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Fake news and trial by public

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fake news’ is a label popularised internationally by Donald Trump, president of the United States of America. It is often used to describe news that is fabricated by the media or such person reporting the news.

However, in Trinidad and Tobago you have fake news spreading like wild fires because some politicians chose to relay messages less than truthful to the media and the general public.

Recently, United States president Donald Trump has been caught ‘retweeting’ false videos purportedly of Muslims involved in acts of terrorism. In response to criticisms over the false videos, White House Press Secretary, Sarah Saunders said it did not matter if the videos were real, what mattered was the fact that the threat was real.

This reminded me of none other than our own Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and the email scandal. Al-Rawi, who was then in Opposition, supported Dr Rowley, the then Opposition Leader, in bringing emails before the Parliament which pointed inter alia to a plot of the then PP Government to kill a journalist. When questioned about the apparent falsity of the email addresses, AG Al Rawi said that it did not matter if the emails were true or false, what mattered was the threat in the emails.

The country has since been fed an overwhelming and unsubstantiated amount of material/statements by the governing hierarchy concerning email gate. According to comedian Hasan Minhaj, this strategy of using fake videos to spread information which politicians want to manipulate is the ultimate jedi mind trick. So what can we expect next?

Minister Stuart Young and some of his colleagues have been trumping up allegations over a contractors’ cartel involved in bid-rigging etc. by contractors who received contracts under the former PP Government.

Minister Young who has publicly been likened to ‘vetting’ for being in everything, embarked upon a trial by public, of matters which are before the Courts (EMBD –v- Contractors).

At a recently held press conference, Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj spoke about the downfall of this kind of conduct and the fact that the law does not encourage trial by public. Minister Young must have known this since he is an attorney at law himself.

It seems that this ‘trial by public’ was calculated to trump up unsubstantiated (whether in fact or law) allegations in the public domain. But the public has already seen behind this masked conduct since one member of the alleged Cartel (Kallco) which Young and the PP Government had issues with, was recently awarded a 400 million dollar contract to construct an ill prioritised highway out of Manzanilla.

Kallco previously held the contract to reconstruct the Maracas Beach Resort but Minister Young previously said that the Government had decided to terminate that contract as TT$20 million (paid under the contract) was too large a mobilisation fee and there was not sufficient progress in construction at the Maracas facility.

Lo and behold, the same Government now oversees a contract worth over some $400 million to the said contractor which it claims is a member of a Cartel involved in bid rigging etc. according to Young. It is not too remote for a reasonable person to think that all of this huff and puff by this minister is a desperate attempt simply aimed at bringing charges at the former Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal who is also named in the cartel proceedings (EMBD –v- Contractors).

Perhaps the biggest ‘fake news’ are claims by Minister Young and AG Al-Rawi that despite more than 16 murders in less than four days, the Government ‘is in control!’ Why did the Minister of National Security not seek to allay the citizens’ concerns and anxiety over this spike in murders? Why are these preposterous statements coming from these two Ministers instead of the line Minister with ultimate responsibility?

Why did Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, as Head of the National Security Council not address the Nation on this state of chaos?

Some might conclude that this type of conduct is all part of a public relations strategy grounded on ‘fake news?’


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