By Abena Rockcliffe
Despite previous statements to the contrary, the government has renewed the contract for the Guyana
“For another two months or so” Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, the owner of TVG, will continue to receive a monthly $3.6M to facilitate airing of the learning channel.
This was related to Kaieteur News yesterday by Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine at his Brickdam office.
Last September, Dr. Roopnaraine told Kaieteur News that the multi-million-dollar contract that would have expired in December would not have been renewed. He had said that “strong recommendations” were made at the level of Cabinet. The Minister noted that Government wanted to move towards self- sufficiency.
Three months later, the Minister is now saying that there is still much to be decided.
He said that lots of details are still to be worked out and so he has decided to extend the life of the contract.
Dr. Roopnaraine said that his Ministry is interested in getting the best out of the learning channel and therefore has to maximize its use. Dr. Roopnaraine indicated that he had asked technical members of staff to develop proposals on how to get the best out of the facility.
He said that there is a need for more instructive classes and other such learning programmes to be aired on the channel.
The Minister said that after receiving those proposals, he would be in a better position to say definitively, the direction in which the Learning Channel is heading.
Asked if the National Communications Network (NCN) will then facilitate the channel after the proposals have
been handed in and evaluated, the Minister said, “I do not want to preempt the proposals. Let’s just wait and see.”
This gives the impression that the proposals will include recommendations as to how the channel should be facilitated.
Back in September, Roopnaraine had said that instead of paying Dr. Ramroop $3.6M per month, his government decided to make the necessary investments to establish a satellite uplink facility.
Dr. Roopnaraine added that his administration will prefer to have the Learning Channel function in such a way that it can be deemed a government asset as opposed to a rented facility.
Dr. Roopnaraine said that his government will make all necessary arrangements for NCN to host the Learning Channel.
It was later made public that NCN had purchased more than $20M in satellite uplink equipment but this too was never installed and instead was left lying in the compound for two years now. This resulted in the former government being able to hand the contract to Ramroop.
The staff at NCN, with the exception of four persons, had been kept in the dark about the satellite uplink equipment. This publication was also told that there is no staff at the NCN that can operate the sensitive equipment.
Not only does NCN own its satellite uplink, it is also capable of having any event occurring locally, broadcast live not only across Guyana but throughout the Caribbean Region and even in North America.
The Learning Channel is intended to reach all communities in Guyana by way of satellite. But, that is not what is happening. That was one of the reasons which Dr. Roopnaraine had said informed Cabinet’s decision to not renew the contract. He had insisted that a wider reach is needed.
Dr. Ramroop is the best friend of former President Bharrat Jagdeo. The Learning Channel initiative came into being four years ago, during the tenure of then President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Even though it was lauded as a good initiative, many had labeled the deal behind it “sour.”
When Ramroop was given the contract, his television station was said to have been the only one in the country with the capacity to facilitate the Learning Channel.
Politicians, who were sitting on the opposition side at that time, had opined that Ramroop benefitted from insider trading.
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s Joseph Harmon had said that Guyana needs to move its legislation forward to prosecute those who use privileged information for the enrichment of their friends. Alliance For Change (AFC) leader, Khemraj Ramjattan had made similar comments.
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