THE BROADCASTING (AMENDMENT) BILL 2013 – BILL NO. 19 OF 20131216 27 Feb, 2014
Ms. Teixeira: I do not necessarily have to be brief because I am opposing the motion.
The premise of the Bill, as pointed out by the Hon. Member, is that it is based on the Bi-Partisan Joint Committee’s Report. One of the most pleasurable times of having alliance talks was in this committee with the late Mr. Derek Bernard and the Members on both sides because of all the committees that were created in that period, including one which I think you were on, Sir, we were the only committee that produced something.
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was co-chairman of the Border National Security Committee with the Hon. Ralph Ramkarran. We produced a report.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Hon. Leader of the Opposition.
Ms. Teixeira: I stand corrected, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have not seen that report but I stand corrected.
This was a Report to the two gentlemen – then Leader of the Opposition the late Desmond Hoyte and President Jagdeo. In all of it, the late Mr. Bernard and I, from the two sides of the Committee, recognised that what we were putting forward were recommendations. To say it was put in stone is not the correct thing to do.
Secondly, there were follow-up meetings with Mr. Sherwood Lowe and us in 2001 to go through the draft Bill that was publicised and there was a next round of discussions which was the sequel to that.
The Committee looked at the Mordecai Report as well as the Report from Mr. Hugh Cholmondeley, Mr. Vieira and Mr. Kit Nascimento which also made recommendations in relation to the composition of the board. There are also other documents and notes between the late Mr. Derek Bernard and I, which were looked at during the period July to December, in trying to come up with options we felt would be something the President and then Leader of the Opposition... In fact, the covering letter in the Report passes to them from us the view that their guidance would be given on the issues, including those we could not reach agreement on.
The point is: although Mr. Harmon referred to things that were in the Report, what, in fact, this Bill seeks to do is to remove sections of the recommendations of the Report. We are talking through two sides of our mouth, basically.
Three fundamental issues that were fought over in the Committee, which actually were with the media people and not with the committee members of the two parties, were the issues of the functions and the role of the media in terms of their behaviour.
When one looks at Mr. Harmon’s clause 12 of the Bill which deals with section 32 of the Act, it is removing four critical areas in the broadcasting policy to do with the broadcasters having certain norms of behaviour. I cannot understand how he can say that there are things that were in the Report that were not implemented and then some of the most powerful things in the Report which were included are being knocked out.
Regarding section 32 (i), (j), (k), (m) to do with the behaviour of the media, to bring lawful behaviour into the media and to have fairness and transparency in all media – government, private and community – I cannot comprehend why that is being proposed in this Bill to be removed.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I trust you are wrapping up now.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Deputy Speaker, fundamental to this Bill and what the Government would have tremendous problems in supporting is the issue of removing the role of the Executive and replacing it with the National Assembly. This is a fundamental issue that has taken place throughout the last two years of this Parliament and I assume it will continue until there is another election.
The Government is made up of three branches. What is happening in this case – I would not go into the other cases – is that the role of the Executive is being removed and handed to the Legislative. This is an issue that is going to cause problems.
When there is a statutory body, not a constitutional commission, which gets funds from the Government through the budget and the National Assembly appointing and everything else, who is answerable for the statutory body and the work it does?
In the case of normal statutory bodies that receive government funding, it is the Minister who has to answer. It is the Permanent Secretary (PS) who has to answer to the Audit Office of Guyana. When it is this amorphous Parliament, who answers for the statutory body? This is a constitutional problem and dilemma that is being proposed in this Bill.
I would like to offer to Mr. Harmon that I am more than prepared to sit with him, as one of the surviving members of the Bi-Partisan Committee with stacks of files, letters on the history of what really happened, look at his amendments and show him what the Government’s problems with them are.
As the mover, you may not accept these but I believe it would be unjust to not have him have a full purport of the reason why the Bill, as is, came to the House. It was not stagnant. It went in 2003 and 2006. On the last occasion, when Mr. Ramjattan brought his Broadcasting Bill, which was an earlier version of the Government’s 2010 Bill, there were slight differences between Mr. Ramjattan’s Bill and the Government’s Bill which was passed in 2011. Therefore, I believe that we may be going on an exercise which would cause more difficulties than it would resolve. Thank you.
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