More than three years after being sworn in, an under pressure President David Granger is set to host his third press conference tomorrow.
The forum comes at a time when the government is facing a major battle with teachers for better pay and the sugar industry continues its downward spiral, with more than 4,300 workers sent home.
During the past three years, there has been increasing pressure on the President for a press conference, rather than speaking to reporters for a few minutes on the sidelines of events.
There have been promises, indeed quite a number of them even from his chief spokesman, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, that one would be held.
With questions being asked about the ExxonMobil oil deal, the appointment of a new top cop and local government elections, the issues have been many.
The Guyana Press Association has been leading the charge with respect to the President’s lack of press conferences. It appears that the approach has borne fruit
Yesterday, the Public Information and Press Services Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency sent out invitations for a press conference tomorrow at the Rupununi Room of the Ministry.
The coalition had entered office promising a sea of changes to bring back accountability and transparency. It was not until October 2015, after being in office for five months that the President’s first press conference was held. Guyana had to wait until December 2017 for another.
Even after official trips overseas, and numerous official engagements, the President had not faced the nation, opting to use the Department of Public Information for the release of information.
President of the Guyana Press Association (GPA), Nazima Raghubir, had told Kaieteur News in June that too many issues of national importance were going unaddressed.
“The lack of engagement does no good to any Government’s role to be accountable and transparent. The Guyana press cannot continue to meet the President on the sidelines of events. We have already had to deal with limited access during the Public Interest programme,” Raghubir stated.
GPA had raised the need for more frequent engagements with the Head of State since 2015.
It raised the matter again at the President’s media brunch in January and as recent as May during World Press Freedom Day.
He had said he had been busy travelling.
On domestic issues, he cited the sugar and the petroleum industries, crime and security as matters that have kept him busy.
“I am asking the media to be tolerant. My heart is in the right place, but right now I have had a really difficult period of public engagements and overseas travel. In fact even last year, I missed a few CARICOM appointments to be able to stay at home to pay more attention to domestic issues,” Granger said, before he was hurried away for a photo opportunity.
Raghubir pointed out that all together the media is not a group of just 30 persons, but ‘we are part of society and represent their interests’.
According to the GPA President, the media does not expect to be treated specially, but the lack of regular sustained engagement with the media is unacceptable.
“The President once published a magazine and should know the importance of getting factual statements or the need to have official responses to issues,” Raghubir stated.
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