Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017


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Commentary Useless Exercise
(Aired 9 January 2007)

   After the 2006 elections, which did not go according to plan for reasons which I will outline for you next time in a commentary which I called Anatomy of an Electoral Disaster and which I wrote about 5 days after the 2006 elections, The plan was that the opposition, including a strong Third Force, would have a majority in parliament and therefore they would exert some control over the PPP to pass the constitutional changes necessary to level the playing field and move the country forward but this was not to be, so when the PNC invited me to join them in the National Assembly, I honestly thought that I would have had an opportunity to serve the Guyanese people there.

   I want to say it again, I am not a member of the PNC/R, I do not go to their executive meetings etc., there is nothing wrong with being a PNC/R member I want that to be clearly understood, I campaigned with them as an individual on the one Guyana platform and I am proud to be associated with them but I have opted not to become a member at this time.

   I never saw myself in Parliament, when I was with those who formed the AFC, the question never came up, I did want to be on the steering committee or inner core of the AFC, since I saw the AFC going in a direction which was counter productive and destructive to the third force, and I did extract a promise that they would keep me in that steering committee, but as happened with Gaumite Singh they broke that promise and removed me from the steering committee that was why I left, Christopher Ram witnessed the promise made to me by Ramjattan at Ram's home, it was not an unreasonable request for me to remain in that inner core of the AFC, since no legitimate election by a congress of the members of the AFC would have excluded me from the executive, everyone knew that.

   When I responded to Stanley Ming's invitation to join the one Guyana platform, I made no demands on the PNC for a Parliamentary position.

    Even though I stopped the commentaries after the 2006 election due to promises I made to my family, the persecution by the PPP did not stop, they tried and are still trying to jail me, the matter is in court right now; it is a case where the Attorney General Doodanuth Singh, emphasis on Nauth, is trying to put me in jail since he alleges that I scandalised the entire judicial system by casting aspirations against our very honourable and noble Chief Justice, this case is still going on, then they proceeded to take the lotto draw away from VCT 28, this was a huge economic blow to me since 25% of my income is now gone, the PPP Government refused to renew the Canadian Bank note's contract to do the Guyana lottery draw, which expired during 2005, if the company did not remove this draw from my station, those of you who want to take action against the lottery company by not contributing to the daily games, be my guest. But I took my medicine like a man.

   I want to remind the public that I had issued a warning before about this unfair competition posed by NCN TV to the private Broadcasters in this country, and I want to record again that the government is subventing money to them from the consolidated fund to run NCN, they are also giving them money to buy the Cricket and other rights, and as I predicted 6 years ago the time has come when no private broadcaster is participating in any international sporting events, we cannot afford to, because the NCN staff either deliberately or by their incompetence have managed to have Guyana, a HIPC nation, indexed so high for rights that we cannot afford to pay for them, so now the Parliament has to pass money to NCN to buy the rights for world cup cricket next year.

    But this same NCN is competing for advertising with private broadcasters whilst at the same time getting duty free privileges, grant aid, subventions from the Budget and pressure from government officials to members of the business community to place their advertising on NCN and not on the private stations especially those that are not friendly to the PPP, this process is slowly smothering the private broadcasters, it is a deliberate attempt to pauperise us so that sooner or later we will not be able to serve you, they will have a monopoly in Radio as well as in Television in this country and unless you pay attention now and take action, NCN will become a TV monopoly free to feed you government propaganda all day and all night, as they are doing to the people of Linden, where the people there see no local programming whatsoever, unless it is produced by the PPP.     

    But all of this aside, them trying to jail me like Mark Benchop, them mutilating my income to pauperise me, them continuing to lambaste me with unfair competition from NCN, their refusal to grant me a Radio License, none of these things filled me with the resolve and the anger to restart these commentaries and so now as I promised, I will tell you what did.

     On the 14th of December 2006 I attended Parliament, the sitting went from 2 PM to 10.25 PM with two breaks of 3/4 hours, one for tea and one for a snack, its funny most people who speak to me and even I at first did not realise it but set by tradition and the standing orders, Parliament always starts at 2 PM and ends at 10 PM except when the agenda can be finished in that one day and so as not to have to reconvene Parliament the next day, the Speaker would allow an extra ½ hour or so. 

