EDITORIAL – January 26, 2019 – The elected leaders and the hired civil servants are basically all working for the same boss, the general public. These individuals are always aware of what is happening – good and bad, happy or sad – long before the general public gets wind of it.
Sometimes the civil servants know before the elected, sometimes it is the other way around but eventually, these two arms of governance will all end up on the same page when it comes to knowledge of what is and is not taking place behind the scenes in order to keep a country flowing.
It has long been my strong view that important information is far too sheltered in these islands. The public’s information is held in bondage by people who do not own it.
When it comes to public information, availability of data is low to zero, transparency is weak or non-existent, accountability is therefore hard to ensure or impossible to manage and this flings wide the doors for information leaks, misinformation, misinterpretation, poor job performance and oh yes, corruption.
Let’s remember, elected officials and civil servants are doing the public’s work.
The variety of accomplishments and setbacks, wins and losses all belong to the public which has hired them by vote or employment to do work for which the people are paying.
The results of that work – whatever it is – do not belong to any of them. Yet, information is cloaked, withheld, unrecorded, unpublished or comes at snail’s pace or in a trickle even when requested.
Naturally, we expect there to be confidentiality and discretion by our elected and employed workers of the public sector; but we do not expect to be locked out, denied or made to wait indefinitely on vital information.
In the case of this latest report on what Beaches Resort and Butch Stewart, its Chairman have decided – Magnetic Media carried the story it was given by a world-renowned company and other information it was given by a leading figure in this country.
As a media organization, the only way to verify that information in the Turks and Caicos Islands is to ask a leader in the area cited for the information. We did that. Up to publication time of the story, we did not get any information to offer another perspective or explanation or whatever would have been said.
As owner of my company, I assure you, had we received it – it would have impacted our report.
Magnetic Media, can prove that as we did with Beaches, we contacted the government for clarity, understanding and comment on what at the time was viewed as a ‘rumour’.
Beaches confirmed that what we were told was not merely a rumour and asked us to wait for their official response. We did.
Government said nothing.
Public, we believe you have a right to know and so we told you.
The rumour of the three closures, one labelled ‘indefinite’ was making its rounds on social media since Thursday.
Tactically, a statement should have been and could have been issued by Government or Beaches ahead of any query by me, other media houses or the general public – but as is the case so often with TCIG, it was not.
This editorial piece is not about taking sides on this sensitive and serious matter; but rather it is about greater transparency, better response to public concerns and Freedom of Information.
The problem with our government – and I am speaking to the succession of country leaders I have worked with over 12 years – is that there is nothing compelling them to answer us, provide data, prove it and when the time comes, to ensure the people’s position is present in any narrative.
While it has been said before, it is interesting to note that during ‘Ask Premier’ – a forum designed to provide the opportunity for Youth to speak directly to the country’s leader, Hon Sharlene Robinson – a Master’s Degree holder passionately expressed disappointment that in doing a paper on her own country, she could find little to no information.
And I conclude with that…
If all one can get is no information, then that is all one can use.