Sat | Jan 19, 2019

How do ministers get the news?

Published:Friday | February 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Dorothy Lightbourne, former attorney general and minister of justice, has indicated that she does not read newspapers, nor watch local news programmes. How many ministers of government do follow the news, whether local or international, but especially on critical matters relevant to their portfolios?

Is there a formal requirement with established structures and designated channels of com-munication which ensures that ministers are kept abreast of the latest events or related developments in their portfolios? And to what extent is it prudent that a minister or the prime minister remain up to date and be informed first-hand on matters of national importance without having to rely on the news media?

These questions are raised against the background of the present prime minister's declaration that she, too, does not follow the news, but, quite interestingly, was only informed of a highly controversial development in a ministry by the media. It was also no less interesting when former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, (testifying at the Tivoli Enquiry), stated that he learnt of an important matter via the media; but somewhat disturbing was the report in the newspaper that he revealed he was unaware of a crucial document and request by the Government during the State of Emergency and joint military-police operations in Tivoli Gardens in May 2010.

These examples cited are not anomalies. There have been numerous occasions when ministers of government, past and present, were quizzed by journalists on critical matters or controversial developments in their various ministries and many seemed quite blank or struggled to respond appropriately and, quite often, there was a frank admission or convenient declaration of being unaware or only recently informed via the media!

This seems to be a perilous state of affairs in the age of information which needs immediate remedy. Effective management and good governance necessitate access to accurate information in a most timely manner, especially on matters of priority for national security or those which may have far-reaching and lasting consequences.

Daive R. Facey.