Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC believes Government should be the one offering apologies to TV 6 Head of News Dominic Kalipersad
Speaking with the Express yesterday, Maharaj said government’s call for Kalipersad to apologise to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar “on a grave matter of public importance” is ridiculous.
“The video of an image of a person resembling that of a minister of government, which showed the person rolling a joint of ganja in a hotel room is ridiculous because the Prime Minister has a duty to account to the public through the media and Parliament in respect of the standard of conduct through public life of ministers of government”, Maharaj said.
The former AG said it is the duty of the Prime Minister to seek answers on whether a minister of government is breaking the law.
“It was the duty of the PM to give a comment to Mr Kalipersad and if Mr Kalipersad found a response was not forthcoming, he needed to keep on asking her about it”, Maharaj said.
On Thursday Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Anil Roberts refused to confirm or deny that the individual in the video is him.
Instead Roberts blamed the Opposition for the release of the video.
Maharaj said it is through media that the public knows what is taking place in this country and the public should view government’s lacklustre response as an assault.
“This is another assault by the Government on the freedom of the media, to ask Mr Kalipersad to apologise to the Prime Minister when it is the Prime Minister who should be apologising to the media and the country for her undemocratic, inappropriate behaviour when asked to respond,” Maharaj said.
Making reference to allegations of death threats against TV6 investigative journalist Mark Bassant, the former AG said when one takes into account the assault on the media and the perception of the public when journalists now have to walk around with security guards coupled with an investigative journalist receiving death threats for his reporting, Maharaj said the call by the government for Kalipersad to apologise “for doing his duty must be regarded as an intention by the government to continue to suppress and oppress journalists who do their duties”.
Background on the issue
On Thursday, the Communications Ministry issued a statement which described the video as a ”vicious attempt at character assassination”. On Friday the ministry again issued a release calling for Kalipersad to apologise.
The release stated: “in what must be one of the most unprofessional and mocking interviews ever conducted by a local media professional, Mr Kalipersad taunts the Prime Minister whom he had called on her cellphone and placed live on air”.