Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why cry wolf?

We are not sure if the guys who run the opposition New National Party are pushing the panic button too quickly – crying wolf, while there is – at least for now – none in the neighborhood.

If the party’s statement about pending arrests was meant to be some kind of information pre-emptive strike, it just exposes the reeking fear at their headquarters.

My advice to them will be have your lawyers a phone call away, and in the interim, to use a popular local phrase from the 80s, “cease and settle.”

The one good strategic political move from the statement is who read it.

Roland Bhola is one of the genuinely nice guys in Grenadian politics, and one of the few with the credibility to make it.

Dare I say, he is one of those who will also genuinely not worry about the work of any special prosecutor.

However, we can’t seem to find, from any credible independent source, the details of this special prosecutor waiting to take action of which they speak.

From our research, there have been investigations from the office of the DPP into a number of areas, and there has been talk of hiring a special prosecutor and a couple of people have been contacted in that regard.

Based on whom you speak to, the Canadian Bob Lindquist has either been spoken to or has been working on a few matters – but we have no official confirmation.

However the picture that has emerged is that there has been progress on a number of matters – but as with those things, it has been relatively slow.

Whatever our views of this government or the past, it is clear that there are many grounds for concerns about some of the behavior in the former administration.

Whether it has reached the stage where formal charges could be laid, I am not sure based on what we are hearing that they are quite there as yet.

Given the state of play however, we are also not anywhere where anyone can claim, with any serious credibility, that the process that is unfolding is a political witch hunt.

This is far too premature.

We will all have to wait and see the nature of the charges - if any.

There are a few things that however should be clear – and one of those is that there are enough things that happened in the latter stages of the NNP reign to give all of us pause.

Are they criminal? We just don’t know. That’s why any investigation is in order and appropriate.

The NNP claim that the current administration is trying to fulfill an election promise to investigate their conduct might be true. And I am not sure what’s wrong with that.

Having come to power on the argument that the quality of governance left much to be desired, I don’t think the NDC would have any credibility left in not seeking to investigate what had concerned so many in the first place.

And about this investigation being an attempt to take people’s minds from the tough times they are facing?

For once, NNP is giving the rag-tag bunch at Botanic Gardens more credit than they deserve. I don’t think they are politically smart or organized enough to pull that off.

Nor do I think that the opposition is giving ordinary Grenadian people enough credit to be able to separate issues.

It will be a grave political miscalculation – never mind the legal one – to move forward with half-baked charges.

Up to this point, I am comfortable with the credibility of the people involved in this legal process – who for two years have withstood shouts for political blood – and have gone ahead studiously following the spirit and the letter of the law.

The value of any country is its ability to take care of its most vulnerable citizens, and to be able to apply justice to all – cost it what it will.

We must not put off any appropriate investigation merely on the basis of some phony argument about the cost of doing it.

The cost of not seeking justice and of not demanding proper behavior from all of our public officers – in and out of office – is far greater.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Peace of Earth!

It’s been an interesting period.

But sometimes I am not sure what to make of this entire furor of the last what – nearly a month now.

In that time, Grenada has been enjoying – at least on the face of it - a great cruise ship season – one time recently there were four ships in port and I was told eight-thousand people ashore.

The Prime Minister went to CANCUN and back and was supposedly at the center stage of the Climate Change conference – a process that Michael Church as Environment Minister, we are told, chaired so well before he had to leave just on the eve of it.

But in recognition of his good work, the UN organizers invited him over as a special delegate.

Tonight I saw on the TV that ‘nuff charter flights coming from Canada for the entire winter – Jazz Airways, Air Canada and Sunwing.

Forget the yankee dollar. If it works out right, a strong Canadian buck will be just fine.

But did I say Sunwing? Yea they’re back. Don’t feel “no way” Willie, a special ceremony still ain’t planned.

The traditional “meet and greet” at the airport will suffice. For now! For this time!

It’s been an awkward year for most of us, but even so I noticed we are finding creative ways to get into the Christmas spirit.

And talking about spirit – man too much rum flowing in them bars in town. But I thought all you said “we brokes”?

We were brokes in November, and we will be more brokes in January. But don’t worry about yesterday or about tomorrow. Just pass one for today.

When man drinking rum, nothing else is relevant.

