An estimated 15.8 million people are now on HIV treatment, a doubling from five years ago as countries adopt the UNAIDS Fast-Track Strategy using data to fine tune delivery of HIV prevention and treatment services to reach people being left behind. Ahead of World AIDS Day 2015, UNAIDS has released a new report showing that countries are getting on the Fast-Track to end AIDS by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. By adapting to a changing global environment and maximizing innovations, countries are seeing greater efficiencies and better results. Progress in responding to HIV over the past 15 years has been extraordinary. By June 2015, UNAIDS estimates that 15.8 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy, compared to 7.5 million people in 2010 and 2.2 million people in 2005. At the end of 2014, UNAIDS estimates that new HIV infections had fallen by 35% since the peak in 2000 and AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 42% since the 2004 peak.“Every five years we have more than doubled the number of people on life-saving treatment,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “We need to do it just one more time to break the AIDS epidemic and keep it from rebounding.” The life-changing benefits of antiretroviral therapy mean that people living with HIV are living longer, healthier lives, which has contributed to an increase in the global number of people living with HIV. At the end of 2014, UNAIDS estimates that 36.9 million people were living with HIV. Once diagnosed, people need immediate access to antiretroviral therapy. Countries are gearing up to double the number of people accessing HIV treatment by 2020. This Fast-Track approach will be instrumental in achieving the UNAIDS 90–90–90 treatment target of ensuring that 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status are on treatment and 90% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads. “Today, we have more HIV prevention options than ever before. And with better data, we can become better match makers, finding the right prevention options for the right people,” said Mr. Sidibé. To end AIDS as a public health threat, an accelerated and more focused response is needed using better data to map and reach people in the places where the most new HIV infections occur. To support countries with this approach, UNAIDS has released a new report focused on location and population: on the Fast-Track to end AIDS by 2030, which gives examples of more than 50 communities, cities and countries that are using innovative approaches to reach more people with comprehensive HIV prevention and treatment services.Through the responsible use of detailed national data sets, countries are able to focus at a more granular level, mapping where new HIV infections occur and where people need services most. The report demonstrates how countries can redistribute resources to improve access to HIV prevention and treatment services. With the Fast-Track approach and frontloaded investments, gaps are closed faster and resources go further and from 2020 annual resource needs will begin to fall. The report highlights how high-impact HIV prevention and treatment programs, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, voluntary medical male circumcision and sexual and reproductive health services, are being successfully implemented in various locations and for different populations, including adolescent girls and young women and their partners, pregnant women living with HIV, sex workers, transgender people, gay men and other men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs. In the report UNAIDS identifies 35 Fast-Track countries that account for 90 percent of new HIV infections. Focusing on location and population and programs that deliver the greatest impact will reap huge benefits by 2030: 21 million AIDS-related deaths averted; 28 million new HIV infections averted; and 5.9 million new infections among children averted. “Everyone has the right to a long and healthy life,” said Mr. Sidibé. “We must take HIV services to the people who are most affected, and ensure that these services are delivered in a safe, respectful environment with dignity and free from discrimination.” The report shows that areas with fewer numbers of people living with HIV and lower HIV prevalence are more likely to have discriminatory attitudes than areas that have more cases of HIV. This seemingly contradictory result is explained by education and understanding about HIV usually being higher in countries where HIV is more prevalent and where more people are receiving treatment. However, these discriminatory attitudes make it more difficult for people in low-prevalence areas to come forward to seek HIV services for fear of stigma and reprisals. Adopting the UNAIDS Fast-Track approach through strong leadership and investment within the communities, cities and countries most affected, the AIDS epidemic can be ended by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.In 2014/2015 an estimated: 15.8 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy (June 2015) 36.9 million [34.3 million–41.4 million] people globally were living with HIV (end 2014) 2 million [1.9 million–2.2 million] people became newly infected with HIV (end 2014) 1.2 million [980 000–1.6 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
