– criticises him for not holding a press conference for more than one year
Former President and current Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo has slammed President David Granger for failing to hold a press conference since October of 2015.
According to Jagdeo, the President’s reluctance to face an open media corps is his way of hiding from scrutiny and rigorous questioning from the press.
The Opposition Leader called the President out on the issue while hosting his own weekly press conference at his Church Street office on Thursday. He was at the time pointing to attempts by the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) to secure a meeting with the President.
“I’ve seen the miners; they’re trying to meet the President. I hope he meets with them. But I have a major issue with the President and his accountability to the nation. He hides behind these prepackaged interviews and I think it’s time now the media said to him, we’re not going to be complicit in this.”
“Because by doing that, you create the impression that he is facing a free, independent media corps and is accountable to them. And that people can’t rigorously contest your views. He has not held press conferences because I think he does not want to be held accountable on several matters that are happening in his government.”
Jagdeo expressed confusion over several aspects of Government policy. One issue he highlighted was the President’s rationale in asking Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Chairman, Retired Justice Cecil Kennard to resign. Granger, who is 71 years old, had stated that the former Chancellor of the Judiciary was too old. This is despite the proliferation of retirees within the Cabinet and on State Boards and Commissions.
“So he packages these things and he deals with safe subject, in a safe environment. Now I hope that he meets with the miners, that he doesn’t take the safe road again like he has done with so many other things.” Jagdeo’s challenge follows criticism from other public figures about the President’s lack of accessibility to the full media corps. Former Speaker of the House, Ralph Ramkarran, had stated in a post on social media that the President ought to face scrutiny on the subject of hydropower.
Ramkarran had questioned the conflicting contents of the Final Report of Norconsult’s “Review of the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project in Guyana”, and the Government’s position on the issue. On the subject of press conferences, Ramkarran made comparisons with the period when former President Janet Jagan faced an outcry after one year without a press conference.
“I recall that long before a year had elapsed of Mrs Janet Jagan’s presidency, an outcry arose regarding her failure to hold a press conference. She eventually held one about one year into her presidency,” Ramkarran had posted on his Facebook page last month.
“The voices calling out Mrs Jagan in 1997-8 are still around, but have gone silent on President Granger’s failure to hold a press conference despite having been elected to office one and a half years ago.”
When Granger was challenged about this trend late last month, he had stated that he was not opposed to holding a press conference. However, he had spoken of a busy schedule as precluding him from doing so. At present, the President is questioned by the media when he is interviewed on the “Public Interest”, a televised show which features a moderator, one journalist from State media and one journalist from the private media.
The show usually lasts for half an hour and is aired weekly. There is a preamble where the President addresses a topic introduced by the moderator, and then the reporters are invited to begin the question-and-answer segment. When questioned, the President defended this system.
“It does not mean that my engagement of one or two persons is inferior to my engagement of four or five persons or 10 or 20 persons. I am not going to fight it.” “If you want a ‘mass games’, I can have it, but the important thing now is that you have access to the Head of State and he will answer your questions. So, there is nothing wrong with my meeting with you in this format,” he said.
Asked whether he was opposed to meeting members of the media, via a press conference, the President responded in the negative, stating that when the need arose, he did not mind engaging the entire press.
“I don’t have an objection to having a large press conference. I have a very busy schedule and it is difficult to spend a lot of time in the media, but I try to make it possible every week. But if that is the desire of the Guyana Press Association (GPA), then that could be arranged with my press team,” he said.
Since then, no press conference has been held by the President. (Guyana Times)