AFC calls for Govt. to ungag the opposition
…supports continued action against Rohee
Even as the Alliance for Change (AFC) through its leader, Khemraj Ramjattan called on Wednesday for the continuation of the gag order against Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, in the National Assembly, the party’s Vice Chairman, Moses Nagamootoo insisted that the parliamentary opposition must be ungagged.
At the party’s weekly press conference which was held at the Middle Street, Georgetown, Side Walk Cafe, Nagamootoo stressed that efforts are continually made to gag the opposition by preventing it from accessing the state media.
“The AFC is calling on the Government to ungag the opposition from access to the state media…this is part of the problem.”
His deductions were forthcoming even as he cited an article published in Wednesday’s edition of this newspaper which quoted two Government officials, Head of NICIL, Mr Winston Brassington and Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh, on Government’s willingness to encourage open debate on any issues of public interest. The two officials were at the time speaking at a press conference held at the state-owned television station, National Communications Network (NCN), on Tuesday.
Alluding to the resulting article, Nagamootoo said that there was mention by the officials that “‘we have no issue on having open and frank discussions on national issues’.”
It was against this background that the AFC Vice Chairman premised his desire to see the parliamentary opposition be afforded access to the state media. He made reference to abuse of the state media by Government officials, even as recounted how the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, had “gone immediately, as he has done on previous occasions, and other ministers and government functionaries…misinterpreted and misrepresented the decision of the court when the ruling was given by Chief Justice Ian Chang on the gag order.”
According to Nagamootoo, if democracy in Guyana is to be meaningful “we are asking again…to liberate the media. We have to ungag the opposition and social society from access to media that has been hitherto supported and financed by the state and we intend to pursue this issue.”
In fact, he revealed that the party has already taken representation at the diplomatic level and there are plans to soon contact the business community and those who are interested in freedom in Guyana to show their support by “putting their money where their conscience is.”
Nagamootoo’s utterances followed on the heels of deliberations by the party’s leader, Ramjattan, who told reporters at the same forum that the AFC supports the recent announcement by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, to appeal the gag order ruling of the High Court.
According to Ramjattan, there is urgent need to shed more light on the issue as it relates to the extent of the judicature’s entry into the Assembly’s space and an upper court’s ruling, as to where the frontier should be demarcated. Added to this, he said that the AFC would also urge that the Court of Appeal hear the matter with utmost haste and urgency.
“Along with this, we would like to see an interpretation of Article 172 of the Constitution, which on the face of it gives immunity to members from being prosecuted for civil proceedings,” said Ramjattan.
He added too that “such an interpretation would be most desirable…It would help to stop the flood of litigations against members of parliament which the Attorney General initiates ever so often.”
Ramjattan said that the AFC will continue to support the Assembly’s gag order until such time that the Privileges Committee decides whether there were breaches of the no confidence command of the House by Rohee and how best he (Rohee) can be penalised for such a breach.
It is expected that the Privileges Committee will convene on Monday at which time the issue will be deliberated on.