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AFC had nothing to do with Hinds, Lewis removal from Guyana Chronicle- Raphael Trotman

Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Raphael Trotman on Wednesday bluntly rubbished claims that his party had anything to do with the removal of Professor David Hinds and trade unionist, Lincoln Lewis as columnists for the state-owned Guyana Chronicle, but at the same time he believed that more of government’s work should be reflected in that newspaprr.

“Categorically, as Leader of the AFC, I deny that the AFC took a decision or had any plan or anything of the nature of seeking their removal,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Trotman said the future of Hinds and Lewis, for whom his party has “the highest regard”, in the columns of the newspaper was never discussed. “We have worked with them in the past. We know them for their views and in fact we respect their views,” he said.

The Minister of Natural Resources said “I’m not aware of a minister” speaking to the Editor-in-Chief of the Guyana Chronicle, Nigel Williams and even that were so, it would have nothing to do with the minister’s political affiliation and “any effort would more than likely be to try and improve content and so forth but never to seek the removal of anyone”.

Asked whether he had considered the columns, “Hinds Sight” and “Eye On Guyana” to have been so objectionable, Trotman said he did not read all of them but there were concerns that government’s work was not being fully reflected. “Overall, as ministers- and it doesn’t matter whether you are AFC or APNU here- I think we are all concerned that the government’s message was not getting out effectively. A lot is being done, things are happening,” he said.

Responding to a question on whether Hinds and Lewis’ views ran counter to what is expected of a State newspaper, Trotman said more of government’s views should be reflected in the publication. “One would expect a more open and liberal view  but at the same time one would expect that when one went through the State’s paper you saw more of the government’s viewpoint,” he said.

The AFC, he said, encourages “robust and open debate” on a range of issues.. At the same time, Trotman opted not to say whether he believed Hinds and Lewis should be allowed to resume their columns in the Guyana Chronicle newspaper. “That is ultimately for the Board and the Editor to decide,” he said, adding that he hoped that the former columnists continue to access to the State and privately-owned media

“We may not have agreed with all that they may have said, but we didn’t grow to dislike them in any way so the AFC has no interest in the demise of any of them and we remain quite respectful and admire both of them and there was party decision to get rid of them,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday, President David Granger denied political interference in the running of the Guyana Chronicle newspaper, but at the same time identified the need for citizens to have access to public information to aid in their decision-making. “We must ensure that the public, particularly through the State media, receive information which would help them to make decisions so there is a role for public information… The Chronicle is a public information medium,” the Guyanese leader said.

Professor Hinds, who is also and executive member of the Working People’s Alliance- one of the parties in A Partnership for National Unity, has accused Granger’s People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) of  endorsing the removal-decision by the AFC which has ministerial/ political responsibility for the media. ““The PNC section is being blamed for what was executed by the AFC. But the public utterings of the party’s General Secretary, suggest that they have no problem with the action—a case of the AFC doing the dirty job for them. One must ask if a government is prepared to encourage that kind of behavior towards a coalition member, how would they behave towards presumed enemies. There is something very ugly about government leaders stifling free expression and still preach about the beauty of democracy,” Hinds said.

Bert Wilkinson, Karen Davis and Tabita Sarabo-Halley have since resigned from the board of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited after a slim one-member vote upheld the Editor-in-Chief’s decision to axe Lewis and Hinds as columnists. Board member Ruel Johnson said he would also resign from the board from April 1,2018.