University of Liberia students majoring in Sociology recently donated assorted food items valued at US$850 to over 600 less fortunate and disabled people in Monrovia and its environs.The students converged at street corners in Central Monrovia and Old Road Junction, opposite Nigeria House in Congo Town, and distributed food items to the disabled people usually seen begging around those communities, in most instances on the street corners and among moving vehicles. The items included rice, onions, tomatoes, salt, magi cubes.Onisemus O. Nurse, who headed the students at the Old Road Junction, told reporters that the gesture was all about demonstrating what they have learned in class during the semester instructing them to identify with the less fortunate when the means is available.He said the students were motivated by their course instructor, Mrs. Saydah Taylor, who always told them to emulate good examples in society.“If society must get better, there is a need for every well-meaning citizen or student to provide some assistance to those referred to as ‘the societal deprived,’” Student Nurse said.Mrs. Taylor, who herself assisted the students during the distribution exercise, also called on every Liberian student not to wait only for government to provide for the needs of every citizen, but to take the initiative and help those who are in need.Mrs. Taylor then called on Liberians, who she said often sit idle and blame government for every problem the nation is faced with.She encouraged students reading Sociology to form part of the government’s efforts to minimize the challenges the country is going through such as the ‘uncontrollable’ prices of goods and services.Mrs. Taylor added: “If we say government is for the people, by the people and of the people, students can make the change from a social change prospective.”“Against this backdrop, our students were able to formulate the idea of feeding the vulnerable for at least a day.”The beneficiaries thanked the students for the good will gesture, saying it was timely and prayed that God would continue to bless the students as they strive to help the poverty-stricken and disabled in the community.Meanwhile, ‘Mother’ Evelyn Brooks, who supervises the old folks’ housed in the facility need, at least until the end of their studies.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
All protocols observed, acknowledgement/recognition, I bring you warm greetings from volunteers, staff and board of directors, Messengers of Peace- Liberia Inc (MOP). Thank you to the graduating class and St. Teresa Convent Catholic School family for this invitation to speak on our contribution to peace as women of the future. I am greatly honored, humbled and greatly privileged to be asked to speak with you on this very important happy occasion. It is indeed a joyous occasion and one that we should all be proud of. I can’t believe how quickly time flies by. Ten years ago, I was seating right here, ready; and just like you, ready to graduate and never for one moment thought a return to my Alma-Mater would be possible. Let me confess, I get goose bumps standing before you.I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the administration of St. Teresa Convent, the teachers; some of whom I still recognize, for the knowledge they impact in us and for going beyond the call of duty.Allow me to commence by offering my heartfelt congratulations to the 41 students graduating from St. Teresa Convent class of 2014/2015 for achieving this milestone. Congratulations also go to the proud family members and friends who have faithfully stood by you as you studied.In delivering this address, permit me to use of the indispensable tools of impacting information, storytelling. Liberia, as you are all aware, is in transition phase of nation building and sustainable peace following a thirteen year of unbroken peace. Liberia needs you for sustainable peace.As you enter into another phase of development, the challenges, my young ladies, are huge. You will agree with me that the world is changing. Change is necessary, but could be painful and challenging. Ten years ago, there were 17 conflicts, with varying degrees of form and intensity, in Africa alone. The consequences of these conflicts vary, and Liberia is not isolated.There is global warming, religious intolerance, cultural indifference, and paradigm shifts in our social orientation. We are confronted daily with an escalation of violent extremism among young people.Liberia as a nation has been inundated with high levels of corrupt practices; fueled to a larger extent by favoritism, social class, color and complexion, IQ and not necessarily by EQ. You will, like many of us are, be appalled by the scale of sexual violence including rape, human trafficking, harassment and intimidation in all areas of life including but not limited