Dishonour by the Observer, Mark Brantley and Eugene Hamilton

It was only minutes before receiving the Google Alert that I had arrived back into the Federation from Antigua after having been there for the last four days working on various assignments. After reading the Observer article referred to above, I realized that I had been singled out by Parliamentarian Eugene Hamilton for engaging in my profession as a media practitioner in Antigua, it would appear, to his disapproval.

I would beg readers of the article to forgive Mr. Hamilton for not knowing, whether accidentally or deliberately, the correct information. But Mr. Hamilton did not in fact have the right information. And he should have checked before making such statements. But really, I am not surprised by Mr. Hamilton’s attack on my presence in Antigua.

But the bigger picture in my mind is what the Observer allowed Brantley and Hamilton to do. The Observer allowed spurious statements by pouting political rejects to overshadow the significant inauguration of the OECS Assembly which took place on Friday evening in our neighbouring island of Antigua and Barbuda.

Every other island’s independent media reported today about Friday’s successful launching of the OECS Assembly, recognizing the election of the first Speaker being a lady, the Hon. Rene Baptiste, a former Labour Parliamentarian and Government Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and our very own distinguished Ambassador, His Excellency Walford Gumbs who was elected as the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly. As we know, Mr. Gumbs also served as Speaker of our very own National Assembly and now serves as the Ombudsman.

It is disappointing that the Observer chose to prioritize its reporting the way it did. But that wasn’t the only failing by the Observer; it in my mind failed to check the facts as far as the spurious statements made by both Brantley and Hamilton. Had the Observer’s reporter checked the facts, which could have easily taken place by placing a call or sending an e-mail, which it did not even state it did, it might not have published such verbage.

To correct Eugene Hamilton’s incorrect statements, I prepared these next few paragraphs:

It was in mid-July, that I was made aware about an OECS Media Clinic, which was to take place in Antigua ahead of the convening of the OECS Assembly. And this clinic was organized by the OECS Secretariat and funded by the Secretariat. By the time I was made aware, two representatives one from the St. Kitts-Nevis Information Service and one from the Nevis Government Information Service had been selected to receive the OECS funding to attend the Clinic. It was at that point that I was told that I could attend at my own expense and interested as I was to continue to learn more in the media field and to show my support for the OECS and the Assembly, I decided to finance my participation in full and to attend, with the blessings of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis by way of our OECS Commissioner.

So in direct response to Hamilton’s statement that he saw “no sense to have Erasmus and Charlie” there, I would say, “Mr. Hamilton, with respect, you are way out of order especially failing to check the facts before making such an uninformed statement about my participation in an OECS Media Clinic and my attendance at the convening of the OECS Assembly.”

In response to Mr. Hamilton’s inference that my participation was somehow a demonstration of a “habit of tax and spend and waste money?” I say to Mr. Hamilton, “Mr. Hamilton, with respect, you are wrong again. For a man who wishes to be the next Leader of PAM and to be a Prime Minister, you need to get your facts straight before embarrasing yourself like this in the future.”

I attended the OECS Media Clinic on Thursday for the entire day participating in several panel discussions: 1) Role and Function of the Assembly, discussion being facilitated by former Speaker of St. Lucia’s Parliament, Dr Rosemarie Husbands-Mathurin and Coordinator of the OECS’s Regional Integration Unit, Ms. Elma Gene Isaac and St. Lucia’s Press Secretary Jadia Jn. Pierre-Emmanuel; 2) OECS Integration: – Common Market facilitated by OECS’ Director of Economic Affairs, Mr. Randolph Cato and Montserrat’s Bennett Roach; 3) Communicating on the Economic Union facilitated by Mr. Salas Hamilton.

In fact, the Thursday session was attended by more than 19 media practitioners from the OECS region. Travel and hotel arrangements were sponsored by the OECS Secretariat. Other member states from which media represented included Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Nevis, and St. Kitts.

On Friday morning, participants were engaged in a practical exercise on Communicating on the Economic Union which was facilitated by Mr. Salas Hamilton. This session ended around 1pm and the OECS Assembly activity was scheduled for 4pm. The events commenced at 4:15pm with the arrival of the OECS Chairman and the Assembly convened on time at 5pm and ended around 6:20pm following which was an open-air reception with light refreshments. I returned to St. Kitts on Saturday morning.

Onto Mr. Brantley’s Misleading Statements

Mr. Brantley’s suggestions that the Government was guilty of being “fiscally reckless” was also out of order. Let’s look at the delegation in detail. There were six delegates participating as Members of the Assembly. Both Brantley and Hamilton know that their travel and other arrangements were the Government’s responsibility. Three others were the Right Honourable Prime Minister, the Honourable Marcella Liburd, and the Honourable Timothy Harris. Delegate number six was the Honourable Walford Gumbs who as we now know, was elected as the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.

Delegate number seven was St. Kitts and Nevis’ OECS Commissioner, Her Excellency Astona Browne. An OECS Commissioner is a member of the OECS Commission and the OECS Commission is the principal organ responsible for the general administration of the OECS.

The other delegates were as follows: delegate number eight was the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Honourable Curtis Martin; number nine was the President of the Nevis Island Assembly; number ten was the Honourable Attorney General; number eleven was the Clerk of the Nevis Island Assembly and number twelve was the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary and my designation as a delegate was solely to facilitate my accreditation.

Looking closer at the Eugene Hamilton’s suggestion, that “technical people are in Antigua” implying that such “technical people” would somehow translate to automatic reporting of the event by members of our local Press corps, was simply wrong again.

Looking at the Observer’s further report that “PM Douglas and Brantley” were among those selected to “sit on the OECS Assembly” was also not an accurate account of the situation. The Revised Treaty of Basseterre states in Article 10.3 that “Heads of Government (Prime Ministers) and the Leader of the Opposition shall be members”. So in this case, whether the Right Honourable Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Brantley) liked it or not, they are members of the Assembly.

The selection takes place for the other members of the five-member delegations which is the case for full Member States.

It is therefore dangerous to allow the one-sided, biased, and untruthful article to go unchallenged or uncorrected so I decided to write this piece. If I were to ignore the statements made by both Hamilton and Brantley I would be guilty of allowing them to mislead and corrupt the minds of right-minded and innocent readers who could be led to develop a wrong perception of the truth.

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