Saturday, February 24, 2018

An inspiring 'eyewitness' report

HAROLD HOYTE is a name synonymous with professional journalism in his native Barbados.

He is also one of the most honoured journalists of our Caribbean Community, widely respected for his commitment to promoting ethical guidelines for elevating the profession, with which he has been involved for some 50 years, as well as an admirable regional team player in defence and preservation of press freedom.

Author of How to be a Bajan, published in 2007 when the world's cricket lovers came to this region for the historic World Cup event of that year, Harold has now further embedded the fine qualities of his journalism with his offering of a 342-page book, Eye Witness to Order and Disorder, that chronicles some 50 years of passionate and stimulating writings on social and political events and developments in Barbados.

This inspiring work by Hoyte is more descriptive than analytical, perhaps by design. A pioneering journalistic zealot, Harold and a few other like-minded colleagues, foremost among them the lawyer, now Sir Fred Gollop, were to make a reality the historic creation of the Nation publishing company.

His Eyewitness book deserves to be read by all practitioners of the journalism profession—beyond Barbados. It could be a perfect gift for the Christmas holidays and the coming New Year for book lovers with a particular interest in being familiar with pertinent aspects of Barbadian cultural and political life as evolved over the years, from 1959 and beyond independence in November 1966.

For Sir Fred, now also chairman of the regional media conglomerate, "One Caribbean Media" (OCM), Eye Witness to Order and Disorder "chronicles the significant political events of Hoyte's career (from 1959 to 2009), the personalities and issues, the triumphs and disasters. It is a literary walk, guided by a reporter with an unerring gaze and an admirable understanding of the issues of the day."

Mixing typical candour and humility, the author himself states in the preface of this must read "ringside account of 50 engaging years", that having "often criticised our political leaders for failing to document their own period of service, it was difficult for me to side-step this (self-imposed) assignment, tedious though it was".

Personally, I found quite insightful the author's account of examples of intriguing "power plays", as listed under functioning of Parliament; his recollections of "three memorable elections"; as well as episodes of "prevarications".

The latter include Day Terror Struck (bombing of a Cubana passenger aircraft by anti-Cuba and CIA-funded terrorists over Barbados) and a Coup Attempt featuring the self-styled Barbadian "revolutionary" character, Sydney Burnett-Alleyne

However, what I consider a surprising omission, given the author's quite arresting recollections of that abominable Cubana bombing tragedy of October 6, 1976 that killed all 73 people aboard, is the absence of any mentioning of the USA's invasion of Grenada—seven years later on October 25, 1983.

I have recollections of the Nation newspaper's coverage of events prior to, during, and after that unjustified military invasion for which Barbados, under then prime minister Tom Adams, had also played a key supporting role, along with his then Jamaican counterpart, Edward Seaga.

As otherwise noted in my weekly "Our Caribbean" column in this past Weekend Nation —originally introduced by Hoyte back in 1984—I would have liked to benefit also from the author's "eye witness" account,—whatever the perspective—of the role played by the then Barbados government (of Prime Minister Adams) in the US invasion of Grenada, knowing of the trauma experienced by Barbadians of that 1976 bombing tragedy of the Cubana aircraft.

Editor's Note: Harold Hoyte is currently Editor Emeritus of the Nation newspapers and chairman of the company's board of directors, as well as a director of One Caribbean Media Ltd that includes media enterprises the Express and TV6 of Caribbean Communications Network (CCN), headquartered in Port of Spain.