BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – FOLLOWING numerous phone calls and letters to the Editor, within which the senders have collectively accused the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS) of being selective in its reportage of activities surrounding Government Ministers, this writer decided to launch an investigation into the allegation and to chronicle his findings, analysis and recommendations.
The role of the St. Kitts-Nevis Information Service is to provide timely and relevant information in a highly efficient manner to the general public regarding the policies, programmes and activities of the Government, adopted in the process of national development.
No one can positively say that employees of this Government entity, who are all members of the Public Service, do not provide the general public with timely information on a regular basis.
However, as highlighted by the callers/letter writers and confirmed through research, it was observed that recent information sent by the SKNIS for public consumption, via emails to media houses, rarely reflected programmes and activities of all the Government Ministers and their respective Ministries but were centered on the Federation’s Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Sylvester Harris.
Although the Prime Minister has a Press Secretary who regularly provides information on almost everything he says and does, including all local and overseas visits, these are replicated by the SKNIS.
Evidence of these facts lie in the emails received from the SKNIS over the past two months – August and September 2016.
Within those months, SKNVibes had received and published 184 emails;
40 or 21.7% of which were about the Prime Minister
19 or 10.3% were about the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, the Hon. Shawn Richards, and
14 or 7.6% were about the Minister of Health et al, the Hon. Eugene Hamilton
7 or 3.8% were about Minister Ian ‘Patches’ Liburd
6 or 3.26% about Minister Lindsay Grant
6 Senator Wendy Phipps
5 or 2.7% were about Foreign Affairs Minister Mark Brantley
3 or 1.6% were about Attorney-General Vincent Byron Jr.
2 or 1.08% were about Nevis’ Premier and Federal Minister of Labour Hon. Vance Amory.
Additionally, one (0.54%) email each was about Prime Minister Harris/Byron, Hamilton/Phipps, and Richards/Grant. The other 79 emails included statements made by Larry Quinlan, the Keynote Speaker at the Prime Minister’s Independence Lecture Series; SKNDF’s Public Affairs Officer Captain Kayode Sutton; and President of the St. Kitts-Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Jose Rosa. Nothing much was about the various Government Ministries.
From the above statistics, the Prime Minister was featured 21 times more than the Minister closest to him in numbers and 38 more than the one farthest from him. Therefore, one may ask: “Is the Prime Minister taking total control of the Government’s media outlets?”
This may be a fact, but it also can be disputed!
Apart from the belief in some quarters that the Prime Minister hugs the Government’s communication network and regularly engages in bloviation, it can be disputed if one takes into consideration that he might be very passionate in moving the country forward. And from this perspective, he amplifies his calling and even that of communication under his purview while the other Ministers are not stepping up to the plate.
However, on the other hand, the other Ministers may be arduously working towards set goals, including those of their Ministries, constituencies and the country as a whole, but the SKNIS might not have seen it prudent to sensitise the public on all the positives for some reason or the other.
Is it that the SKNIS is short staffed, or the employees stick rigidly to the working hours mandated by the Civil Service Act?
The research has led this writer to conclude that no one is stopping the other Ministers from generating and disseminating positive information to the public. It also revealed that the general public is not interested in quantity; they are interested in qualitative announcements in Public Relations and not Public Relations just for the sake of maintaining information flow.
The general public is looking for balance and qualitative news that is centered on Nation Building.
In an effort to eradicate the perception of those letter writers and callers to the Editor, as well as to keep all citizens and residents informed about the policies, programmes and activities of the Government in its quest to take the Federation in a positive direction, this writer is suggesting the following recommendations with a view of having them implemented, if taken in good faith:
1. Every Minister should have his/her own press mechanism in place for dissemination of qualitative Public Relations;
2. The SKNIS must be engaged in doing more quality works of moving the Government forward by disseminating news about actual accomplishments and less about promises and suave;
3. Every Minister who worth his/her salt should at least once weekly disseminated information, via the SKNIS, about what they did and intend to do for their respective constituency. Such information must also be about the country;
4. Each member of staff at the SKNIS should be assigned to a Government Ministry in order to have first-hand information for public consumption; and
5. If the staff is inadequate, immediate steps must be taken to have a capable individual at every Ministry to provide the SKNIS with relevant, accurate and timely information.
The Team Unity Administration had promised a “Fresh Start”, and its employment would be through good governance. Therefore, from this backdrop, this writer would like to remind the authorities that good governance includes listening to the views of the people and be responsive by addressing their concerns; for it is the same people upon whom they would depend to remain in office for a second term and more.