to your pursuit for further education, employment, career growth and sports. As girls, there would be other challenges and temptations but these problems should not deter us and our diversity should not be our weakness, but should be our strength. The opportunities, as presented by the UNSCR # 2250, are many and we should take advantage of this resolution.Our contributions, either as individuals or groups, to peace as women of the future would be defined by how we tackle and manage these challenges. The tasks before us are by no means daunting, but not impossible; peace, my dear friends, is possible. We just need to start with ourselves. We also need to sharpen our emotional intelligence. As the saying goes in the Liberia colloquial; “Shine your eyes.” Be true to yourself and refrain from activities and behaviors that others, like the St. Teresa Convent, would frown upon.Young women don’t criticize others;they take action.Be good ambassadors of this great school. Remember, you have been found worthy in learning and character. Spare a thought for Liberia and act with your head on your shoulder. Ellen DeGeneres sums it all up. I quote “Success is to live your life with integrity and to not give in to peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not.” end of quote.Until next year, when we come back to you to sponsor a peace child for Summer Camp 2017, and until (next) week when we continue with our dialogue among peace messengers by bringing to you part two of this statement, it’s peace first, peace above all else. May Peace Prevail in our time!Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) has denied reports that the country’s internet access has been disrupted by a large-scale hack attack.The LTA said there was “no data to substantiate” the claim but admitted that one telecommunications company serving half the nation’s mobile users did suffer attacks that repeatedly limited access.Security experts who monitor networks of hijacked devices used to carry out attacks, called botnets, noticed last week that Liberian net addresses were among targets being deluged with data.Media reports quoted network security firms outside the country and telecoms staff in Liberia who said internet access in the country was affected.The attacks were mounted using the massive Mirai botnet that in late October was used to cause the web-wide disruption that left Reddit, Spotify, Twitter and other popular sites hard to reach.Jarsea Burphy, a spokesperson for the Liberia Telecommunication Authority, said monitoring systems on the nation’s internet exchange point, where domestic traffic joins the global network, showed no evidence that the link had been overwhelmed.The monitoring systems showed “no downtime in the last three weeks,” she told the BBC.Ms Burphy said a single local operator, believed to be the Lonestar Cell mobile network, had been subjected to intermittent web attacks that had affected its ability to provide net access.Lonestar, which has a 50 percent market share, said in a release in Monrovia, that it had been hit by so-called Distributed Denial of Service attacks that sought to overwhelm its network.“We have continued to react and restore service to each incident as it happens,” it said. Liberia has been repeatedly cut off from the internet by hackers targeting its only link to the global network. Recurrent attacks up to November 3 flooded the cable link with data, making net access intermittent.Researchers said the attacks showed hackers trying different ways to use massive networks of hijacked machines to overwhelm high-value targets.Experts said Liberia was attacked by the same group that caused web-wide disruption on October 21.Those attacks were among the biggest ever seen and made it hard to reach big web firms such as Twitter, Spotify and Reddit.The attacks were the first to send overwhelming amounts of data from weakly protected devices, such as webcams and digital video recorders that had been enrolled into what is known as a botnet.A botnet variant called Mirai was identified by security firms as being the tool used to find and compromise the insecure devices. The source code for Mirai has been widely shared and many malicious hacker groups have used it to seek out vulnerable devices they can take over and use to mount what are known as Distributed Denial of Service attacks. “There’re multiple different botnets, each with a different owner,” security researcher Kevin Beaumont told the BBC. “Many are very low-skilled. Some are much better.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
