PNC/R blames Government for crime wave
--Robert Persaud responds
Guyana Chronicle
November 8, 2002

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THE People’s National Congress/Reform yesterday claimed that the crime and security situation, nationally, has worsened since passage of the Crime Bills and accused the Government of being incapable of stemming the tide. In a press statement read by PNC/R executive member, Ms. Amna Ali, at yesterday’s press conference held at the political party’s Sophia headquarters, the PNC/R, without giving reasons, called for the resignation of His Excellency, President Bharrat Jagdeo and his Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. Mr. Ronald Gajraj on the ground that they have failed in their responsibilities to the Guyanese people.

The Statement further claimed that according to the PNC/R’s analysis of the crime and security situation, the political party was of the view that steps taken by the Government to alleviate the crime situation were inadequate and security situation was out of control.

Ms. Ali repeated the PNC/R’s call for a different and more consensual approach to solving the crime and security situation, while asserting that it is the right of all Guyanese to go about their business and recreational activity with the expectation that there will be no terrifying gang wars.

Meanwhile in a response yesterday afternoon, Information Liaison to the President, Mr. Robert Persaud said gossip, rumour, and speculation do considerable harm to any society. Guyana has been a victim of this crime. Sadly, there are certain elements in the media, who seem bent on either perpetuating falsehood or do not take the time or effort to distinguish fact from fiction.

He continued that one of the most recent victims of a vicious rumour campaign on two television outlets has been the Minister of Home Affairs following the capture of two of the five notorious prison escapees and their accomplices in Lamaha Gardens and Annandale/Buxton. The outrageous attacks on the Minister by certain media houses, aligned to the Opposition, correctly caused the Minister to file legal action against those involved.

The PNC/R and its Leader are upset at the Minister of Home Affairs’ decision to seek redress from the Court for a wrong committed on the Guyana Police Force, his family and him. Every single Guyanese has the right to use the Court in defence of his or her integrity. Mr Hoyte has recently exercised this right. Why can't the Minister of Home Affairs or any other Minister?

The Minister's decision can never be reasonably construed as a threat to anyone's or any media out-fit's constitutional right to freedom of expression. Editorial writers, commentators and letter writers, in both the private and state media, have lamented the administration's seeming reluctance to take legal action against those who libel the President and Ministers, spew race hate and attempt to incite the population.

It is apposite to note that yesterday’s Stabroek News ( November 7, 2002) editorial captioned: "Has the Sheriff left town?" observed, inter alia, "we believe that this committee ( the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting) owes a duty to report on its activities, especially as reports indicate that peddling unchecked rumours, some of them vicious and dangerous, is still standard fare in the wild west of our television industry."

The PNC/R would recall that media freedom and the right to freedom of expression were restored, guaranteed and expanded by the PPP/C Government. It was under the PPP/C that there was the proliferation of television stations with newscasts, talk shows (unheard of before in Guyana), commentaries, along with various newspapers and other publications. The days of journalists and media workers being harassed out of the country, threatened or killed are over. Additionally, it was President Bharrat Jagdeo who, on May 24, 2002, signed the Chapultepec Declaration guaranteeing greater media freedom.

The administration or any Minister has no intention of curtailing media freedom or threatening the right to freedom of expression. On the other hand, this administration will defend, to the hilt, the right of journalists or any media outfit to operate freely and responsibly. Also, the administration continues to salute those journalists and media owners who strive earnestly for fairness and demonstrate an acceptable degree of responsibility in pursuit of their professionalism, said Mr. Persaud in the response.

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