May 22, 2008 Peeping Tom
A retired judge wrote a letter which was published yesterday in this newspaper. In that letter the respected gentleman observed that he has formed an opinion, based on reports concerning local affairs, that we do not have journalists but cub reporters.
I understand the context in which the former judge made those comments. I understand how he is thinking. I too am deeply grieved about the quality of our journalism in this country, especially when I listen to some press conferences.
The falling standards may be due to the fact that there are too many press conferences and media briefings these days. In the past there just used to be a few and this allowed journalists to do their homework before attending.
There were some journalists who would keep politicians on their toes. This is why I am disappointed with Uncle Adam. I know he could do better when he attends these press conferences. I know he can probe and ask the more difficult questions. I know he is capable of exposing a lot more of what is taking place in this country. Do not underrate Adam Harris. He is one of the best there is but he needs to demonstrate the tenacity which was once his trademark.
I also miss Enrico Woolford. Now this is one guy who can be a thorn in any official’s side. This guy can ask the sort of questions that Dan Rather used to ask when he was in his prime; questions that ruffled defensive politicians.
These days, Enrico is not seen at too many press conferences. In his absence, local politicians are not being troubled too much by the ‘easy’ questions emanating from the media. We need Enrico and Adam back to their old form so that some of the nonsense said at the government’s recent press conference on the privatization of the Sanata Complex would not go unchallenged.
I cannot understand how the journalists present at the recent press conference hosted by the GOINVEST and the Privatization Unit did not dismiss some of the explanations given by the head table as to why and how Queens Atlantic Investments secured a ninety-nine year lease for the former Santa complex.
The government keeps up the rabble about there being no bids. Of course there were no bids. No one was interested in what was being offered, which was the resuscitation of the printing and dyeing factory. No one was interested in placing prints and colours on imported fabric, and therefore no one bid for this specific tender which was limited to the equipment and the buildings of the printing and dyeing factory.
If the government was subsequently interested in having the entire facility leased out, it ought to have in the interest of transparency gone out to tender again, this time for the entire facility. This point seems to be bypassing local journalists, so I will use an analogy to show what the government has done.
It is as if you put up your stove for sale but receive no bids. The next thing that happens is that someone is approached with an offer and your entire house, stove, fridge, wardrobe and everything else is put on the auction block. The government has admitted that Queens Atlantic Investments got more than was originally tendered for. What was originally tendered for was the equipment and buildings associated with the printing and dyeing factory. What was given out was the entire facility. How can this be a transparent deal?
Yet very few of our journalists seem to pressing Government officials on this very serious lapse. There must be an explanation as to why this happened.
The government cannot assume that no one was interested in the facility. And our journalists should not allow the government to insult their intelligence by repeating this claim. No one was interested in the resuscitation of the printing and dyeing factory. No one was interested in that. This, however, cannot mean that no one would have been interested in gaining use of the entire facility. The government made a mistake and somebody has to pay for this mistake because this is a “beef stake”.
The best way for any government to approach investors, the required way is through public invitations of tenders. This facility is not the personal property of any government official, which gives the administration the right to do with it as it pleases. The public interest must be taken into consideration and in this case there can be no justification for simply giving such a large facility to a hand-picked investor without going out to tender.
The PPP committed, when it took power, to a transparent policy of privatizations. It has disgraced itself with this latest deal.
(To be continued.)
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