PPP opposed SN ads boycott but was ignored by gov’t – Ramkarran

PPP executive Ralph Ramkarran today said that the PPP had opposed the cut-off of state advertisements to Stabroek News in 2006 but was ignored by the government of former President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Ramkarran’s statement in a letter to Stabroek News to be published in tomorrow’s edition of the newspaper was the first time that an executive of the party has publicly discussed the PPP’s position on the matter.

His letter was in response to the editorial in today’s edition of Stabroek News which said that the matter of the Jagdeo administration’s axing of ads to SN in 2006 “was a trifling matter for all in the PPP and its government except for the late, former President, Mrs Janet Jagan who called clearly for an end to the advertising boycott to no avail.”

Ramkarran’s letter said this was not the case.

Ralph Ramkarran
Ralph Ramkarran

“The PPP did not consider the withdrawal of the advertisements to be a trifling matter. It was extensively discussed both at the Executive Committee and later, the Central Committee, of the PPP which called on the Government to restore the advertisements to the Stabroek News. The Government ignored the decision and since the PPP did not practice `party paramountcy’ there was no way of enforcing it. It is not known by me whether those members of the Central Committee of the PPP who were senior members of the Cabinet advocated in that forum the decision of the PPP leadership to which there was no dissentient voice, or whether they remained silent.

“After some time, when it was clear that the decision was being ignored by the Government, an attempt was made to raise the refusal of the Government to restore the advertisements for discussion. In the discussions I proposed to say the following in an article which I wanted to publish:

“The question arises as to whether on an issue of this importance the PPP should continue to remain silent. I believe it is incumbent on the leadership of the PPP to make its position known. This is long overdue especially since this festering matter is tarnishing the PPP’s ‘long and honourable history.’ The public needs to know whether the PPP still supports the position it argued in the 1970s in the New Guyana Case, mentioned above, that economic considerations could not be an excuse to hinder freedom of expression, whether contrived or consequential. I supported the PPP’s position then and continue to support it today. I therefore stand firmly with those who feel that the decision to give greater value to the advertising dollar jeopardizes freedom of expression, a priceless human right.”

“A conclusion to the discussion was sidetracked by extraneous matters and the article was not published”, Ramkarran added in his letter.

After the cut-off of ads by the Jagdeo administration occurred, Stabroek News had been critical of the PPP for not taking a stand on the matter considering that the same types of pressure had been utilized by the PNC administration against its semi-official organ, the Mirror newspaper. The PPP however made no public statement on the matter and it is clear from Ramkarran’s letter that its views on the matter were communicated privately to the government.

Today’s editorial also made the point that President Ramotar who was General Secretary of the PPP at the time of the ads boycott had never made a public statement on the matter.

The statement by Ramkarran that the government had disregarded the PPP’s position on the ads matter strengthens the widely held view that following his re-election in 2006, former President Jagdeo had ignored the party on key issues and had not felt constrained by any action that Freedom House could take. He had signalled this when he characterized Mrs Jagan’s views on the SN ads as those of a private citizen.

It is widely believed that Jagdeo himself instructed the ads cut-off because of SN’s criticisms of his government and because he wanted to help pave the way for the advent of the government-friendly Guyana Times. The Jagdeo administration had argued that the decision was a purely business one by the Government Information Agency because it wanted more value for its advertising money. Ads were then placed solely with the Guyana Chronicle and the Kaieteur News. In 2008, state ads were restored to Stabroek News without explanation but it later became clear that this had been done to enable ads to be place in the Guyana Times. One year after its launching the Guyana Times began to receive state ads and its volume began to rival that of the other private newspapers.

State ads were eventually pulled from all private media in the second half of 2010 after the government said it would use an e-procurement site and the state newspaper, the Guyana Chronicle.

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