“You have a right to public information” -President Granger tells South Rupununi residents as Radio Aishalton launched

Georgetown, Guyana – (February 19, 2018) President David Granger, on Saturday, said that it is the right of every Guyanese, regardless of their geographic location, to access public services, particularly public information, which will ensure that they are equipped to make informed choices and decisions and to have their voices heard. The President was at the time delivering the feature address at the commissioning of Radio Aishalton in Aishalton Village, South Rupununi, Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine), where he also donated a quantity of sport gear to the South Rupununi District Council.

Before unveiling the plaque to officially mark the commissioning of the radio station, President Granger said that the day marks the opening of a new but important chapter in public information in Guyana and for the hinterland. The Head of State said that the Constitution of Guyana mandates that every Guyanese should be given the freedom of expression and as President, he will ensure that every citizen has a voice.

“Your Government is concerned that as far as the delivery of public information services is concerned, just like public health and public education, you should not be wanting for public information and this radio station is going to assist not just in education alone but in democracy in Government. When I speak of public information, I speak of a public good. A public good is something that everyone can take away but it will not diminish or deprive someone else and the radio station is a public good. Everyone can benefit and no one can lose. You have a right to public information,” he said.

In the dissemination of public information, however, the President said that the message must be tailored to suit the audience. Where necessary, he said, the native languages of the target areas should be used.  The President also said that every individual hired to work at the radio station must exhibit a sense of responsibility and respect for professional ethics and integrity as he noted that the public information systems are not organs for the spreading of propaganda but rather a medium for objective discourse and communication.

“You must be able to broadcast to the residents of the Rupununi in the languages of the Rupununi. In the north, you must be able to broadcast in Macushi, in the South you must be able to broadcast in Wapishana and in the deep south you must be able to broadcast in Wai Wai. People must be able to listen to programmes in their native language. This radio station will uphold your freedom of expression, your right to freedom of expression. It will support the public interest to help residents to know what is happening in their communities. It will enable the democratic empowerment of citizens. Citizens, who are informed are better able to make decisions. You are able to participate fully in the affairs of the community because you know what other sections of the community are doing. It will promote social cohesion. This system of regional public radio stations will help to integrate Guyana more fully,” he said.

The President noted that the radio station is but one component in a larger vision of ensuring equal access to social and public services to all residents across the country, where each region has its own economic centres.  Without these centres, the Head of State said, Guyana’s hinterland would remain underdeveloped.

“These towns… are meant to promote economic development and to ensure citizens’ access to public services.  The policy of this Government is that everything you need, education, National Insurance Scheme (NIS), banking, whatever you need must be provided within the region and radio is one of those services. Your Government has a vision of providing strong regions. Each region must have its own aerodromes, business districts, industrial centres, port of entries but most of all; it must have its own radio station to communicate with its residents… Every region must be able to provide public services. Public education must be available here. Public health must be available through the health centres and hospitals. Public information now through this radio station and public security through the police stations and, in due course, this Region will have its own police region. Every Region must be able to provide citizenship services. All of these services have to be available in every region,” he said.

Village Toshao, Mr. Douglas Casimero, in his remarks, said that the community is pleased with the initiative and committed to working with the Government to ensure that the President’s plan to bridge the developmental gap between the hinterland and the coastland is achieved.

“Today is a truly historical day for Aishalton and the other villages of South Rupununi. I thank you for Radio Aishalton. We would like to be treated as people with equal rights. I am really thankful and I am humbled. Today the seat of Government is at Aishalton. Thank you and indeed we are now going to bridge the gap between the coastland and the hinterland. Aishalton welcomes this. I would like to say that we are with you, Your Excellency, on the road to development that will help us to realise our potential,” he said.

Regional Chairman, Mr. Brian Allicock echoed these sentiments, noting that it is a momentous day, not only for the village, but the Region.  “I am so proud to be here a part of this. This is a great method in which we can get things out to the communities and let them know what is happening. I am happy for the youths in this community particularly with the involvement of them in the radio stations. I am so happy. I am happy that Region Nine has been given so much attention so let us continue to work together to build our communities and Guyana,” he said.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Communications Network (NCN), Mr. Enrico Woolford said that information is key to development and the organisation is pleased to be playing its role in the provision of this service.

“Now you can hear live and direct, how your elected officials are doing in the nation’s capital and you can hear from your regional and local representatives. NCN has already started a process of change. We are rebranding and reforming radio and as a result of that, we are going online. We have television testing in various parts of the country and we hope to revitalise the creative sector in this land. The movement of information is key to development. We must be informed before we can make informed decisions and choices. For years, there has been challenges with the flow of information. Radio Aishalton will seek to change that content model,” he said.

Coordinator, Dr. Rovin Deodat said that the new Government, after taking office, realised that the communications system in Guyana was confined to the coastland. Wanting to give every citizen the opportunity to hear and have their voices heard, they decided to embark on the project to put radio stations in the four towns, Mabaruma, Mahdia, Lethem and Bartica with the village of Aishalton now added.

It is commendable, he said, that the Government has been able to improve access to information for almost 90 percent of the country through the radio stations in just under three years.

Meanwhile, the residents expressed their elation with the set-up of the radio station, noting that they can now feel more connected to the events and news from the coastland. Ms. Rena LaRose, in an invited comment, said, “Having this radio is really exciting for me. Before you had been sitting and wondering what to do but this here has brought excitement and joy to my heart and our community where we can now have a way of learning. I think this would benefit the community a lot, the young people and the children.”

Mr. Rudolph George, a resident of Aishalton, said that he is particularly pleased with the decision to involve youths from the villages in the work of the new radio station. He said that the initiative signals Government’s commitment to inclusivity. “We are very happy to get this radio station brought here because we can now listen to the news from around the country and know what is happening. This is a great improvement for us and we can listen to our radio from our homes. The persons who will be trained to work at the radio station is also great and we want to thank the Government for this. We feel very proud about this because now we can listen to news, educational and religious programmes. I feel that Deep South can be proud of this. Today I feel like we are not left behind but we are being uplifted,” Mr. George said.

 

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