KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Manager of NICE Radio Douglas De Freitas thinks that his station is being targeted by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves because of its efforts to resist “totalitarian rule” here.
NICE Radio was on Wednesday informed that it had three weeks to say whether it would pay Gonsalves’ EC$250,000 the Court of Appeal awarded in a slander case also involving Eduardo “E.G.” Lynch, host of the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) “New Times” programme.
De Freitas told I-Witness News last night that Gonsalves has also accused other radio stations of slander but asked them to apologise.
“The difference is that Dr. Gonsalves wants the station closed because he wants a totalitarian rule. Have you ever seen the president of America sue anybody?” De Freitas said.
“The Privy Council rules on these matters but the judicial system in the Caribbean lends itself and succumbs to the wishes of the political authorities,” De Freitas further said.
He said that the NDP did not take the case to the Privy Council. “There was some filing problem and so judgement came down against Lynch and the Company — which was a quarter million dollar each…” De Freitas said.
“The judicial system in the Caribbean is controlled by the politicians and when judges award prime ministers these kinds of monies, it sends a clear message that we have dictatorship in the region,” he added.
De Freitas said there is “always a possibility” that NICE Radio would close “depending on how the legal wrangling goes”.
“That will be up to Dr. Gonsalves if things don’t work out to the point where a settlement can be made amicably,” said De Freitas, who told I-Witness News that supporters of the station have over the past five years donated $29,000 to a fund dedicated to saving the media house.
“The only thing I can say for sure, whether NICE Radio is the sacrificial station for democracy, at least we tried to keep democracy alive,” he said.
While NICE Radio is widely regarded as supportive of the NDP, and broadcast several non-NDP sponsored programmes that are critical of Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party administration, De Freitas said the station was “not at all” an arm or agent of the party.
“It is a private station. It has nothing to do with NDP. NDP has a programme on NICE Radio,” he said.
“We never stopped the ULP from having any activity on NICE Radio.
“… The NDP chose to stay with NICE Radio and so it has been branded as an NDP station but the point is, there is freedom of association. … They (ULP) choose not to. … They opened their own radio station,” De Freitas said.
“But NICE Radio is the only station that resisted the totalitarian tactics of Gonsalves. And people don’t want to face that reality. The man wants total rule. … Ralph is not socialist. Ralph is communist,” De Freitas said of Gonsalves, who has described his government as social democratic.
De Freitas said Gonsalves and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez were in the same league.
“They are communist, they are dictatorial and so because of the ideology of Gonsalves, he wants no opposition.
“They want no dissenting voice, they must sing from the same song sheet. … I want that point to be clear because if you pay attention to what socialism is and what communism is, nothing is wrong with socialism; something is terribly wrong with communism and that’s what they want to practice,” De Freitas said.
He said that if NICE Radio close he would “find some way of conducting business”, adding that BDS, which also has a sound system and is involved in import and distribution, “is a diverse company”.
He said that in such a case he would consider another ratio station “if permission is granted”.
“But you know that under the ULP administration that would never be granted because you know that the whole issue about NICE RADIO is to get NICE Radio off the air,” De Freitas said.