You cannot correct the wrongs by multiplying the cases –President Granger
By Kiana Wilburg
Much has been said in the media about the need for the coalition administration to right a number of the
irregularities in the local broadcasting sector.
But there seems to be some confusion at the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA).
The Authority seems to be undecided on whether it should revoke licences which were awarded by former President Bharrat Jagdeo to a select few or to issue new licences first.
President David Granger was asked on the show, “The Public Interest” whether he believes the promise by the administration to correct such irregularities has proven too hard to keep.
The Head of State said that he does not believe such a promise was difficult to keep.
“We need to adopt a policy or principle. The principle is, if something is wrong, it is wrong and it has to be corrected.”
Granger said that the wrongs in the broadcast sector cannot be corrected by multiplying the cases “hoping that they will even out.”
The President gave the assurance that “things which are wrong or outside of the law will be rectified.”
Chairman of the GNBA, Leonard Craig, continues to dodge questions from the media regarding the stance of the Authority as it relates to those licences which were arbitrarily awarded to a select few under the Bharrat Jagdeo regime.
When Kaieteur News called upon Craig last year and even up to last month to give an explanation, he made
it clear that he would not be issuing a statement and that anything he had to say would be at a press conference. He is yet to honour his promise to host the press briefing.
This is in spite of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo declaring that Craig should set the record straight on the matter.
This newspaper had also asked Craig if he received reports, whether oral or written, from the subcommittee that was established to look into the issue of the illegally granted broadcasting licences, among other issues.
To this Craig said, “I guess they will do that at the meeting next week…But that is a matter for the press conference.”
He was also asked to say why the Board is only having a meeting regarding the way forward on the matter, when the subcommittee would have been set up by him since last year.
Craig said, “Because now that certain things are being said in the press, it behoves the Board to consider and reconsider the matter.”
When this publication contacted the Head of the Subcommittee, Anthony Vieira, he provided more clarity on the issues.
Vieira said that it needs to be clarified first of all that Craig is not an Executive Chairman with special powers.
He said that Craig is just a Chairman, and what he does in relation to the Authority, has to be in harmony with the thoughts and decisions reached by other Board members.
The Broadcast veteran said that there are a number of things wrong with Guyana’s broadcast sector and as such, it becomes imperative for the entire system to be revamped, so that an environment of fairness can be had.
“And I have said several times, let’s call in the media so that they can know what we are doing and what we have done so far, because the impression is that the Broadcasting Authority is not working, and that is not true.
“Additionally, the entire broadcasting authority needs restructuring. Even the Act also needs restructuring. But it is time we talk to the media, and I will be inviting them next week.”
While Craig was not willing to say if he received reports from the subcommittee on the illegal radio licences, Vieira said that this was in fact done since last year with the understanding that revocation must be done.
He noted, however, that there are still some kinks that have to be ironed out regarding the way in which it will be accomplished.
“But the whole broadcasting sector, from the licences to the Act, needs to be regularized. We need to start from scratch,” Vieira asserted.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge, had also added his voice to the debate over the revocation of the granted radio and cable licences under the Jagdeo regime.
Greenidge said that as far as he is aware, the coalition party has not changed its position on this matter.
He made it clear that his support for the revocation of those unlawful licences during the 2015 election campaign remains the same.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said, “I most certainly do hold the same view and, of course, stand by my earlier comments on the matter. Nothing has occurred by way of new information to persuade me to change my mind. The act by former President Bharrat Jagdeo was improper, reprehensible and illegal.”
The Member of Parliament said that as a President, one should not use the position to hand out state assets to family, associates’ families and or political parties. He said that it was wrong in 2011 and it is still wrong.
Greenidge said that if the illegal radio and cable licences are not revoked then Guyana would lose.
“If it were my personal or your property that had been stolen and misappropriated, you would not think it necessary to ask if the wrong committed should be corrected. We should stop regarding national assets and state property as free goods which involve no loss if misappropriated. If we do, then we all lose.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister said that he believes legal grounds do exist for the revocation of the radio and cable licences.
He said that there is always a legal basis on which to challenge actions that public officials are empowered to take under the law.
The Member of Parliament said that such actions are subject to administrative law and are to be exercised in the public interest unless a specified category of beneficiary is named in the law.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said that officials with certain powers should know that their actions have to be exercised in good faith and for the purposes set out in the Broadcast Act, in a manner consistent with the relevant considerations such as citizens’ rights set out in the Constitution itself.
“Mr Jagdeo’s decision did not meet this test so it should not stand. If beneficiaries of criminal actions by state officials can expect to continue to enjoy the benefits then corruption is unlikely to be ever stamped out. The risk of disclosure, exposure and reversal is itself a powerful deterrent,” expressed the politician.
He continued, “But if wrongdoers and the beneficiaries of wrongdoing know that the improper decisions are likely to be reversed even after the passage of relatively long periods of time they will not be so keen to be party to such behaviour again.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister said that as soon as Jagdeo’s decision was made public, everyone was aware of the fact that it was improper. He said that the beneficiaries, too, would have been immediately aware that they ran the risk of losing the licences and those who were foolish enough to purchase it from them did so in the full knowledge that they ran the risk of loss.
Weeks before leaving office, former President Bharrat Jagdeo awarded his best friend, Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, five radio frequencies; New Guyana Company Limited, five, and Telcor and Cultural Broadcasting Inc., another five.
Jagdeo also ordered the grant of two cable licences to two of his closest friends, Vishok Persaud and Brian Yong.
GNBA Officials revealed recently 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.
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