So come to think of it, why did they not try the reshuffle on Christmas eve? We would have all been too drunk to notice.

A little lady told me in town today that shoulder ham scarce.

Man it ain’t no Christmas without a little salt ham boiling in a huge black pot on the makeshift fireside behind the house.

And even if the chicken is a little pricey, no worries there. Mama still got enough yard fowls around the place.

We will run down a few “ below the cocoa” – and some waters will be in order.

The real holiday breeze has already started to blow. But I have one complaint. Too much senseless parang on the radio.

Man this is Christmas. This ain’t carnival.

And why every day got to be like carnival? I go to the church harvest, they make it carnival. I go to the cricket, they make it carnival. Now Christmas is carnival.

The good thing about the last few weeks is that ‘nuff people vex with me.

Now I have less people to send gifts to. The downside I guess, is that I won’t be getting many either.

But that’s alright.

All I want for Christmas is to give some love, and expect some back as well.

Given the last four weeks, that will be welcome indeed.

Peace on Earth!

Here is the official declaration of a unilateral ceasefire. They can fire if they want, but I ain’t sending back any bullets until at least January 3.

I have more important things to attend to.

I am looking forward to my son’s soccer, midnight service in St Maurice Church in Miramar and watching Miami take on LA Lakers (Wade & Lebron versus Kobe and Gasol), with the kitchen smelling good and friends, family and beer (not that I drinking that), keeping good company.

When I really think about it – what was this fuss of the last four weeks about?

This is Christmas man! (And I’ve got to get out of this town).

Merry Christmas everybody, especially to Ray, George (by two), and a cool uncle of ours.

Yea man, he is a real cool ruler, until he hears the word hijack.

But it’s all cool.

One Love!

And once again Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Allow me to wallow with the pigs for a while

UP UNTIL now, I have kept my blogs about commentaries on broad ideas and concepts; given views on matters that are of more collective than general interest.

Over the last few weeks – the likes of the Georges – have sought to shift the national debate on how democracy is being practiced within the government and its consequence on the nation.

At a time of 37 percent unemployment; when people are worried about the holiday and the New Year and when a government is grappling to get its 2011 budget right – both George Grant and George Worme – doing the biddings of the goons who yield influence at Botanic Gardens, have taken aim at me.

There are two fundamental reasons they do this (a) to change the subject in a most disastrous political period for the government and (b) to try to discredit me in any way possible because in their minds I am one of the few bold enough to damn the consequences of speaking up.

I predicted on my Facebook page a full week ago that a cabal of loose advisors and volunteer character hit men have come together, with the knowledge if not blessing of some in the Prime Minister’s office, to get at me.

What they are really are a bunch of cowards who hide behind believed anonymity, and who will use the two Georges to do their public bidding.

What these two sets have in common is full syndrome desperation, watching their pet project, which is this government, in free-fall and complete meltdown.

They are so worried that if it completely collapses they have nowhere to run – professionally and personally. But, rather than try to positively influence a stuttering confusion that passes as governance, while ordinary people hurt and worry; they hit out in desperation at their self created enemies – of whom I am number one.

These are men who pass off their own ingrained selfishness as patriotism; and who think the only way they can make us believe they have integrity is, by innuendo and omission, paint everyone else as crooks.

Indeed these are desperate times, and these are desperate graying men who have long slipped pass youth, with no spring in either their steps or ideas.

Desperate men can do desperate things – and there is more to come. Only that while they fiddle, the real people who are mad with them because of broken promises, continue to burn.

For the most part this is not about me really – or even in a real sense about them.

What this debate should be about is a nation that is on pause, if not regression; of a leadership which is in contempt of its party and out of touch with ordinary folks who had enthusiastically waved yellow bandanas.

This is about a country which has gone from yellow and green – and is now blue. Blue with hurt! Blue with despair! Blue with even rage!

And I will get back soon to what really bothers this nation – and what really gives this odd assortment of public servants, academic misfits, blundering senators, broken hangers on and low talented media men, sleepless nights.

But excuse this one time while I wallow with the pigs. These pigs!

For over the past 14 days, rather than deal with the message – a convenient section of a government, using state resources and time – has been bent on destroying me.

And naturally, any half decent self-respecting man will at least stand up and defend his family in the face of attack.

