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Majority of NCN’s Board agreed to appoint new CEO

Despite concerns that the incoming Chief Executive Officer of the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN), Lennox Cornette had forged the signature of a top official of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT), the majority of directors have supported his appointment after  background checks were conducted.

“I see no legal impediment to the appointment of Mr. Cornette. I support the said appointment and am of the view that you need to proceed with the Board’s mandate with the urgency it requires,” Attorney-at-Law, Dolly Sukhdeo told the Chairman of NCN’s Board of Directors, Bish Panday in correspondence that was copied to other board members.

Panday told Directors that Cornette confessed to him about forging Holder’s signature. “I met with Mr. Cornette and put the GTT issue to him. He readily admitted that in 1999 he did sign Mr. Terry Holder’s name and there was a parting of ways between him and GTT. He said it was a mistake he has regretted ever since and it’s the only blot on his copy book.”

Though Director, Kojo Mc Pherson agreed that NCN should appoint Cornette as CEO, he queried whether it was true that the new boss was not allowed to travel to the United States or Canada and if it could be rectified.

Only Imran Khan of the Office of the Prime Minister has strenuously objected to Cornette’s appointment, saying that he admitted forging then GTT Deputy General Manager, Terry Holder’s signature should not be treated lightly.  Cornette, while GTT’s Public Relations Officer 17 years ago, had furnished a letter to a Western High Commission in Guyana  with Holder’s purported signature. He was fired from the phone company.

It is well-known in certain circles that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who has described Khan as his representative on two State media boards, prefers veteran broadcaster  Enrico Woolford to be NCN’s next CEO.

In leaked email, Khan has threatened to resign if Cornette is appointed because forgery is a serious offence.  “I am, therefore, gravely concerned in light of this revelation and admission that a decision to appoint him CEO will not stand up to scrutiny if this information were to become public, the board will be subject to gross embarrassment, if not worse,” he said. “Regrettably, that being the case it would virtually render me continuing as Director untenable and I will have an obligation to provide my reason for same, an obligation which I will find challenging to avoid,” he told the Board Chairman.

Panday, however, said he was going ahead with the Board’s mandate and he cared little if Khan resigned. “The majority of the members have agreed the appointment and I believe it can withstand scrutiny. If, however, you feel obliged to resign I will understand,” he said.

The Board Chairman is basing his decision on a police clearance and oral and written testimonials from other top officials of entities at which Cornette worked. “Prior to announcing NCN’s new boss,  Chairman of the Board Bish Panday told the Board in correspondence that he had spoken with Retired Major General Joseph Singh who recommended Cornette, having worked with him at Conservation International. “He (Singh) said apart from the issue at GT&T in 1999, Mr. Cornette has worked very well.” Panday said he also called the current head of Conservation International Dr. David Singh who “spoke very highly of Mr. Cornette.”  The Board Chairman added that Cornette’s previous employers- Jailing Forest Industries Inc and Conservation International Guyana “both speak well of him.”

Khan said coupled with the risk of employing a forger, he was concerned that Cornette did not possess any experience in broadcasting. “I submit that Mr. Cornette has a tremendous deficiency in his lack of experience in broadcast media. I submit too that Mr. Woolford’s experience in this regard is incomparable in Guyana and ins widely known and respected throughout the Caribbean and further afield. Mr. Cornette is an unknown even in Guyana,” he said.

Apparently reluctant to support Cornette’s appointment, Board member, Dr. Paloma Mohammed- Martin said some of the concerns were valid and others have been allayed. She pondered whether Cornette’s contract should include some safeguards such as the duration of his tenure, a performance or probationary clause, severance conditions or benchmarks for non-performance.