A heated exchange with a journalist ensued after a question was posed to Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee at the pre-Cabinet press briefing today, Monday, August 21.
HTS News4orce Reporter Miguel Fevrier sought clarity about a purported Cabinet conclusion granting significant concessions to Sandals, specifically the waiver of import duties on a large number of vehicles ostensibly for use by management.
Fevrier asked Minister Fedee whether the documents displayed last week on two controversial talk shows were real.
The minister responded by asking to see the documents under discussion, which Fevrier did not have in his possession at the time.
Fevrier then asked whether it was true that Fedee presented the case to Cabinet on behalf of Sandals, and whether Cabinet had indeed granted those concessions to the hotel chain.
“One of the things I will not do, is respond to rumours,” Fedee responded. “So if you have a document that is authenticated, or that you believe in your estimation is credible, then I will respond. But I will not waste my time responding to something you’ve heard on the streets.”
The exchange did not end there.
Fevrier pressed further and the minister steadfastly refused to answer the question – whether or not Cabinet had granted concessions or incentives to Sandals as had been reported.
Fedee continued, “…that can’t be a question, this is not a credible question. So what is the reference of your question? Do you just want to have me on record denying it?
The minister then launched into a rebuke of Fevrier, telling him “…it’s a joke question. It devalues who you are as a journalist,” to which the reporter responded, “No, I think your refusal to answer me devalues who you are as a minister, sir.”
Senior Communications Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, Nicole McDonald then tried to defuse the situation by calling on another reporter to ask a question. Seemingly undaunted, Minister Fedee continued addressing Fevrier.
“If you have something you can substantiate, Miguel, I will answer it. I am open, I am willing to answer any questions, but you can’t come and pick up some gossip you heard on the street…. You heard something by the market and you coming and ask me [sic]?”
Despite McDonald’s second attempt to move on to the next question, the Minister went on: “And the people of Saint Lucia are busy. If you are going to bring information to them into their living rooms, I think you need to do them proper justice.”
After an unrelated question was asked, veteran reporter Micah George tried to return to the original topic at hand.
Referring to Fevrier’s initial question, George queried whether it was not the responsibility of Minister Fedee to perhaps provide clarity and definitive answers if reports, allegations, or rumours are circulating about matters pertaining to his ministry.
“Do you think it is your responsibility to enlighten the people on whether or not things that have ben said in the public sphere are true?” George asked.
“It’s my responsibility to ensure that the right information is out there,” answered Fedee. “I think journalists are equally responsible for making sure that you verify the information before you go just asking a prime minister anything.”
In a final attempt to get some kind of confirmation or denial of the original question from Fedee, George pointed out that among everyone assembled in the room, the minister was best placed to verify the information, or refute it if it was false.
Referring to his hesitation in posing the question again, George indicated that he was discouraged by the “back and forth” that had taken place.
“No, there’s no back and forth,” Minister Fedee said, before once again refusing to confirm or deny whether the Cabinet of Ministers had granted Sandals Saint Lucia significant concessionary advantages with respect to the importation of vehicles.