To meet with Jagdeo tomorrow
Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, has told TV station owner Chandra Narine Sharma, that he should disregard the document he reportedly received informing him of an impending one year ban on his Channel Six operations.
Luncheon said, yesterday, that he did indeed invite Sharma, by way of a one page letter, to meet with the President tomorrow, but said that he did not send any other document which did not have a signature, address or date.
“I said to him, as instructed, I had indeed provided him with an invitation, which I insisted stood, for him to attend a meeting with the President on Friday (at 15:00 hours) at the Office of the President,” Luncheon told reporters yesterday at his post-Cabinet news briefing.
The five-page document, seen by this newspaper, told Sharma that his licence was being suspended for one year and that if he failed to comply his licence would be revoked. Dr Luncheon said that all he knew about was the invitation letter he signed.
“What the second one is, we have disavowed knowledge and I have insisted to Mr Sharma it is to be disregarded; it isn’t addressed, it isn’t signed, it isn’t dated,” Luncheon stated.
Dr Luncheon said he was called by Sharma for clarification on the matter.
President Bharrat Jagdeo told Kaieteur News, Tuesday night, that the document about Sharma’s suspension did not emanate from the Office of the President and suggested that it was being circulated by elements bent on mischief.
Dr Luncheon’s letter to Sharma about his meeting indicated that the meeting would focus on CNS TV’s broadcast of a commentary made by Anthony Vieira on the station on May 4, 2011.
Sharma told journalists that he received the documents at around 19:00 hours Tuesday at a time when he would have found it difficult to contact any Government official to verify the authenticity of the five-page document.
However, he said that the letter, which had the Office of the President letterhead and was signed by Dr. Luncheon, appeared to be genuine. According to Sharma, the letter with Dr. Luncheon’s signature was attached to the document about his one-year suspension.
Office of the President said that this could not be the case.
President Jagdeo in mid-July said that the broadcast in question, which has caused the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB) to recommend suspension of the station licence, contained statements which were reprehensible to the constitution.
As a result, Jagdeo said then he was still to decide if he will go ahead with the ACB’s recommendation.
Kaieteur News understands that the ACB had determined that Sharma’s licence should be suspended for six months after the station had aired a commentary by Anthony Vieira which made some damning allegations that Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission, Bishop Juan Edghill, found disturbing last May.
The television owner had apologised, but Edghill, nevertheless, filed a motion against both Sharma and Vieira seeking more than $50M in damages.
Lawyers for Edghill, Anil Nandlall, Euclin Gomes, and Manoj Narayan, in their motion had stated that the “Bishop” had suffered “tremendous embarrassment, distress and ridicule” by the commentary.
But President Jagdeo said the matter was beyond Sharma and Edghill. The President said that he read the transcript extensively, and both Sharma and his wife had accepted that “people are responsible for their broadcast.”
“The contents are reprehensible to our constitution,” Jagdeo said of Vieira’s commentary. But not only was it against the constitution of Guyana, the President said the contents of the programme infringed significantly on the conditions of the licence under which Sharma operates.
Jagdeo related that in the programme, Vieira claimed that Swami Akshrandan had told him (the President) to take a Christian channel off the air, “implying that there was some kind of Hindu conspiracy.”
The President said he never had any such discussion with the Hindu leader, and therefore the statement by Vieira was “offensive” and designed to create discord among people of different religions, which is forbidden in the laws of Guyana.
Jagdeo said that the Christian channel (Channel 72) was illegally taken over by Vieira, and this led to the cancellation of the licence.
In addition, in the commentary, Jagdeo related that Vieira claims that there was a conflict between Pentecostals and Catholics, and that Bishop Edghill was not doing enough to safeguard Catholics.
Again, Jagdeo said this statement sought to create discord among denominations in the Christian community and was therefore “reprehensible” to the constitution.
“This is a serious matter and I am giving it consideration,” Jagdeo declared.
Sharma had been sanctioned before for comments aired on a live programme, but in this case, Jagdeo said the television owner cannot make that claim since Vieira’s comments were made during a taped programme.
It is unclear if the meeting the President has called for tomorrow will determine, what sanctions, if any, Sharma will face.
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