“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
Everybody’s tripping over themselves commenting on the merits or demerits of the 2012-13 budget and other topical issues on the national agenda. These also include the disputed number of persons who signed the PNM-inspired petition (as challenged by the Housing Minister, Dr Roodal Moonilal) and reportedly delivered to the President.
Also the telling disclosure by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of a $5 million cheque from CLICO to the People’s National Movement for the 2010 general election campaign which has not been denied by the opposition party. Leading the charge against the PP administration’s fiscal package is of course the loyal opposition through its political and Opposition leader, Keith Rowley.
While I am tempted to deal today with the provisions of the budget and some of the issues being raised by Dr Rowley, I want to turn our attention to another matter which might appear to be an insignificant issue, but which is truly a meaningful development with respect to journalism in Trinidad and Tobago. Before going there I want to reiterate that I am no, was never, and never would be, moved by the apparent national hysteria whenever budget presentation is presented.
My main reason for being so lethargic is that I have never heard of anyone dropping dead as a result of the budgetary measures. If the price of alcohol or whatever is increased, we Trinis may momentarily cuss and very soon after head to our favourite watering hole and drink our buttocks away—of course in a safe and responsible manner especially in this era of the breathalyser.
So all those who want to be pulling their hairs out (especially my PNM pals) trying to demonise new Finance Minister Larry Howai’s first such exercise, go ahead and raise your pressure, but I am cool as what they say, pappy. But if you ask me what I think about the package, at a cursory look, on a scale of one to ten, I would rate it an eight. Ok my PNM friends, cuss all you want. I don’t care. The facts cannot be disputed and I shall deal with why I give it such a high rating in subsequent articles.
So let’s get to the issue at hand today. Last week Wednesday I was privileged to attend a two-in-one ceremony held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel: The launch of the very informative travelogue Touching the Trinity, written by award-winning Indian journalist and film critic Manoj Barpujari, and the announcement of the 2011 winner of the Hafeez Karamath Journalism Fellowship Award.
The programme is named after the late CEO of the construction company in his name and designed to uplift the standard of journalism in the country. I had the further pleasure of addressing the function, at which former Justice Minister Herbert Volney was a special guest in that he was the feature speaker when the award was first presented two years ago to Barpujari, who was a judge in the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival which ended Tuesday night.
It is truly a fantastic publication as Barpujari was able to succinctly capture so much of Trinidad and Tobago’s social, political and cultural scenarios. As I told the audience, I swore he was a true Trini, given how he so graphically describe the many genres of life in T&T in days gone by and present-day situations.
It is true that with the all-inclusive information technology basic information on just about anything under the sun can be unearthed, but the depths that Barpujari delved and the passion he has put into the publication makes it mandatory reading.
Although printed in India he chose Port-of-Spain to launch the book, a fact which was not lost on the company’s CEO Yashmid (Ellis) Karamath, who is determined to continue the legacy of his brother particularly in the journalism field.
The scholarship award, which was granted to Snela Hazarika Rampersad this year, offers local and international journalists an opportunity to expand their horizons through a competitive mode and which is open to all practitioners in the Fourth Estate. Mr Karamath expressed his support of a recommendation I made that the programme be expanded to include a special category for the best investigative reporter.
He is willing to meet with the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago to bring the suggestion to fruition and explained he has an abiding faith in the integrity of our journalists and every effort should be made to encourage us to fine-tune our craft. So I expect MATT to jump at this opportunity sooner rather than later to take up Mr Karamath on his offer.