2 press briefings in 3 years: GPA endorses criticisms of President Granger

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…says side-line interviews cannot be substituted for press conferences

GPA President, Nazima Raghubir

On the heels of criticisms made against President David Granger for his continuous lack of engagement with members of the media, the Guyana Press Association (GPA) on Wednesday endorsed those reproaches, labelling the brief side-line interviews allowed as “limited cosmetic media access.”

“The GPA sends a clear message to the President and the wider Ministry of the Presidency that these side-line interviews cannot be substituted for press conferences, and are at best limited cosmetic media access,” the entity said in a press statement on Wednesday.

Among other concerns raised the Press Association said that President Granger “barely speaks to the media for five minutes after any official engagement. This was evident when the President was approached on Monday, July 16th, 2018 for a reaction to accusations of non-fulfilment of promises by the National Toshaos Council. The Head of State barely afforded reporters a 1 minute opportunity until they were forced out of the way as he hopped into his car.”

Furthermore, the GPA recounted that when Granger acted in the capacity of the Opposition Leader; the media were summoned to weekly press conferences or told that he was available for public comments and interviews. However, as President, the GPA noted that this is not the case.

As such, the Association said that it is awaiting “the announcement of frequent press conferences with the Head of State.”

Just last week, Opposition Leader and former President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo asserted that President David Granger’s constant excuses to not host press conferences is a clear indication that he is “abdicating his responsibilities.”

Recently, in defending why he has not held a press conference in months and why there were fewer formal engagements with the media, Granger said that his schedule was a major factor.

President David Granger

“My heart is in the right place, but right now, I’ve had a really difficult period of public engagement and overseas travel,” the President told the media on the sidelines of an event.

He added that “this time last week, I was in Montego Bay, the week before I was in Da Nang, Vietnam. It could be a very challenging period and soon as I get the opportunity I will engage with the press, but I’ve been travelling quite a lot … I’m asking the media to be tolerant.”

However, on Wednesday last during his weekly press briefing, Jagdeo lambasted this, saying that Granger’s “sojourn abroad” has resulted in nothing significant for Guyana or its people.

The President also said that he was preoccupied with dealing with several local issues.

“It could be a challenging period and as soon as I get the opportunity, I would engage with the press, but I’ve been travelling quite a lot and then to deal with domestic issues – the sugar industry, we have to deal with the petroleum industry, I have to deal with crime and security,” he had explained.

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

However, according to the Opposition Leader, this is a baseless statement.

“He claimed that he was busy… travelling quite a lot and have to deal with domestic issues, petroleum and sugar industry…and crime…He shamelessly cites the Petroleum industry [when there are so many unanswered questions]. What is he dealing with in the Sugar Industry? [He] laid off thousands of people, there’s no social safety net, people can’t feed their families…they raised $30B through SPU and not saying what they will spend the money on…The President has been addressing the sugar industry so much that he can’t even name a board…but he’s busy…When this country is being ravaged on a daily basis by criminals and we have a hopelessly misguided British consultant…We don’t see any specific measures being rolled out…They can’t move ahead with the appointment of  a substantive Police Commissioner,” Jagdeo chided.

After two years in office, President Granger held a press conference in December 2017, only the second since the coalition came into Government in May 2015.

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