By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Aug. 5, 2023)
“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.” — George Orwell.
You got to give it up to Kenton Chance for the dogged determination with which he goes about news gathering. Here’s a young man who started iWitness News as a class project while studying in Taiwan. He has turned it into the go-to source for news from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The journalist is a torch bearer rather than a flame thrower in many respects. He brings light to dark places. Frequently, those with things to hide go running for cover like cockroaches. And so, it seems with the Salt Pond beach story involving Huffle, Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves, Culture Minister Carlos James and PM Gonsalves himself.
They all claimed no knowledge of the actions that destroyed Huffle’s efforts at the beach. As it turns out, the matter was discussed at the highest level of state administration. The Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority (NPRBA) discussed the matter and wanted to take action. As it turns out, some of the corrective action may have been justified.
The only misstep by the state employees might have been acting a day earlier than the scheduled date for dismantling the structures Huffle erected. The critical point is that Camillo admitted that Huffle’s enterprising work started when no one else, including the government, did anything at the beach. The area was a “jungle”. As it turns out, for more than two years, promises were made to erect proper benches at the sight.
Within minutes of the news breaking with a video of the state workers destroying the creative efforts of Huffle, Camilo, James and PS Noel-McBarnett were on the scene. While Noel-McBarnett remained silent, Camillo and James played the role of pacifiers. Both men claimed they did not know who gave the order to dismantle the structures.
Camillo Gonsalves claimed that Huffle had permission to build the structures. The move to destroy them was “arbitrary, capricious and wrong”. Moreover, he promised that the government would compensate Huffle for his losses.
Chance’s comprehensive investigative piece, published last Wednesday, is definitive proof that the government officials were not being truthful in claiming that they did not know the pending action of the government move against Huffle’s. Chance cited dates and names in his piece, which offered definitive proof that officials at the highest levels of government knew of the “problem” and were planning to do something about it.
The problem for them was that the high-handed manner of the destruction was videotaped and brought to the public’s attention. The tape forced them to scurry into action and engage in damage control. They claimed ignorance and blamed the destructive action on out-of-control state employees.
The iWitness News exposé is essential for another vital reason. It reveals how dangerously disingenuous PM Gonsalves was when he claimed that the destruction of the Huffle’s structures may have been the work of “foreign operatives” who entered our country to take advantage of our problems and difficulties.
Add to this the disclosure last week that the government had a baseline budget of EC$522,000 to host a concert to mark CARICOM’s 50th anniversary on Emancipation Day. While the show, from all reports, was well-packaged and enjoyable, there is little evidence that those in attendance were educated about the history of CARICOM or the emancipation struggles.
These revelations point to the fact that more and more people are prepared to share information with the public that government officials would prefer to hide.
News is something that stirs emotions. We may laugh, cry or think. When we are moved to action, the journalist is doing his work. And so, I want to issue to Kenton Chance and iWitness News the Chatoyer award for journalistic courage.
Earth at boiling Point
“The air is unbreathable. The heat is unbearable. And the level of fossil fuel profits and climate inaction is unacceptable.” — Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General.
A blistering heatwave is sweeping the northern hemisphere, including parts of Europe and the Americas, with record-high temperatures triggering devastating wildfires in countries such as Canada, Greece, Italy, Algeria, Tunisia and other countries along the Mediterranean.
The Caribbean is not being spared. Over the last few weeks, temperatures have topped out above 32 degrees Celsius during the day and don’t fall by much at night. In North America, more than 170 million of the US population of 340 million were under heat emergency watch.
The poor and those who work outdoors bear the brunt of these problems because they do not have access to cooling devices. Increasingly, people are saying, “We can’t endure this.”
July was listed as the hottest month on record, and this year is on course to be the hottest since records are kept.
Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded for immediate radical action on climate change, saying that record-shattering temperatures show Earth has passed from a warming phase into an “era of global boiling”.
In New York, Guterres described the intense heat across the northern hemisphere as a “cruel summer … Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.”
In the face of “tragic” consequences, he repeated his call for swift and far-reaching action, again aiming at the fossil fuel sector.
“Leaders must lead,” Guturres said. “No more hesitancy. No more excuses. No more waiting for others to move first.”
Ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit he is set to host in September, Guterres called on developed countries to commit to achieving carbon neutrality as close to 2040 as possible and for emerging economies as close as possible to 2050.
The “destruction” unleashed by humanity “must not inspire despair, but action,” he said, warning that to prevent the worst outcomes, humanity “must turn a year of burning heat into a year of burning ambition”.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former senator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].