PORT OF SPAIN — Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday every single member of her cabinet has denied ever meeting the Guardian board and interfering in the business of the media house.
The Prime Minister was responding to questions from the media during a walkabout at John Peter Road, Charlieville, in support of the United National Congress’ candidate for the Chaguanas West by-election, Khadijah Ameen.
On Wednesday, three members of the Guardian staff resigned, citing political interference in their newsroom by government members.
Persad-Bissessar refuted this claim on Wednesday, saying her Government stands by press freedom and she was not aware of the tensions at the Guardian.
However, to be certain of this, at yesterday’s cabinet meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister, St. Clair, Persad-Bissessar put the question to the ministers present.
“Today, at the cabinet meeting, I asked every minister, did anyone meet as alleged in a newspaper, that two ministers met Friday, every minister who was at that meeting present today said no they never met. There’s been no political interference and I think you know people feel so but it’s not like that,” she said.
Told that the Express had quoted Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal as saying he did call the Guardian expressing concern about the report with respect to the leasing of a Range Rover, the prime minister responded, “that is a different issue”.
“The Express carried a story saying that two ministers of the government went to the Guardian offices on Friday. Every minister present today I asked them, because it is important to ask, as you know I stand for press freedom,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said further that yesterday her cabinet approved the bill which would ensure that criminal libel is removed from the statute books.
“We had made the commitment, we approved in principle the bill that came to us today. My government and myself, we have never been against press freedom. I asked every minister today and not one said they went (to the Guardian) as alleged on Friday,” she said.
Asked if there were any absent ministers, Persad-Bissessar said some were out of the country but she will also put the question to them on their return.
“This report said two ministers of the government met at the Guardian House on Friday. So far not a single minister has admitted they they’ve met, they all said they did not meet,” she repeated. (Express)