by Sandra CA Ferguson
“Diplomatic Nought” may be an appropriate description of a statement of 18 September 2019 issued by Sen. Simon Stiell on the incident involving independent journalist Calistra Farrier, Sen. Rev. Dr Winston Garraway (Minister of State in Sen. Stiell’s ministry) and Minister of Tourism, Hon. Clarice Modeste-Curwen, which occurred following the conclusion of a post-Cabinet briefing of 10 September.
I have taken note of the following in the statement and I am baffled (all emphases are my own):-
- “Government accepts responsibility for not adding clarity to this matter up until now, because our investigations revealed that what was stated in social media was not predicated on an actual occurrence. There is no doubt that there was a disagreement about perceived style and approach in the overall context of the situation at the time, but the investigation was clear that there was no altercation.”
- “It is important to note that the Senior Minister, from whom a response was being sought, proposed to accommodate the question in spite of the ongoing disagreement between the reporter and the Junior Minister. It is our hope that this further elucidates our position on media engagement. Government, as a whole, reaffirms its commitment to open and constant engagement with the media, and by extension, the general public.”
- This is the real crux of the matter. The Senior Minister AGREED with the journalist, PRIOR to the start of the post-Cabinet briefing, that she would accommodate the question.
- IF, according to Sen. Stiell’s statement “the Government, as a whole, reaffirms its commitment to open and constant engagement with the media…”, then how and why does a Junior Minister INSTRUCT a SENIOR Minister not to respond?
- Regrettably, Min. Stiell’s statement only confounds the situation and shows up the Junior Minister as UNQUALIFIED to hold the position of Minister of Information.
- It is reasonable to conclude that, apparently, Sen. Rev. Dr Garraway does not appreciate that there are boundaries to be observed between state and church and being a minister of Government and a minister of religion.
- The Incident of 10 September 2019
- The journalist approached Min. Modeste-Curwen, as was agreed, AFTER the post-Cabinet briefing had been concluded.
- Garraway INTERCEPTED and instructed the Senior Minister that she should not answer. The Senior Minister indicated that she was prepared to answer.
- Garraway PERSISTED and escorted the Senior Minister out of the room and, apparently, by standing in the doorway, PREVENTED the journalist from ACCESSING the Senior Minister.
We the people want answers to the following questions:
- Why did Sen. Garraway intercept and obstruct Farrier’s access to Min. Modeste-Curwen? Why did he instruct Min. Modester-Curwen not to respond to questions from Farrier?
- How did Farrier end up tumbling to the ground?
- Why, in audio recordings, is the Sen. Rev. Dr Garraway heard ABUSING the female journalist – calling her a LIAR and REBUKING spirits/demons? Was he seeking to HUMILIATE and INTIMIDATE her?
- And why is it that Senior Minister, Min. Modeste-Curwen, did not INTERVENE on behalf of the journalist whose question she had agreed to accommodate?
- Stiell’s statement also noted, “It is interesting to note, that to date, none of the traditional news channels in Grenada have reported what was put out on social media. Have we stopped to ask why, or have we simply rushed to judgment?”
- I, too, have taken note and have been wondering why. This is a very newsworthy incident. Just as newsworthy as the incident which occurred during the Carnival season when the media entourage accompanied the owner/operator of Mt. Pure to the office of the Chief Executive of Spice Mas Corporation. This incident, after all, involved one of “their own”. It is alleged that the media present were advised not to report on this incident. In fact, Farrier describes it thus, “The fact is the media houses, reporters and journalists, including me, were threatened with reprisals should they venture to report on the matter.”
- Does the media treat with incidents like these on the basis of principle or on the basis of personality? Or, has the media succumbed to intimidation in this environment described by Sen. Stiell’s statement – “…but we are always clear – freedom of the media, and the deepening of the rights of the people are of paramount importance”. The silence of major media houses on this incident has been exceeding LOUD.
- Advancing the Status of Women in Grenada:
Recently, UN officials at the highest level were in Grenada, promoting the UN Spotlight Initiative, a regional project of Euros 2 million, that Grenada is expected to play a leading role in implementing – advancing the status of women/promoting equality of women and advocating and taking action to eliminate violence against women. I attended a recent meeting where I heard one of the UN officials who:
- Noted that there is a culture of silence that has to be broken in dealing with the issue of violence against women;
- Urged organisations to speak out on behalf of the affected;
- Noted that violence was not limited to physical violence but included intimidation and humiliation;
Her words brought to mind the recent Calistra Farrier – Sen. Garraway – Min. Modeste incident and I could not help but think how well Grenada’s officialdom can portray a FARCE, enabled by the SILENCE of a supporting cast. Praise be to Jah that Calistra Farrier is an empowered woman who understands the POWER OF VOICE!!