs, dragged between two police horses to the Kitty Station, and then hauled away in handcuffs. Under cover of darkness I was bundled into a car, blindfolded, and driven off to what I believe was the Le Repentir Cemetery. I was placed between two policemen one of whom was repeatedly enquiring loudly, “is de hole finished yet?” After a while, a voice cackled on the intercom: “bring the prisoner in”. The vehicle turned around and I was taken to the Brickdam lock-ups. I was charged with illegal possession of firearm and some other offences.
Being hooded and blindfolded, reminded me of the time when, years before, I was arrested in West Berbice. I was detained at Fort Wellington, then handcuffed and blindfolded, and placed into a land rover with armed policemen. I was transferred to Georgetown, and held ex-communicado with other comrades for 10 days. At that time I was held under the dreaded National Security Act, and threatened repeatedly with being put away at Sibley Hall.
I recall on another occasion when I was assaulted by a former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force and threatened with death for writing a Mirror article under the caption, “Army Takeover of Parliament”. A day later, I was attacked by men in soldier’s boots, slashed twice at the base of my head and stabbed with what appeared to be a rusty bayonet. Even as I am writing, I caress the scars, and I remember my life in struggle and what could have been.
This narrative is not going to be complete without reference to the anguish of my wife, my infant kids and my late parents as policemen occasionally raided my home, searching for elusive “arms and ammunition”. When I was traveling abroad, I would routinely be detained and strip-searched by plainclothes policemen at the Timehri airport and relieved of booklets and pamphlets.
I would never be able to know the full effect on my family of what was a prolonged period of state-sponsored terrorism, though I would be forever grateful to them for their courage in withstanding the fear and uncertainty of that period.
Lastly, I recall what was the height of madness during the Burnham era when I was arrested outside Parliament Building on a protest demonstration against the banning of Wheaten flour. I had taken my 4-year-old daughter, Adela (now my legal partner) to the protest. The police arrested her as well, and threw us both in the putrid Brickdam lock-ups, which was already crowded with over a dozen protesters. I remember holding my child in the air, close to the grilled window, so she could get fresh air! Ms. Janet Jagan, accompanied by Attorney and party colleague Ralph Ramkarran, persuaded the police to let my child go.
It wasn’t easy under Burnham, Mr. Kissoon, though I am ready to admit that there was a positive side to what could be termed the “Burnham Era”, the full assessment of which is yet to be made or appreciated.
Freddie Kissoon has attempted to use a subjective test to say that the level of fear, insecurity and reprisal is higher now than it was under Burnham. He is entitled to his views.
But the truth about Burnham’s rule, however unpalatable, must not be scrubbed or erased. Nor must we, in looking at what is today, present a revisionist view of that painful and complex period of Guyana’s history.
For me, I endured those years with dignity with the knowledge that the hurt inflicted on me as well as others with whom I have struggled, was necessary for the eventual freedom of our people. My experiences throughout the Burnham years gave me political character based on respect for fairness, dissent and freedom. Those had formed the major planks of the democratic culture for which we fought, and which we must defend at all times.
I do not consider any of it “personal” to the extent that I would remain forever bitter.
Hopefully, we can put this “era” behind us as an unfortunate political blemish and move our nation forward together, without recrimination for what had been.
Moses V. Nagamootoo

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hypocrisy and double-standards of 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.