KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar. 1, IWN – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has written to the BBC Trust saying he has “full answers” to questions in a letter he received on Tuesday but must first verify that it is genuine.
I-Witness News understands that Matthew Chapman, producer of the BBC programme to be made about Harlequin Property, owners of Buccament Bay Resort, has followed up on his promise to write to Gonsalves.
I-Witness News further understands that Chapman wrote to Gonsalves on Tuesday and asked him nine questions related to the programme.
Chapman had told I-Witness News on Tuesday that he would have been writing to Gonsalves.
But Gonsalves, in a letter he wrote yesterday to Lord Chris Patten, chair of the BBC Trust, said he was concerned about the authenticity of a letter he received by email on Tuesday.
“Please cause to be confirmed whether or not a letter to me dated February 26, 2013, purportedly from Matthew Chapman, a producer on the BBC’s Panorama programme, is in fact genuine,” Gonsalves said in his letter to Patten.
Gonsalves further said his “first problem” was that the letter was unsigned.
He further wrote: “Secondly, although it is headlined in bold capital letter ‘STRICTLY PRIVATE AND CONTINENTAL’, I have seen a news item on a blog, I-Witness News emanating out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, dated February 26, 2013, reporting Matthew Chapman as saying: ‘We will very shortly be sending a private letter to Mr. Gonsalves about our programme and it will be up to him to decide whether he wishes to share its’ contents with the nation’.
“Do I take it therefore that it is open for me to breach the ‘strict’ privacy and confidentiality of the unsigned letter purportedly sent by Mr. Chapman,” Gonsalves further said in his letter to Patten, to which he attached a copy of the I-Witness News story in which Chapman’s comments are reported.
Gonsalves further said that in the I-Witness News item, Chapman “went out of his way to belittle me”.
“Is that the way BBC journalists and/or producers behave these days? Can the public have confidence that their reportage or production be fair and balanced particularly since their unseemly vanities seemingly prompt them to become the centre-piece of their journalism rather than the real subject matter itself?
“This ‘star boy’ journalism of much of American media sadly appears to have infected sound, factual, unvarnished journalism of the British type so admirably pioneered historically by the BBC,” Gonsalves further said in the letter in which he also enclosed a commentary by “the doyen of Caribbean journalist, Mr. Ricky Singh”.
Gonsalves asked that Patten “advise me accordingly”.
He further added that he is “anxious to assist further” but must first “be assured of the authenticity of the aforesaid letter and be provided with a clarification on the issue of ‘strict’ privacy and confidentiality of the purported chapman letter.
“I assure you I have full answers to the questions posed by the purported letter which will surely allay the concerned of any probing journalist of reasonable temper, and which will be happily supply once the above assurances and clarification are given.”
I-Witness News on Tuesday asked Chapman for a response to a comment by Gonsalves — who is also Minister of National Security — that BBC journalists Matthew Hill and Paul Kenyon had broken the law by making a false declaration on their immigration forms when they visited this country in February.
Chapman said that while Gonsalves wants to be treated like his British counterparts, they would not behave as he did at a press conference on Monday, when he briefly displayed what he said were the immigration forms.
Gonsalves, speaking on a radio programme Tuesday night, said Kenyon was “totally out of place”.
The Prime Minister’s letter yesterday is part of an on-going saga that began with his encounter with Hill and Kenyon on board a landed airplane in Barbados on Feb. 17.
Gonsalves said the journalists were “rude” and “accosted” when they asked him about an allegation that British investor Dave Ames had gone to his office with a bag of money and left without it.