If the name on the licence hasn’t changed then Ramroop is the first among equals in the matter of being granted a radio licence

Dear Editor

Apparently there is still some confusion regarding the situation of the Ramroop radio licence and a letter from Harry Gill in yesterday’s KN newspaper confirms my suspicion that there are still some misconceptions, despite my recent letter stating that among equals Ramroop is the first in line.

Mr Ramroop is not my friend; he is Mr Jagdeo’s friend and at this time we are in court, since I am claiming that he repudiated the contract we had and I want compensation for breach of contract. As time progresses the facts of this matter will become better known, but the matter is set for hearing on January 18, and so I will not say much more about it.

In 1993 Vieira Communications Limited, which was the name of my company and which is the name that appears on my licence on file with the Office of the Prime Minister, applied for a radio licence.

The National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) did not even afford me the courtesy of a response from 1993 to 2001. So in 2001 after the Privy Council’s 2000 landmark ruling declaring that the denial of the Antigua government to grant a radio licence to Observer Publications was unconstitutional and violated their free speech rights, I decided to do what the Observer people did, i.e. to launch a constitutional claim in our courts and at the same time put an FM broadcast on the air.

The Observer case was very straightforward; they applied for a licence to broadcast a radio signal and the Antigua government refused, so Observer put the radio station on the air and subsequently claimed in the Antigua courts that their constitutional rights to free speech were violated.

The police seized the equipment and the matter ended up in the Antigua courts and two years later in an unprecedented decision the Privy Council, from the bench in England, granted the licence and in addition they gave permission to operate it as a business and directed that the Government of Antigua should pay all costs including any damage to the equipment removed from the place of installation of the Observer transmitter. As a result of this ruling I commenced an FM broadcast in Guyana in 2001 to challenge the unconstitutionality of the monopoly of government radio, and the NFMU illegally entered my premises and removed the equipment with around 10 police officers and representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Vieira Communications Limited was the licensee, not Tony Vieira, as is wrongly claimed by Mr Gill, therefore the company’s shares were transferred with all of the rights and privileges that they held to Ramroop. If the licence was in my personal name I doubt whether I could have sold the television station, and up to today the licence should be in the name of Vieira Communications Limited, since if it is not then Ramroop would have given up all of the rights and privileges that Vieira Communications Limited held as the station which pioneered television broadcasting in Guyana, applied to the NFMU for a radio licence and got the Appeal Court to instruct the NFMU to grant them that radio licence.

But if the name on the broadcast licence was changed and not just the sign on the TV screen used as station ID, then it is my belief that in allowing it to happen the government would have broken their own agreements as usual, since no new licences were to be issued until the Broadcast Authority was formed and if Mr Ramroop gave up the name Vieira Communications Limited on his licence he would have lost his position of privilege, since he would be the most recent licensee not the first.

And since the appeal court awarded a radio licence to Vieira Communications Limited I doubt whether it could be legally transferred to Ramroop’s company, and the new Broadcast Authority should look into the matter, I am assuming that the opposition would do the right thing and remove this political and ridiculous authority which Jagdeo has placed in this country which could never be impartial.

I do hold one opinion on this matter and I would like to see it enshrined in our laws that if a person wants to sell his broadcasting facility since the spectrum is a limited natural resource, he could sell all of his equipment to anyone but he cannot transfer the licence to use the national spectrum to just anyone who can pay him; the Broadcast Authority should issue the new licence to the buyer after screening them to ensure that they meet the criteria for being a broadcaster according to our laws, and it should in fact be a new licence.

I have already asked members of parliament to ask the question who holds the Ramroop licence today, since if the station is still licensed to broadcast in the name VCL, then Mr Ramroop holds the right to have the first licence for radio. If however he did not, then he gave up that right and should join the line at the rear since he would have lost his place as the first among equals.

These people who are doing so well in this country due to obtaining huge concessions from Jagdeo cannot think and thrive in a society governed by the rule of law, and I sincerely hope that this licence still bears the name Vieira Communications Limited.

And I urge the opposition to find out.

Yours faithfully,
Tony Vieira

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