President Donald Ramotar has once again come under fire for his comments on a recorded conversation in which Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, a Minister in the government, has admitted to using taxpayers’ dollars illegally and for issuing threats against Kaieteur News.
The President, despite the fact that the matter is being investigated by the police, made it clear that he believed that the recording was illegal.
The President’s conclusion is being viewed as highly unusual as his administration is known to shy away from issues that are before the police and the courts.
It has been a line that the administration has deliberately been pushing to divert attention from, among other things, some of the racially charged statements that the Minister made.
The Minister, during the conversation, attempted to find out which reporter investigated his uncle in a remigrant vehicle scheme fraud.
He wanted the name of the young reporter so his uncle can f*^k her, he said. He was also heard saying that he is a Chatrie- a high caste Indian. That statement has sparked widespread anger against the Minister and the administration.
During a press conference at his office on Friday, the President halted questions on Nandlall, but entertained a pointed one by a state reporter on the legality of the recording.
“I think it is illegal, it is immoral and I know many people in the UK (United Kingdom) (who) went to jail for such actions.”
It is these remarks that the President is now being criticized for. The embarrassing recording has sparked a major debate and a crisis in the ruling party which decided to support the embattled Attorney General despite the revelations.
The Minister has himself admitted publicly that he had a conversation with the senior reporter of Kaieteur News about three weeks ago.
The Bar Association, and the Opposition, among others, have called for the Minister’s resignation to facilitate an independent probe.
There have also been criticisms from newspapers in the region and from the local and international press bodies.
Without much information, Government initially took the position that the recording was done illegally via wire-tapping. However, the newspaper, in statements to the police, explained that it was nothing of the sort. Rather, smart phones can be easily equipped by free applications available at the “Play Store” programme that can be used to record all incoming or outgoing calls. Clearly there is no wiretapping.
Local observers have already made it clear that wiretapping is not the same as having a programme on the phone itself to record calls.
Rather, wiretapping must include a third party, other than the two callers, who is using programmes or equipment to intercept the conversation.
In the conversation, the Attorney General, who is the Government’s Chief Legal advisor, warned the reporter to get out of Kaieteur News, saying that angry people will use guns to attack the offices of the newspaper, which happens to be the country’s largest daily.
Kaieteur News’ Publisher, Glenn Lall, based on the recorded threats by the Minister, has made an official police complaint. However, there has been silence from the police on the issue.
Kaieteur News has even offered to send the phone and recording via a nominated embassy to an independent analyst to determine that the recording was not doctored.
President Ramotar, on Friday, did not want to answer questions and told reporters to forget about it. He maintained that the recording was somehow manipulated and distorted.
While opting not to comment on the “technical part,” the President said his administration is not keen on dealing with the issues coming out of the recording since it is believed that the contents of the recording were taken totally out of context.
He said that the conversation was not intended for the public.
President Ramotar also said that “confidentiality and privacy” are two important rights that have been slaughtered in the release of the Public official’s conversation with a journalist.
The President’s comments would come at a time when the nation is grappling with a recently released explosive report from the Ombudsman’s office which criticized the police, the administration, and the Director of Public Prosecution, for laying wrongful fraud charges against three senior managers of the New Building Society, back in 2007.
The named officials have since denied the comments by the Ombudsman.
The charges had been dismissed but the managers lost seven years of their life and pension benefits.
Chief Executive Officer, Maurice Arjoon, claimed that he was charged, at the urgings of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, after he refused to illegally endorse a $2B investment for the Berbice Bridge. Government in 2006 had been searching for investments for that project.
The President’s statement would also come at a time when Publisher of Kaieteur News, Glenn Lall, and his wife, have been placed on trumped up charges for evading taxes on two vehicles.
The vehicles were seized from the home of the real owners. Those charges against Lall followed a number of shocking emails between Nandall, Jagdeo and Khurshid Sattaur, the head of the Guyana Revenue Authority which were published in this paper.
The emails spoke of a plot to use audits and other means to silence the newspaper.
Tax details of local newspapers were also leaked by Sattaur to the two other men.
Like the telephone conversation between Nandlall and the journalist, the Ramotar administration has been refusing to act.
Yesterday, lawyers for Kaieteur News said that they have been following the President’s comments which they said are rather “unfortunate and rather pre-emptive” at this time.
“It almost seems as if the President is in a sly manner, telling the police how to act. It almost seems like the NBS matter in which the former President reportedly had a role to play.”
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