Speaking at a People’s National Movement (PNM) constituency meeting last Saturday, party leader Keith Rowley took on the role of style critic for the Express.
“The editorial reflects measured policy of the owners of the newspaper,” he said. “So when I see, in the editorial, columnist language and jargon describing one of our more effective politicians as a motor-mouth...I took issue with it.”
What Dr Rowley conveniently failed to mention to his partisan audience was that he grossly misrepresented the facts in “taking issue” with our editorial. In a previous attack on consulting editor Lennox Grant, the PNM leader had said Mr Grant had once contested an election against the PNM and lost and was therefore biased.
In correcting this and other factual errors propagated by Dr Rowley, Mr Grant specified that he had been an editor for the Tapia newspaper. Yet, in criticising both Express and Guardian last Saturday, Dr Rowley compounded his original errors by saying Mr Grant admitted to being the general secretary of Tapia.
Having launched this attack on the media, Dr Rowley hastened to say that it was the PNM which put in freedom of the press as a constitutional right. History, however, records that that initiative was taken by Lionel Seukeran, Tajmool Hosein and Rudranath Capildeo in the Marlborough House consultation in 1962.
Such a litany of factual errors from a political leader aspiring to be the country’s next Prime Minister is bad enough. Even more worrisome, however, is Dr Rowley’s attitude towards the facts. His mistakes having been pointed out, Dr Rowley refused even to apologise. Instead, taking a page out of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s book, Dr Rowley dismissed his own statement as a joke, exactly as Mr Ramlogan did some weeks ago when he slandered a young professional woman in Parliament by imputing an improper relationship between her and a married PNM MP.
Another misleading claim from Dr Rowley involved the suspension of a nurse, which he criticised by asking why the doctor involved in the botched Caesarean of Baby Simeon had not also been suspended.
When the Express pointed out that this had, in fact, occurred, Dr Rowley again refused to admit his error and instead claimed that the doctor had been defended by “the authorities”. Again, this is misleading, since the defence came from UWI and not the Regional Health Authority which was empowered to suspend the doctor and duly did so.
Given this cavalier and ongoing disregard even for simple facts, what will be Dr Rowley’s reaction when faced with more complex and crucial matters as a Prime Minister? Will he face facts or prefer prevarication? That is a question that must concern all citizens.