23 Nov 2008

Are liars liable?

In posting the following article, I want to point out two things:

  1. There is too much negative news for me to comment on everything, and I rarely see positive news worthy of commenting on.
  2. It is even more rare to see such a blunt article as this in the news, either print or television.

Hence the reason I think it is worthy enough to appear as a reprint on this blog.

GOVERNMENT Ministers tried to evade liability for last Tuesday’s flooding chaos in Port-of-Spain at an abruptly-ended media conference on Wednesday at the new Office of the Prime Minister at St Clair.

No one took blame for the cause of the flooding that had stranded thousands of commuters and had congested traffic.

None admitted to any shortfalls in the Government’s response to the chaos, but instead praised their own ministries and other State agencies.

Not only did the Government refuse to accept any responsibility for the floods and commuter chaos, but they escaped from replying when questions got tough by shutting down the news conference.

The Government abruptly shut down proceedings, without the usual courtesy of saying “we’ll take two more questions”, but instead drowned out Newsday’s reporter in mid- sentence, when the questions got tough.

Up to then most of the time was taken up by Ministers making grandiose, self-congratulatory speeches about their actions during the flooding — despite a low visibility of Government on the day — and answering few queries.

At the end of it all viewers did not know why the Government had not taken steps to prevent the floods, or to better alleviate the resulting chaos.

Newsday tried to ask Works Minister Colm Imbert why the floods had occurred. He gave a couple of replies after which Information Minister Neil Parsanlal suddenly jumped up to drown out the Newsday reporter in mid-sentence and end proceedings.

Further, that slap in the face for media-freedom came just after Imbert had apparently refused to accept any personal responsibility for the disaster.

Newsday had asked him if he should have done anything differently, and he dodged the question by saying a newspaper editorial writer had said he was not responsible for the weather, when in fact he should have given an account of his actions, or in the view of many, his obvious failings to cope with the rainfall.

Imbert claimed the flooding was not caused by any blocking of drains but by these drains being unable to discharge their water into the already-swollen Maraval and St Ann’s Rivers.

Newsday began to ask him the next obvious questions as to why hadn’t he expanded the capacity of the two rivers, when would he do so, and meanwhile what had happened to his long-promised evacuation plan for the capital.

Sadly, Newsday was cut short by Mr Parsanlal.

However, as Minister of Works and Transport, Imbert is Minister responsible for the drains, roads and buses, all of which failed in Tuesday’s chaos.

In a developed country, any Minister responsible for such physical devastation and human misery would have been fired.