Gary Griffith is not the first populist figure to excite the popular imagination and win the adoration of the multitudes.
Indeed, history is replete with colourful personalities gifted with the ability to tap into a people’s desperation for change and offer themselves as the right candidate to shake up the status quo. Around the world, the longing for change explains the rise of populist leaders coming to office with promises to step up on toes, dismantle privilege and, as the US President Donald Trump puts it, “drain the swamp”.
So intense is the longing for change that many who support are willing to give them a free pass in the name of some larger goal.
As Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith has precedent on his side in the late commissioner Randolph Burroughs, the self-styled “Kojak” whose popularity endures among many from an older generation willing to accept the risk of collateral damage in the name of law and order. We raise the comparison today out of deep concern with the actions of Commissioner Griffith in relation to the lead story of last week’s Sunday Express. It is on the public record that this newspaper and its staff are regularly and publicly excoriated by Commissioner Griffith for any report which does not conform to his version of events.
That instinct was on full blast this past week following publication of a story by journalist Denyse Renne that one Cecil Skeete had filed a report at the Four Roads Police Station claiming to have been choked and threatened by Commissioner Griffith. Further, that the station duty diary in which the report was recorded had since been seized and that the officers then on duty had been transferred. Several days before publication, Ms Renne sent questions about the allegations to Commissioner Griffith for response. He did not reply. What followed was simply bizarre.
As publication date neared, instead of responding to the questions, Commissioner Griffith contacted Dawn Thomas, CEO of One Caribbean Media, publishers of this newspaper, and put a man on the phone who he said was Cecil Skeete. The person admitted that yes, “something” did “happen” with Commissioner Griffith but that they were now “good” and the commissioner “has his back”. Mr Skeete made no contact with Ms Renne who had interviewed him.
Two days after the story was published, an affidavit signed by Skeete denying our story began making the rounds. Notably, it was not sent to this newspaper nor has Mr Skeete since contacted Ms Renne to challenge her story. Instead, both Ms Renne and Editor-in-Chief Omatie Lyder have been subjected to a barrage of public insults and defamatory allegations by Commissioner Griffith who is yet to respond to our questions. Mr Skeete’s allegation and subsequent actions remain the subject of an ongoing investigation by this newspaper.
While we await Commissioner Griffith’s response to our questions we wish to inform him that we will not be intimidated either by him or by the populist support that is willing to give him a free pass on fair questions.
To do otherwise is to put our democracy in danger.