Historian Jennifer Michael Hecht is perhaps one of the best demonstrations of the usefulness of history in counteracting erroneous beliefs about the world, past and present.
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Warner on Observer’s editorial: It’s practising stealth racism
Cockroach should not meddle in fowl business. So says United National Congress chairman Jack Warner in a statement on the controversial Jamaica Observer editorial, which accused the Government of practising “ethnic stocking” and corruption. Warner is counter-charging that the newspaper is practising “stealth racism” and said it clearly had a “hidden agenda.”
The editorial, reported in yesterday’s T&T Guardian, charged the People’s Partnership Government and Warner of “systematically practising ethnic stocking; rewarding individuals with positions even though they are not qualified, either by professional training or by pertinent transferable work experience.”
The editorial used T&T’s ranking on Transparency International’s Corruption Index (below average) to say there was a perception of widespread corruption. Ironically, Jamaica ranks 38 on the Index, lower than T&T, which ranks 39, meaning the perception of corruption in Jamaica is greater than T&T. In a release yesterday, Warner wanted to know from where the privately-run Observer got the authority to speak about “ethnic stocking.”
Warner said, for the record, from 1956 to 1966, of the 66 PNM government ministers appointed, only 18 were East Indians. He added; “If that is not ethnic stocking, then I refuse to understand what it is. “Where was the voice of Jamaica’s Observer when ethnic stocking in its most dominant form was practised by the People’s National Movement?
“Where was the Observer when Senator Devant Maharaj had to go to court in order not to be passed over for promotion at the National Lotteries Control Board? Was that not ethnic stocking?” Citing more instances of what he described as ethnic stocking by PNM administrations, Warner added: “Where was the Observer when Ganga Persad Bissoon’s appointment as commissioner of state lands was vetoed by then prime minister Patrick Manning?
“Where was the Observer when the Hindu Maha Sabha was denied a national voice for over a decade, was forced to seek justice right up to the Privy Council and still received resistance by the PNM government? “For more than 30 years, not a Hindu was appointed or elected as a member of government by the PNM and yet the Observer dares speak about ethnic stocking?”
Warner said it was pathetically disappointing that the Observer has chosen to publish “this poorly researched and error-riddled piece of writing as the paper’s official opinion.” He called on the Observer to salvage its integrity and reveal the author of the editorial, saying it raised questions of fairness and honesty in journalism and he was bemused as to why a newspaper with such a strong Caribbean tradition would stoop so low.
Efforts to get the Observer’s editor-in-chief Desmond Allen to shed light on why the article was written, on what facts was it based and if that was a common view of T&T in Jamaica, were unsuccessful. Allen’s secretary said he was not doing any interviews. The T&T Guardian spoke to senior Observer editor Arlene Martin, who said she could not comment either.
“I am his junior,” she noted. Asked if it was an editorial, which is supposed to reflect the views of the newspaper, she said: “It was an opinion piece. All opinion pieces are on the same section.” And did Jamaicans have a negative view of Trinis?
“My best friends are from Trinidad. But I can’t speak for everybody,” Martin said.
Told there seemed to be a big silence on the part of the Observer on the editorial, Martin said: “Yes.” T&T’s High Commissioner in Jamaica, the Rev Dr Iva Gloudon, also had little to say. “Let me respectfully say that, in my experience, there are times when shouting across the Caribbean Sea does not help a cause,” Gloudon said, when asked to comment.
Jamaica’s High Commissioner to T&T Sharon Saunders also declined an interview. “It is not appropriate to make a comment on an editorial in a privately-run newspaper,” Saunders said through her secretary.