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Is it just another case of Eustace babbling?

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by Dr. Richard A. B. Cox

Arhnim Eustace, Leader of the Opposition has in time past accused the media of bias against his party.

This indifference was again manifested at his recent press conference on the state of the economy. Nice Radio tried covering it but alas Murphy’s Law was at work and so I hopefully turned to NBC and WE-FM. It was extremely naïve; even foolish of me to assume that these radio stations dare contradict the ULP line that deems all of Eustace’s pronouncements gratis dictum and useless chatter. I suppose I simply refuse to accept that we still haven’t matured to the point where patriotism and application of reason determine our action as regards the country. {{more}}That power, private interest, fear and unquestioning acceptance of the government’s dictates take precedence over all, resulting in a “Kayba view” of everything, to borrow an expression from block lingo.

The fact is that from protecting our sovereignty to respect from the international community are intrinsically linked to our economic performance. We must move from our poorly camouflaged hand to mouth existence and build a solid economy, the key underpinning of a proud nationhood. And that’s why it’s crucial that any major statement on the economy by government or opposition be afforded full press coverage.

We should be all ears

Apart from this, commonsense demands that in a time when bananas are more groan than gold, when we are undertaking our largest capital project ever (our international airport), when oil prices are skyrocketing with a tremendous domino effect, when the national debt is constantly rising and we have a staggering import bill, when we are on the road to the CSME but there isn’t any real indication that the present government is capable of strategically placing the economy for takeoff in the medium or long term; and a host of other challenges including economic diversification; if the Leader of the Opposition, a trained economist to boot and with the latest IMF report in hand sits down to discuss our economic prospects, we should be all ears.

It’s irresponsible for NBC and WE-FM not to have given full coverage to this news conference. I agree with Ralph that the IMF does not and should never run SVG, but it can’t be ignored, hence his prompt reaction giving his government’s interpretation of the report. And guess what? The media was all receptive. Why such differential treatment? Is it that they believe his word represents all the facts, the absolute truth, and the only possible interpretation? Doesn’t the nation have a right to hear the views of the Opposition Leader, and isn’t it the duty of responsible media to facilitate our access to the same?

One might say WE-FM is a private station and could do as they please. Sorry, that station covers all the developments issues and must do so responsibly and holistically. I happily recall it was WE-FM that provided an avenue for the late Glenn Jackson and his shake-up and for the biting midday commentaries of the likes of yours truly, for it knew we had something to say and in my case was being denied by the print media but those were the days of an NDP administration.

NBC is mouthpiece for nation

Historically governments appointed their lackeys to manage NBC, providing them with hymn sheets from which no deviation is allowed especially with political issues. NBC, however, is the mouthpiece of and for the nation, not the government. Nice Radio and WE-FM could be party organs, not so NBC. This is a tool for national development. This is something the present general manager appreciated from her days as president of what is probably SVG best school of democracy, the NYC, where in any given year from the far left to the extreme right and from the religious to atheist sit on the executive (at least in my day) and work together for the good of the organisation and the nation. She learned a long time ago tolerance for opinions, which differ from and even contradict her own. She now has a chance to promote this nationally. So I call on her to liberate NBC, making it available to the NDP on occasions when serious public policy issues are being discussed thereby ensuring fulfilment of the mission for which it was first created.

I know these stations can say they couldn’t interrupt regular programming; never mind this is done for Ralph even when merely signing a medium-sized contract. Even if one accepts the programming argument, why not tape the conference and air it later? Sure, NBC can point to the snippets they carried in the news and the two lines they posted on the website. The fact is that that did not do justice to Eustace. On the contrary, he seemed to be intentionally disingenuous in saying: “The economy is in a mess” without providing an iota of proof to substantiate the same, and it was easy for one to conclude: “Oh yes; just another episode of babble-mouth Eustace using his tongue instead of his brains.”

It matters not whether one supports the NDP’s “something must trickle down to the poor” economic model (listen to Arhnim, Linton inter alios and you would see my point). The question is whether in the eyes of the press the view from “Rome” is the only legitimate and correct one and everything else is profanity, and whether major stations like WE-FM and NBC will connive to sentence all dissenting views to the dungeon of darkness. If so, then we are fanning the flames of elected dictatorship, and history abounds with examples as to where that leads, the Third Reich being the classic.

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