– Advertisement – Rep-elect Richard Koon of UP The National Executive Committee of the ruling Unity Party (UP) has set-up a committee to write the “Vetting Regulations and Procedures” for Representatives-elect of the party who wish to be nominated for the House Speaker election.UP has appointed a five-man Committee with the task of producing appropriate “Vetting Rules, Regulations and Procedures” within four working days to enable the party to evaluate and streamline candidates for the Speaker’s race.Representative-elect Richard W. Koon of District #11 Montserrado County is one of the committee members. He told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview that the committee will on Thursday, November 23, submit the Vetting Regulations and Procedures to UP executive members.Other members of the committee are Representatives-elect J. Nagbe Sloh (Sinoe District #2), Thomas A. Goshua II, Grand Bassa County, and Hanson Kiazolu (Montserrado District #17).“Besides being a member of the UP committee to write the vetting procedures, I have been contacted by Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue, Representative-elect Cllr. Fonati Koffa and other candidates who have expressed the desire to become Speaker for the 54th Legislature,” Koon said.Among the 73 reelected incumbents and newly elected lawmakers, UP is second to the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) with 20 Representatives, while the CDC has 21. UP’s collaborating party, the People’s Unification Party, has six Representatives – totaling 26 for the party.The Daily Observer later gathered that besides the six names earlier announced for the post, two names have been added. They are Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue (Independent); Ways, Means and Finance Chairman, Prince Moye (UP); and Cllr. Fonati Koffa (newly elected LP Representative).Others are former speaker Edwin M. Snowe (UP); former chairman of the House National Defense Committee, Dr. Bhofal Chambers (CDC); and the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Thomas Fallah (CDC).The additional names include Lawrence Morris (Independent) and Johnson Gwaikolo of the Victory for Change Party.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Mustapha Raji says he will bring changes to improve football if electedThe Liberia Football Association (LFA) went to elections in April, but the outcome was interrupted when one of the candidates filed an injunction to stop further proceedings, because his concerns filed at the LFA Protest and Appeals committees were ignored. The case will now be decided by the court. Mr. Mustapha Raji secured 16 votes shy of the 18 needed to have won hands down. In this interview, Raji, who was the favorite, explained his love for the game and while he believes that he deserves the support of stakeholders to reach his dream as president of the LFA. Excerpts:Daily Observer: Mr. Raji we know you had hoped that the elections on April 14 could have settled the leadership of the LFA. Now there is still a good chance for you to earn the title when the run-off is finally decided by the court. But my question is: why do you think that you deserve to be elected president of the LFA?Mustapha Raji: Thanks for the question. I have followed or I have been involved in Liberian football since I was twenty-five years old. I have owned clubs as far as I can remember and have sponsored young players. As president of two clubs in the league (LISCR FC and Gardnersville FC), I understand what it takes to build a team and players. I think with that experience, I can ascend to the leadership of the LFA and make a greater impact on our country.DO: Running a football club or two football clubs as your experience indicates is quite different from running a national federation, have you thought about the challenges that are associated with a national association? For example, you will need qualified individuals to staff the Secretariat of the LFA and you will not need to micromanage the LFA, that is to say, you will not have to control every part or dictate what everyone at the LFA should do.MR: I am glad you brought this question out. Remember that at a club president I have a system set up that those who I have employed work according to their job specification. There are none of my workers at both LISCR FC and Gardnersville FC that will give you any hint that I exhibit any undue control over them. My coaches will tell you how I give them the chance to do their work. I am running for the LFA leadership because I believe any technician employed there deserves the administration’s support.DO: Mr. Raji if you become successful and elected president of the LFA, what will be your immediate focus?MR: I am glad that you are identifying issues that are yet to become realities. With the present status of Liberian football, including the league and Liberia’s poor position on the continental and international scenes, I will have to meet with stakeholders, including the Executive Committee of the LFA to do some real thinking. We want Liberian youths to participate in the tournaments organized by CAF. Yes, we want our girls to be at the Female Championships on both CAF and FIFA levels and therefore we need to support it. Yes, we will have to expose our coaches to increase their technical knowledge. Yes, we’ll have to support our referees in their assignments at both and away. Yes, we’ll have to seek additional financial support from the business community. Yes, we’ll have to work out other arrangements…so you can see that we will have a whole lot on our hands to do. They will include community football, U17 