Letters & Opinion

Never Too Big to Say I’m Sorry!

Image of Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

My eldest brother Stan died with an unblemished record of being employed as a driver with the colonial Public Works Department (PWD) for over 40 years: he never had to fix a flat tire.

Nobody ever believed when he made his gentle but confident claim, until he told them he drove “a roller”: a noisy and tireless heavy-duty vehicle used to flatten newly paved roads in the colonial era.

Like Stan, I can also confidently say I’ve never been prosecuted for professional misconduct in all of my 46 years as a journalist.

I’ve faced life-threatening episodes including possible execution — like when I was accosted by an armed police squad outside Victoria Hospital and ended-up in a scuffle with a sergeant pointing a pistol at me after having grabbed my camera and removed the roll of film containing photos I’d taken of an earlier police operation that day, in which an escaped prisoner willing to surrender was shot by another armed police squad less than a mile away.

Armed with my empty camera, I’d wrestled with the armed sergeant, bullets fired around us on the ground by the other officers, in the vicinity of Victoria’s then Emergency, Children’s and Maternity Wards.

The sergeant, also a police photographer, had seized my photos of the armed police operation in a crowded ghetto area where the wanted young man had taken refuge under a bed in a house he didn’t belong to.

The police sergeant/photographer and I were well-known to each other and while the story made the STAR newspaper’s front page with a legendary action shot by Rick Wayne, the whole matter ended-up in court with each of us filing a charge against the other relating to interference during execution of our duties.

That was more than 40 years ago…

Four decades later, after a long and proud career including receiving a national award (Saint Lucia Medal of Honour – GOLD) for my contributions to Journalism, Training and Organization of Media Workers in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean, it would seem (and I feel) I’ve again been targeted for execution, this time through (repeated) legal punishment by prescribed apology – all after having been apologized for before — and conceding that unlike my brother Stan, my vehicle is not tireless and I do have to fix flats along my career’s long and continuing route.

In my four-and-a-half decades reading, writing and reporting, commenting and expressing professional and editorial opinions, I’ve never taken a day off, or considered retirement, for that matter, as this is not just a job or a profession, but more of a lifelong vocation that puts telling truths ahead of all else, including when it’s bitter.

I’ve grown immune (almost impervious) to existing in a society where people who support political parties and vote in General Elections actually say they expect journalists and reporters who do the same to somehow become Politically Neutral and not say or write anything that supporters of one party might wish to interpret as being supportive of the other.

Take me: I’m the only member of my family publicly known to have supported only one party all my adult life; and I have never made enemies over party politics.

I went to school (from infant to primary to secondary) with men and women who work everywhere today, including leading members of both major parties, and have never discussed politics with them.

Same with Royal Saint Lucian police officers and High Court judges, King’s Counsels, Bar Association execs, as with heads of powerful local firms, regional and international bodies, priests and pontifical appointees.

No one has ever accused me of lying, or intentionally engaging in malicious reporting and even though my opinions might drive some up a proverbial gum tree; and until now, almost everyone has understood and accepted that even though I may have gotten facts and figures, labels and legal descriptions wrong, or mis-interpreted what the Law or Constitution might say, or someone might have said, it’s never been done with malice in mind.

Like with every profession, there will be those slip-ups that can open a journalist to possible legal prosecution if someone chooses to teach him/her a lesson (or two) about their interpretation of the need for journalists/reporters to always try to always be right and always fully correct about any and everything they write or talk about.

One cannot claim to always be able to always be right and I will be the first to admit sometimes sinning in that respect, but I do maintain (Honest-to-God) that my sins are neither venal, nor mortal — and cannot (or should not) be wilfully misinterpreted for a mill full of wrong reasons.

But then, one also fully accepts there will always be those willing to quote The Law and what it says about penalties for falling prey to being accused of rubbing them the wrong way – and that’s a fact of life, part of the cost of undertaking to tell the truth the best and most one can; and daring to fall victim to human failures while executing professional duties, reporting on politically-sensitive issues and/or expressing political opinions.

Having circumnavigated the globe in my professional life as a sailor and a writer, a trainer and organizer of my professional Kith and Kin at home and afar, who’s made this my lifelong vocation without ever thinking of putting my pen down or cease fingering my keyboard, or closing my eyes and ears out of ultimate professional regret, I will also admit that not even all of that is enough to make me immune from making a mistake now and then.

And that’s why, as A Man and a Fruit of Humankind, with thick blood running through my veins and equally thick skin on my back, I will be the first to admit that I’ve never (ever) thought that I’m too big to say I’m sorry.

Sorry, not me!

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