Sharma denies negotiating reduced suspension

CNS Channel 6 Programme Director Savitree Sharma yesterday denied bargaining for the four month suspension imposed on the station and accused President Bharrat Jadgeo of giving the public a false impression of her.

Sharma along with her husband, broadcaster and politician CN Sharma, held a press conference in their Robb and Wellington Street studio to “let the public know what is right, what the truth is and what exactly took place in the Office of the President.” Jagdeo imposed the four month suspension after meeting with the Sharmas at Office of the President (OP) last Friday.

Savitree Sharma told reporters that she was concerned about the statements made by Jagdeo earlier this week, when he said she proposed the four month suspension as a sanction for the May 4, 2011 Anthony Vieira commentary that prompted a complaint against the station. “The utterances of the president that day were not the entire truth,” she said, while noting that the president’s comments are being repeatedly aired.

She said that at the beginning of the meeting Jagdeo explained that he had decided on an eight month suspension. The couple made it clear that they did not go to the meeting to bargain, but only to hear the decision on the station’s fate. She noted that she told the president that the business could not survive eight months without work. She went as far as to explain that there were expenses they had to honour, including bank payments, advertisement contracts that had already been signed, a $2M monthly commitment to Guyana Revenue Authority and utility bills, she recalled.

Savitree said that she also explained to the president that she was supporting a relative who is attending university and they had some thirty plus employees who also had families. “ We put forward a case that we thought the president would have been able to look at all these things and make a judgement … to say well we are going to fine you,” she noted.

CN Sharma and his wife Savitree Sharma yesterday clarifying statements recently made by President Bharrat Jagdeo on their four month suspension.

According to her, Jagdeo listened, “he sat there very unmoved, he looked across the room at us with no sort of compassion and a sort of zeal hatred for us. Eventually he held on to his decision and said well I am sorry but you would be taken off the air for eight months. I said to him by chance, ‘why not four?’ Those were my exact words. CN immediately spoke up and said, ‘why not two?’ and I saw his whole facial expression change.”

She told reporters that had they known they could have bargained for their suspension, they would have said no suspension; or one day suspension or one month suspension. “I had no idea that what I said when I uttered the words… that it would have been taken seriously by Jagdeo.
He seems to be putting all the blame on me, that I was the one who decided on four months,” she stressed.

Savitree said that she is offended by the manner in which the president has put himself forward, adding “I don’t know if it because of communication skills or lack of understanding of language or what. Was it deliberate? The truth has actually been twisted … I want the public to know that we have been made pawns in this game of politics.”

She said that it was wrong, unfair and unjust to take Channel Six off the air for four months.

Meanwhile, she revealed yesterday said that their current financial situation does not permit them to resort to the courts to challenge the suspension. She, however, said they did indicate to politicians and civil society and lawyers that “if they wish to carry the matter forward we would cooperate in full.”

Ethnic Relations Commission Chairman Juan Edghill, who was subject of the Vieira commentary, complained to the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB) and he has also since filed a $25M lawsuit against the Sharmas.

Sharma had been awaiting a ruling from Jagdeo on whether the station’s licence would be suspended or revoked after he was cited by the ACB for breaches of the conditions of his licence, following the controversial commentary.

CNS Channel 6 offered an “unequivocal apology” to Edghill for the “embarrassment and damage to character” caused by the airing of the commentary. Savitree had accepted responsibility for the broadcast, explaining that her staff made a mistake and aired the wrong commentary.

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