Open letter to Matthew Peters, President UWI Student Guild, St Augustine campus
“The fact that you could openly admit that there were persons with whom you surround yourself, who flagrantly scorned the inclusion of any government member in the panel, clearly reflects a bias in your organizing committee.”
Mr. Matthew Peters
The University of the West Indies – St. Augustine Campus
Dear Mr. Peters,
I do hope that this email does not intimidate you in any way, but as many of the persons copied can attest to, this style of ‘blogging’ has become a habit of mine in an effort to transport the art of debating into the 21st century. I would also like you to know that I have blind-copied government officials in this email as well, however, following the cause célèbre that was ’emailgate’ I feel it is now necessary to preserve the identity of these email addresses lest another unfortunate incident such as that should fabricate.
It is actually in keeping with this philosophy that I approached your good self that fateful evening, only yesterday, to convey my opinion of your planned forum on the proposed budget currently being debated in the august halls of Parliament. Now for those who may not already be aware, The Student Guild at The UWI St. Augustine Campus in conjunction with the ‘Heliconia Foundation for Young Professionals PNM Youth League’ (sic), will be hosting a Post Budget Forum on Wednesday 17th September, 2014. This forum, which is being held on campus, will feature the following panelists:
- Dr. the Hon. Keith Rowley, Leader of the Opposition and Member of Parliament for Diego Martin West;
- Dr. the Hon. Lester Henry – Opposition Senator;
- Mr. Matthew Peters – President of the Student Guild; and
- Ms. Melissa Pulchan – Youth Speaker.
I had previously been unaware of the event when I happened to glimpse the handbill fluttering upon the wall it was hastily stuck against, as if trying to escape its glue-bound confinement. Upon further inspection I experienced an agglomeration of emotion all attacking me at once, while simultaneously wondering if it was real. To my dread, indeed it was real, a printed notification announcing a political meeting to be held in the once hallowed and respected halls of The UWI campus under the guise of academic forum. One need only to examine any of the dozens of flyers currently littering the hallways on campus to arrive at this determination. For those unable to do so in person however, I submit a photo of the flyer, attached to this email, for your own perusal.
Why would the picture of Hon. Dr. Rowley, featured across a quarter of the face, so glamorously display his balisier tie, given that it’s the PNM’s official logo? Why else would the panel consist of only members of the PNM? And why collaborate with the Heliconia Foundation, which is rooted firmly within the ambit of the PNM? If there was any doubt that the PNM propaganda machine had been stagnating, this clearly proves otherwise.
But it was your guileless reply, when we spoke last evening, that convinced me that your arrival at the decision to green-light this affair may be a case of naïveté rather than complicity. I was only suggesting that balance be brought to the proceedings in an effort to maintain both integrity and impartiality. It was for this reason that I innocently implored that both government members and independent persons, either from Senate or private enterprise, be included in the panel so that all sides of this debate can be justly represented and at the same time challenged in keeping with past UWI tradition. But alas, this suggestion was so expeditiously dismissed that it prompted my initial curiosity to the true desideratum of this undertaking.
The fact that you could openly admit that there were persons with whom you surround yourself, who flagrantly scorned the inclusion of any government member in the panel, clearly reflects a bias in your organizing committee. It also speaks to the levels of both your intuitiveness and credibility when you can suggest that this government is not willing to participate in open debates, when only last year we witnessed the historic local government debate featuring representatives from all the major political parties.
It is even more surprising that as a UWI student, you are not aware of the numerous debates often held at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), hosted many a time by Prof. Patrick Watson. I can only assume of course, to your formerly stated ignorance, for indeed you had attended or were even informed of those debates, then you would be aware that they have always been properly represented by government officials as well as opposition and independent persons.
Mr. Peters, while you shared your interest in holding such events for individual parties in the future, I am afraid that your reputation may be to badly tainted for them to be viewed as objective. You should also note that any action taken by the student body also reflects on the university as a whole. I mention this to you, not as a threat, but a warning as you may be embarking down a road from which you may not easily be able to turn back. While I respect the energy and enthusiasm you no doubt would have expended in creating this event, a forum simply should not reflect one-sided opinions and conjecture. It should instead focus on delivering comprehensive views and interpretations, from which analysis and debate can be spawned. This has served as the basis for previous forums of this nature, and it is this legacy that has elevated The UWI to become the preeminent institution for research and analysis in the region.
Every time I witness a debate taking place, be it between our Honorable Parliamentarians in our esteemed Parliament, or by an assembly of distinguished gentlemen patronizing a local pub, and everywhere in between, I feel a sense of pride and gratitude that I was born in a democratic nation such as ours. For as politically charged as the nation may constantly appear, we enjoy the right to free speech and expression and we capitalize on it at every opportunity. But even these rights must be held to the highest standards of fairness and integrity, lest we abuse and pervert these privileges. So it is with this in mind that I humbly beseech you again, that if you are to indeed launch this forum, you do so with esteem and rectitude as to preserve the legacy of The UWI for generations to come.
I thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and I look forward to your response.