football across the country, beach football and many other initiatives that we will work on both for the short and long-term. I am asking the electorates to give me the opportunity to lead and support what I have followed and spent my resources for nineteen years. This is the climax of my involvement in soccer administration and I need their support to make my dream real.DO: If you are elected president of the LFA when the court finally decide for the elections to continue will that signify that you are better than your opponents? Could you bring any of the candidates closer for Liberia’s sake?MR: These are wonderful questions and my take is I have asked the stakeholders to vote me to power. We need to work together to achieve what we want for Liberia, and I hope that has answered your question. I have known Mr. Musa Shannon and Mr. George Solo for many years. These are wonderful people and I am glad for their passion to change the future of Liberian soccer for the better. If I am successful as president of the LFA, I will bring them to my kitchen cabinet. They are great people and I appreciate them.DO: Now our final question: what promise or promises will you make to the Liberian people that could be your gift to them in your first term in office if you are elected president of the LFA?MR: If I don’t be careful with the questions you ask, I will overdo myself. And in fact, I appreciate your questions and that’s why I am always comfortable with the media since we are in it together. It is obvious that every FA’s goal is to be at the next Nations’ Cup and the next World Cup. We have a president who has an unbeatable and enviable career in football. I think he deserves either of the tournaments you mentioned. If I am elected president of the LFA, it will be our goal, all of us. In fact, thank you for bringing it up, I will engage President George Weah to take the game to the people. Together, including the media, the players, the coaches, every one of us will discuss and work toward the targets you mentioned. All I am asking for is for the stakeholders to give me the mandate as the electorates gave President Weah the mandate.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The All Liberian Conference of Diaspora Leaders, representing the major Liberian regional umbrella organizations around the world has observed with grave concern the growing political tension in Liberia characterized by incendiary rhetoric and occasional threats of violence.The Diaspora leadership representing the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA); the European Federation of Liberian Associations (EFLA); the Union of Liberian Associations in Ghana (ULAG); The Federation of Liberians in Australia (FOLICA); Conference of Liberian Organizations in the Southwestern United States (COLOSUS); and the Coalition of Concerned Liberians (CCL) issued the call in a joint statement at the close of a recent summit in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, USA.The leaders made specific reference to the recent threat by a band of former warlords against a legislator, Montserrado County District #10 representative, Yekeh Kolubah, which was later clarified and rescinded. They also commended the organizers of the June 7 rally for their pledge to conduct themselves peacefully with respect to the rule of law.“While the Diaspora Leadership recognizes that free expression of views and assembly are cardinal to the democratic process, it is also aware that the use of confrontational languages in the public space have the potential of creating misunderstanding and a hostile environment,” The Diaspora leadership noted.They further issued a call to all Liberians, including the government, the opposition and the media, as well as those on social media to be mindful of the fact that the nation is still emerging from years of instability. “Let us be mindful of our recent past and help strengthen our fragile democracy by maintaining an enduring environment of peaceful co-existence. In so doing,” the Diaspora leaders noted, “we must tone down the rhetoric as it is time that Liberians begin the process of talking with each other, rather than talking at each other to discuss national issues. We must reckon with the fact that there will always be divergent of views. Hence, tolerance and sobriety are key requirements in expanding the democratic environment.”The Diaspora Leadership Group then called upon Liberians to never again see violence as a pathway to resolving political problems. Rather, politicians, advocates, and citizens should take the constructive path organizing peacefully using the rule of Law to advance their political agenda.June 7 ProtestMeanwhile, the Diaspora Leadership Group is particularly pleased that organizers of the June 7 protest have emphasized their commitment to the rule of Law and pledged that the event will be peaceful. Similarly, the Diaspora leadership Group also welcome the expression by the government that it will uphold its obligations under the law by ensuring that Liberians exercise their right to freely assemble and petition their