‘Stupid questions deserve stupid answers!’
That’s how a very seasoned journalist responded to my inquiry as to his take on the Prime Minister’s denial that he had requested the resignation of a Cabinet Minister.
The Star newspaper’s headline last Saturday, April 6, 2019, announced ‘He’s Out!’ and started making the social media rounds from the night before.
The headline for the accompanying story on Page 3, authored by Rick Wayne, was: ‘With little choice, Ubaldus Raymond bows out of government!’
Interestingly, some media houses latched onto the story downloaded from the newspaper, quoted it extensively, but without acknowledging or attributing the source.
The story of the minister’s departure made the rounds over the weekend just as fast as the telephone recordings attributed to him, in which, for a second time, he is accused of engaging in telephone conversations that went beyond the norms associated with ministerial behaviour.
The focus of the coverage seemed to be more about whether the minister, who was also a senator, had voluntarily resigned or been asked to, while the public debate was more in the direction of whether he should have paid a public price for the way he chooses to live his private life or whether there are other ‘bigger fish to fry’.
Nearly all his fellow ministers – men and women — have kept their lips sealed (at least publicly) on the matter: the only lady minister to speak begged not to be asked any related questions; and the only minister to say something said the balls were in the accused minister’s and the prime minister’s courts.
Initially, when asked about the issue, the PM said he had no comment, but when further pressed he issued the denial (that he had asked the minister to resign).
The House of Assembly and the Senate met in joint session Tuesday for the Governor General’s Throne Speech and there were several absences: Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in both the Upper and Lower Houses stayed away from the chamber during the Head of State’s presentation.
But there was also another absence, this time on the government side of the Senate: the same minister whose resignation the prime minister was reported to have received.
The senator’s absence from the Upper House seemed to have slipped most of the reporters covering the parliament, as, following the Throne Speech and the rest of Tuesday’s session, coverage was centred more on the prime minister’s denial than anything else.
No media house made the point that this is the second resignation from the current government in two years, most instead stressing that this was the second time the senator/minister had found himself in the same basin of hot water.
Some recalled he had last year taken legal action against two young ladies he had accused of trying to extort money for very compromising photos they had of him.
The naked photographs were indeed circulated on social media and police investigations allegedly led to the arrest of the two young women — who were initially charged, but which charges were suddenly dropped after the two young women were exposed.
In the second incident, apart from all the salacious statements about durability in bed and related pillow-talk, the voice attributed to the Public Service Minister also made disparaging remarks about public servants being ‘lazy’.
There have also been comments on social media by Saint Lucians suggesting that the recordings may have been done by ‘the police’ and could have been circulated by ‘the minister’s enemies within’ his own political camp who were not prepared to accept that he didn’t seem to even believe in the age-old saying ‘Once bitten, twice shy.’
But again, as with everything else that’s yet to be proven, much of what’s been written since the story first broke, has been based more on speculation than investigation.
No reporter thought of following-up the prime minister’s supposedly surprising denial with the question: ‘Well, Mr PM, if you didn’t, then who did?’
Was the PM saying no one requested the minister’s resignation, or that he was not the one who requested it, or that no resignation had been requested at all?
But instead of looking beyond the fact that a resignation had indeed taken place and asking ‘What Next?’, most reporters seemed satisfied with limiting their later reports to the proverbial lame ‘Cock-and-Bull’ items — like whether the minister ‘jumped’ or was ‘pushed’ (as if that really matters).
Like I always say, even the best journalists can and do make silly mistakes, even though rarely. But that does not justify some of what is presented as news coverage of this and other issues that require much more probing to get the usual other half that’s not been or being told.
The big story here is a small and simple question: Is the minister in or out?
The rest being served is mere saucy and salter salacious stuff that everyone else – but the reporters — already seems to think they know everything about!