Private sector uneasy over ‘acrimonious’ pre-election atmosphere

- urges parties to sign conduct code, agree on state media use

The Private Sector Commis-sion (PSC) yesterday said that it is “perturbed” at the aggressive climate in the pre-election period and it has urged all political parties to sign on to a code of conduct for the elections and settle disputes over the use of the state media.

“The commission feels strongly that acrimonious discourse will not further the objective of free, fair and peaceful elections and would like to enjoin the parties to campaign on the issues pertinent to the choosing of a team to lead the country forward,” the PSC said yesterday in a statement in which it noted “the many incidents, the level of acrimony and the climate of aggression which have arisen in this pre-election period.” It urged parties to sign the code of conduct proposed by the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) or with their own modifications. It also suggested that parties permit Gecom to co-ordinate the signing.

Although the statement did not refer to specific incidents, it was released a day after President Bharrat Jagdeo delivered the latest entry in a recent series of attacks on sections of the local media at a political rally for the incumbent PPP/C.

The PSC yesterday congratulated the local media on having signed the Media Code of Conduct, which will govern their actions before, during and after our national elections. It said it was certain that the reports of Gecom’s Media Monitoring Unit, which is responsible for monitoring adherence to the code, would guide the media’s coverage in the weeks to come.

At the same time, while noting that none of the parties have signed on to the code of conduct Gecom has proposed for political parties, the PSC urged that they exercise “restraint in their discourses to and about other players and entities and to commit to some high standards of behaviour that will assure citizens of fairness and peace.”

It added, “The well-being, stability and future prosperity of Guyana lie in the hands of all the parties which are contesting the elections as well as in the hands of the media.”

According to the PSC, all practices that are potentially injurious to the peaceful conduct of the elections ought to be avoided and the interests of the country itself must prevail over the scoring of political points.

In addition, it urged the political parties and the managers of the state media to sit and discuss differences that will resolve the disputes relevant to the use of the state media in what it deemed “a realistic and objective way,” so that the issues can be resolved to the benefit of all. In this regard, it suggested that Gecom can be the mediator.

Gecom has written to the management of the National Communications Network (NCN) seeking to hold talks on opposition concerns about the current offer of five minutes of free programming per week for parties contesting the elections on the state-owned radio and television.

This follows complaints by opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and opposition party Alliance For Change (AFC), which say they are being virtually shut out from the airwaves in favour of the PPP/C. APNU, during a meeting with Gecom, requested that it use its authority to advocate that the state media be accessible on an equitable basis to all the contesting parties and that the state media desist from allowing its resources to be used exclusively as a propaganda machine for the ruling party.

The PSC statement was signed by the council of the PSC, including the chairman and four corporate representatives and sectoral members: the Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana; the Forest Products Association of Guyana; the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Guyana Associa-tion of Bankers; Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Proc-essors; Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Associa-tion; Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association; Institute of Private Enterprise Development; National Aquaculture Association of Guyana; Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Shipping Association of Guyana; the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry; the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana; the Linden Chamber of Industry, Commerce and Development; and the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce and Industry.