representatives in a peaceful manner.The Diaspora Leadership Group applauds the decision of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) NOT to stage a counter-demonstration against the June 7 protestors on the same day. This decision is not only wise, but largely removes any miscalculation that could lead to potential violence amongst protestors.Disassociation From Sanctions CallIn a related development, the Diaspora Leadership Group strongly distances its various organizations from a call made by few Liberians who styled themselves as “US Citizens and US Taxpayers” for the United States government to stop economic support to Liberia. The independent group recently made the call when they visited a Legislative staffer in the offices of the U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Diaspora leadership believes that at a time when Liberians at home are facing tremendous economic challenges, such a call by this group for an economic embargo on the Liberian people is unconscionable and may increase the suffering on ordinary Liberians. Meanwhile, the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) has already taken the necessary actions in the corridors of the U.S. Government to counter what they described as an unwarranted request.Leaders of Liberian Diaspora organizations present at the summit included: Vamba Fofana, President, Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA); Kingston Washington Wleh Sr., President, The European Federation of Liberian Associations (EFLA); Willie Kim Kamara, President, Conference of Liberian Organizations in the Southwestern United States (COLOSUS); John F. Lloyd, National Chairman, Coalition of Concern Liberians (CCL); Mohamed Salia Dukuly, President, The Federation of Liberian Communities in Australia (FOLICA), Inc.; and Julia Mardea Richards, President, United Liberian Association in Ghana (ULAG).Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) – Advertisement –
The decision was reached following the intervention of Internal Affairs Minister Varney A. Sirleaf in Ganta, Nimba County, when he brokered a peace deal between the two parties.Redundant workers of ArcelorMittal Liberia have agreed to cut off their protest actions against the company and resume work as the management has promised to reinstate them to the workforce as well as pay employee benefits, a release from the Ministry of Internal Affairs has said.According to the release, the decision was reached following the intervention of Internal Affairs Minister Varney A. Sirleaf on Thursday, November 14, 2019, in Ganta, Nimba County, when he brokered a peace deal between the two parties.An Internal Affairs Ministry’s press release said that the meeting, called by Minister Sirleaf, brought together the leadership of the protesters, representatives of ArcelorMittal management, and Nimba County Superintendent David Dorr Cooper, with each of them making significant inputs.Early Thursday, protesters in Grand Bassa and Nimba counties set up roadblocks on the train track which the company uses to transport iron ore from Nimba County to the port of Buchanan, in demand of their benefits or reinstatement to the workforce.Kingston Nyandibo, head of the redundant ArcelorMittal employees, said in a meeting that the workers and some of their family members embarked on the protest “because all efforts aimed at addressing their plights with the management have failed.”Nyandibo informed Minister Sirleaf that those affected include 769 workers, categorized as 363 employees, 366 contractors, and 40 others who were considered “illegally dismissed.”According to the protesters’ leadership, their redundancy was effected in 2015 and 2016 due to a drop in prices of iron ore on the international market, with an understanding that the company would recall them if prices rose again.“Instead, when prices improved beginning 2017, the company chose to hire a new batch of workers, which was in total disregard to the redundancy clause,” said Joseph G. Kaye, a spokesperson of the protesters.Kaye said they have been pursuing the matter with the company since May 2018.But Marcus S. Wleh, Head of Government Relations assigned with Arcelormital, has meanwhile appealed to the protesters to grant a two-week period for the company to sort out the relevant documentations that would lead to finding a permanent and amicable solution to the problem.Also, Minister Sirleaf assured that he will work with other government entities, including the Ministry of Labor and National Bureau of Concessions, to resolve the impasse.Based on Minister Sirleaf’s intervention, Nyandibo promised to immediately communicate with his colleagues as well as travel along the train track, pleading with his colleagues to remain calm and abort all protests.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
