Saturday, February 17, 2018


...warns journalists with an 'axe to grind' against the Govt to be clean themselves


DECEITFUL TREND: National Security Minister Jack Warner holds up a copy of this week's Sunday Express during the programme Democracy Is Alive, aired on local television stations on Wednesday night.

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'compliant media': From right, Democracy Is Alive programme host Hansley Ajodha, National Security Minister Jack Warner, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Sport Minister Anil Roberts, political leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) Ashworth Jack and Local Government Minister Suruj Rambachan on national TV on Wednesday night.

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United National Congress (UNC) chairman and Minister of National Security Jack Warner yesterday warned that all media workers with "an axe to grind" against the Government should first be beyond reproach themselves.

"If you are going to attempt to expose people then be above reproach," Warner said in a telephone interview.

Warner said he was noticing a "most deceitful" trend where media reporters used their position to "push an agenda" and saw where the media were "compliant" with the Opposition People's National Movement (PNM).

"That is duplicitous," he said.

When asked if his statements should be seen as a threat to media workers, Warner said he was "not threatening anybody".

"That is not a threat. I will never go down that road," he said.

Warner's statements yesterday confirmed similar statements he made on Wednesday night's Democracy Is Alive programme.

During the programme, Warner held up this week's Sunday Express, and pointed to two front-page articles.

"(Opposition leader Dr Keith) Rowley is being propped up by a section of a compliant media," he charged.

Warner said the articles, published on Sunday, detailed two issues, one two years old, another two months old which was not current news but was written "as though they happened last week".

Asked who wrote the articles by programme host Hansley Ajodha, Warner responded that it was Asha Javeed, who left the Guardian and went to the Express "and you know her history...where she lives and so on..."

With regards to the programme, Warner said it was a People's Partnership party initiative which aired simultaneously on five local television stations between 8 p.m. and 9.15 p.m. While Warner was unable to put a total cost to the initiative, the Express learned that prime time allocations on various local stations cost between $70,000 to $100,000 for that one hour.

It is also understood that one television station located in Central Trinidad charged the party $6,000 to air the programme.

Warner said the programming format was expected to continue every Wednesday until December but would include other party panelists and was paid for by party funds through its advertising advisers, Ross Advertising.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Ernie Ross, owner of Ross Advertising, confirmed that the programme was paid for by the People's Partnership party and not through any Government funds. He referred all questions regarding the final cost of the programme back to Warner, but said "it was not a significant sum".

At a post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday, Local Government Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan also said that taxpayers did not foot the bill for the programme.

"No State funds are being used for those programmes, those are party programmes and it is a programme that will be funded by the party every Wednesday night on (State-owned Caribbean News Media Group) CNMG, we are prepared to put it on the other stations," he said.

Though the programme coincided with a People's National Movement (PNM) public meeting in Arouca, Rambachan denied it was done deliberately.

"This was planned long before the PNM meeting last night. It is not something that was in any way a reaction to the PNM," he said.

The programme was moderated by television personality Hansley Ajodha who is also the current Director of Communications at the Ministry of Education and included both Warner, Rambachan, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Sport Minister and Congress of the People member Anil Roberts and Tobago House of Assembly leader, Ashworth Jack. Ajodha seemed to pose prefixed and guided questions to a panel and included his own sentiments on the Section 34 fiasco and subsequent public fallout.

"My own feeling is that we are beyond Section 34 now," Ajodha said to the panelists.

But the group did not seem to need his help to move beyond the contentious Section 34 issue and instead detailed the "scandals" under the PNM including the outstanding perjury case of former UDeCOTT boss Calder Hart and former PNM leader Patrick Manning's involvement in the construction of a multi-million dollar church at the Heights of Guanapo. They called Rowley an "abuser" and played a 2009 video clip of when former prime minister and PNM leader Patrick Manning labelled then senator Dr Keith Rowley "a bully".

With regards to the pre-budget rally tomorrow at Mid Centre Mall in Chaguanas, Warner said it was planned in direct response to a call from party supporters.

"The cry for a rally came last Sunday from the membership. We said if it's a rally you want, a rally you would get. We responded to the cry of the membership," Warner said.

Minister of Finance Larry Howai is expected to reveal a preview of the budget at the rally that would be further detailed on Monday.