“Both Mr. Rohee’s tirade and the now daily front page comment in the Guyana Chronicle signal that the Stabroek News campaign has found its mark. It shall continue” – Anand Persaud
By Abena Rockcliffe
While many Guyanese have been agitating for the holding of Local Government Elections (LGE) the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has chided Stabroek News for its attempt to push the government into allowing citizens their democratic right.
At the PPP’s weekly press conference held yesterday at Freedom House, the Party’s General Secretary, Clement Rohee, read a statement titled “PPP exposes Stabroek News’ Hidden Agenda.”
Rohee said that his party “strongly condemns attempts by the Stabroek News to deliberately spread misinformation and distortions about the facts surrounding the non-holding of the long overdue Local Government Elections.”
Despite GECOM publicly stating its readiness to facilitate Local Government Elections, the government continues to procrastinate.
Consequently, Stabroek News started a series of front page comments on the importance of Local Government Elections. The series has been running since May 1. Initially, the comments carried the names of those who wrote them, but recently that has changed.
Clinton Urling, Ronald Bulkan and Winston Felix are some of the persons whose names were cited as contributors.
Yesterday, Rohee told the media that the PPP has noted the newspaper’s page one comments and its attempts to “besmirch the party and government by continuously printing comments and statements from the opposition political party and other entities which are closely aligned to the parliamentary combined opposition political parties.”
Rohee said that Stabroek News has been transformed into a political organ and therefore can no longer refer to itself as an independent daily newspaper.
According to him, the newspaper’s postures on critical issues pertaining to Local Government Elections have exposed its efforts at fulfilling the wishes of politicians opposed to the PPP Party and government.
He said that Stabroek News is pursuing a “hard-line political agenda” without “sufficiently” publishing the facts surrounding the delay in holding these elections.
The Party’s General Secretary said too that the PPP is of the firm belief that the Stabroek News is in serious breach of the journalistic ethics governing the industry by adopting an “outrightly biased position.”
According to Rohee, the Stabroek News has ignored the Party’s mounting concerns about the state of preparedness of the Guyana Elections Commission to hold elections in a fair and free manner without causing widespread disenfranchisement to thousands of Guyanese.
When contacted yesterday, Editor In Chief of Stabroek News, Anand Persaud said that the newspaper embarked on a campaign to remind the PPP/C government of its obligation to name a date for the holding of Local Government Elections.
He said that this takes the form of a daily reminder on the front page of the newspaper. He added that Stabroek News sees this as a valuable use of its resources on behalf of the people.
Persaud said that the regular holding of Local Government Elections is a fundamental aspect of a democratic society and the engaging of all citizens in public life.
He said, “Whereas in previous years there had been credible reasons why LGE could not be held, in the last year or so the PPP/C government has had no valid and credible excuse for not naming a date for elections. All of its excuses have been debunked.”
Persaud pointed out, importantly, that the Guyana Elections Commission, the recognized authority on readiness for elections, has on numerous occasions said that all that is required is for the government to fix a date and its work programme will be set in motion.
He said that, “in essence, the PPP/C’s refusal to name a date is a denial of the fundamental right of Guyanese to elect local government leaders.”
Addressing the independence of the newspaper, Persaud said that the Stabroek News has been well-established over its 28-year existence and nothing the PPP/C says can detract from this.
He added that it is supremely ironic that the Stabroek News was also at the forefront of the campaign for free and fair elections in 1992 at which point the then opposition PPP and Mr. Rohee, in his role as a member of the Elections Commission, was well in favour of the newspaper’s efforts.
Persaud affirmed that both “Rohee’s tirade and the now daily front page comment in the Guyana Chronicle signal that the Stabroek News campaign has found its mark…It shall continue.”
Meanwhile Publisher of Kaieteur News, Glenn Lall, said that politicians must try to rid themselves of the habit of dealing with the messenger as opposed to the message.
“We all as citizens of Guyana, should try to make our country better. But we cannot achieve this by being trivial; we must rise above this and deal with issues.”
Lall added that “at the end of the day, whether in the capacity as publishers or editors, we are citizens and we have rights too. One of those is the right to speak out on issues affecting us.”
The Publisher said that Local Government Elections is everyone’s right which no one should have to ask, moreover beg to have.
Lall added that if the Stabroek News had signaled its intention to start the series, the Kaieteur News would have surely been on board with the initiative simply because Local Government Elections is important in the preservation of democracy in Guyana.
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