June 27, 2017

Calls mount for Ruel Johnson to step down to facilitate probe

One week after Cultural Policy Advisor to the Government, Ruel Johnson, had threatened to “torch” the Sanata Complex, which houses the Guyana Times newspaper, Television Guyana (TVG – CH 28) and Radio Guyana Inc (RGI) 89.5; the Private Sector Commission (PSC) has called out Government for its inaction against Johnson.

Government Advisor on Cultural, Ruel Johnson

Government Advisor on Cultural, Ruel Johnson

On his Facebook page, the Cultural Policy Advisor at the Education Ministry and Director of the Guyana National Newspaper Limited, which publishes the Guyana Chronicle, Johnson stated bluntly, “Here’s my idea for a united Guyanese protest against impunity and tenderpreneurship – go break down all the parking meters and then proceed to torch the Sanata complex.”
Johnson explicitly made the connection between the Sanata Complex, QAII, its owner and the Media Group consisting of its newspaper, television and radio stations.
According to the PSC in a statement to the media on Monday, the Private Sector Commission is patiently awaiting the resolution of the matter involving Johnson, who was inciting terrorism when he made the social media post.
“It has been several days and there has been no official response to the alleged threats made by Mr Johnson. These statements allegedly attributed to Mr Johnson may be deemed to incite terrorism, as well as constitute a threat of arson in breach of, inter alia, Section 40 of the Criminal Offences Act (which attracts a seven-year jail sentence), as well as Section 3 (2) of the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Act of 2015 which attracts even stiffer penalties,” the PSC outlined in its statement.
Moreover, the Commission posited that such a call from any other citizen would be reprehensible, while highlighting that threats directed at the Leader of the Opposition, as well as the President were appropriately and condignly dealt with under the Laws of Guyana. The PSC added that when such calls are made by a Government official to over eight thousand social media followers, then that official must surely be viewed with severity.
To this end, the Commission underscored that Johnson has a duty to the nation to protect and promote its cultural diversity, however, his actions indicates that he is unfit for any position of authority.
“If his alleged pronouncements are proven to be true, it is clear that he is unfit to hold responsibility for such a crucial and delicate element of social cohesion and the Private Sector Commission fully expects that the Minister of Education will take appropriate action to redress the situation. Certainly, Mr Johnson should at the very least step down until investigations are completed,” the PSC asserted. Following the threat on social media, a Police report was filed by the head of security at the media entity with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) last Tuesday.
In Chapter 8:01 of Guyana’s Criminal Law (Offences) Act, Title four, Section 35, the charge of ‘Attempt, incitement and threat’ applies to “Everyone who, in any case where no express provision is made by this Act, or by any other written law for the time being in force, for the punishment thereof, attempts to commit, or incite, or attempts to incite any other person to commit any felony not punishable with imprisonment for seven years or more, or any misdemeanour, under this Act shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for one-year.”
Moreover in Section 36, the Act goes on to cite that in cases where the felony cited incurs imprisonment of seven years or more, the act of incitement carries imprisonment for two years. According to the laws of Guyana, arson is an indictable offence usually carrying a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of five years.
Since the complaint was filed a week ago, Police are yet to obtain a statement from Johnson. Last Wednesday, Police showed up at his office with the intention of taking him into custody for questioning, but were told that he was not there.
Contacted again on Monday, A Division (Georgetown/East Bank Demerara) Commander Clifton Hicken told this newspaper that the Police had returned to the Cultural Advisor’s office earlier in the day, but had to leave without seeing him for another engagement. Hicken assured that attempts would be made later in the day to contact Johnson.
Meanwhile, since the report was filed, Johnson took to social media with a series of posts making a mockery of the Police and the situation.
On the other hand, Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine last Tuesday had promised to seek an explanation from the Ministry’s Cultural Policy Advisor on the threat. Referring to such a comment being made as “strange”, Roopnaraine made it clear that such comments were not reflective of the Government or its views.
“Certainly not! I don’t know where that came from or what it’s about. When I see him, I will ask him. It was brought to my attention and I would like an explanation on it.”
However, the following day Johnson posted on his Facebook account saying that he had seen the Minister that morning and nothing was said to him about the issue.