And I need to do that for my three sons, who I have always promised that daddy will be uncompromised; unbowed, unconquered and unapologetic. And for a wife whose faith I have never deserved; and a mother whose prayers have never stopped. Also crucially, for my father, who died seven years ago, and who realizing he was reaching his end, said to me – Hamlet don’t ever let them take you and make a fool.

If anything, I want him to smile from heaven, and claim: “Whitto (as he called me) you giving them hell on earth.”

Rather than deal with innuendo and half-truths (and in one case this weekend in the New Today newspaper) outright libel, I want to challenge the Georges to a debate face-to-face anywhere at anytime on the substance of the challenge that faces this nation.

Rather than deal in personal insults, I want them bring their ideas to the table, and I will bring mine, about how to get this government working for real people from La Fillette to La Tante; Belmont to Byelands.

I pity the Georges – one operates from a position of perpetual hatred, and another from crippling fear; collectively they sing choruses of jealousy.

It is that hatred and that fear; and that collective jealousy that have moved them to publish documents handed out from Botanic Gardens – as if to suggest that I have been campaigning for some major post with this government.

They conveniently ignored cover letters that show that these corporate proposals were specifically requested and reluctantly offered by a man who was running away from any suggestion that he needed to be pinned down in St George’s.

Those proposals gave an outline of cost to be paid for rent, equipment, utilities and to take a half a dozen people from the jobless line – no suggestion of money for me to individually pocket.

Obviously they would not have known about Vincent Robert’s email to me which said: “We need to get concrete proposals so that I can sell the concept.”

Nor of a soon-after follow up that said: “Thanks for all that you have done before. I sincerely depend on your advice, guidance and support. Let's do it "For Love of Country".”

In the New Today’s illiterate interpretation, it meant Hamlet Mark was asking for nearly quarter million dollars a year – a claim so ludicrous that it will have one of the Georges back to the judge’s chambers while he shamelessly hides assets to avoid another big payout.

They ignored that since 2000, my capitals have been Kingston and Kingstown; Basseterre and Bridgetown; Miami and New York.

They forgot to note that I have not waited to collect any crumbs to fall from any one’s table in St Georges – like is their lot; but I have created my own bread and that of many other people too, in diverse places.

Unlike them, St George’s for me is not a center of business; it’s simply a playground where my weary soul often takes a break.

That’s why the naked emperors in St George’s don’t bother me; instead I bother them.

Here is the scorecard of lies printed by the New Today this weekend.

LIE: That Hamlet Mark sought a contract for $280,000.

TRUTH: That on the specific request of the party (not the government), West Park Global Media (a registered company in Florida) had made a proposal to cover rent, equipment, utilities, hiring of six people that would have amounted approximately to that amount a year.

LIE: That the proposal was addressed to the Prime Minister (the Dear Prime Minister was inserted there by the New Today).

TRUTH: The document itself was addressed to no one. But the cover letter that was conveniently not published was addressed to Vincent Roberts, who is not an officer of the government, but a member of the ruling party.

LIE: That Hamlet Mark was to have been paid from the sum

TRUTH: The segment of the document published listed how the money was going to be used through the National Media Center.

Ongoing in all this reporting, there has also been the innuendo, that somehow I am upset at the government because my proposal was rejected.

Up until now the proposal has not been rejected, and as far as I am aware external funding is being sought. And so, if I was to so directly benefit I had reason to shut up, not speak out.

But that would not be said because it would not suit the narrative, they trying to build.

Inspite of the New Today’s and to a lesser extent to spin it otherwise, (eat your NDC hearts out the Georges), but verifiable evidence can show that I turned down every single personal offer made to be by this government – from press secretary down.

Ask the current holder who first begged him to take the job (and my motive he may not have known because I was “breaksing” from them asking me again).

Let’s be clear what’s happening here:

(a) I am this administration’s worst nightmare because I cannot be easily dismissed as a babbling NNP since I have more friends in the government than outside of it;

(b) No power in St George’s can frustrate any project I am working on in the Caribbean and North America, so they have no control over me. (And I’ll be soon be working on one in St George’s that they cant stop either).

(c) The Georges cannot bad mouth anything I am working on to cause it to stop. Operating from their little world, they are powerless in my bigger world.

So they will seek to discredit me – but in their over-zealous drive they have already discredited themselves.

