Sharing one platform last evening, several groups called on President Bharrat Jagdeo to revoke the four-month suspension handed out to CNS Channel 6 owner CN Sharma before the elections date is announced.
The groups also called for an agreement between the PPP/C, the opposition parties and other key stakeholders on some minimum conditions for the holding of free and fair elections.
Representatives from political parties, civil society groups, trade unions and the religious community last evening held a public rally at the Stabroek Market Square to protest the suspension and the group later assembled outside of State House on Main Street.
Speaking to a crowd, PNCR Leader Robert Corbin said that several voices have united to address the breach of the constitutional rights of citizens. “Despite we may have differences on various issues from time to time, we are united on one common focus – that before the announcement of elections day, Channel 6 must be reopened if there is to be free and fair elections in this country,” Corbin said to the animated crowd.
Corbin added that the issue was not only about CN Sharma but about the implications it had for the rights of citizens and the holding of free and fair elections. “When Jagdeo closes down Channel 6, it has nothing to do with CN Sharma, it has nothing to do with what the station was transmitting or any offence, it has to do with the rights of all Guyanese, their constitutional rights to free and fair elections and to have views freely transmitted on the television,” Corbin said. He also said it was an infringement of the rights of Guyanese not to have access to the opinions of the contesting parties to inform them as to how to cast their votes at the upcoming elections. He urged Guyanese in the days ahead to assemble in front of State House to send a message to President Jagdeo.
Dr Rupert Roopnaraine of opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) spoke about the establishment of a minimum set of demands that have to be agreed to before the holding of the elections. Christopher Ram, the chairperson for last evening’s rally, identified the minimum conditions as: the return of Channel 6 to the airways; the opening of the National Communications Network (NCN) to members of the opposition; the non-abuse of state resources to fund the PPP/C’s election campaign; and a guarantee by the Guyana Elections Commis-sion that the elections will be free and fair.
There was a call from some including Ram, General Secretary of the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) Lincoln Lewis and from University of Guyana lecturer and Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon for the opposition parties to boycott the elections if these minimum requirements are not met.
Meanwhile, AFC executive member Michael Carrington called for a united fight against the wrong committed by the PPP/C administration. “If we don’t fight for our rights, the wrongs will multiply and come capture we,” he warned. He said that key to winning this fight is to vote the PPP/C out of office at the upcoming elections.
Red Thread’s Karen DeSouza said that she expected criticisms from some for her organisation’s support of Sharma, who has been charged for “the most disgusting behaviour that could be done to a child.” She said though that Sharma’s case is currently before the courts and that Red Thread maintains the view that such offences should not be bailable. “But apparently, the president of this country holds the view that he and only he should determine which accusations and reports are taken seriously,” she said. “This blinked approach to what or whom is right or wrong allows him to present to us Kwame Mc Coy and Evan Persaud as persons who merit positions of power in this country,” she said.
Describing the closure of the television station as an abuse of power, DeSouza said that the President had chosen this path simply because he could do so. “The presidential bullying must stop,” she emphasised.
Elder Loris Heywood, representing the Christian community, presented an ‘alphabet’ which chronicled some of the various criticisms and allegations leveled against the PPP/C administration. “Justice, righteousness and peace are on our side,” he remarked, even as he spoke about the virtue of prayer.
Kissoon, meanwhile, said that it is imperative that all fight against a government that has repeatedly infringed the rights of its citizens. He said that the suspension of Sharma could have serious implications on the whole electoral process.
TUF leader Valerie Garrido-Lowe and Jinnah Rahman of the Rice Producers Association Action Committee were among the other speakers at yesterday’s event. Similar rallies are expected to be held in various parts of the country over the next few days.