Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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ACB
(Aired 21 December 2002)

   After the 2001 elections and the dialog which started between Mr. Jagdeo and Mr. Hoyte, a committee was set up to quote "examine the monopoly of radio and the introduction of independent management of GTV, GBC, the state owned newspaper and the National Frequency Management Unit" I have Mr. Hoyte's speech to the nation on the evening of 30th March 2001 and I am quoting directly from it. It was the third of 17 demands, the first two were resuscitation of the bauxite industry and the second was an enquiry into police brutality and extra judicial killings.

   This speech to the nation by Hoyte on Friday the 30th March 2001, conceded victory of the 2001 elections to the PPP, Hoyte was telling his supporters that he accepted the results in so far as the Presidency was concerned and laid the foundation for Jagdeo to be sworn in the next day without incident, after the court made its decision public. I believe that Hoyte knew that the election case would not stand and he was preparing his supporters for that result. If he had not made this speech there would have been outright war in the nation. What he did took a lot of courage since the anger and frustration of his supporters at that time were dangerously close to exploding.

  In conceding the election Hoyte was sending a message to Freedom House and I quote him "the frustrations that are being unleashed will not confine themselves to or affect only the victims and their communities. It must now be clear to even the most obtuse of political partisans that an atmosphere of political instability and communal injustice will continue to discourage investment and create economical stagnation that will consume us all. There are no winners in such an environment. It is an extremely foolish hope for ANYONE to believe that Guyana can prosper if well neigh half of its people are discontented and angry. All are involved and all are consumed" 

  He told us that, and I quote him again "we are not interested in circuitous negotiations and delaying tactic. We would expect a clear indication of the willingness to deal with the issues urgently and seriously. In that regard, the PNC reform will make public what it considers as an initial list of issues for resolution. The solutions to the problems raised by these issues would indicate to us whether others are serious about justice, peace and development in Guyana"

   Ladies and gentlemen Hoyte was telling his supporters that they should stand down, stop the madness and accept the results, but at the same time he was indicating to Freedom House that he would expect dialog on his 17 demands. 

   Mr. Jagdeo came to my home the day after he was sworn in on the 1st April 2001and we discussed this Hoyte address to the nation, the President did not have a copy of Mr. Hoyte's address but since it was made from The Evening News studio, I had a copy and I showed it to President Jagdeo. I pointed out to him that it was a clear invitation to dialog. That he should be magnanimous in victory and invite Mr. Hoyte directly in writing, not through brokers, to commence the dialog. I however pointed out to Mr. Jagdeo, that he must bear in mind at all times that Hoyte is telling Freedom House that and I quote him again " business as usual is neither reasonable nor possible at this time. We take the view that radical changes in Guyana must occur if we are to make progress and have any guarantee of peace, stability and development.... I wish to be very frank with you, a cosmetic gesture from any quarter will not be sufficient or sensible" "the People's National Congress is interested in real, comprehensive and permanent change. Nothing else would be good enough" 

    I advised President Jagdeo, as a friend, that if he wanted he could be the greatest President we have ever had, since Hoyte was conceding the election to him and was inviting him to unite the nation, but that he will have to cut deep into the Burnham's ridiculous 1980 constitution to do it, he may also have to make a stand against Freedom House to make the changes necessary to do so, but in accepting Hoyte's invitation to dialog he must recognize and accept that the changes necessary to take us forward must not be "cosmetic" or "superficial"

   I understood it ladies and gentlemen what Hoyte was saying was crystal clear to me, if Mr. Jagdeo ever really understood it he had to be constrained by Freedom House because the dialog went nowhere.

   Using this one demand of the Radio monopoly of GBC and inclusion of the opposition on all state owned boards as an example, which I have told you could be easily challenged in any court, guided by the Trinidad case in 1982. Giving up the monopoly of GBC and apportioning time on all state owned media in proportion to the allocation of the seats in the Parliament was not an unreasonable demand, in fact in Trinidad it is the Law. And the same principle is applicable to Guyana.   

