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ALBERT BRANDFORD: Unbelievable ministerial arrogance

ALBERT BRANDFORD, [email protected]

ALBERT BRANDFORD: Unbelievable ministerial arrogance

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If you can’t reveal the name of your source, I can’t speak to you. I don’t chase ghosts. – Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe, quoted in BARBADOS TODAY, April 10.

JUST WHEN YOU thought the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was beginning to dot its “i”s and cross its “t”s as it prepares for the general election, up pops a senior member of the Government with a display of arrogance that is as potentially self-destructive as it is revealing.

But those of us who were looking only at the party’s just launched FACTS initiative and counting down the days to the start of the several much hyped hospitality and accommodation projects, which Government wants to parade before the electorate in its election campaign, would have been sorely disappointed.

There is, of course, never a good time for a politician, particularly one whose party is seeking re-election, to demonstrate such hubris that would turn off even the most perfervid supporter.

Yet, the reading public was unfortunately treated to such an ill-timed performance by Minister of the Environment Dr. Denis Lowe when asked by a reporter to respond to a widely (and perhaps wildly?) circulated rumour that the National Conservation Commission (NCC), which is part of his ministerial remit, had recently hired 170 people – subsequently denied by the general manage.

The rumour surfaced among other reports, some reaching the trade unions, that Government had recently rehired about 2 500 of the near 3000 severed as part of the austerity measures.

According to the rumour mill, the contention was that not one of those allegedly hired was part of the NCC 200 retrenched in April 2014, as Government sought to cut its high operating costs, and if true would have been in breach of an agreement that people in that group would be given preference in any future hiring.

The online newspaper cited at the top of this piece, reported that Lowe strongly denied having any information about NCC hirings, saying he was not familiar with, or controlled, the commission’s day-to-day operations and was therefore unable to confirm or deny the claim.

“Why would you think that you could call me and find out from me if I know whether or not 170 persons were hired at the NCC? You need to look at what is, and what is not, policy, and the Minister would not have knowledge relative to the day-to-day operations of the National Conservation Commission. Why would I have that information?”

Now, it is beyond me how anyone can construe as micro-management the media simply seeking information on hiring at a state agency which falls under the control of a particular Minister. But the Minister has to demonstrate that he is in charge of the ministry, even if only to the extent that he diligently ensures his policy directions are implemented.

Not for one minute do I believe the other half of the salacious rumour, however, that the preponderance of staff allegedly hired at the NCC have addresses within the Minister’s Christ Church East constituency. These things simply do not happen in the Barbados I know so well and love.

But here’s the astonishing, unbelievable arrogance of the Minister: “If you can’t reveal the name of your source, I can’t speak to you. I don’t chase ghosts.”

As far as I know, the Minister has never pursued a journalism career and the profession profusely thanks him for that. Had he done so, however, he would have learnt that one of its cardinal rules is to never reveal sources. Journalists have gone to jail in other jurisdictions for adhering.

Such mind-blowing arrogance, of course, is not a trait exclusive to this ruling party, as I witnessed some of it during the 14-year run of the Barbados Labour Party under Owen Arthur.

The arrogance disease seems to be catching among the Dems as I had an experience recently with another senior member who also wanted to know the source of my information in an article published by this newspaper.

The idiocy started when he called me by my first name, but introduced himself: “Albert, this is Minister So-and-So.” I was taken aback because there are two persons rejoicing in that appellation, neither of whom I would have believed was capable of that approach.

But then he compounded the foolishness by asking for my source.

Government Ministers must stop seeing reporters as some kind of rebarbative element in the Fourth Estate of the realm and more as partners in the development process.

Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email: [email protected]