…grounds include equality, freedom of expression infringementsMBC Channel 42/93 is the second broadcaster in Guyana to seek relief in the High Court on claims of constitutional rights’ infringements, which it says is enshrined in the 2017 Broadcasting Amendment.The broadcaster is claiming infringements of equality and freedom of expression among other claims of loss of constitutional rights. Stephen Fraser of the Chambers of Fraser, Housty and Yearwood, representing the broadcaster on Monday (November 13, 2017), filed a fixed date application naming Attorney General Basil Williams, and the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) as respondents.The hearing in the High Court is set for December 15.Meanwhile, a fixed date application to challenge the Broadcasting Amendment (2017) by Freedom House Radio Inc is set for a High Court hearing today. The broadcasters are separately challenging the 2017 amendment on various constitutional grounds.Freedom Radio Inc had filed a constitutional challenge in the High Court, over the Administration’s imposition of an ‘onerous’ increase in the annual broadcasting fee and the expropriation of its airwaves during ‘prime time,’ for Government broadcasts.The separate challenges by the two broadcasters follow significant outcry by local and international press bodies, among others, on fears of erosion of press freedom and other impacts, particularly in terms of legislated demands under public service broadcasting (PSB).One such international body, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), more commonly referred to as Reporters Without Borders, had stated before the Bill was assented to law that “what is most worrying about the Bill is its process of adoption, which involved no consultations with any broadcasters even though repeated attempts were made to meet with Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo both leading up to, and during, parliamentary debate…”Others who voiced their concerns include the International Press Institute, Association of Caribbean Media Workers, Guyana parliamentary Opposition, the Guyana Private Sector Commission, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, and the FITUG, largest amalgamation of trade unions in Guyana.In its high court action, MBC 93 is contending that unfair competition and expropriation of property rights, among other loss of rights, have been legislated through the Amendment contrary to its constitutional rights.In its application, MBC 93 noting the contravening of its equality rights, pointed out that “this unfair competition scenario has been exacerbated where the public broadcaster, National Communications Network (NCN) receives a significant subvention from the public purse, and continues to engage in competition with private broadcasters for the commercial market.”It noted the status of “the State-owned NCN which is not subjected to the same level of interference by the new amendments”, adding, “as such, Government’s competition policies supplemented and grounded now in the new laws constitutes an unfair and unreasonable interference with the Applicant’s fundamental right to freedom of expressions as well as its property rights and interests”.According to the High Court action, the legislating of public service broadcasting puts private broadcasters in double jeopardy to face unfair competition and to provide services without compensation, with potential to impact on commitments to commercial clients.The fixed date application by MBC 93 also noted the potential for the company’s operations to be attempted to be closed by the State in its possible enforcement of the Amendment.“The High Court action also challenges the continuing demand by GNBA for past exorbitant fees (declared unlawful) and the new increased fees with its likely effect of destroying the Applicant and shutting down its operation entirely” said MBC 93.In the High Court challenge, the broadcaster contends that “since 1995 it had sole and exclusive rights to broadcast on the specified channel and spectrum, and as a result of the grant made under the licence, the Applicant obtained a vested right to property and an interest in the spectrum and channel.”According to MBC 93, this interest and right then automatically fell to be protected by section 142 of the Constitution of Guyana which prescribed that interests and rights in property of whatever nature could not be taken away without adequate compensation.It noted also that the 2017 Amendment effectively took away its rights in spectrum and channel by “splitting of the National Spectrum into ‘Zones’, and unreasonable and unjustified licence fees also effectively contravened the Applicant’s property and interest rights in the spectrum and channel as guaranteed by section 142 of the Guyana Constitution.”The Broadcasting Amendment 2017 was passed in the House of Parliament at its August sitting this year despite a number of broadcasters asking for a stay and requesting an audience with the Prime Minister to discuss their concerns over the then proposed amendment.While the broadcasters were still awaiting word on this letter for an audience, the amendment received presidential assent on September 7, 2017.According to MBC 93 in a released statement, to date, there has been no response from the Prime Minister to the request for a meeting to discuss broadcasters’ concerns, while noting that existing broadcasters were forced once more to re-apply for their licences or face penalties including criminalisation if they continued to broadcast without re-applying.
