The Government Informa-tion Agency (GINA) owes the state broadcaster, the National Communications Network (NCN) as well as the state newspaper Guyana Chronicle, millions of dollars and an investigation is underway with a shake-up of GINA imminent, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo says.
The poor performance of the entity as well as the large sums of monies owed has prompted the probe as the abuse of the advertisement process is unacceptable, Nagamootoo told the National Assembly yesterday as he made his contribution to the debate on President David Granger’s speech at the ceremonial opening of the 11th Parliament. The Prime Minister said that GINA currently owes the Guyana Chronicle in excess of $76 million.
He declared that GINA has become like a lead pulling down NCN and the Guyana National Newspapers Ldt (GNNL) which publishes the Chronicle because huge sums of monies transmitted to the agency have never been paid over.
Shortly, there will be a complete shake-up of GINA to ensure that it does what it was set up to do as a small professional entity to tell “Guyana and the world what their government is doing for the people,” Nagamootoo asserted.
“It must not be an agency that will pay people to monitor calls of individuals, to sit and be paid to wiretap or to intercept Facebook messages and to do things that are not in the domain of public information but are within the narrow confinement of political vendetta, the narrow walls to harass persons who do not share the opinion and views of those in leadership and those in government,” he declared.
He said that government will ensure that all the advertisements placed by GINA and paid for by entities are not sidelined and replaced by propaganda ads for parties. He also announced that there will be new boards of directors for the Chronicle and NCN which will have professional representatives and people committed to some standard of business so that both companies would be viable. He had previously said that both of these entities were verging on bankruptcy.
“Under this administration if you are not viable, then you would be pushed to the wall and let where the chip fall falls,” the Prime Minister declared.
He also said that this administration would ensure that the media is respected. “I want to assure that under this administration, there will be full respect for the media, full respect to the plural nature of our media and that no attempt would be made to curb anyone who pursues constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom to impart knowledge and information…and the right of those entities to enjoy protection under the law,” the Prime Minister asserted.
However, he said, the information he speaks about is information that has to be circulated in a responsible way in a manner that helps Guyana and not destroy the country and the right of people to reply whenever they come “under assault and attacks of their character, under threats sometimes of victimization…if ordinary people dare stand up for what they believe to be right and proper.”
He said that the country is witnessing what appears to be a “magical transformation” of the public information landscape since it is “amazing that you could have transformation in the Guyana Chronicle…a partisan propagandist rag has now turned into a bastion of public information that is credible.”
“This government would not only promote professionalism in journalism and promote the ethics and high standards of journalism but we would also protect journalists who practise the profession faithfully to their own standards, faithfully to their own ethics and that you will see less…ideally no interference from the minister as minister responsible for public [information],” Nagamootoo said.
The Prime Minister also announced that Linden would soon be having its own television station, which Lindeners have been demanding for years but which the previous administration had not addressed. He said that the situation in Linden would be corrected expeditiously after the Broadcasting Authority is restructured – it is now headed by PPP/C member and former minister Bibi Shadick – and reviews the application for a television licence by the people of Linden.
To desk thumping by his colleagues, the minister said that the time has come “to return Linden television to the people so that they can have programmes they desire, programmes that serve their needs and their necessity.” He said it is a job in progress, as, at this time, they are trying to repair the transmitter system to ensure high class transmission to the mining community.
Also falling under the Prime Minister’s remit is constitutional reform and he said that he intends to establish a consultative group of legal personalities to advise on a way forward and craft the terms of reference for a constitutional commission to be established. This commission would not only look into harmonizing the powers of the executive and that of the legislature but to bring into effect, a model of the separation of powers among the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
“A lot have been said about the abuse of powers, executive lawlessness…only constitutional change can tame not only attitudes that would lead to executive lawlessness but would tame the temptation for those in high office to abuse their power and authority and for that we need to have constitution reform,” he asserted.
The Prime Minister also addressed the issue of him not chairing Cabinet meetings as had been prescribed in the Cummingsburg Accord that brought the two parties that now form the coalition government together.
“The constitution says who chairs the Cabinet and I readily acknowledge and bow to the prescription of the Constitution as exists, that the power and authority to chair the Cabinet resides with the President and therefore, I would not be bothered by this type of harping that appears in the public sometimes I believe to set the president and the prime minister at each other,” he asserted.
Nagamootoo declared that the government should not be detained by this matter which should rightly be referred to a constitution revision commission.