Mar 25, 2016 News
– says Gov’t can revoke licences but may face courts
By Jarryl Bryan
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo is defending the decision he took in 2011 to grant some of his family
members and favoured friends, prime spots on the radio spectrum. In the face of calls for those licences to be revoked, he is stating that the Granger administration “can do what it wants.”
The Opposition leader is claiming that there was ethnic and regional balance when he granted those radio and television licences. He made these statements during a press conference at Freedom House yesterday.
During his conference, there seemed to be a “tit-for-tat’ approach. Jagdeo used examples of the current administration’s handling of contracts, including contracts for the cleanup of the city and the specialty hospital, to substantiate his claim that there is less transparency under this current administration compared to his.
“When we talk about transparency, at least I made it clear. There was a committee that was set up that recommended them to me. As Minister of Information, the committee recommended. You had regional and ethnic balance because of the 12 licences; six went to non-Indo Guyanese.”
“I ensured ethnic balance across the country and geographic balance. I had criteria,” Jagdeo declared. “The present Government can do what it wants. If it wants to revoke those licences, that is the Government’s decision.”
However, Jagdeo said that if the Government took this line, it would become a legal matter since the licence holders would likely go to the court. Jagdeo also said that Government did not need approval from his party, save and except for when it came to connecting it to corruption.
“I didn’t know the Government needed approbation from the PPP to do anything, excepting when it wants to connect us to corrupt acts. Like the (Specialty) hospital. (Government’s position) was they are not going to go (ahead) with it. And then we found out they are giving it to a person who was very close to (Minister Khemraj) Ramjattan with no public tender.”
This is a reference to the Government’s decision to not engage in a new bidding process for a contractor to complete works on the Specialty Hospital. This project was started under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). However, the previous contractor, Surendra engineering, ‘skipped’ the country prematurely.
“They said that the PPP had evaluated this bidder and ranked him second. And so, since the first rank bidder is in court now, they had to go with the second ranked bidder. And then they lied about it too. In fact the evaluation report disqualified this company.”
Weeks before leaving office in 2011, then President Bharrat Jagdeo granted his best friend, Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, five radio frequencies; he also gave New Guyana Company Limited, five frequencies. In addition, Telcor, a company with close links to his nephew-in-law and former Minister, Robert Persaud and Cultural Broadcasting Inc. received another five.
Jagdeo also ordered the grant of two cable licences to two of his closest friends, Vishok Persaud and Brian Yong. In addition The Mirror, a newspaper which belongs to Jagdeo’s party, received multiple frequencies.
The disclosures of the licences, which also included approval for two cable TV operations, sparked court cases and several days of protests, as well as local and international condemnation. Former President Donald Ramotar had promised to examine the issue but never did.
Jagdeo was mandated by law to consult with the Broadcasting Authority which was not operational at the time. Between 2001 and 2011, it was this provision that was used by Jagdeo’s government to deny anyone a TV or radio licence.
It is understood that even existing stations were denied expansion since it would have meant granting them additions to their licences.
Channel Seven TV’s Rex Mc Kay, Veteran Television personality Enrico Woolford and numerous others had also applied for radio licences, but were not given.
GNBA Officials have recently disclosed that Jagdeo’s ad hoc approach has led to prime spots on the spectrum being taken up. All premium spots on the television and cable channel frequencies are gone. There is little space left for new applicants on the radio spectrum.
During a post cabinet press briefing yesterday, however, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman revealed that the radio licences imbroglio will be up for a policy decision by Cabinet in mid April.
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