Devon Dick | Fake news, lies and falsehood
Recently, our prime minister encouraged Jamaicans not to listen to and believe a particular news organisation because of fake news and the dissemination of lies as the news was designed to give wrong information about government projects. Apparently, it was not a blanket statement against all media, a la Trump, but aimed at the Gleaner.
The Gleaner carried a report that the Locksley Hemmings Way was the worst road in Kingston and located the road in the constituency of the prime minister as member of parliament and in a division of a People's National Party councillor. That information was wrong on both counts and the Gleaner apologised for the error.
It seems that it was unnecessary to classify the road as the worst in Kingston. It would need technical knowledge of all roads in Kingston to make that judgement. Furthermore, it is an unimportant detail to state which politician represents the area because it is neither the member of parliament nor the parish councillor who is responsible for fixing the road. It is the National Works Agency which has responsibility for most roads and some roads are within the purview of local government. It is not fair to blame political representatives for something they have no power to implement; they can only make representations. The real problem is an inadequate allocation of funds to maintain roads as well as the poor workmanship by contractors.
There is a road in St James that runs from Blytheston to Rose Hall, passing through Spot Valley and Barrett Town, that has been in a state of disrepair, worse than Locksley Hemmings Way, for over 40 years! There was a time when buses used to ply that route, but no more. No wonder the perennial cry from voters has been we need better roads. Every government ought to see road repair as priority and increase the allocation and ensure we get value for money by using competent contractors to fix the roads.
A MAJOR PROBLEM
The prime minister should be careful in ascribing lie to a news report. Lying is a technical word. It means that the person deliberately knew that what was said was false. In other words, a report can be inaccurate but it is not a lie because it was a mistake. Therefore, not all false stories are lies although all lies are false. Furthermore, it is a prime minister, not a local representative, who has ultimate responsibility for all roads.
But how do citizens know what is fake news? Are we to believe OPM TV and JIS TV only? The Gleaner carried a report that the committee set up to oversee compensation for West Kingston residents will cost $58 million! Why not use staff at the Ministry of Social Security and get volunteers from civic groups to oversee this project? How much compensation are the residents getting that will require such an expensive bureaucracy? Or is this fake news?
Another report said that the chairman, vice-chairman and chief executive officer of the Firearm Licencing Authority (FLA) are persons who ran for elective office for the Jamaica Labour Party. Is this fake news?
It is normal to have politicians on government boards to ensure like-minded persons will oversee and implement government policy but that is not necessary for the FLA. Guns in the wrong hands are a major problem. We have a high murder rate. The FLA is a sensitive body. A former assistant commissioner of police and former head of the Bureau of Special Investigations serves on the board of the FLA, and his background and experience make him ideally suitable to be either the chairman or the CEO. Reshuffle this board.
The PM is on to something: we need to discern when we are being given a six for a nine.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.