– Persaud said he did “nothing wrong”– Ramjattan tells reporters to “haul yuh ass”The coalition Government has forced outgoing Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud to revoke the approval of a firearm dealer licence, which he granted himself last month, a move which the Top Cop says is now unprecedented.A section of the State media on Wednesday reported in a staged fashion exclusively on the story which was the same day the Police Force held a farewell parade for Persaud, who goes off on pre-retirement leave next Monday ahead of his April retirement.When asked about the matter following the farewell, the outgoing Top Cop told reporters that there was nothing wrong with him applying to himself and thenOutgoing Top Cop Seelall Persaudgranting approval for a licence to set up the dealership.In fact, he noted that this was done before.“In the 1980s, there was a Commissioner who granted himself dealership licence … There is precedence for it … something is wrong with this Commissioner that they tell the public that it was wrong,” the outgoing Top Cop asserted.Asked whether it was ethical for him to make this move just a few weeks before his retirement, the outgoing Commissioner pointed out that the business would have only become operationalised in May, after his retirement.“There was precedence, it’s a business and I can’t do business on the job, so it would have only been operational after I retire,” Persaud said.He went on to point out that almost all past Commissioners of Police applied for and grant gun licences to themselves.“If you look historically over the past 25 years, all the past Commissioners, maybe with the exception of one, granted themselves firearm licences. So it’s not anything new but you know we live in a society today where one set of circumstances is good for one person, but not good for the other,” he posited.Nonetheless, Persaud said he would not be challenging the decision to revoke his licence, as he has since become discouraged with the idea of opening his own firearms dealership.“It doesn’t matter; it was one line of business I was contemplating and that won’tPublic Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattanhappen any longer. But I have a lot of experience; I have a lot of credibility and I’m very confident in my next phase in life,” the outgoing Top Cop stated.It was reported in the State’s newspaper that Persaud on January 29, 2018 responded to an application previously made in his name, approving his business – Professional Outdoors Supplies – as a registered firearms dealer.Reports revealed that the outgoing Top Cop three days earlier granted approval for two gun licences for a 9mm Pistol and a 12, 16 or 20-Gauge Pump Action Shotgun.However, it was reported that the matter reached and engaged Cabinet’s attention and Persaud was since instructed by Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan to revoke the dealership licence.The authority of granting firearm licences and licences for gun dealers falls under the remit of the Commissioner of Police, who, upon receiving an application, forwards it to the relevant Policing Division for an investigation into the background and character of the applicant. Based on the findings of the probe, the Commissioner makes a recommendation to the Minister, who then forwards it to the Firearms Licensing Approval Board for review. The Board will then make its own recommendations to the Minister, and based on that or his own deliberate judgement, the Minister grants the licence.When approached following the farewell parade on Wednesday afternoon for a comment on the matter, Ramjattan was hostile towards the media, telling reporters to have ‘time and place’.He then pointed out that he spoke with online news site Demerara Waves earlier and was promptly reminded that he “cursed” in that conversation, to which he responded, “Yes, there are times when I could use expletives.”Further pressed on the matter, Ramjattan, who is also performing duties as acting Prime Minister, declared: “I am not dodging no issue.” He then proceeded to walk away, heading to his vehicle and uttered over his shoulder, “haul yuh ass”.Nevertheless, this most recent scandal involving the outgoing Police Commissioner comes on the heels of the damning report from the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Police Force’s handling of the probe into the alleged assassination plot against President David Granger.The CoI, headed by Retired Police Commissioner Paul Slowe, recommended that disciplinary actions be taken against Persaud and that he be made to resign or be removed for misbehaviour and investigated for perjury.The Commissioner subsequently proceeded on four months of vacation leave and a few days prior to his November return, he was sent on two months “special leave”. That move was translated by social commentators as Persaud getting the boot. However, he resumed duties in mid-January.