His Excellency’s chairman fumes

…As GECOM attracts sympathy, scrutiny

Concerning the GNBA and NFMU

No. It’ll be appropriate for me to “boast” that I was first to “advise” that the imminent Local Government Elections (LGE) would generate robust, even rancorous divisive contention for the rest of the year.

That was easy. Because any local national election does that. Additionally, when His Excellency could not find any qualified, “fit and proper” candidate from Dr Jagdeo’s list of eighteen to be GECOM Chairman and arbitrarily selected James Patterson, who would always be regarded as his “personal” Chairman, distrust was bound to be engendered. Thousands amongst half the electorate justifiably must lose some trust and confidence in the entire electoral bureaucracy after His Excellency thumbed his nose at the intent and spirit of our Constitution.

Expectedly, you wouldn’t hear the PNC candidates complaining about the numerous glitches which attended the LGE Nomination Day. Others did because they were real. Amidst all that His Excellency’s Chairman – like His Excellency, no lover of press conferences – called a press conference a few days ago to fret and fume.

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The Chairman: Style and Role

Many columns ago, I expressed my appreciation for His Excellency’s Chairman’s way with language. To me, His Excellency’s Chairman utilises an old-school vocabulary to put down his critics. Quaint, but pointed, using the authority of the elderly, His Excellency’s Chairman comes off as imperious, dismissive and defensive instead of a more diplomatic, even-handed electoral chief. Comfortable, too, that his Chief executive of his operational secretariat is a Joe-Singh-like- former GDF officer – committed and loyal to the “team.”

But Frankly Speaking, just why do you think that Chairman was selected? What “analysis” or brilliance is needed to comprehend why the retired Justice was/is deemed fit and proper, appropriate and “necessary”? Okay, he does have routine constitutional roles along with the other six commissioners, but is not his additional “agenda” obvious? When he has to use his vital tie-breaker swing vote?

Last column I listed ten desirables that we seniors, past 70/80, will hardly experience in this land before we pass on. Another could be a reformed GECOM emanating from a new formula and comprised of neutral, private-oriented professionals. Another of my old-age dreams.

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Sympathy, scrutiny (Kumar)…

So even as His Excellency’s Chairman fumes that: (i) attempts are being made, internally and externally, to “derail” the LGE; (ii) that “integrity is out on a blind trust” (see his quaint language?); (iii) that “it seems…that our politicians have retreated into ethno-political camps; and (iv) that the “understandable use of the legal system has become a tool of disruption,” among many other complaints he uttered to the press the other day, the Chairman must address the obvious short-comings faced by his loyal Secretariat.

Frankly Speaking, I have still, just a modicum of sympathy for Officer Lowenfield. Putting any “bias” aside, he has to recruit persons of basic intelligence to be trained for various levels of Polling Day activities. “Last minute” advertisements are indicating that GECOM still has serious challenges finding adequate numbers of trainable citizens. I suggest that a sympathetic civil society should sympathise and volunteer. Stipends will be paid.

Meanwhile I pay attention to persons like the PPP’s Neendkumar (Neil). A veteran of rigged elections – under non-PPP regimes – and an activist organising electoral support and protocols in the field, Neendkumar certainly knows what to look for in terms of nomination/polling days cheating, inefficiencies and GECOM’s competence or lack thereof. Partisan considerations aside, I believe him when he says that too many Returning Officers “bungled” the recent Nomination Day activities. He offered proof, evidence, witnesses, victims. His Excellency’s Chairman has just one month for reflection and remedial action.

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Chairman Sobers, the GNBA, the NFMU

My research is incomplete; my advisers and informants not readily accessible, so please regard the following as “personalised” – and the first in a series.

 The Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) has recently capitulated itself via the media, onto the national milieu.

The GNBA is a six-year-old agency birthed through the aegis of the 2011 Broadcasting Act. It is empowered to regulate and oversee, through actual monitoring and collection of significant fees, all television, cable and radio broadcasters on our Republic. What an assignment!

Its Chairman, attorney-at-law Leslie Sobers, has been sounding off recently on issues relating to the quality and standards and decency and excellence of what viewers and listeners are offered here.

I myself, along with the management of CNSTV6 – the Sharma outfit – was hauled before/invited to meet the Authority’s SIC – its Special Investigative Committee – because one video I aired on my 20-year old family programme was deemed too adult/inappropriate for prime time viewing. (I suppose I could air just the audio of such a song then.) My CNS colleagues were also made aware of two other “infractions” emanating from Indian movies and Call-In programmes. We held our own during the discussions but my sense of ethics for now won’t allow me to go into details.

For the first in the series, I close with the following: The GNBA has a noble and necessary task. But as one guardian of public morals, its directors themselves, though guided by the Act’s laws and regulations, have to strive to be persons of unimpeachable integrity even as they are subject to their own human frailties.

The Board is interesting itself – attorneys and media experts – as is its investigative committee. The Board’s Chairman, Attorney Leslie Anthony Sobers, is a very, very well-rounded and accomplished professional. I seem to recall that he has been an information officer, public relations operative in banking, a body-builder, UG lecturer, an officer in the military (of course!) and an Attorney-at-Law. Not too many other chairpersons can boast such credentials. The GNBA is fortunate.

Mind you, knowledgeable professional Tony Vieira is again reminding all and sundry that the GNBA itself if currently subject to litigation challenging its legal standing! Oh boy! And the Frequency Management Unit and its Head? That’s a separate story! Stay close to this column.

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To ponder, seriously…

Why well-intentioned people change when they wield power Dr Hinds? Simply, it’s what authority and power could do to certain minds – group-think, self-preservation, new loyalties, however temporary.

Coalition Cathy! Minister Cathy Hughes just told her AFC fans that His Excellency is President because of the AFC.

His Excellency once published the Guyana Review. The Stabroek News now handles it and I suspect the man in charge is A.A. – now A.A.

The Review just carried a full interview with His Excellency. Significant but friendly. Much wasn’t asked! Juxtapose that interview against this past Sunday and Monday SN editorials. Wow! Diversity of opinions!

’Til next week

Comments can be sent to: allanafenty@yahoo.com

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