GPA welcomes scrutiny into its operations, remains open to criticisms

Dear Editor,
The Guyana Press Association welcomes any scrutiny into its operations, and remains open to criticisms. What the current executive will not tolerate are baseless and defamatory attacks on members of the executive, as well as colleagues in the media.
The missive by Neil Marks, dated May 14, 2024, has cemented the long-held belief that Marks is no longer a member of the media, but is rather a political operative aiming to discredit the independent members of the press, as well as the body he once represented.
Marks wants the council to exclude itself for what he said is not holding elections for six years, but should he not also excuse himself?
Marks remains silent in the face of attacks on his press colleagues, like the cyberbullying, shooting of (a journalist’s) vehicle, and continued harassment of (named media house) reporters. Many of these journalists toil daily doing journalism for the greater public good.
Instead of standing in solidarity with his media colleagues through the GPA, for a timely response by the Guyana Police Force in connection with sexual offences’ allegations made against a senior member of the People’s Progressive Party, Marks has opted to do his master’s bidding; and in so doing, has sullied his own reputation.
Our colleagues in the media continue to straddle the news gathering cycle and all the challenges that come with it – including being ridiculed by less qualified persons – as they remain committed to being the eyes and ears of the public. Where is Marks then?
Marks’s missive focused on a few things, among them financial accountability. We are confused about the claim of lack of a financial report when a report was presented as part of the presidential report last year. Marks knows more than anyone that the treasurer had resigned, leaving a handful of documents and reports in a tattered envelope; and, with the help of our members, we used it to present a financial report.
Mr Marks should tell the public what he did with the financial reports that were submitted under his presidency, and why those were not subjected to audits.
Marks was an absentee president. Records of the GPA show that major events and planning for training were done by a handful of persons within the executive during Marks’s tenure.
What was even strange was that Marks himself never turned up at one of the General Meetings called to hold elections. At that meeting, it was expected that the President would issue his report, and the accounts of the organisation would be tabled. For a lack of quorum, that meeting could not be held, and the executive was at pains to hold another meeting, where Marks announced that he was no longer running for any position in the body. That same absenteeism has found its way into the continued AGM, Marks was glaringly absent there too.
The issue of audited accounts is not a new issue for the association. Since the presidencies of Adam Harris, Julia Johnson, Denis Chabrol, Gordon Moseley and Nazima Raghubir, this issue has been on the table. The fact remains that GPA has long been dependent on membership dues, and has always had little funds. At one time, GPA submitted its documents for audit to a local firm, and the cost to audit was more than GPA had at that time. That has changed over time, and with small amounts of funding for training, the GPA has prepared and submitted financial reports to its membership, including at our last meeting on May 14, 2023. This is more than Marks had done when he accepted state funds for training under the Coalition Government.
The GPA is committed to auditing its accounts, and our membership had been briefed on the updates when the AGM continued last year. Marks would have been present if he were interested in the GPA at all.
As it relates to the continuation of the meeting, we are baffled that Marks would allege that the proposed draft constitution was not an issue raised, and suggested be placed on the agenda of the upcoming meeting along with decisions for the auditing of the accounts. It is almost as if Marks were not at the meeting, or he did not write the letter that appeared with his name.
At that very AGM, among the membership, it was discussed that several issues could not be addressed or dealt with, since GPA membership needed to work on amending the constitution. At that very meeting, it was decided that amendments to the document would be circulated for comments from the membership, and Marks agreed with a suggestion from the floor that the meeting be suspended to deal with the constitution at the continuation of the meeting.
Marks, as mentioned, was absent when the meeting continued, and we are yet to receive his comments on the DRAFT amendments.
Marks himself would know, of the two GPA meetings he ever attended, there is usually an effort to get members to attend these meetings. This is nothing new.

Members turn out in their numbers to elections, but it is usually a task to get members to other meetings. Like when there was no quorum during his tenure and absence: ninety-six members turned out for a highly anticipated election; that is what happened in 2023, and 70 members spoke through their votes.
As for the Draft amendments to the GPA Constitution, they are just that: DRAFT amendments. He is more than welcome to make submissions on them.
As for the elections, the executive of the GPA dealt with the issues raised in several statements and at its general meeting last year. It must be reiterated that NO legitimate member of the GPA was excluded from voting. The GPA took a decision to process all outstanding dues within a particular period. This is not a new exercise within the GPA. Marks would have known this if he had attended and was fully involved in the GPA.
Marks continues to make baseless allegations against the executive and the elections process, a process in which he and a roomful of his colleagues attended. For instance, he claims that his “media house” had more than 10 legitimate members who were denied membership. Marks should submit those names with haste to the GPA, since, based on our last checks, the last media house Marks is known to be associated with, all of his colleagues were present and voted.
Finally, the GPA condemns Marks’s continued attack on women in the media and communication fields. Via his missive, Marks continues to try to discredit the women on the executive, knowing fully well that they remain employed in the media. Marks named the executive member who worked at a ministry of Government more than four years ago, but failed to include that he, Marks, shared an office space with the executive member who, alongside him, was filing stories and anchoring the news.
Additionally, Marks continues on a campaign to try to discredit three members of the press, including a media worker who has a kitchen garden. It is almost crass to think that Marks knows that this man is a longstanding member of the media, but is trying to use this noble initiative to feed himself to discredit him and his work in the media.
Now that the conflictual opportunities have vanished, bitterness abounds for failing dismally to deliver the GPA to Robb Street, even after abandoning one’s noble apolitical principle. The GPA shall never be handed on a platter to any agent, to become a pliant and malleable institution at the behest of any political or other interest group that must either toe the line or become subservient or moribund.

Guyana Press Association