   The PNC supporters have this impression that their parliamentarians don't do much and that is why their situation is so desperate in this country, in fact it was on that assumption that I agreed to enter Parliament i.e. to make a difference; on this particular day Winston Murray was on his feet for most of the day, it was an incredible performance, he spoke on 3-4 major issues to do with the economy; first he spoke on the extra allocations to the budget totalling 6.4 Billion dollars and in the process he established numerous irregularities but especially he established two things, one was that a substantial part of the additional allocations had to do with the government's abuse of the consolidated fund by financing the cabinet outreach just before the recent election, probably breaking the Representation of the People's Act and certainly making the political campaign unfair i.e. using the state's resources to conduct a PPP election campaign, for example the refreshments for the Cabinet had to be increased by 8 million dollars, transport by several million and secondly that the Buddy Hotel near to the new the stadium would be given a 128 million dollar loan boost, a situation probably unique in Guyana, and the subvention to NCN to buy the world cup cricket rights next year, but in the end the PPP, despite our protests, unapologetically passed the resolution to give themselves the 6.4 Billion dollar bonus for Christmas.

   Then came the modifications to the VAT bill on the agenda, now Ladies and Gentlemen you have to remember that it was pressure from the PNC, which held a symposium at the Tower Hotel at which Winston Murray and Christopher Ram spoke and at which we moved to present a petition prepared by Ram to the Minister of Finance on behalf of the PNC/R one G which more than anything else, to my mind, forced the PPP to zero rate a lot of things, and notwithstanding that we did not get everything we wanted, we did manage to get them to zero rate many of the items we had identified.

   Then we came to the Black Eye peas and Split Peas story, ladies and gentlemen you have to understand that Black-eyed peas cook-up is a black people thing, and split peas is an Indian thing, during the debate it became obvious that Black-eyed peas would be subject to Vat but not split peas, so when Winston Murray spoke as lengthily and eloquently as he did on the matter and pointed out the racial dangers of zero rating one and not the other, the new Minister of Finance, who had my good will up to that point, informed the honourable house that all along Black eye peas was attracting a 30% consumption tax, whilst Split peas was not subject to consumption taxes, and that we should celebrate since now we were only getting shafted with a 16 foot wood instead of the 30 ft wood we were getting all along, it was at this point that I started to see pink. Most indo Guyanese I have spoken to and asked them what they think of this situation, do not agree with it, so what is this nonsense? How much revenue does Black Eyed peas bring into the country anyway? And what exactly is the point the PPP is trying to make here, are they saying that they have the afro Guyanese in such total subjugation in this country that they can do any indult to them without repercussion?  Ladies and gentlemen you decide.   

   Then came the straw that broke this camel's back, the matter of the National Development Strategy, the NDS, now ladies and gentlemen the original Strategy was done with funds donated to Guyana by the Carter Centre so it was a civil society document, the PPP have ostensibly publicly embraced this strategy even though they do not agree with it in numerous and fundamental ways, and they have publicly stated that their Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper was based on the NDS; last year December 15th 2005, almost exactly a year to the day before this sitting of the national assembly on the 14th December 2006; the PPP and the PNC had agreed to update the strategy since it was document which laid a development path from 2000 to 2010 and since its already 2006 its time to update it; on this day in the parliament, Winston Murray who is our man on economic matters was on his feet for at least 3 hours on the 14th December 2006, Mr. Robertt Corbin and James Mc Allister also spoke on the NDS and they had clearly researched what they was presenting, not the rambling, irrational nonsense especially from Ramsammy that the PPP members were presenting, so the PNC's representatives to that National Assembly presented arguments that would move stone, but it did not move the PPP parliamentarians, Winston Murray who is arguably the best debater in that house reminded the house that last year December they had unanimously decided to update the NDS and that it should now be sent to a select committee for that purpose, to our utter astonishment the new Minister of Finance refused, he apparently wants to, or was instructed to demand, that the Ministry of Finance alone revamp the National Development Strategy, ladies and gentlemen you have to understand that a select committee would have more PPP persons on it than PNC and other opposition persons, so they would have a substantial and deciding say in what goes into the new NDS, but by demanding that the Ministry of Finance solely be mandated to revise and implement the new NDS they have effectively precluded any input, to the new NDS, from the opposition whatsoever! and so I saw red and hence the commentaries, ladies and Gentlemen I cannot serve you in that National Assembly as effectively as I can serve you here, and so I have started the commentaries again; and let me say this, there will never be peace in this country until something changes, and you the people who did not support the PPP in the last election, you will not get justice there.

  Your representatives are trying, they really are, but they will never be allowed to make a difference and so the struggle goes on. So much for the nonsense that Mr. Jagdeo told the first sitting of the National Assembly about a new beginning and more inclusivity.