AN exchange of words on Monday between Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee and reporter Miguel Fevrier of HTS News4orce highlighted once again the nature of journalism and how it can antagonize public officials.
It all began when Fevrier, at a pre-Cabinet press briefing, asked Fedee to clarify whether speculation that duty free concession on 97 vehicles for Sandals fell under the Tourism Incentive Act.
Fedee sought for proof of what Fevrier asked. However, Fevrier went on to say that Sandals had already denied it was entering the transportation sector and asked Fedee whether it was true that concessions were indeed considered for 97 vehicles as was being alleged.
The exchange between the two men went on for some time with Fevrier asking for a yes or no answer from Fedee, with the latter making it clear he would not respond to rumours. The back-and- forth ended when this reporter cut in, throwing Fevrier’s question at the Minister.
The Minister has since received the public backlash for his comments and called an emergency press conference on Tuesday shortly after Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre had his own press conference to address the Monday debacle.
He eventually answered Fevrier’s question, leaving in its wake another question: Why couldn’t he have done just that on Monday at the pre-Cabinet press briefing?
However, the reaction from the public, who took to social media and talk shows, revealed a perception that perhaps Fedee, being a former senior employee of the hotel chain, might be hiding something.
The exchange between the two men was unnecessary, in particular, the remarks from Fedee about the question being a joke and that it devalued Fevrier as a journalist. However, it showed Fedee as someone who has yet to come to grips with the position he holds and understand that verification of things pertaining to his tourism portfolio ultimately lies with him.
Reporters are in their right to ask any government minister to corroborate, authenticate or confirm anything that falls within his or her portfolio/s so as to determine whether what is so oft repeated is rumour or fact.
Fedee’s hastily-arranged press conference begs the question: Why? Why did he answer the question at that press conference if he felt on Monday that the question was not deserving of an answer?
Was he coerced by his Cabinet colleagues to hold that Tuesday afternoon press conference so as to shift public perception about government’s dealings with the Sandals hotel chain? Or was he truly remorseful about his conduct at the pre-Cabinet press briefing and decided, all by himself, to do the right thing and answer the question that he should have answered earlier?
Perception is a funny thing, as many politicians in this country know, as it could put you on a pedestal and tomorrow kick you off, again something certain politicians know all too well.
Fedee, this week, may be coming to terms with this acuity; this sensitive thing called perception, and may have decided that it would be in his best interest to be straightforward on the concessions given to Sandals.