I write in reference to an article published September 1, 2012, and entitled Rowley Defends PNM Independence Ceremony. In the article’s last sentence your reporter Andre Alexander wrote, “Shortly before midnight, as the Union Jack was lowered, supporters chanted “Come down, Jack (Warner), come down.” This part of Mr Alexander’s recounting is erroneous and a dangerous fabrication to print in a society that is as politically volatile as ours. I met Mr Alexander at the venue and stood next to him and several other journalists, several of whom I know and have worked with, from around 11.30 until the flag-raising ceremony began at midnight. At about ten minutes prior to the start of the ceremony the calypsonian who was performing onstage indicated to the crowd that they should head over to where the flagpoles were located for the flag-raising ceremony. The calypsonian, Skatie, then said, “We are going to lower the Union Jack and raise the red, white and black, not the red, white and Jack.”
That was the only time any comment that could be construed as being related to Mr Warner was made. During the actual flag-raising ceremony there was no chanting. The Union Jack was lowered to the sound of a bugle and the national flag was raised to a lone bugle as well. After our flag was raised there was bell-ringing, cheers, applause and then the anthem was sung. Again, I repeat, there was no chanting, as indicated by your reporter, who was mere feet away from me and the flagpoles. I took the opportunity to tape the flag-raising ceremony and can back up my statements.
In a country such as ours, where political tensions are high, it seems to me that responsible journalism plays a crucial role in helping our public to formulate balanced opinions and also to keep us democratic. When a paper such as yours chooses to misrepresent events in a manner such as this, I must comment. It is not a situation of the reporter misinterpreting events, but in fact an entire fabrication. Considering where I stood in relation to Mr Alexander and the flag, had there been chanting I would have heard and the videotape I made of the event would have picked up such. Since the chanting did not occur, one wonders why the reporter, or indeed the paper, would print such an account. In the interest of a correct and accurate account of the events, I do believe the Guardian should apologise to the event organisers and print a correct version of the events as they transpired.
Editor’s note: Andre Alexander was the photographer, not the reporter, for the ceremony. The story was by senior political reporter Richard Lord, who heard some of those present saying, “Come down, Jack, come down,” as the flag was lowered.
The T&T Guardian stands by the story.