By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Expanding on a press statement released on Friday, in which he announced that he was commencing legal action against a local journalist, Saint Lucia’s minister for legal affairs, home affairs and national security, Phillip La Corbiniere, told reporters that “a number of ministers have also instructed their attorneys to begin to take legal action of various kinds.”
Phillip La Corbiniere
Ironically, the foundation for the threatened action by La Corbinere and others for alleged damage to their reputation appears in turn to relate to allegations that so far unnamed members of the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) tarnished the reputation of former housing minister Richard Frederick by supplying false information to US embassy officials.
In his formal statement on Friday, the minister did not elaborate on what that legal action was; what conduct or comment he found objectionable; or what others are going to be included in the threatened action.
However, he now claims that he will “not have his reputation destroyed by Caribbean News Now,” which he described as “a ragtag called Caribbean news because it’s nothing more than a ragtag.”
In saying this, La Corbiniere seems to be ignorant of the fact that Caribbean News Now, along with its predecessor publication, has been publishing regional news for over ten years and outranks any other regional website in every measure, usually by several orders of magnitude, with website visitors and page views measured in the millions annually.
In the words of one regional commentator, “The irony and hypocrisy of La Corbiniere complaining about having his professionalism besmirched while besmirching that of Caribbean News Now is completely lost on him.”
According to La Corbiniere, lawsuits will be filed by individuals referenced by Caribbean News Now, again without elaborating on which individuals have apparently been offended or what they found offensive.
Responding to La Corbiniere’s announcement, Richard Frederick referred to a passage in Animal Farm
by George Orwell: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others," the lesson in which, he said, resonated loudly in his mind as he (La Corbiniere) threatens to sue to safeguard his own reputation.
“But what about the reputations of those like me who others (they know themselves) have deliberately, calculatedly and persistently dragged in the mud? What about the concocted stories hatched by men with no conscience and who are pregnant with a hunger to rule by any means necessary? How many cases will we, their victims, have to file; and in which court will we receive justice? While some men hurry to court to shelter their names, justice simply passes others by. Still, there are those who have suffered damage so great it is beyond undoing by any court. Indeed, in my case I have been forced to rely on the fact that we are all temporal beings and, like us, the wicked deeds that we dish out to others will last only for a time,” he said.
Frederick added that he is reminded every day of a quote from Ephesians 6:12: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places!"
La Corbiniere failed to deal with the issue of the lack of responsiveness by the Saint Lucia government to a request for comment and clarification prior to the publication of the Caribbean News Now article
to which he and his colleagues apparently take offence.
Last Thursday, while claiming to be on vacation, the prime minister’s press secretary Jadia Jn. Pierre responded belatedly by way of an online public comment
that “You were informed via email that I am on leave until September 27, 2013. Yet, you feel comfortable stating that the press secretary had two days to reply to your questions? Really? I have a timeline by which to work? Further, given what I have seen, the option that I request that your article be held off until I respond is ridiculous!”
She continued, “Of course, one day you will call it an infringement of your freedom to broadcast... anything you want... whenever you want. There are other people who may be able to dictate when you publish and what you publish, I do not wish to play that role.”
However, another reader pointed out that “a press secretary or press officer is a senior advisor who provides advice on how to deal with the news media and, using news management techniques, helps their employer to maintain a positive public image and avoid negative media coverage.”
Certainly, nothing was done last week to help “maintain a positive public image and avoid negative media coverage.”
In response to a request for comment, the Lucian Peoples Movement (LPM) said: “Mrs Jn. Pierre's response to your inquiry for a comment on allegations regarding the revocation of Richard Frederick's visa is a sad reflection of the kind of mindless arrogance and unprofessionalism that have come to characterized Saint Lucia Labour Party rule since returning to office in 2011.
“Apparently, Jadia Jn. Pierre does not seem to understand that being the prime minister's press secretary is a function supported by the national purse, and that greater care must be exercised so as to not give the impression of public rudeness.
“Moreover, being a press secretary to the prime minister of Saint Lucia requires not only tact, but a deep understanding by the office holder that your public behaviour is a reflection of the government which you serve.”
The opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has so far failed to provide any comment on the matter for publication.
The LPM also remarked on this, saying that was quite puzzling that the United Workers Party, of which Richard Frederick is a member and sitting MP, has not seen it fit to offer an official statement on the issue.
“Could this be an indication of an internal rift within the UWP?” the LPM asked.
While it would be helpful if the government of Saint Lucia could offer an official clarification on the matter (in keeping with their promise made while in opposition), the onus is also on the United Workers Party to help bolster their colleague’s claim of vindication, the LPM added.
In the meantime, despite La Corbiniere’s repeated denials that this is not an attack on the media generally, a number of international press freedom organisations are alert to the situation and are no doubt keeping a close eye on it.