Even as President Donald Ramotar and opposition negotiators were Monday morning meeting on a range of issues inside the President’s Office, several media owners protested the unfair allocation of radio frequencies.
But in the end, the opposition representatives walked away virtually empty-handed from the first round of talks with the Guyanese leader and his team. “I will want to say that that is an accurate depiction of it,” AFC Leader Khemraj told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).
He said the first round of talks yielded no fruit, with Ramotar refusing to rescind the licenses granted largely to pro-government associates.
“They argued strenuously that that they will not rescind these radio licenses (but) what they are going to do is to ensure that all the holders thereof have to reapply before the Broadcasting Authority for a re-grant under the Broadcasting Authority; that is their methodology in coming out of it,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).
Outside, more than 30 advocates for a fair allocation of radio frequencies picketed the Office of the President where they grouped before the police erected barriers. Lawmen were greeted with resistance by the media personalities on grounds that there was no law that prohibited them from being there. Police reinforcements were called in but were not ordered to go into action but rather the angry broadcasters and other members of the media were allowed to agitate hassle-free.
Decades-old radio license applicants were ignored by then President Bharrat Jagdeo who-as Information Minister- handed out the bulk of licenses to several close associates including a company with interests by Dr. Ranjisinghi Ramroop; TelCor whose directors include government minister Robert Persaud’s wife and his Deputy Permanent Secretary and another by the General Secretary of the Rice Producers Association (RPA), Dharamkumar Seeraj. Seeraj is also a government legislator.
Kaieteur News publisher, Glen Lall condemned the frequency allocations by Jagdeo, his one-time close friend. “I believe it was a discriminatory act perpetrated on this nation and it must be corrected,” said Lall, adding that it is wrong, illegal and discriminatory. He announced that the Guyana Media Proprietors Association would be taking legal action.
EMW Communications Managing Director, Enrico Woolford accused Jagdeo of handing out the frequencies to favoured persons in a manner that creates imbalances. “That is the problem. I think it’s the crowding out of the spectrum that is the issue. The subscription is a limited natural resource and we have got to ensure that it is given out in a fair, transparent and proper manner,” said Woolford.
The AFC leader said the Ramotar-led team dismissed efforts by the opposition to ask for a 10 percent hike in wages and salaries for sugar workers and public servants. Reacting to government’s position that wage negotiations should be left up to collective bargaining, “Ramjattan queried We are going to be asked to bail out GuySuco (Guyana Sugar Corporation), why we cant be involved for offering better salaries?”
He said all government has so far promised in the coming weeks are several reports on the state of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), GuySuco, and an alleged fraud at the National Communications Network (NCN) that resulted in two senior persons being off the job.
Responding directly to a question from the President about whether the proposed budget cuts were linked to resolution of 11 points raised in a joint AFC-APNU letter, Ramjattan said he told the Guyanese leader that was not the case.
“There was absolutely no nexus between my proposed cuts and the eleven-points because those eleven points that we raised in the joint letter are matters that are separate and distinct,” he said.
The one-time senior member of the governing Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) said the budget cuts depended on the explanations that would be given by the relevant ministers.
“Depending on how those questions are answered, will make our cuts and I hope that I will get the support of APNU (A Partnership for National Unity) because remember the Alliance For Chance that has set up cuts and has met the twenty-four hour requirement.’
“I am hoping that the ministers are going to give very transparent answers and proper explanations so that we do not do the cuts because it is always a troublesome thing to go cutting a budget,” he said. The AFC has proposed a GUY$38 billion slash in the GUY$208 billion budget for this year.
President Ramotar late Monday told DemWaves that some of the issues being raised by the opposition might require broader and longer consultations.”Some of these issues cannot be solved by us just getting together because it violates other fundamental principles, violates certain things like collective bargaining which is impossible for us as two political parties to go and decide on some of these things but there are other areas where we are looking to see where we can make progress and we will see what happens in the future,” he said.