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
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
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
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
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
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