There has been a lot of complaining these past few days, not that there has not been a lot in the past. In fact, for as long as the coalition government has been in office there have been complaints.
There were complaints about the state of the economy, complaints about the spate of criminal activity, about the dismissal of people from the public service who had thrived in a society where corruption was rampant, complaints about the parking meters, complaints about taxation of tuition fees and more recently, complaints about the non-existence of the entertainment complex inside the Marriott Hotel.
The crime situation was inherited. When this was pointed out to the complaining politicians, the answer was that the coalition had proclaimed that it had a solution. It would seem that the coalition had a solution, because criminal activity is markedly down.
Indeed there are a few gunpoint robberies with attacks levelled at people who live outside the capital, but the perpetrators are being caught more readily than they ever were in the not too distant past. Drug smugglers are being apprehended in larger numbers because they have become desperate. It is not easy sitting on a pile of cocaine and not being able to shift it to parts unknown.
It is also not easy being accustomed to spending money as though there was no tomorrow, then suddenly finding it difficult to have the huge piles passing through the fingers. But those things are now on the backburner, because there is a fuss about the recently passed tobacco legislation.
Last week I spoke a bit about this new piece of legislation and actually supported it. The parliamentary opposition was very vocal in its condemnation of the legislation. The major issue was that the government would not be able to enforce a lot of what would soon become law.
The loudest noise came from the tobacco company, and one does not need a lesson in commonsense to understand why. There was the contention that Guyana was throwing away money. The tobacco company claimed that it paid either four billion dollars or seven billion dollars in taxes to the government. I could not see the non-payment of taxes, since cigarettes would still be sold.
The argument that cigarettes would be smuggled into Guyana in greater quantities could not hold water for me, because right now cigarette smuggling is big business and the government is not collecting one cent of taxes from that source.
The Minister of Public Health argued that the cost of treating the tobacco-related ailments far exceeded what the government collected in revenue from the tobacco company. It came as no surprise that the bulk of the population is in support of the legislation.
The most strident noise is now coming from the people who created the radio frequency mess in the first place—the political opposition. In 2011, just before he demitted office, President Bharrat Jagdeo allocated a large number of radio frequencies as part of his plan to liberalise radio.
Liberalising radio is one thing; doing so when he had promised to halt any further distribution of frequencies is another. In the end, nearly two dozen radio frequencies were distributed. The recipients were mainly friends, family, and the political party he headed.
Two nights ago I was admonished about repeating the comment that these new radio frequencies were distributed to Jagdeo’s friends and family. My publisher, Glenn Lall said that to use that statement would be playing into Jagdeo’s hands. The former president would point to people like Eddy Grant and say that he is certainly no family, and not a friend. That was supposed to be the diversion from the truth.
Then there was the argument that press freedom would be threatened, because the government would most likely silence some of the broadcasters. Of interest was that the focus was not on the radio licences that Jagdeo issued, but on television and cable.
Months after he promised no new television licences, Jagdeo rushed to grant licences to no fewer than six television stations. More were to follow. He shut down a radio station operated by Tony Vieira and seized the equipment.
Chandra Narine Sharma fared the worst. He had paid his light bills and his television broadcast licence fee, but Jagdeo swooped down on him with a vengeance to seize his broadcast equipment. This was preceded by a disconnection crew from Guyana Power and Light, although Sharma did not owe anybody. Jagdeo was angry over a comment Sharma made during one of his programmes. That was a direct attack on press freedom.
Then with some support from the Guyana Press Association, there was an attack on the clause which stipulated that broadcasters are mandated to allocate a combined total of sixty minutes for public interest programmes. The contention is that public interest programmes would be political propaganda.
Immediately I remembered the hue and cry about the powers of the president when Jagdeo’s party was in opposition. There was a promise to limit those powers, because it represented a dangerous thing. The party got into office, and the idea of restricting those powers was shunned. To this day, twenty-five years later, there has been no move in this direction.
I am once more hearing murmurs about constitutional reform. I am also making one more observation. I remember on Monday, August 3, 2015, I was on a Fly Jamaica flight heading to Canada. I happened to see Aeshwar Deonarine board the plane with his wife and two children. I knew that he was wanted for questioning about some money he reportedly got a member of the GPL Board to pay him.
I edited the ensuing stories, right up to the charge and its subsequent withdrawal, because the state wanted to proceed against the Board member. Lo and behold, ‘Aesh’ Deonarine has caused his lawyer to serve legal notice seeking one billion dollars. That is a lot of money, perhaps needed to live in Queens, New York, where he now lives having crossed the border from Canada.
He would have to come to Guyana if he is serious about that lawsuit and like many others, I would be waiting to see him in court. That may never happen, but as someone said, he is perhaps hoping that the People’s Progressive Party would win the elections and pardon him. Only then will he come home to press his defamation suit. Of course, no ‘Aesh’ in Guyana, no court case on his behalf.
But right now, having spoken with Glenn Lall, we are prepared to pay him, but he must come to Guyana before the end of the year.
Aug 24, 2017BASSETERRE, St Kitts, CMC – Bhaskar Yadram 6-16, Raymond Perez 52 not out and Kevelon Anderson 51 not out were the men on song as Guyana defeated the Leeward Islands by eight wickets in their...
Aug 24, 2017
Aug 24, 2017
Aug 24, 2017
Aug 24, 2017
Aug 24, 2017
There is a situation with the diaspora members who come back and offer their service. They let you know that they have expectations... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders On August 14 and 15, Pakistan and India, respectively, celebrated the 70th anniversary of their Sir... more
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]