Kaieteur News’ editorial of September 12 did not surprise me. I expected it. Also, the coverage of the accident by Kaieteur News was similar to that of SN in that it smacks of elements of disinformation, misinformation and yellow journalism.
Kaieteur News was the first to carry coverage of the accident. It was given prominence on the front page. Essentially it was based on the story by Mr. July, the pillion rider of the motorcycle who was hospitalised. The following day, through attorney-at-law, Anil Nandlall, I sent a letter to the Kaieteur News. The letter was accompanied by my written statement to the police. The letter was not carried in the next issue of the paper. The explanation given to Mr. Nandlall was that the story was mis-placed. The following day, Kaieteur News repeated its earlier story, barely mentioned my letter, and buried that story somewhere in the inside columns. That is the way a minister’s response to serious allegations is handled.
Kaieteur News then dropped the matter and as expected, SN continued and ended with an editorial basically saying the same thing.
On this matter I wish to make the following points:
1. Contrary to what the papers stated, I was not involved in an accident in neither Lusignan nor Annandale. The accident took place on the bridge at Liliendaal, which at the time was under repair and only the southern lane was opened. The northern side was cordoned off with large signs urging road users to be cautious. The street lights were on so visibility was excellent.
2. Contrary to reports and what Mr. July said, I did not drive away. After my vehicle was hit, I immediately stopped my vehicle, which, due to the state of the bridge, was moving at a snail’s pace. Almost immediately, persons who had gathered, assisted in placing the injured Mr. July onto the back seat of my vehicle after which he was taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital. At about the same time, the driver of another car kindly rendered assistance to the driver of the motorcycle. Mr, July ought to be ashamed of himself for saying I had my lights off, hit the cycle in a dark spot and then drove away.
I have not seen the statement made by the driver of the motorcycle, but in my presence and that of the investigating officer at the Sparendaam Police Station, the driver stated that the brightness of the front lights of my vehicle contributed to the accident.
3. Mr. July sustained injuries to his leg not as a result of hitting my vehicle or my vehicle hitting him. He sustained injuries as a result of the motorcycle colliding with the metal rails of the bridge. The only time he came into contact with my vehicle was when he was placed in the back seat.
4. The Commissioner of Police made some comments on the matter to the media. SN’s headline stated that the COP was defending the Minister. The Commissioner was not defending me. That is a matter for me. The COP, quite rightly so, was defending the Police Force which was being accused of not doing its duty.
5. The driver of the motorcycle, three police ranks and myself, visited the scene of the accident. The driver and I agreed on the spot where the accident took place. At that same spot, pieces of the motorcycle were very visible on the bridge. The spot where the police made a mark was about eight feet from the eastern end of the bridge. I was travelling east and the motorcycle was heading west, towards the city. Given the length of the bridge, it was clear that I had practically cleared the bridge. And given the fact that only one lane was available to roads users, and given the fact that I was driving a fairly large vehicle, there was insufficient space (about two feet) left for the motorcycle to pass me going in the opposite direction.
At the end of the day, this is not about who is wrong and who is right. Accidents do happen and the police will have to do their work to establish the facts. And it is not about my side or Mr. July’s side. It’s about trying to get at the Minister, the Police Force and the Government. In yellow journalism, the first rule is not to allow the facts to get into your way. What is important is the agenda. Place a one-sided story in the media, give it prominence, allow a few letters, embellish the story every now and then with comments from fringe elements like the WPA, round it off with an editorial and presto, the one-sided story becomes the truth.
And whatever I say, or the police or any government official say, will never matter. The lie will be repeated over and over again as the truth. It happens all the time.
Minister of Local Government
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