Opinion: The President has spoken; Is DPI concerned enough to retract?

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The President has shown over the last few days that politicians can indeed be consistent on certain positions, even after they would have been voted into office, and even if it means reigning-in their own misguided officials.

Then Leader of the Opposition, David Granger, along with a long line of APNU and AFC parliamentarians have long held the view that the Government Information Agency (GINA) was not used, as it rightfully should, to provide fair coverage to all branches of government, particularly the work of the opposition in the Legislative arm. The APNU and AFC had heavily criticized the PPP-led government for the “deliberate misuse” of this tax-payer funded entity and had even penalized GINA by cutting its budget.

In 2012, the Opposition Leader wrote then Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, complaining about GINA’s “biased” coverage of the Budget debates. The message was clear; GINA must provide fair coverage of parties on all sides of the House since the Legislative Branch consisted of all elected parties in the National Assembly.

Enter Mr. Imran Khan – Government’s Director of Public Information (DPI).

As if completely oblivious to the long held view of the APNU and AFC regarding GINA’s role, the DPI, himself not a stranger to making controversial statements, may have gone a step too far this time, by making a downright absurd, and in many ways, dangerous one, via his Facebook page.

On February 9, Khan declared, in a lengthy post; “It appears as though there is confusion re the role and function of the DPI. GINA, for example, is also wholly funded by the taxpayers but its role is not to cover the opposition. It is to cover the elected government of the day.”

But it is clear from his utterances that the only one confused, may be Khan himself.

Recognising Khan’s folly, President Granger, on the weekly televised “Public Interest” television show, responded.

“As far as I am concerned the Government Information Services…the Government News Agency must cover all three branches of government, Legislative, Executive and Judicial…The people have to be better informed and you cannot inform the people by depriving them of information…the people need to know…that is my policy. I’ve announced that policy while I was in opposition and I maintain that policy now that I’m in government,” the President declared.

Whew….the public breathed a sigh of relief. Manipulating GINA for the sole benefit of the governing party was to be a thing of the past. Or is it?

Questions remain.

Why did Khan make such a preposterous statement? Could it be that he was unaware of the three branches of government? Could it be that he understands this but simply holds the view that GINA is to be primarily an instrument of propaganda for the governing party? If so, who else in the upper echelons of the coalition-led government share this reprehensible outlook? Was it not the same mindset that allowed for the full control and monopolization of the state media apparatus under successive PPP-led administrations?

Whatever the explanation, Khan, since the President made his own position very clear, has not addressed the issue. While still very active on Facebook, no retraction, apology or clarification has been forthcoming from the DPI.

But the President has spoken, and the words of Presidents, in such cases, usually carry tremendous weight. GINA must cover all three branches of government. To reiterate, the President said, “…I’ve announced that policy while I was in opposition and I maintain that policy now that I’m in government.”

Policy…set out by the President.

So, will Khan recant his statement and make it known that going forward, GINA will provide coverage for all three branches of government, as outlined by the Head-of-State? And if not, what are the consequences for failing to implement policy, as set out by the President?

What is Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo’s view on this, particularly since communications come directly under his purview?

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