– TV license not granted because of agreement with Leader of Opposition
CHIEF witness in the President’s ongoing libel case, Dr Roger Luncheon, yesterday informed the court that television licenses have not been granted for broadcast to Linden, or any other part of Guyana, on the basis of an agreement that was reached by President Bharrat Jagdeo and then Leader of the Opposition Desmond Hoyte. Luncheon’s comments came in response to a question raised in re-examination by the President’s lawyer Anil Nandlall, as the proceedings in the libel case against Freddie Kissoon and Kaieteur News continued in the High Court before Justice Brassington Reynolds.
On an earlier occasion, Lawyer Nigel Hughes, who is representing the defendants in association with Khemraj Ramjattan and Christopher Ram, had questioned Luncheon on the granting of licenses to show how, by ‘restricting the people of Linden only to the State television,’ it was being prejudiced to African-Guyanese.
The Chief Witness yesterday debunked this by explaining that in 2001, the plaintiff (President Jagdeo) and Leader of the Opposition Desmond Hoyte agreed on the formation of a number of task forces to examine critical issues that they agreed on.
Out of the deliberations of one such task force, there arose a commitment by the plaintiff not to grant any television licenses until the enactment of broadcast legislation. As a matter of public record, he continued, broadcasting legislation was enacted 10 years later.
“The plaintiff has honourably complied with the agreement and commitment and licenses have not been granted, not only to Linden, but to nowhere else in Guyana,” stated the witness.
Ruling on McDougall’s Report
Prior to the commencement of re-examination by Nandlall, Justice Reynolds informed the court that he was officially ruling that the Gay McDougall Report was inadmissible as evidence in the case.
The judge said he was not satisfied with the authenticity of such an “unreliable” document and recalled that the witness had rejected the report in its entirety. It may have been accepted had the government accepted the report or remained silent on its contents, the judge said.
Justice Reynolds reiterated that it was “unfair” and “unsafe” for the witness to be questioned on the report and that any answers that he (the witness) may give may amount to his opinion about the opinion of the author and those shared with her.
The Berbice River Bridge
Dr. Luncheon, who is also the Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, was reminded about what was put to him by the defense in connection with the current location of the Berbice River Bridge, as opposed to a location more south of it.
Luncheon was earlier, under cross examination, questioned specifically about the ethnic make-up on the eastern side of the bridge where it currently stands and the ethnic makeup of the village on the eastern side of a location more south of the bridge.
Nandlall then ask Luncheon to explain what considerations informed the government to construct the bridge at its present location.
However, Hughes objected to the question on the ground that the question was already asked and answered as Luncheon gave evidence under cross examination, and that the witness had already mentioned how the Work Services Group made the decision.
Nandlall responded by pointing out that what was said by the witness was in relation to the engineering recommendations from the Work Services Group and what he is now asking concerns the general considerations which the government took into account in placing the bridge at its current location.
Nandlall said that engineering recommendation was merely one of the considerations and the defense, in their questions, suggested other considerations including race.
“I would like the witness to explain and the court ought to hear what were the considerations that actually guided the government to where to locate the bridge,” Nandlall said.
The judge overruled the objection by Hughes and Luncheon responded that, overwhelmingly, the considerations centred on cost factors; the length of the bridge being a very necessary ingredient in the final cost of the project.
The witness continued: “I now reminded myself that the Louise Berger Consultancy took those factors into consideration and recommended that site. The Work Services Group was evidently persuaded by this recommendation and they so informed Cabinet. The decision was in accordance with that recommendation.”
The matter continues on Monday at 14:00 hrs.