The week’s warped discussion – didn’t stop or mar the festivities
by Bennette Roach
It, had become a fixture on the St. Patrick’s Day week of commemorations, celebrations and festivities for several years now, the local UWI campus sponsored St. Patrick’s Day Lecture. There are many visitors and residents alike who have come to look forward to learning and participating in the ensuing discussions.
Such topics in this decade have been as follows: Last year, “The Importance of the Montserrat Creole ‘Nation Language’ in Forging a National Identity,” by Ann Marie Dewar. In 2013, Miss Ethlyn Weekes, “Montserrat response to development in a world that is changing fast.” And, “Education: The Key to Unshackle us from the Bonds of Economic Slavery”, in 2011 by Dr. Samuel Joseph;
This year the UWI campus head, Miss Gracelyn Cassell was early enough with her invitation to the media and most likely others, when she emailed, as so many others fail to figure out on February 28: “…invite you to the Annual St. Patrick’s Lecture which takes place at the Cultural Centre in Little Bay on March 14, 2017 at 6 pm. The presenter this year is Miss Angela Estwick, Director of Development Planning and Policy in the Office of the Premier, and she has chosen to speak on the topic “St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in Montserrat: Cultural Development or Cultural Irresponsibility.”
For perspective to what was to follow and her eventual announcement she informed: “Miss Estwick has observed the increasing hype surrounding our national heritage celebration. This extends to heavy investments of time, effort and money – resources that constitute key inputs for achieving development goals. But, from a development perspective, and noting the interrelationship between culture and development, she explores whether or not these scarce resources are being appropriately channeled… Is the true role of culture in Montserrat’s development objectives being borne out in the way we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Is the meaning of this celebration truly understood?”
That Lecture never took place, but a discussion since there was an audience present as Miss Cassell would explain. When the news broke, there appeared the usual questions and in some places surprise, and of course the adverse and misplaced comments.
There were questions and speculations as to who caused the Lecture not to take place. ZJB Radio reported the UWI Campus Head’s explanation, that no one had instructed or asked for the Lecture to be stopped. She said that she had agreed to have a discussion instead on the topic, (one which she reported later as, “very fruitful) as Miss Estwick informed her that her work had to be ‘vetted’ and she could not have it done in time. “…the lecture was never stopped by any persons or group of people,” Miss Cassell said.
She explained as follows to ZJB Radio: “A few hours before the lecture was due to start I got a call from Ms. Estwick who was very apologetic. She explained that the content of her presentation had to be vetted and there was not enough time for that to be done for her to be able to present the lecture last evening…Now I have heard suggestions that we were stopped and various other things. I’d like to set the record straight nobody called me and said stop the lecture, I have had no such call.”
Cassell further said that in discussion she advised she would not ‘postpone’ the session as “we have not given enough time to people to let them know that we’re changing…So we’ll go ahead…we will engage the audience in a discussion around the topic.”
Later in another Radio news broadcast senior broadcaster James White Jr. reported Miss Estwick’s direct explanation of the events which the Deputy Governor says speaks correctly to what transpired between them.
“Miss Estwick who is the Director of Policy and Planning in the Office of the Premier said she received a call from the Honorable Deputy Governor Lyndell Simpson on the afternoon of the day of the lecture. Miss Estwick stated that Mrs. Simpson inquired whether or not she was scheduled to deliver a lecture on that day. The Deputy Governor then informed Miss Estwick that she received a complaint that the speech that was to be presented was considered controversial as it would be addressing government policy. Mrs. Simpson told Miss Estwick that as Deputy Governor she had a duty to investigate the matter to ensure that she would not breach general orders the legislation governing civil servants.
“Miss Estwick told ZJB News that she found it strange that this determination was made as she didn’t share her speech with anyone., she told ZJB News that she then offered to have the speech reviewed by the Deputy Governor or the Attorney General but the offer was not taken up.”
“Miss Estwick said contrary to other media reports she at one point refused to make the presentation and was fully prepared to do so up until the time at which she spoke to the deputy governor.”
The report continues: ”She said, if given the opportunity to have the speech vetted she would be more than prepared to deliver the speech at a later date.”
Prior and following these explanations the media social, the gossip and the mischief pervaded the eyes and ears. These included speculations and questions, as to the involvement of the political directorate, as premier, ministers and others were accused of stopping the lecture, even in the face of explanations given.
The Deputy Governor (DG) informed TMR as she said publicly otherwise at a UWI forum on Wednesday, a continuation – “Let All ideas contend”, ‘for the record’, that no one in authority prevented the St. Patrick’s Day lecture from happening; and that there was no attempt to censor anyone.
Advising she would not like to address the matter in detail, recognizing the “elephant in the room” she said, “The only comment I am going to make on that because I do realize that there is somehow that perception that somebody on this side (pointing to the Governor and herself) stopped the lecture. What I want to draw your attention to, is Miss Estwick’s statement in the press – go back to that, make reference to that, because it has to be understood that there was absolutely no attempt on this side to censor or to stop…”
The Premier Donaldson Romeo was drawn into the speculations and ‘to the public outcry’ as referred to in one report, responded to accusations of his involvement denying any interference by him or any other member of his administration.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with stopping the St. Patrick’s lecture yesterday, I gave no instructions to do such,” commenting further. “What this is it’s another example of where we need to do research, get the facts, get the truth and not go slandering accusing and spreading rumors it is not good.”
General Orders Amendments
Mrs. Simpson made the comments when both she and H E Governor Carriere were participating as panelists with Dr. Samuel Joseph and Jamal Jeffers in a discussion on new amendments due to be made in due haste to General Orders. The matters of concern arose out of the ongoing debate as to the aborted St. Patrick’s Day Lecture.