   The dialog started and a bipartisan board on broadcasting was set up to examine the radio monopoly.

  After functioning for some months the bipartisan board came up with the following, that an Advisory Board on Broadcasting [the ACB] consisting of suitably qualified persons, one nominated by President Jagdeo, one nominated by Mr. Hoyte and one nominated by civil society specifically the Private Sector Commission, be formed to advise the Prime Minister on Broadcasting.

   Ladies and gentlemen the Private Sector Commission never met to select their nominee, they never consulted even one Private Broadcaster in the pursuance of doing so, the then Chairman of the private sector commission Brian James, was coerced to personally nominate Mr. Carlton James without convening a meeting of the Private Sector Commission. What we ended up with in the end was a rubber stamp of a board whose sole reason for existence was to advise the PM on who was not being fair and balanced and who was inciting the public, a far cry from Hoyte's initial demand and the intention of the dialog.

   But even this diluted ACB was not transparent and stank to high heaven. Two of the three members of the ACB were nominated by the same person!

   It was at this time that I decided to begin commentary. The betrayal was clear and I saw the danger signs all around us, that was JUNE 2001. I am sorry that my commentaries are perceived as being supportive of Mr. Hoyte, but "I" say that his claims of bad faith are well founded. "I" say it ladies and gentlemen, me Tony Vieira. You all go ahead and take away my license.

   And what has the ACB done? Did they try to get the cooperation of the broadcasters? No they did not! The first thing they did was submit a list of transgressions to the Prime Minister and he had it published in the print media, not one broadcaster was ever allowed to defend himself before the alleged transgressions were published.

   This ACB then proceeded to persecute some private stations, whilst at the same time condoning blatant transgressions by other stations which are supportive of the PPP. They therefore set themselves up as being above the law, deciding who was fair and balanced and who was not, without giving any sort of a hearing whatsoever to any station that THEY unilaterally decided had transgressed.

   The hypocrisy of this boggles the mind doesn't it ladies and gentlemen? The ACB is telling us that WE are not fair and balanced, but THEY are acting as judge, jury and executioner with a definite political agenda condemning us without a hearing. It was a recipe for disaster and it has ended in disaster.  

  Our Prime Minister can cry foul all he wants to, he has trampled on our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and the right to have property and he will pay the price, since the ACB is now a useless appendage, as it should be. No one is above the law, no one can put any conditionality in a Broadcast License, which takes away any person's constitutional right to freedom of speech, that is the simple truth and that is what the PM has sought to do, I told you so in a commentary months ago that the ACB is skirting dangerously close to trampling on constitutional rights.

   Let me tell you how deep the dirty pool is, Some WEEKS ago when the Magistrate had adjourned in the Benschop matter to decide if he/she will send the matter up to the Supreme Court, the three prosecuting lawyers did a program which was, to all intents and purposes, trying the case in public BEFORE the Magistrate had given the decision, thereby pressuring the magistrate to come up with a decision which would be favorable to the prosecution/government team.

   The Prime Minister's office called my office and asked us to play this tape, the PM's people even offered to pay us for airing it, I told my office to tell them NO, since I perceived it to be the most grotesque contempt of court and that they can take their money and go to hell. The Chief Justice and the Chancellor later agreed with me and condemned the three prosecutors for doing the program, but it was the PM's office that was paying the Private Broadcasters to play it. Do you understand the enormity of this madness, ladies and gentlemen? The politically controlled ACB never once said a word about any station airing this tape, they would not dare to do so since they would be upsetting their boss, the PM, that is how impartial they are.

   I have this message for the ACB, you are not the beautiful child we sought when we began this dialog with love, trust and mutual respect, you are a monster conceived in deceit and betrayal and I for one will NOT be sad to see you go. 

   Finally Ladies and gentlemen I wrote this commentary on Saturday 21 st December 2001. I faxed it to Mr. and Mrs. Hoyte on that evening around 7 PM. So he saw it. They both had a good laugh at the part where I said that "you all can go ahead and take my license" no part of it was modified after that date. My commentary on the measure of this extraordinary man is yet to come.