PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To Press Conference on Thursday, February 2, 2006 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
 The PNCR has condemned this dastardly act of the assassination of popular journalist and political activist, Ronald Waddell and called on the Police to swiftly conclude its investigations and bring all the perpetrators to justice;
 The signing of the Media Code of Conduct, as the PNCR predicted, has had no impact on the behaviour of the state media more, especially NCN radio and television;
 The PPP/C however is still not satisfied so they have moved a further step to censoring even the programmes that are transmitted specifically into Linden;
 The PNCR and its Youth Arm, the Guyana Youth and Students Movement will be convening a National Youth Consultation and reception.

THE ASSASSINATION OF RONALD WADDELL

On Monday night last, January 30th, popular journalist and political activist, Ronald Waddell was executed outside his home. The PNCR has already condemned this dastardly act and called on the Police to swiftly conclude its investigations and bring all the perpetrators to justice.

I now take this opportunity to repeat the Party’s statement by which we stand:

“The PNCR condemns in the strongest possible terms the assassination of Mr. Ronald Waddell – PNCR candidate in the 2001 election, journalist, political commentator and activist. We share in the grief and shock being experienced by the wide cross section of Guyanese. The PNCR intends to leave no stone unturned to identify the perpetrators of this act. Our focus is not only on the capture of the gunmen involved, but on unmasking those who issued the order to carry out the assassination.

We call on the Guyana Police Force to swiftly conclude its investigations and bring all the perpetrators to justice. This matter cannot be allowed to drag on and fester. Emotions are running high. The assassination of a political activist and journalist has far-reaching implications for the country.

The PPP/C Administration’s encouragement of, and involvement in, state- sponsored extra-judicial killings and death squads has created the environment in Guyana for such killings and assassinations to be perpetrated.

The Guyanese people are not fooled by attempts by the state media to link Waddell’s assassination to gang warfare. It is no secret that Waddell has been one of the most aggressive critics of the Jagdeo regime and has earned its perpetual ire.

We take this opportunity to express our condolences to the family of Ronald Waddell and to assure them that we will play our part to ensure that justice is done.”

STATE CONTROL AND CENSORSHIP OF MEDIA REACH NEW HEIGHTS

The signing of the Media Code of Conduct, as the PNCR predicted, has had no impact on the behaviour of the state media more, especially NCN radio and television. The feeble attempt to present a balanced analysis of the budget was bought prematurely to a close thus exposing the insincerity of the government in this matter. More serious, however, has been the blatant censorship taking place on NCN radio and television.

Media professionals have had their work tampered with whenever the political czar at the Office of the President feels that the work is not sufficiently propagandizing the PPP/C Administration and not critical enough of its opponents. Two illustrations of the behaviour of NCN can suffice.

After the Budget presentation in the National Assembly on January 23rd, NCN TV, at short notice, invited representatives from the Government, the PNCR, the PSC and the TUC to be part of a panel to discuss the National Budget. Appearing on behalf of the Government were Finance Minister Kowlessar and Dr Roger Luncheon; and on behalf of the PNCR was its Chairman, Mr. Winston Murray CCH, MP. Members of the public who saw the program no doubt sat in disbelief at the uncertainty, vagueness and ineptitude shown by both Government representatives in defending even the straightforward aspects of the Budget. This appalling performance contrasted sharply with the profound analysis and comments from Mr. Murray and the PSC and TUC spokesmen. Even the attempts by the program moderator, Mr. Goolsarran, to rescue the Government team by giving it more response time and by restricting rebuttals did little to hide the fact that the Minister of Finance and the HPS were involved in empty generalities and guesswork.

The embarrassment reached to a point where the program was abruptly and unceremoniously terminated by the moderator. Somebody at Freedom House had apparently sent word to stop the discomfort and torture the Government reps were experiencing.

It should surprise no one that NCN has never rebroadcast the program. Nor should it surprise anyone that all panel discussions on the budget have since excluded Opposition MPs and independent analysts. After the initial fiasco, NCN is now stage-managing the panel discussions - denying the Guyanese public the opportunity to hear a proper and honest analysis of the Budget on the State Media.

The question we are obliged to ask is, if two Government officials, as high-level as the Minister of Finance and the HPS, are unfamiliar with the issues and thinking behind the Budget, then what does that tell us about the management of the economy or, for that matter, of the entire country?

CENSORSHIP AT LINDEN TELEVISION STATION

It is well-known that the people of Linden have been bombarded by the only television station allowed by the PPP/C Administration to transmit from that location. Efforts by several existing television station owners to extend their signals to the Linden community have been thwarted by the government resulting in the people of Linden being subjected to continuous government propaganda transmitted by NCN radio and television. The PPP/C, however, is still not satisfied so they have moved a further step to censoring even the programmes that are transmitted specifically into Linden. The most recent example was on January 20, 2006.

There is a television programme MUZIKMEDIA, which is produced in New Jersey USA, and aired in New Jersey and Jamaica, and now in Linden, Guyana through the auspices of GUYMINE.COM, which has secured the rights to broadcast this programme in Guyana.

This programme mixes broadcasts of music videos of Caribbean artistes, with segments including a news segment on issues topical in several Caribbean countries, mini-documentaries, etc. The news segment is anchored by either of two Guyanese television personalities, Michelle Elphage-Williams or Enrico Woolford.

However, in the last edition of MUZIKMEDIA on Friday January 20th, 2006, the news segment carried an article on the floods in Guyana, which NCN refused to broadcast on the pretext that ‘it did not state what the Government was doing about the floods’.

Another segment of the programme was also withdrawn from broadcast. This is the segment where the producer Mr. Whiddon Sibdhannie, who has a website (GUYMINE.COM), usually informs his audience about updated photographs and information available on his website. However, this last segment was yanked from broadcast because the host mentioned that ‘photographs of the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Robert Corbin in Linden were available on the website’.

Since the pulling of these parts of the programme, the producers and the holders of the rights to broadcast this programme in Guyana have threatened to remove this programme from Linden and take it to Georgetown, further depriving the residents of Linden of another source of entertainment and news through the alarming habit of censorship being practised by NCN.

It is evident that the PPP/C Administration will have no regard for the established norms of a democratic culture. Consequently, the PNCR is resolved to intensify its struggle to ensure the end to censorship and the achievement of equitable access to the state media for all Opposition Parties.

NATIONAL YOUTH CONSULTATION

The People’s National Congress Reform and its Youth Arm, the Guyana Youth and Students Movement will be convening a National Youth Consultation and reception at the King’s Plaza Hotel, Main Street, Georgetown on Saturday, February 4, 2006 at 5:00 pm.

The forum will provide an opportunity for young people to discuss their views on matters of importance to them. Mr. Ronald Austin Jr., a Youth Leader will present a Paper on the “Youths in the Twenty First Century – A View from a Youth”. The Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert Corbin will outline the Party’s position on issues of national importance and on specific issues as it relates to the youth of Guyana. Youths will then be afforded the opportunity to discuss their concerns with the Leadership of the PNCR and to influence the policy position of the PNCR.

The issue of unemployment will be high on the agenda for discussion.

This activity, which is one of a number of consultations to be held, will have participants from various Regions, youth clubs, students and other youth organizations.

The consultation will be followed by a cocktail reception hosted by the Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert Corbin.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, February 2006