The “fake news” that the Transport Security Administration of the United States had failed the security arrangements at Argyle International Airport (AIA) revealed a real weakness at the airport.
The information announced by Dwight “Bing” Joseph on Boom FM two weeks ago showed that AIA and the government were unable to respond in a timely manner to untoward reports about its operation.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told a press conference in Kingstown, on Monday, that he heard of the fake news in Qatar, where he was on an official trip.
The prime minister’s delegation also included his wife, Eloise Gonsalves, executive secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Angie Williams-Jackson, and Budget Director, Edmund Jackson.
Gonsalves said that Eloise told him that she had received a text message that Bing had said on the radio that the TSA had failed the airport.
The prime minister said that when he heard the report it was around 1 p.m. in Qatar, which is seven hours ahead of SVG.
Gonsalves said he called Director of Airports, Corsel Robertson, manager of AIA, Hadley Bourne, and Joseph.
“And as you would expect, my conversation with Bing was quite robust. He is my friend,” said Gonsalves, who refers to Joseph in calls to his radio programme as “Bing the Great”. The prime minister said he later called in on a programme hosted by Communication Consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister, Elson Crick, on which Sir Vincent Beache, a former national security minister also appeared.
“But I must tell you, when I spoke to Hadley, Hadley didn’t know that Bing had said this. And several hours would have elapsed because when it’s one o’clock here, it’s eight o’clock in Qatar in the evening.
“But he has people who are responsible for media and public relations out there,” Gonsalves said of Bourne.
“They should have known about that, told him and then there be a response immediately.”
Gonsalves was also displeased with the inaction of his own press secretary, Hans King.
“I told Hans, I said ‘Hans, between yourself and Elson here, Corsel should have been called. Well, Hans didn’t know about it. But the point is this. There has to be a machinery to respond to these things, and we do have the machinery; it just didn’t work. So, I had to call from Qatar and the first response of the government to that fake news was at 10 [minutes] to two, after Bing had spoken about that at eight o’clock.”
Gonsalves noted that almost six hours had elapsed before there was a response from his government.
“That is unacceptable; absolutely unacceptable. I am making all of these points so that they have to get their (AIA) media relations and public relations in order and here, at the Office of the Prime Minister, we have to be — if we don’t listen to Bing, we have to have somebody who listens to him.”
Gonsalves said his government must have persons monitoring talk radio.
“I mean, I wouldn’t have to have the job to listen to all of them,” he said, adding that there are many such programmes.
“All the people involved are very good people, but we have to make sure that we are on top of the game,” he said of the various communication personnel at AIA and the government.
“We are human beings, we will falter, but there is absolutely no reason why it should take five hours and 50 minutes for the government to rebut fake news. Absolutely not acceptable.”
There are at least two “marketing/PR assistants” at AIA.
Jennifer Richardson, a former journalist who was spokesperson for the state-owned International Airport Development Company — which built the airport — since its inception, was not offered a position at AIA when the airport began operating last month, almost 10 years after construction began.