No Cabinet Member is involved in corrupt practices
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – MINISTER of Infrastructure, Hon. Ian ‘Patches’ Liburd has offered an apology to media operatives, but maintains that some media houses in St. are corrupt.
The Minister was at the time at the Prime Minister’s Monthly Press Conference responding to Valentine ‘Val’ Thomas of Sugar City FM 90.3, who asked if there were any truth in Dr. Douglas’ allegation that he and Prime Minister Harris are corrupt and also if there were any truth or any information, or evidence why Minister Liburd said on his talk show that corruption exists in media houses in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Responding firstly to the latter question, Minister Liburd said, “I note with interest that I may have offended some journalists in the media. If I offended you, Val Thomas, I humbly apologise when I spoke to media corruption.”
Liburd then gave a definition of corruption, noting that it is defined as “the use of public office for private gain”, and he used it as his point of departure to cite two examples, which he claimed occurred in St. Kitts.
“The Prime Minister made mention of Dr. Denzil Douglas, and Dr. Denzil Douglas during his term in office constructed a house and got duty free concession under the Sunshine Legislation to the World Cup.
“He built a house and then rented that house to the Ambassador of the Republic of China on Taiwan at a cost of some US$10,000 per month for over 10 years.”
The other example he cited involved for Minister of Education Nigel Carty.
“I can cite another example, practical example. Nigel Carty, he, too, benefitted duty free concession under the said Legislation and he rented his house to Commissioner Walwyn. The first time ever any Commissioner in this country collected rent. So, he sat in Cabinet, approved the appointment of a Commissioner of Police and turn around [sic] rented his house to that Commissioner for $8,000 per month. You can do the calculation, and the Commissioner may want to say whether it was US or EC. I believe it was US! I stand to be corrected.
“So, these are two practical examples of corruption in this country. And I can state without fear of contradiction that I know of no member in this Cabinet, inclusive of myself, who have engaged in any act of corruption in this country.”
Turning to the question of media corruption, Minister Liburd said the entity is the messenger of and for the people and, in his view ought to play a critical role in making everyone aware of “what’s happening, where we are, how we are, what we are and who we are. And that is the role of the media”.
He spoke to the Four Estates of Democracy – the Legislative, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Media, noting that the Fourth Estate (the Media) was initiated should have oversight because the other Estates could not police themselves.
The Minister posited that standards in the media have been reduced to allegations and not fact-based information.
“I am somewhat concerned, and I am sure we all ought to be, that in the media we have seen the standards being reduced to allegations. That’s gossips the Prime Minister just alluded to. And this is what I call tabloid journalism; it’s is a style of journalism. In some areas they call it the rag news or rag newspapers. And I see this tabloid journalism creeping into the media here in St. Kitts. And headline news is about allegation! No one has sought to establish the facts, and allegations can’t be facts.”
To lend credence to his view on tabloid journalism, Liburd referred to a press conference hosted by Leader of the Opposition, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas.
“You speak to corruption. For example, just last week Dr. Douglas had a press conference and he spoke to the Minister of Public Infrastructure supplying concrete for Government and steel for Government for its projects, and no one in the media present challenged Dr. Douglas to provide the facts. If they wanted the facts, I believe they would have contacted or tele, for example, the Chairman of TDC, because St. Kitts Masonry Products are providing 9,000 cubic yards of concrete for the new cruise pier, they have provided 1,000 tons of steel for the new cruise pier.
“So, the proposition continued to be made by Douglas borders on defamation, libelous. And I say the media seem to be party to promoting these false statements.”
Ironically, however, though he is inflexibly wedded to the belief that corruption exists in the media. He has offered an apology.
“I apologise if I offended the media, because we have to, and on Straight Talk the Prime Minister say yes we bring you the facts, all the facts. And I want to say, again, that if the media is allowed to continue or journalists are allowed to continue to facilitate such falsehood, such fake news as we say, then you have to question those in the media who use their platform to facilitate this. And that I said, to me, is an abuse of privilege and such an abuse of office like any other, in my view, is journalistic corruption, and I apologise to the media, I apologise to the journalists, but I am a straight-talking factual Minister.”
The Minister of Infrastructure declared that nothing is wrong with a Minister of Government hosting a talk show programme, such as the one he hosts – on WINN FM – ‘Straight Talk’.
In closing, he once apologised to the local journalists and stated his position on good journalism.
“…So, I want to say to you, Mr. Val Thomas, if I offended you and those who I offended, I apologise. And I also want to say that good journalism is getting as close as humanly possible to the truth.”