Martin Daly

Martin Daly

In “Smoke & Mirrors”, Demi Lovato doubts their lover and asks: “Now that I see you clearer, I wonder, was I really happy? Now that I see you clearer, was it just smoke and mirrors?”

An 18th century smartman is credited with the first use of a light projector to throw a beam of light onto a mirror which reflects off of the mirror into a cloud of manufactured smoke. The smoke, in turn, scatters the beam to create an image.

Smoke and mirrors is described as “a classic technique in magical illusions that make an entity hover in an empty space”. The technique is intended to make those watching believe that something is being done or is true when it is not. However, when the smoke clears, the truth comes out. Two matters that have dominated the news cycle recently are full of false images.

In respect of one of those matters, we can already see clearer and know that we are not happy.

That one is the indemnity proposed to be given to the board of directors of the flagship National Gas Company (NGC) as a result of the questionable investment, which reportedly could be as much as $440 million to keep Train 1 of the Atlantic Liquified National Gas (Atlantic LNG) complex operational, even though there was no secure supply of gas available for Train 1 operations.

When the story of the NGC investment broke, the Government’s evasive response took the form of projecting “sensitive negotiations”. In my view, this was an attempt to make us believe that it might not be true that there was no gas supply for Train 1 and the lack of gas supply might yet be resolved.

To that thin smoke was added the usual back-up smoke that the issue was Opposition UNC-generated. From that ritualistic claim, arose the unjustified innuendo that the established investigative journalist at the Trinidad Guardian, Curtis Williams, was peddling UNC and multi-national corporation propaganda.

The second matter concerns the manipulations of the appointment of a Commissioner of Police (CoP) consequent upon the expiry of the term of office of Gary Griffith and the keen interest in whether Griffith is likely to be re-appointed.

The Griffith story may be hotter and more intriguing than the intricacies of the grant of an indemnity to a board of directors.

However, the NGC directors and management were responsible for an expenditure of many, many millions, which could have been used for Covid-19 relief grants to the many suffering citizens who are not sufficiently connected, either to the formal economy or to the partisan political system, to get through with relief grants.

As indicated before, by being evasive and frequently substituting harsh rebuff for accountability, the Government creates an information vacuum.

Persons opposed poli­tically to the Government attempt to fill the vacuum but these politicians frequently have no material of their own. Political opportunism cannot, or ought not to, diminish the credibility of a good piece of journalism.

Probably, to the disappointment of some readers, I will leave the CoP appointment circus for now, except to say that it is usually fatal to promote your own popu­larity above that of incumbent political leadership.

Another failed NGC investment was revealed last week, but the disastrous Train 1 investment must be further highlighted in order to emphasise that all attempts to shoot the journalistic messenger were neutralised when, to his credit, the chairman of NGC, Mr Conrad Enill, as reported last Sunday, stepped forward and gave a radio interview.

Enill acknowledged that money was sunk into Train 1 even though there was no secure supply of gas to operate it. NGC decided to rely on excess gas that appeared to be available, but was caught naked when that gas was taken up by the downstream producers to whom the gas was committed. He also blew away the thin smoke screen of sensitive negotiations by exposing NGC’S lack of control or influence in negotiations between the Government and the multi-national gas producers.

Enill’s honesty is commendable. The thrust of the journalist’s story that NGC took a gamble was correct. Our weakening but still free media had an impressive two weeks.

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THE first and only face-to-face encounter I had with Yasin Abu Bakr was on a green bus belonging to the Defence Force.

And that day the Muslimeen leader caused me to abandon my journalistic impartiality.

Against the backdrop of a rise in Covid-19 hospitalisations, pupils in Forms 4 to 6 are being required to return to in-person classes today, whether vaccinated or not. We hope for the children’s sake that they are all vaccinated given the fact that the highly transmissible Delta variant is among us.

The Government has decided that all Forms Four and Six, whether vaccinated or not, will be in school today but have they thought out the logistics of such a move?

I have taken note of the comments of Senator Anthony Vieira published in Saturday’s Express.

I must firstly place on record my disappointment that the Senator would remain silent in the Chamber on Thursday, but choose to attack the Opposition through the media. If the Senator thought anyone was conflicted, he had a duty to raise it in the Chamber so his allegation could be properly answered.

With the long-awaited passing of Yasin Abu Bakr, we have had several people making comments.

One of these people was Selby Wilson who, and I quote, said it was a “painful period”.

Democracy is an aspiration, not an achievement. It is a work in progress, not a finished product. A people can never be fully satisfied with the status of their democracy so long as humans interact with one another.