MINISTER of Local Government Suruj Rambachan has questioned what media organisations like the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) have to say when newspapers publish stories to "get at" Government members.
He asked the question while contributing to debate in the Lower House on an Opposition motion on the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) programme yesterday at Tower D, Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre.
His statement was likely in reference to Sports Minister Anil Roberts' announcement at the post-Cabinet press conference on Thursday that he intended to sue Guardian Media Ltd and other media houses over a story that the Integrity Commission had referred him (Roberts) to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in relation to a complaint of alleged misappropriation of funds at the Trinidad and Tobago Boxing Board of Control.
Roberts and the Integrity Commission have both denied the matter was referred to the DPP.
Rambachan in his contribution was chastising the previous People's National Movement (PNM) administration for not building the Biche High School and "punishing children for years", when he commented "the newspapers don't lie you know".
"What?" Roberts asked.
The Sport Minister then began to laugh loudly and the Government bench went into an uproar. Rambachan then took the TTPBA to task.
"I would like to hear what the (TTPBA), I want to hear what the Media Complaints Authority, institutions that stand as they say above the line of integrity and the highest integrity, what do they have to say about newspapers that are publishing things simply to get at members of this particular Government," he said.
The Opposition bench responded with a collective "what?"
He continued: "Why are they doing this? What do they have to say in defence? And I am not attacking the media".
He questioned whether the TTPBA called in their members to say "is this fair? Is this just? Is this the truth? Did you get the other side of the story?"
The TTPBA issued a release yesterday on the Roberts story, stating they had taken note of the issue and their members do have a process for checking the integrity of a story.
Rambachan also questioned whether it was true that Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert lost $500,000 from his house during a recent robbery. According to an Express report, the figure was more than $200,000. Arouca/Maloney MP Alicia Hospedales questioned the relevance to the motion and House Speaker Wade Mark said he did not think there was any relevance. He then advised Rambachan not to deal with "personalities".
Imbert commented across the floor: "It's a police matter".
Rambachan said: "Mr Speaker all I want to say is I hope that the institutions that stand up in the name of freedom of the press will also stand up in the name of the character of people also".