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Media Monitor: Best reviews PNM government’s continuing “communication” challenges…

Meaning, every competent Communications person knows, is made at the receiving end; whatever the message you intend to send, there is no guarantee that that is the message that will be received by those in whose garden the despatched message happens to fall.

Whether or not it bears fruit at all as well as what fruit that will turn out to be, depends as much on the nature of the seed as on the soil on which it falls.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith.

Ask newly appointed Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, whose motor mouth is arguably one of the main reasons why his selection found favour with a Government more than likely to be only too happy to let someone else do the talking about crime, even if that involves an inherent risk that someone—not Mr Big!—will land in trouble before long.

Or ask the recently departed VS Naipaul, whose vast work won him kudos as the most quintessentially Trinidadian writer ever, as well as condemnation as the most neemakharam son of the soil to have won global acclaim.

Or ask William Shakespeare, new interpretations of whose massive oeuvre are still being produced just over four centuries after his death.

Or ask calypsonian Brother Marvin, whose artistic death arguably occurred shortly after his masterful “Jahaji Bhai” showed him to be neither UNC fish nor PNM foul.

Or ask the Express editorialist who on Wednesday dealt with various reactions to the deeply offensive skit performed during the PNM’s Sports and Family Day in Chaguanas on Sunday. Under the headline “Neither fun nor foolishness,” the writer cogently summed up the failure of the PNM’s Stuart Young, Rohan Sinanan and Fitzgerald Hinds to be “uncompromising in their rejection of any act or image that humiliates a woman, violates her person and mocks a culture.”

Photo: PNM gorillas disrobe a female UNC supporter during the infamous sari skit at the party’s 2018 Family Day.

Warning Young that “there is nothing either fun or funny about pulling off a woman’s clothes,” and going on immediately to address Prime Minister Keith Rowley directly, our editorialist adds that: “when an act evokes images of deep sensitivity to a religious community, it is not ‘foolishness’ to express hurt.”

“If none of these men of senior Cabinet rank understands the message communicated by the skit,” (s)he thunders, “then this nation is in more trouble than we think.”

The evidence abounds. And it is all there in the conventional media if you know where to look or if you have eyes to see.

“Don’t threaten me,” says, for instance, the headline in Monday’s Express.

Two things are surprising about that. The first is that the speaker is not some thug or community leader or pseudo-leader letting the world know how strong he perceives his hand to be. That would come later when TV6 interviews a Beetham resident about the incident in which Hinds, the Member of Parliament for Laventille West and the acting Attorney General, has flood water kicked onto him by some of his constituents. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, he opts to beat a hasty retreat and eventually to involve the law enforcement authorities.

I have heard the view expressed that the purpose of the police report was “so deh eh go look bad buh dem really fraid dem people in Beetham.”

Photo: Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds (centre) is chased out of Beetham Gardens by residents, during a walkabout in the aftermath of flooding on 14 August 2018.
(Copyright Enrique Assoon/TT Newsday)

Towards the end of the interview as it was shown on national television, the resident extends his hands towards the camera and speaks to the new Minister of National of Security.

“Look mih hand,” he taunts. “Arrest mih nah!”

But the ‘don’t threaten me’ response comes not from Young but from his Political Leader and Prime Minister. “Rowley responds to Roget,” announces the accompanying strap.

Surprise number two is that, although no there are no quotation marks to tell us so, the headline is not an interpretation or an extrapolation; the headline writer was not putting words into the mouth of the PM but capturing them at source.

Now, it has to be said that it is easy to lose your patience with Ancel Roget, OWTU president general and rabble-rouser par excellence. But if you are on a public platform, even if wearing not your prime ministerial but your hat as PNM Political Leader, is it politic to metaphorically descend into the gayelle and/or to use the rhetoric associated therewith?

My answer is an emphatic no. But in light of a campaign threat to exact revenge on she cyat “if she touch my dog” and sundry other subsequent pronouncements that more than suggest a certain level of prime ministerial jammettry, one has reason to believe that Dr Rowley’s response may well be different.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures on the election campaign trail.
(Courtesy Caribbean News Service)

Worthy of note is Roget’s provocative—and thought-provoking!—reaction to the ‘don’t threaten me’ threat. Unapologetically provocateur, Roget uses five epithets to describe the Prime Minister: “desperate,” “deceitful,” “ungrateful,” “lazy” and “a liar.”

Had he opted to borrow from others, the descriptors “arrogant” and “a Rottweiler”—which have publicly been used in relation to Dr Rowley—one might have said that Roget had dismissed the current PM as a D-U-L-L-A-R-D.

Interestingly, just under a decade ago, just after Dr Rowley’s high-profile removal from the Cabinet by former prime minister Patrick Manning, someone—not from the OWTU!—had privately described the fired minister as a S-H-E-L-L.

Wouldn’t it be something if Roget or someone else were to independently come up in public with the three new adjectives corresponding to the S-H-E part of the mnemonic?

What would that mean? I think I can say without fear of successful contradiction that it means this nation is in more trouble than we think.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright Andrea De Silva)

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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