Monday, 16 April 2012 02:30
By Colin Sampson and Alex Holder
Antigua St John's - A number of significant matters made themselves very noticeable during the segment of Sunday’s “Big Issues” programme that host Shelton Daniel devoted to the burning issue of the Wadadli Power Plant.
Two of these significant matters arose during the contribution made by Winston Derrick, CEO of the Observer Media Group (OMG).
Responding to suggestions that his media house has been somewhat less than energetic in its effort to elicit answers on the matter, Derrick favoured his listeners with an account of attempts by OMG to secure information relating to the Wadadli Power Plant under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Derrick reported that not only were the requested documents and contracts slow to appear, but when they were finally received, they came missing several critical pages. The documents also made reference to other contracts that, though requested, are yet to be delivered.
The OMG CEO then went on to outline an impressive list of what he viewed as deficiencies in the entire Wadadli Power Plant project. These included the telling point that the engineers attached to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) had little or no input in the design and planning of the project.
While Derrick may have been anxious to establish his media group’s credentials in pursuing the public’s right to know the details of their own business, two aspects of his appeal are open to scrutiny and comment.
The first relates to the Observer Media Group’s dogged persistence in seeking to keep its inquiries essentially “out of the public domain”. This policy will apparently be maintained until, at some indeterminate point in the future, sufficient reliable information might be gleaned that would enable the OMG to advise the Antigua & Barbuda public of its definitive findings.
It seemingly has not occurred to Derrick that this is a self-defeating policy. The effect of the media house’s current policy will mainly be to ensure that the Observer Media Group is restrained from adding its considerable weight to the public outcry for the information that alone can put an end to the doubts being expressed from so many directions.
In doing so, the Observer Media Group is, in a manner of speaking, “giving aid and comfort” to the ruling United Progressive Party (UPP) as it seeks to deflect the attention of an outraged public away from an uncomfortable subject.
An alert observer will view this convenient stance adopted by the Observer Media Group against the backdrop of the warning (significantly repeated several times) by political analyst Arvel Grant against appearing to pursue any line of investigation that might parallel the interests of the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP).
In fact, the determination with which Grant took care to drive home that very point can easily be seen as an attempt to intimidate the media into a state of submission to the needs of the ruling party.
The second matter of significance that arose out of Derrick’s contribution to the Big Issues programme relates to the back-handed manner in which the OMG CEO attempted to cast doubt on the photographs of the Wadadli Power Plant published by CARIBARENA.COM.
Derrick himself called the Big Issues and said, "If the Caribarena photographs that were displayed on their website are accurate, it would seem that by the time we have to start actually paying for the power plant, it may not be working.
"So we asked them to permit us to go and look at this power plant to see if this power plant that is purportedly in these pictures on Caribarena, is the power plant up at Crabbs that's supposed to be leaking oil, and all these things, tied up with strings or whatever it is."
He continued to say, "Because we know, when Observer puts something in the paper, that the people of Antigua & Barbuda know that we're telling them the truth. So we want to go and verify, and that would do one of two things. Colin, it would confirm, either confirm or not... whether or not the pictures on the Caribarena website are correct."
What Derrick apparently forgot is that General Manager Esworth Martin, as well as senior members of the ALP Molwyn Joseph, Max Hurst, and Robin Yearwood, have all testified to the authenticity of these photographs. MP Joseph said,
"I have absolutely no doubt that those are the images that I saw. I can vouch for the authenticity. I remember one specific photograph from when I was touring the plant with the general manager of APUA, and I pointed out specifically the section of pipes that were wrapped with a purple cloth, and I asked him what was that and he really didn’t have an answer."
He added, "I went with an open mind. I repeated myself so many times in the public about the images by Caribarena. There is not much more to say. It’s kind of late in the game for people to continue to make that case after so many months of government having the opportunity to prove them wrong."
Hurst also shared MP Joseph's certainty, and said, "We saw him taking the photographs and he assured us that he would share them with us and his Caribarena audience. We saw some of those pictures with our own eyes. We can attest that those photos are authentic."
He pointed out that statements made on February 6 by the APUA general manager also authenticated the images, since the GM had suggested that if Caribarena were to return to the location, a different picture would be taken, since some cosmetic changes had already been made to the plant.
And if that were not enough, neither the government nor APUA has challenged the photographs published by Caribarena, even after several months of availability to the public.
So why does Derrick feel so inclined to cast doubt? Why does Derrick insist that the Caribarena photos may not be authentic, and that they need a "second opinion"? Why is he unable to accept the fact that Caribarena's photos are legitimate?
This also goes hand in hand with OMG's statement that it wouldn't get into whether or not the engines are new or old, but whether "the people of Antigua and Barbuda got value for money."
In essence, aren't these both the same question? If the engines are used, then the people should have to pay less because of the condition of the engines. Similarly, if the engines are new, the people would have to pay more. The state of the engines goes hand in hand with whether or not the people got value for money.
From outside, this seems like an attempt by Derrick to distance himself from Caribarena's efforts, and to give as little credibility as possible to Caribarena. He has abstained from pursuing the same line of questioning as Caribarena, and has cast doubt on the credibility of Caribarena's photographs that several parties have verified, and that have never been questioned by anyone except himself.
The only question that need be asked is, why?
Caribarena is inviting the Observer Media Group to publish Caribarena's photos in The Daily Observer newspaper.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where not everyone can afford a computer, and internet access, and by publishing the photos in The Daily Observer, Derrick can give people who previously had not seen the photos a chance to see the Wadadli Power Plant for themselves.See related stories:Lovell Roasted on Talk Show Taking the Mickey Out of Spencer Joseph Attacks Govt 'Dictatorship' Cabinet Rejects Call for Inquiry With Eyes Pressed Shut More Support for MP Daniel Bird Demands Answers About Power Plant DealNo Voice Derrick - Serpent Charmed MP Supports Daniel's Call Daniel in the Lions Den Daniel Demands Investigation into Chinese Power Plant Shame and Outrage over Edwards' Commentary Wrong Made Right Money Talks - Power Plant Walks Anti-Power Plant Pickets held in St John'sMP Joseph Exposes Critical APUA Reports
PM Blasts Molwyn Over Power Plant
Power Plant Issue Goes To Parliament
An Inside Look at APC
Power Plant Companies Relationship Explained
Govt Promises Chinese Power Plant Answers
Another Unsettling Discovery at Power Plant
Bird To Seek Outside Advice on Power Plant
MP Joseph Accuses Government of Breaking Laws
Antigua Power Plant - No Straight Answers
Chinese Power Plant or Antigua's White Elephant
Power Plant Production Costs Explained
PM Says ALP Distorted Power Plant Info
No Plan Behind the Power Plant
Yearwood Presents Figures on Chinese Power Plant