Thank goodness the present government is moving away from the insecure ways of the Jagdeo administration! Thank goodness we are now having greater public disclosure and a willingness to discuss in public with the joint opposition.
Last night there was a panel discussion on national television in which the government, the private media and opposition parties were invited (the AFC which was the main opposition party invited, was absent). It was not the first time that this has happened in recent weeks.
Last night’s panel discussion shows that things are changing and that there continues to be a process of opening up by the government. The situation is not perfect. There is a still a long way to go, but as the publisher of this newspaper said on that telecast this is an important development and one that should be encouraged. It does show that the Donald Ramotar administration is moving in the right direction.
It also confirms a long held belief in many circles that such engagements lend credibility to the government. The more open the administration, the higher its public credibility ratings.
Engaging the opposition and other important stakeholders in society allows for the crushing of rumours and speculation. It also helps to clarify important issues and provides answers to important questions. This restores confidence in public transparency and by extension, the integrity of governance.
The government has demonstrated in these engagements that it is capable of holding its own, notwithstanding the fact that Glenn Lall remains a handful, and his concerns were skillfully dodged by the government side of the panel.
For example, he asked about the rationale for the hotel in which the government is pumping close to US$20M in equity. Instead of providing the rationale, the government referred to studies that were done, but still did not reveal what was the rationale outlined in those studies.
That aside, the government is quite capable of dealing with its critics. In fact, when it comes to opposition politicians, the government can chew them up and spit them out. They are no match for the government and their shortcomings will be exposed should they appear on these panel discussions.
However, as Glenn Lall said, it would take close to 100 such programmes to provide the answers to the many issues surrounding NICIL. Now that the government has stated its commitment to provide answers, it is hoped that it will do so and not shelter under the umbrella of confidentiality.
The government itself has found a mechanism to get around the confidentiality rule by having special briefings in which the parties to the confidentiality clauses voluntarily agree to provide information in camera to the opposition parties.
The previous government was responsible for much of the speculation and rumours because it was too secretive about things. The Donald Ramotar administration has now shown that it is now committed to greater transparency and is willing to engage with opposition parties and other stakeholders. It should continue to do this, because it is capable of holding its own in any such discussions and because it serves a more than useful public service.
Consistent with the new dispensation within the government has been the role of the National Communications Network (NCN). The state media has been in transition since the last election.
Unfortunately, it does seem as if many in opposition were not listening to the radio and television, and therefore would have missed the fairer and balanced coverage that was being provided. The best measure of this fairness would have been in the newscasts since November 28, in which the views of the opposition have been carried.
Also, the presentations during the debate on the national budget were carried live on radio, allowing the public to hear all those who spoke about the Budget. But if the opposition had long tuned off of state radio, they would not have recognized the changes that have taken place under the leadership of Donald Ramotar.
Hopefully, now that these panel discussions are being aired, the opposition will take advantage of them and use the opportunities provided. In the process, they may be humiliated because of their inability to argue their cases. But they should see in the new opportunities being provided, an opportunity to make their case, however weak these are.
NCN should be congratulated and urged to make these panel discussions a nightly feature. The people of Guyana want to hear what the government has to say. What they do not wish is to hear ONLY what the government says.
They also want to hear what the opposition and other stakeholders have to say, and as the discussions outside of the studio last night revealed, they are also very much interested in what people like Glenn Lall have to say.