Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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No Justice at All
(Aired 15 June 2007)

    Over and over I have told you that there is no justice in Guyana and it is preventing us from enjoying any democracy at all since the Executive controls both the Judiciary and the Legislature, there is no separation of powers and that those who are calling for shared Governance are right and should escalate the demand since abuses are affecting the wellbeing of a substantial section of the population in this nation and if you do not stand up now and demand justice, all, will forever be lost.

   In March 2001 the Privy Council of Great Britain handed down their decision in the Observer Publications matter from Antigua and Barbuda, it is identified at the Privy Council website as appeal number 3 of 2000.

   The decision was handed down on the 19th March 2001 and forever changed the concept of any state monopoly of radio anywhere in the commonwealth.

   Here is what happened in Antigua and I want you to tell me, how it differs from my own actions here in Guyana.

     Observer Publications are the owners of a newspaper in Antigua and in March 1995 they applied for a license to operate an FM Radio Station. At that time the Government of Antigua, as far as the record goes were the only ones allowed to operate a radio station. Like Guyana the Antigua laws carries the following provisions in its Telecommunications Act, section 4 prohibits any person from establishing a telecommunications station or installing, working or operating any telecommunications apparatus except under, and in accordance with a licence granted under the Act and subject to such conditions and restrictions as may be prescribed by rules made under the Act. Any breach of the section is considered a criminal offence punishable by penalty, including imprisonment and forfeiture of apparatus.

   The Observer Company applied to Mr. Matthew the Telecommunications Officer in Antigua for a license to broadcast a radio signal on the 25th March 1995.

  Matthew responded on the 19th April 1995 i.e. one month later telling them that he required more information about the intended broadcast, but one of the pieces of additional information he was requiring was a business plan; ladies and gentlemen the Telecommunications officer of Antigua was asking Observer to produce a five year business plan, this was of course ridiculous since the government of Antigua was the owner of a competing radio station, and so whilst the Observer group produced all the other information regarding the broadcast, its power, locations of the main broadcast equipment, repeaters, antenna etc. they rightly did not supply the requested business plan.    

   After some further communication between the parties the Telecommunications officer Matthews then wrote Observer on the 9th June 1995 informing them that there is no policy to support the licensing of Private Broadcasting Stations in Antigua at that time." This was a lie since there was a private radio station operating in Antigua but it did not form part of the case or the decision so I will leave it out in this comment so as not to make it too long.  

   In other words from the date of the first application to the denial for a license the communication occupied a period of a little over 3 months, ladies and gentlemen in my case I applied to the NFMU since 1993 and no answer has ever been given.  

  More than a year went by, apparently without any progress in the matter, then on 23 July 1996 Mr. Samuel Derrick wrote on behalf of the Observer Company to Mr. Matthew Chief Telecoms officer of Antigua notifying him of their intention to commence transmission on 91.1 megahertz from 6 A.M. on the 1st September 1996 as a test broadcast, since they alleged that by refusing to give them a license to broadcast their radio signal, he was violating their fundamental right to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the constitution, they also told him that the only reason they were writing him to alert him of their intentions at all was so that he can give notice to any international agencies that may have to be alerted that Antigua was broadcasting an FM signal at 91.1 MHz.

   The Observer officials also informed Lester Bird the Prime Minister and Minister of Broadcasting in Antigua that they were going to initiate this broadcast and he responded to them through his Permanent Secretary reiterating that were they to do so, they would be breaking the law. They nevertheless began their broadcast on 1st September 1996.

   The next day on the 2nd September 1996 nine police officers arrived at Scotts Hill the observer broadcast station with a search and seizure warrant signed by the Chief Magistrate of Antigua.  The warrant alleged that there was reasonable cause to believe that a telecommunications apparatus was concealed at the Observer Radio Station. This was of course ridiculous since this was a 10,000 watt transmitter not the 500 watt that VCT was using here, and Observer had told the Telecommunications officer Matthew in their application where the transmitter would be located so there was no question about it being concealed on the premises and the equipment was seized.

   The case was filed in the High Court of Antigua in September 1996, and came up for hearing before Judge Benjamin J. in December 1996 and judgment and was delivered on 27th November 1997.

   The judge rejected the arguments for the applicant based on discrimination and legitimate expectation of receiving a broadcast license. But the judge did hold the warrant for search and seizure invalid, and quashed it, thereby giving the company liberty to apply for damages for trespass occasioned by the unlawful entry upon its premises.

  The Company Appealed the decision which did not uphold their constitutional right to broadcast and the government cross-appealed on the warrant being illegally issued.  The Court of Appeal in Antigua heard the case on 13 April 1999 and gave judgment on 14 May 1999. The company's appeal was unanimously dismissed, and by a majority of two to one the Appeal Court decided that the search and seize warrant was valid i.e. they reversed the lower court's ruling that the search was illegal but upheld the lower Court's decision that Observer's constitutional rights were not violated in the matter.

   Not once at anytime did anyone threaten to lock up anyone from Observer Publications as criminals and not once was the question of any criminal act pursued or mentioned in any court in Antigua as happened here. This judge has accused me of criminal acts and I am checking to see if I can get any satisfaction under the law against him.

   The matter was taken to the Privy Council in the UK in November 2000 by the Observer Group and the decision of the Privy Council was given in March 2001; I started broadcasting in July 2001, 4 months after that decision, you get the picture Ladies and gentlemen?  I did it because I knew that what I was doing was right and just.

   After hearing the case the Law Lords in the UK ruled as follows 1. That Observers' constitutional rights to free speech were violated along with their rights in three other sections of the constitution 2. They ordered that a radio broadcasting licence be immediately issued to Observer as applied for at 91.1 MHz or on such other frequency as the High Court, on prompt application by the Attorney-General, may approve. 3. They ordered that a business licence be issued immediately to Observer.  4. They ordered that the seized equipment be returned forthwith. 5. They gave Leave to Observer to apply to the High Court for the assessment and award of damages in the event that the equipment had suffered any damage when it was seized; and 6. They ordered the Government of Antigua to pay all of Observer legal fees since the matter began in Antigua including the Privy Council costs. At all times, all of this was known to the judge hearing my case in Guyana, since this observer case, was to the best of my knowledge, the only precedent invoked by Mr. Rex Mc Kay in my matter at all times.

  A few things here catches the attention immediately, no matter how bad Lester Bird was, the rule of law worked in Antigua, the Observer Company sought permission to broadcast in March 1995, they got the government's position as perverse as it was around a three months later, they began to broadcast in September 1995 and by November 2000 the case had passed through both courts in Antigua and was before the Privy Council and a decision was given 4 months later, my case started in 2001 and we had to force this judge to give what my submission to the appeal court of Guyana labels a perverse and unacceptable decision in 2007, and my application for a broadcast license for radio was sought since 1993!

  The Observer case took around 6 years to be resolved from the date of the application to broadcast to the day the Privy Council rendered its decision; my case is now pending for 14 years. In view of this decision from the Privy Council a situation which is exact in every detail to my own, I did not break the law ladies and gentlemen, those who sought, and are still seeking, to deprive me of my constitutional rights, they are!

  There is no Justice in Guyana ladies and gentlemen none at all.