Permit me to respond to the article “Government Minister tipped off Ish” by Denyse Renne published in the Sunday Guardian and several letters to the editor which take a similar line (the last being “How did Ish, Steve get info?” published in the Express of October 12). For the record, Ms Renne interviewed me at length in connection with another story on Saturday pertaining to national security—which also contains several inaccuracies—but did not take the opportunity to ask any questions about this particular story.
Last week, after I delivered the feature address at ASJA Girls graduation ceremony, I was asked if I would speak to the media. Always happy to see the media outside of Port-of-Spain and not wanting to appear as if I was avoiding them, I happily obliged. I was told that Independent Senator Corinne Baptiste-McKnight had expressed grave concerns about the fact that Ish and Steve were able to gain prior knowledge about the proclamation of the controversial Section 34 as evidenced by the fact that they were able to file their Section 34 applications before the legal notice was published. I am correctly quoted as saying “the gazetting is not the only way that someone can become aware of it...I can’t speculate at all as to how they would come to know about it. I don’t even know if what has been said by (Baptiste-Mc Knight) is in fact correct.”
I was disturbed by the dark insinuation—that these particular defendants had ‘insider information’ about the early proclamation of Section 34 which they exploited to their benefit. I was able to view Senator Mc Knight’s contribution at the UWI on You Tube thanks to CNC 3 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6eR7UAlKbhk
) and this is what she said, “I went down to the Gazette office to get a copy of the legal notice concerning this proclamation. The legal notice is dated September 10th. How come some people know to go before the judge and put in application before the legal notice was published?”
Senator Mc Knight’s contribution was greeted with loud applause and widely reported in the media. Unfortunately, the learned Senator got her facts wrong and hence posed a dangerous rhetorical question pregnant with conspirational implications. No one in the media bothered to verify if what she said was in fact correct. I did not plan to comment further on this matter because we all make mistakes and I felt my senatorial colleague was probably caught up in the heat of the debate and had perhaps made an honest error.
I am, however, compelled to clear the air in the face of the clear insinuation by that I could be among those who might have ‘leaked’ this secret information to these businessmen. Legal Notice No 348 which dealt with the proclamation of Section 34 was in fact published on August 30, 2012 (not, as Senator Mc Knight asserted, on September 10). The applications by Galbaransingh and Ferguson were filed on September 10. It is therefore patently false and untrue to suggest that they were able to file their applications before the legal notice was published. Once published, this legal notice is available to anyone by a simple trip to the government printer (as evidenced by the Senator’s testimony of her own trip).
The proclamation was therefore public knowledge since August 30. One may well ask however, how is it that these defendants knew to even go to the printer to request copies? The answer may well lie in the fact that it was well-publicised by the media (see, for example, the front page story of the Express on September 1, “President Moves to end preliminary enquiries”). I have no doubt that Senator Mc Knight was not deliberately misleading her audience but made an honest error.
I did in fact e-mail a copy of this legal notice to one of the reporters after the ASJA interview to highlight the erroneous assumption made by the media and Senator Mc Knight, but alas the truth was buried by hype beyond recognition on the news. Within recent times, I have had cause to respond to a number of inaccurate statements made in the media. I am grateful for the publication of my views so that the necessary clarification can be given but I am concerned about the ease with which such false statements can be repeated without any verification until it overwhelms the truth.