A pre-cabinet news conference Monday turned testy with Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Tourism, Information and Broadcasting, Dominic Fedee, refusing to provide an answer to questions about duty free concessions to Sandals Resorts.
An exchange started when HTS reporter, Miguel Fevrier, asked whether reported duty free concessions on 97 vehicles for Sandals would fall under the Tourism Incentives Act and in what category.
Fevrier noted that Sandals has denied attempting to delve into the transportation sector and asked Fedee to tell the story behind reported concessions for Sandals.
“Well, do you have any proof?” The minister asked.
“I am asking you – is it true?” Fevrier responded.
However Fedee persisted in requesting proof and asked the reporter : “Where is the reference for your information?”
At this point Fevrier made reference to a document which he said has been ‘floating around’.
The minister asked whether the reporter had the document, asserting that once the document was presented, it could be verified.
Fevrier then asked Fedee whether he had taken a vehicle concession request from Sandals to cabinet.
“One of the things I will not do is respond to rumours,” the minister said.
“If you have a document that you believe is authentic and in your intelligence and your estimation is credible, then I will respond, but I will not waste my time responding to something you’ve heard on the streets because that’s not the way – that’s not journalism,” Fedee, a former broadcast journalist declared.
Both men were at times, speaking at simultaneously with Fedee insisting that he would not answer the reporter’s question.
“Mr. minister, yes or no – it’s a simple answer – have you taken to cabinet a request for concessions on ninety something vehicles?” Fevrier continued, while Fedee asserted that he would not answer to ‘rumours and gossip on the streets’.
“It’s a question,” the reporter stated, with Fedee responding: “That can’t be a question – it’s not a credible question.”
At this point, Senior Communications Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, Nicole Mc Donald intervened, observing that ‘we are just going back and forth’,
But the reporter continued to press the minister to answer his ‘simple yes or no question.’
“It’s a joke question,” Fedee, a former senior manager at Sandals, retorted.
“It’s a joke,and you know what? It devalues who you are as a journalist,” the minister declared.
“No, no, no. I think your refusal to answer devalues you as a minister,” Fevrier shot back.
And as Mc Donald intervened again turning to another reporter to proceed with the questions, Fedee repeated that he would not respond to rumours.
“Quality journalism ladies and gentlemen,” he stated as the back and forth continued.
Another reporter picked up the line of questioning asking Fedee whether it was not his responsibility as a minister to say whether a report pertaining to a matter under his ministry was true or not.
“Very good question. I think you need to have a balanced view. It is my responsibility to ensure that the right information is out there – but equally I think as well, I have been in communications and I know that when someone comes to you and raises a question that is not credible, I think that journalists are equally responsible for making sure that you verify information before you go just asking a prime minister anything. You need to do your research to substantiate your question,” the minister said.