Luncheon misrepresents opposition leader’s role in relation to ACB and his powers in relation to Gecom

Dear Editor,

An article in the Guyana Chronicle under the caption, ‘No basis for negative reactions, allegations over Sharma ban‘ refers.

The response by the Office of the President, and particularly, Roger Luncheon, to my public disclosure in a recent press statement only confirms the assertions contained therein. However, Dr Luncheon goes further to present additional misrepresentations to cover up the earlier misinformation provided to the Guyanese public by President Jagdeo in his attempt to justify his unconscionable and unjust act of suspending CNS Channel 6 during this election season. This act, unquestionably, jeopardises the holding of free fair and transparent elections in Guyana.

Dr Luncheon makes a spurious charge that I have a few things to disclose about my role in, “attempting to frustrate the functions of the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB), a statutory body created subsequent to agreements between President Jagdeo and then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Desmond Hoyte.” If that is so, I call upon Dr Luncheon to publish all those matters of which he claims knowledge.

The publication in Chronicle states, “Since Mr. Hoyte’s death, Luncheon observed that Corbin has sought to have Jagdeo ‘unceremoniously, improperly and without cause,‘ remove sitting members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), and the ACB, those members who were nominated by the previous Opposition Leader, Luncheon said.“

It continued, “Different explanations and excuses were offered by Mr. Corbin but nothing of substance. Nothing suggesting cause. Properly, the President rejected Corbin’s advances.”

I again call upon Dr Luncheon to publish any letter or communication from President Jagdeo to me where he had rejected what he called my “advances.” I made no “advances” to Mr Jagdeo as I believe that word has another connotation.

The truth is that the decision by Mr Hoyte and Mr Jagdeo to set up an ACB was intended to be a temporary six-month measure, which should have been terminated after the passage of broadcast legislation to establish a National Broadcasting Authority. After the sudden death of Mr Hoyte, these matters fell within the domain of the new Leader of the Opposition and were the subject of discussions in the constructive engagement talks that ended with a signed communiqué, dated May 6, 2003. This communiqué was made public and I invite your journalists and the public to revisit the contents of that document.

Mr Jagdeo and I agreed that broadcast legislation should have been tabled and passed in the National Assembly within six months and, naturally, the ACB would have been dissolved and its functions transferred to a National Broadcasting Authority. After eight years, Mr Jagdeo and his government have failed to do so, thus making the intended ABC an almost permanent body.

It is obvious that Mr Hoyte could not have contemplated a period of eight years when making his nomination, and it was both prudent and appropriate for the new Leader of the Opposition to exercise his legal authority of naming his nominee to the ACB as provided for in law. More significantly, the reconstitution of the ACB was an agreement between President Jagdeo and me during those discussions, as reflected in my letter to him dated, October 16, 2003. This letter has been released by me to the media.

Mr Jagdeo, as confimed by Dr Luncheon, now agrees with my press statement that “Jagdeo rejected” the notice from the opposition leader and refused to honour his commitment to reconstitute the ACB. It is, therefore, obvious that President Jagdeo could be under no illusion that Ron Case’s retention as a member of the ACB could constitute his being a nominee of the present Leader of the Opposition. He, therefore, deliberately misled the nation by implying in his statement that the recommendation from the presently constituted ACB was from a body which had a nominee from the present Leader of the Opposition.

Dr Luncheon, in the said press briefing, gave the impression that President Jagdeo acted on legal advice in not removing, “unceremoniously, improperly and without cause” the nominee of Mr. Hoyte.” There was no question of removing anyone without cause, since the agreement called for the reconstitution of the entire ACB. Further, the reasons for my intention to remove Case were clearly stated in my letters to Jagdeo and Case himself.

My letter stated“

“I have no confidence in the manner that the ACB was discharging its mandate.”

In the next paragraph I stated that,

“It has recently been brought to my attention that due process was not followed in the original nomination of the representative of the Private Sector Commission. In such circumstances the entire credibility and legality of the ACB as presently constituted is questionable.”

Perhaps the warped mind of Dr Luncheon cannot discern the “just cause” in my letter, but this is understandable in the context of the flagrant breaches of the law that have attended the Jagdeo administration.

The truth is that Jagdeo kept the ACB in place as his poodle to do as he wished and refused to pass the broadcast legislation and establish a National Broadcast Authority, as agreed with both my predecessor, Mr Hoyte, and me.

Dr Luncheon reminds me of the adage often repeated by my late mother, “O what a tangled web we weave when we first practise to deceive.” This is exactly what Dr Luncheon sought to do when he stated that,

“Since Mr. Hoyte’s death, Luncheon observed that Corbin has sought to have Jagdeo “unceremoniously, improperly and without cause,” remove sitting members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), and the ACB, those members who were nominated by the previous Opposition Leader.” I call upon Dr Luncheon to publish all the information on this.

The truth is that, I never sought to remove any member from the Guyana Elections Commission. I would never have done so because, unlike the ACB, I have no such power and I am fully aware of the law.

First, the law does not permit the Leader of the Opposition, on his own, to remove any nominee of the parliamentary opposition to the Guyana Elections Commission. In filling any vacancy, he has to engage in meaningful consultation with the other opposition parties. The only two nominees of the parliamentary opposition named since Mr Hoyte’s death were as a result of vacancies caused by the resignation of Mr Haslyn Parris and the death of Mr Lloyd Joseph. The new nominees were made after a full process of consultation with all the parliamentary opposition parties and there was full agreement on the persons identified.

The NCN must give the same coverage as they gave to the publication of the misinformation.

Finally, Guyanese should note that the real issue at this time is not the constitutionality or legality of the ACB. This is a matter still to be pronounced on by the court. Unfortunately, the slow wheels of justice will not allow this matter to be heard before the forthcoming elections and herein lies the tragedy. A similar legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Integrity Commission, though ripe for hearing since December 2005, has not yet been heard by the court.

The Office of the President, as usual, is trying to divert attention from the real issue, ie the injustice of President Jagdeo, during the election season, suspending the TV station that has the widest coverage, after the state owned NCN. It is this issue that my press statement addressed. There could be no mistake that this action is intended to silence participating parties in the elections and to prevent them from presenting their views to the electorate.

Whatever may be the concerns or recommendations of the questionable ACB, was it in the best interest of the nation for the President to suspend the operations of Channel 6 at this time? The political parties have spoken, the trade unions have spoken, the media owners and the press association have spoken, the religious community and civil society have spoken, and, the people of Guyana have also spoken. The question at this time is whether President Jagdeo will listen? He has been deaf to the cries of the people for the last 10 years; will he redeem himself or add another chapter to his tattered legacy?

In the meantime, I renew my call to Dr Steve Surujbally and the Guyana Elections Commission to discharge their constitutional responsibility and ensure free, fair and transparent elections in Guyana.

Yours faithfully,
Robert H O Corbin

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