– PPP/C Govt, Jagdeo never issued QAII any radio, TV licences
Radio Guyana Incorporated (RGI) was awarded its licences by the State as a result of a court ruling back in 2009 in favour of Vieira Communications Limited (VCT) owned by Anthony Vieira, a former People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) parliamentarian and businessman.
This clarification came in the face of recent statements by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo regarding the possible revocation of radio and television licences issued under the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) recently stated that Nagamootoo supported the re-examination and reversal of all licences issued under the PPP/C Administration, deeming them illegally issued.
While the Prime Minister did not single out any particular radio or TV station, tabloid Kaieteur News continued to name RGI’s as one of the licences issued by former President Bharrat Jagdeo back in 2011.
However, a senior official at RGI said that the newspaper was continuing to pedal its usual lies and distortions about RGI and its owner, Dr Ranjisinghi Ramroop, and clarified that Dr Ramroop nor his company Queens Atlantic Investment Inc (QAII) was never awarded a radio or TV licence by any Government.
The official explained that the company in 2008 bought the television station from Vieira in an open and public transaction for which it was heavily criticised because of Vieira’s association with the PNCR.
Details of that sale were highly publicised and Vieira himself conceded that it was the best offer he had received.
“As businessmen we enter into specific business ventures with objectives, whilst at the same time, seeking to conclude the best alternative or deal, and I believe, having considered all my years of hard work and investments in the television industry, the offer I got for VCT from the Ramroop group was acceptable,” Vieira had said.
The sale also included all pending legal issues related to the broadcasting entity VCT.
The Court of Appeal, on October 14, 2009, ruled that Government had an unlawful monopoly on the airwaves and the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) was not doing its job with respect to considering radio licence applications. It was ruled that the NFMU had been procrastinating over the years.
VCT had applied for a radio licence in 1993 and had asked that the Court order the NFMU to issue it with a radio licence forthwith, but the Court said there were technicalities involved in making such a decision and it lacked the expertise to make such an evaluation.
It eventually ruled that the NFMU was the entity which was well-placed to make such an evaluation. The Court directed the NFMU to consider and determine VCT’s application for a radio broadcast licence.
The Court ruled that the monopoly enjoyed by Government was not only unlawful, but significantly restricted VCT and the people of Guyana in their ability to receive and to communicate ideas and information without interference.
The Court also ruled that VCT was entitled to compensation for damages resulting from violations of its rights. It also ordered Government to pay VCT’s costs in the sum of $500,000.
Ramjattan hailed ruling
The then Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan (now Vice President and Minister of Public Security), who was present in court for the ruling at the time, hailed the decision, saying it was a milestone in the constitutional history of Guyana. He said the Court of Appeal was “bold and brave in relation to its tending of freedom and liberties at the judicial level”. Ramjattan added that the decision was consistent with what was happening in more profound democracies.
Government officially paid $500,000 to Television Guyana Inc (TVG), as successor to VCT after the sale to QAII, for damages after it was sued for breaching the company’s fundamental rights to a radio broadcast licence. The cheque was paid in March 2013, originally to TVG, which had purchased all of the properties and assets of VCT.
A decision was taken by Dr Ramroop to pay the monies over to Vieira as the final obligations and commitment to him following the sale of VCT and all related properties. Vieira received the cheque and promptly cashed it.
As successor to all rights of VCT, Dr Ramroop received the radio licence consequent to the judgment. With the judgment also breaking the radio monopoly, other radio licences have been issued.