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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Have Our Media Jumped on the Bandwagon?



"We can say with a measure of confidence that St. Lucia is fast becoming notorious for defying not only its state laws but equally the laws of nature. At the moment, there is a national hue and cry of significant proportions about the violation of sections of our Constitution and Finance Act attributed to the Taiwanese ambassador’s method of procurement of funds for what is termed constituency projects; and it appears that the greater the gravitational force of the hue and cry on the populace, the greater the countervailing "centripetal force" it exerts on our journalists. What is the rationale for the vast dichotomy between the media, legal and finance authorities on one hand, and the masses on the other?" - The CHOISEUL POWERHOUSE 

Read on for a radical perspective on the local media and Finance authorities positions on violations of certain aspects of the law in St. Lucia


 As the people of St. Lucia seek enlightenment on the controversies surrounding the violations of sections of the St. Lucia Constitution [Section 77] and Finance Act [Section 7, Cap 15.01], the “Finance Authorities” and our journalists have seemingly become more and more tight-lipped and drawn away from the truth about those violations.

We can say with a measure of confidence that St. Lucia is fast becoming notorious for defying not only its state laws but equally the laws of nature. At the moment, there is a national hue and cry of significant proportions about the violation of sections of our Constitution and Finance Act attributed to the Taiwanese ambassador’s method of procurement of funds for what is termed constituency projects; and it appears that the greater the gravitational force of the hue and cry on the populace, the greater the countervailing "centripetal force" it exerts on our journalists. What is the rationale for the vast dichotomy between the media, legal and finance authorities on one hand, and the masses on the other?

Pundits and observers keep on asking: What is wrong with our “so-called journalists”? Why have they not even ventured to enlighten the masses on the debate about the consolidated funds? Why do they want to eschew the debate or downplay it? Why have they not even read out the provisions under contention and give educated opinion on it?

It does not matter to me which political party the media support; but by now, they could have at least read out the relevant sections of the Constitution and Finance Act in contention and help steer the debate in a direction that would enlightened and help us understand which of the political positions is legal. Or alternatively, they could bring in a legal guest to enlighten us. But none has happened. As the demand for explanations increases, the supply for answer decreases! And that is unfortunate!

This morning, I heard Andre Paul – a graduate of the School of Mass Communications, UWI - say that he was utterly confused about the positions taken by the UWP and SLP in debate on the Consolidated Funds. The statement hit me like a neutron bomb because I expected an experienced and qualified journalist like Andre to take the position of either “moderator” or “judge” in the debate and in the quest to report fact and truth, to bypass all “superfluity”. So, I found Andre’s position very na├»ve.

The Opposition has been perennially accusing the government and Taiwanese Ambassador of breaking Sections of the Constitution and Finance Act by by-passing the Consolidated Fund and depositing monies directly with Ministers of government and Village Councils.

 Lately, an affidavit by a private contractor provided us with an insight into how those monies are being channeled into private accounts belonging to Ministers of government. In addition, there have been numerous instances where Ministers of Governments have issued direct award contracts using Taiwanese funds to private citizens.  There is a proliferation of well-documented instances in the Choiseul/Saltibus constituency.

Further, in addition to the testimonies of Janine Compton and Marcus Nicholas in the House of Assembly, there is also an abundance of evidence out there implicating Ministers of Government. For example, there is a case where an MP gave a direct award for a water project in Micoud costing $500,000 and using Taiwanese funds. There is also a case where another Minister donated large sums of cash courtesy the Taiwanese Ambassador to the Church and also to a pre-school. There is also the evidence proffered by the Dennery North UWP Constituency Group and UWP vice-chairman on RSL’s Agenda with Dave Samuels earlier this month.

So the logical question is: Why is there a proliferation of verifiable information in the public domain known to almost everybody except journalists like Andre?

A fair question is: Have our media jumped on the band wagon of corruption – I mean condoning corruption? Why? Are they beneficiaries of the corruption? What are the implications of tacit media endorsement of corruption in a small, developing country like St. Lucia? Should we allow our “new colonizer” - who has far less experience in democracy than us - to lead us in a corrupt direction?

Where have our watchdogs of laws gone too? How long will it take the chief accounting officer in the Ministry of Finance take steps to “regularize” those serious breaches and anomalies? Are they waiting for the “constitutional Boss” to follow the Tuxedo precedent?

And while of this is going on, are we not tired of embarrassing ourselves at home and abroad? The Director of Finance/Permanent Secretary should institute the appropriate urgent remedial and control action to regularize those anomalies/breaches and save St. Lucia further embarrassment.

In the meantime, I take my “hat off” to Claudius Francis and Urban Dolor who are the only talk show journalists to have the testicular fortitude to take the issue head on. I was especially impressed by Claudius who took time off on this week’s “Straight Up” show to elucidate the sections of the Constitution and Finance act that mattered. We are a lot clearer now. Thank you, Claudius.

We look forward to Richard Frederick to follow Claudius’ footsteps on his paid “Can I help You” programme. Perhaps, tomorrow can be the perfect starting point for Richard (and Andre?) to provide a categorical answer or at least a framework to arrive at an answer to the crisis that currently grips the nation.

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