Here’s a little lesson in journalism 101 – you two Georges – even when presented with what appears to be authentic documents, you need to cross- check sources and context before publishing. And it might be useful to seek the other side of the story too.

But when it comes to that point – I am not really mad. Never really thought you had the basics really.

PS: Now that I have wallowed with these pigs, forgive me for not fighting in my class. Please now permit me to leave discussing little people to talk about bigger ideas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

George Grant’s unfortunate broadside against MWAG

IN the last 24 hours, a media colleague of ours, showed where his allegiance lies as regards to any perceived threat to press freedom, and the ability of commentators (no matter what their point of view), to add their voices to national debate without seeming to be threatened by the most powerful person in the country.

In his self-appointed righteousness, George Grant demanded that the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG) withdraw its statement that condemned Prime Minister Tillman Thomas’ ill-advised and ill-tempered rant.

Left up to me, MWAG need not make a statement, for different reasons than George would argue.

In one infamous hour on George Grant’s show, Prime Minister Thomas did more damage to himself, than any commentary any of us could have written.

His rant said less of me, and a whole lot about himself – or at least his current mindset, made deviant and strangled by pressure and desperation, which is understandable from a person who leads a government that promised so much hope but instead delivered so much despair.

I could not be intimidated because for me this emperor has no clothes.

But MWAG said what it did because it was defending a principle that will always be bigger than me.

They were not defending what I said – for alas a group like this can’t have an opinion on that.

They were not declaring that I have some personal bias, or I am some upset out-of pocket commentator. –If that were true, it would negate my right to have an opinion – and a strong one at that -- in the land of my birth.

MWAG was defending my right to write what I did.

It is that principle that the likes of George Grant find it inconvenient now to defend because it involves one of his favorite sons.

I just wonder what his position would be if it was Keith Mitchell who said the same things, Tillman Thomas did on his show.

It is that which is frightening about this Grenada – that for too many people a supposedly sacred principle shifts based on the personalities involved.

George Grant rants about an “unsigned” statement as if to question its authenticity, which begs the question then why did he publish it.

He also said the statement was put out without the knowledge of the rank and file, as if he does not know that things like these are not brought to a general body, but the elected executive is mandated to so act.

That was no different from the many statements MWAG had issued during the reign of the Mitchell administration – a process up until now, George never questioned or had a problem with.

He implied that the statement did not have unanimous executive support, but he did not say that there was only just one hold out, which as I understand it, was what made the statement so late.

And by MWAG’s tradition, I am told, such statements are made once a simple majority of the executive agrees.

In this particular case, it was an overwhelming majority.

The only hold out came from an executive member who frankly should have excused himself from the discussion, since Prime Minister Thomas is his boss.

And it is people like these, using half-truths and innuendos (printing corporate proposals without the cover letter as if to make it look as my personal proposals), who will want to school some of us on integrity.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

'Then they came for me!'

Just a short very personal note on this Saturday (even while I am watching England murder Australia in cricket).

Some people have asked, how come the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG), has not issued a statement following the Prime Minister's tirade on the George Grant show last Sunday.

In defense of MWAG, 100% of its executive committee are my friends and colleagues; and 98% of them are genuinely concerned about issues of freedom of the press, and the a ability of media practitioners (journalists, commentators, talk show hosts etc) to be able to express their opinions -- whether we agree with them or not.

They understand that is a broader principle that is bigger than me or any one else.

I am satisfied that the right thing will be done eventually -- and I have been heartened and encouraged by MWAG's President Rawle Titus, who since Monday had made a strong and unequivocal statement in is own personal capacity on the TV news.

Left up to him and almost every other single member of its executive -- and every single member of the general body -- a statement would have already been issued.

I have the utmost faith that this aberration will be corrected.

We must understand this for what it is -- and this is not the time to ever be up in arms against MWAG, which is a worthy organisation that has served the community well; and which we must continue to support and encourage even when its inconvenient.

MWAG has done a lot of good work lately under the leadership of Titus, including organising a current series of training for practitioners.

But for the very few (fewer than the fingers on half of one hand), we must continue to remind them about the importance of solidarity based on principles.

And, it is in this context, I will like to quote Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group. (And to remind the few the danger of inactivity).

Niemoller once wrote:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak for me