From the outset GTUC sees this issue bigger than the ego of any politician. It is about the people, the children, and generations to come, and no quick fix can be applied to this with the intention of rushing into an election with the expectation of entering parliament to serve any one’s self satisfaction. Conscious of this human short coming the PPP has used this as the carrot to divide the politicians at the expense of the citizens and nation and it is time the people’s interests be put before any self serving interest.
The PPP government has consistently used state media and other machinations to create for themselves an unfair advantage and to make it difficult for contesting parties in national and regional elections. The suspension of CNS television station at elections time is a calculated and deliberate act by the Jagdeo/Ramotar partnership to deny the citizens of this country an opportunity to access the views of all contending parties. This act is a denial of the right of citizens to access information pertaining to their wellbeing and the future of Guyana and to enable them in making the best possible choice of which party or candidate will form the government.
In a country that talks of democracy and in an era where people the world over recognize that democratic reforms are fundamental for peace and stability the PPP must not undermine the democratic will of the people by denying them a fundamental tenet of democracy which is free and accessible media. Guyanese citizens must not accept the denial of a fundamental element of free, fair and credible elections. To do so is to accept the denial of your right to be heard and your right to information that is empowering and liberating.
It is the duty of the State to implement these basic tenets for free, fair and credible elections. Likewise it is the responsibility of the opposition political parties to hold this government accountable for ensuring that the people’s rights are safeguarded and today we hold all political parties accountable for so doing. We call on the PNC, AFC, GAP, WPA, TUF and new political alliance APNU to discharge their responsibility to this nation by ensuring that before we enter into another election farce that the playing field is leveled for all contenders.
We expect that the political opposition without exception will participate in national and regional elections only after a minimum set of requirements would have been met. To date this is not so as the Jagdeo/Ramotaur partnership seeks to create an information imbalance in society knowing fully well that CNS6 is a major campaign channel for all opposition parties and for the owner who is also the leader of the JFAP. The GTUC is saying to this government that we will not sit idly by and tolerate the continued violation of our rights and the rights of any Guyanese citizen and calls on the people to join us to ensure their rights are respected. We are saying to this government, to the Jagdeo/ Ramotaur partnership, that among the areas identified for immediate correction to ensure that elections are credible must be: 1) the re-opening of CNS 6 before the announcement for the date of the elections and 2) Open and equal access of NCN by all political parties participating in this process. Lest it be forgotten, NCN, the radio station, television and Guyana Chronicle are owned by the people whose taxes fund them and all must be given access.
This effort of the PPP government thus far is designed to cripple the campaign of the opposition. It is discriminatory, anti democratic, and along with the government monopoly and black out of opposition views on the state media is a clear and outright effort not to hold elections that are free, fair and credible. Guyanese must no longer tolerate this. The international community and those who help to finance these elections should not engage the Guyana government by accepting standards that are not universal that they would not tolerate in their own countries or fund.
To participate in this electoral process fully conscious that the citizens’ right to be heard and to know are transgressed, that state authority and resources are being misused by the Jagdeo/Ramotar partnership to perpetuate their continued lawlessness and abuse of the citizens is sacrilegious and all political parties are held accountable should they participate in an elections that fall far short of meeting minimum requirements. For the opposition political parties to participate in a process that violate the people’s fundamental right would be akin to taking sheep to the slaughter and interpreted as selling out the citizens for their personal benefits.
GTUC therefore reiterates its call for the opposition parties not to participate in any elections without the minimum standards for free expression, equal access to state media in place.
The nation must not be fooled by any effort of President Jagdeo to announce the issuing of radio license which is pure electoral gimmick knowing fully well that such would not materialize in time to give the opposition a voice given the requirements (capital investment, building resources, skills acquisition, etc.) for such an investment and development. Such a sham is characteristic of the Jagdeo-Ramotar shenanigan and must be rejected.
As a people, we must not fear to make our demands known and to stand up for what we believe and know to be our right. We must not fear the oppressors. History has taught us many lessons of struggle and fights for equal rights and justice by all peoples around the world. We must have the resilience and courage, remembering as Nelson Mandela said, “courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” This nation must today standup and protect their Right to freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom to participate in an electoral process that is free, fair and credible, freedom to operate without fear.