Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon wrote to President Donald Ramotar on January 13, advising him of the region’s intention to pursue the terms of the August 2012 Agree-ment unilaterally, because of government’s failure to meet its obligations but this was countered by a February 20 reply from Presidential Adviser Gail Teixeira rejecting the claims.
The standoff between the two sides leaves unclear the fate of the agreement which ended weeks of unrest in the mining town over power tariffs that saw three people dying and many others being injured.
August 2014 will mark two years since the agreement was struck between government and the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region 10. The protests were sparked after government announced plans to hike electricity tariffs, and took on a violent nature following intervention by the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
Government agreed to hold off on the tariff hike after the agreement was struck.
However, to date, very little has been accomplished. Under the agreement, three committees – an Economic Committee, a Technical Committee, and the Land Selection Committee – were set up.
The mandate of the Technical Committee is to work out an energy plan for the Region while the Economic Committee is responsible for creating development to enhance the Region’s economy. The Land Selection Committee was set up to develop a system which would see the Region managing land distribution for living and other purposes.
A television station for Linden was also part of the deal but this is still to be established. Both the Economic and Technical Committees are without a Chairperson and therefore are not functioning. Furthermore, Solomon says the Land Selection Committee cannot begin to operate because government has failed to supply the technical support it promised.
None of these endeavours has reached fruition as government and the RDC continue to trade blame on culpability. Solomon says that the lack of progress is the fault of central government, while government says it’s the other way around.
In fact, Teixeira, a member of the government delegation which meets with the RDC on the agreement, says that government has fulfilled its responsibilities in the agreement, and the RDC is yet to hold up its end of the bargain.
The TV Station
In the January 13 letter addressed to President Donald Ramotar but which Teixeira says wasn’t received until January 28, Solomon disclosed that the RDC had acquired a radio transmitter and “is putting measures in place to ensure the right of freedom of expression, sharing of ideas and information, consistent with Article 146 of the Constitution.” Solomon stated that the transmitter had to be procured by the region after government failed, and continues to fail, to hand over the transmitter.
Teixeira however, says this is not so. In the February 20 letter to the RDC she says that both the dish and transmitter requested by the RDC have been handed over. Solomon though, says the region only received the dish. Teixeira in her letter also said that while the region had claimed that the dish and transmitter had been donated to Linden several years ago, it had been conclusively established that they constituted property of the government.
In a previous conversation with Stabroek News, Solomon had shared that the region was nearly done constructing the facility from which the station would be operated, and documents seen by Stabroek News suggests that a lot of the needed paperwork has been completed.
The company which will own and operate the broadcasting entity – “Region No 10 Broadcasting Inc” – has already been incorporated under the Companies Act of Guyana, and has been issued a Certificate of Incorporation, according to documents seen by Stabroek News.
Solomon, Gloria Britton, Maurice McKinnon, Haslyn Parris, and Sandra Vantull have been named the company’s five incorporators, and therefore its directors. Solomon is also named as the company secretary.
The region still needs to be granted a broadcasting licence by the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) before it can begin to operate. Solomon says the RDC has applied for the licence but that it has been informed that no licences can be distributed until an ongoing court case, one which challenges the distribution of several licences by former president Bharrat Jagdeo, is decided.
The decision was made last year, and Solomon has stated publicly that the matter before the court should not interfere with the issuance of a licence to Region 10 since the matters are unrelated. He is saying that government should take measures to ensure that the licence is given to the RDC as per the agreement.
In her letter, Teixeira emphasises that the GNBA is the statutory authority responsible for facilitating the licensing of broadcasters, and says that the failure of the RDC to receive a licence “cannot by any means be attributed to any failure to act by the government in accordance with the agreement.”
Documents seen by Stabroek News show that the region has filled out and submitted the necessary application to operate a “TV Commercial Station.” Tony Vieira, former owner of Channel 28 has been named in the application as the station’s planner while one Michael Forde is named as in-charge of its maintenance.
Teixeira though, says the GNBA claims that the RDC has “failed to present the necessary documentation for licensing”. The RDC continues to refute these claims.
Economic and Technical plans
Solomon says the region has commenced work on its own Economic Plan. In the letter he tells Ramotar that “Central Government reluctance to activate the Economic Committee has communicated to the Region the matter of economic development for the constituency is not one of priority. Hence the region shall commence work to develop its Economic Plan…”
In a previous interview Solomon shared government’s insistence that the work of the Economic Committee be delayed until the Technical Committee, whose Chairman resigned, got a new Chairman and recommenced its work. However, Chairperson of the Economic Committee, Joycelyn Williams, stepped down earlier this year.
Both committees are now without chairpersons and work cannot commence until new appointments are made.
With regard to the Technical Committee and the work it was supposed to undertake, Solomon says “the region has already in its possession a Plan of Action for Electricity Conservation and is prepared to look at an alternative supply.” Region 10 officials also plan to move ahead with regard to taking control of the dissemination of its land resources. Solomon had told Stabroek News that the committee has already been set up and is waiting on several technical agencies to provide support.
In his letter to Ramotar he laments the fact that the technical personnel have not been supplied and says that “the non-submission of Central Government’s representatives to play their respective role in Land Management is of concern, and while the region wants to operate within the parameters of the law, Central Government obstacles to ensure this adherence shall see the Region taking measures for its constituents to acquire land to meet their needs.”
Region Ten to blame
Teixeira knocks Solomon’s complaints and public utterances as incorrect and accuses him of continuing to misinform the public, particularly the people of Linden.
She says that there were nine areas of agreement in the August 2012 agreement, four of which were to be executed solely by the region, and which are still outstanding. Additionally, three responsibilities were to be carried out solely by government while the remaining two were to be joint endeavours.
The joint endeavours – the setting up and functioning of the Economic and Technical Committees – are stalled since neither has a chairman. Although no work is currently being done though, Teixeira says that this is not a result of any failure on the part of the government, as it continues to participate fully.
Teixeira says that the agreement to: postpone any increase in electricity and continue to subsidise electricity tariffs in Linden until the Technical Committee finished its work; hand over the TV dish and transmitter to the region; and have the West Watooka area drained by the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) have all been fulfilled.
Meanwhile, she says the region is delinquent in fulfilling its own obligations. She said that the RDC was to establish the Regional Land Selection Committee. Solomon says this committee is stalled because government has not supplied the technical personnel as promised, but Teixeira in her letter says the committee is yet to be established. She also says the region is yet to properly apply for its licence, and has not submitted economic projects for consideration.
Lastly, she says the region was supposed to “propose and develop modalities to work closely with the relevant ministries and communities.” This too, she says, has not yet been done.
She also contended that Solomon failed to mention a host of areas to which the joint meetings directed attention. She listed the Moblissa Road Rehabilitation, the Region 10 Baishanlin project, the Linden-Soesdyke Highway lighting, Region 10 roads, drainage in Linden, the Supreme Court registry and Christianburg Magistrate’s Court usage dispute, reconstruction of One Mile Primary School, Wismar, the Linden Hospital issue and the ambulance services in the region.
Despite the delays with the committees’ establishment, Teixeira urged Solomon to “embrace a constructive engagement”.