Misleading Express editorial of February 20 2019

Initially, when I heard the comments of Opposition Member of Parliament for Oropouche East on a TV talk show on February 19, 2019 questioning how the Minister of National Security came into possession of information as to the criminal record of an individual who had twenty two charges laid against him, including convictions, I chose to ignore these comments as pure political mischief and an attempt to draw me into a useless debate on a non-issue.

However, when I see the Trinidad Express Newspaper making the same accusation against me, as Minister of National Security, in its Editorial of February 20, 2019, it becomes necessary for me to respond. The said Express editorial makes two points that are erroneous and worthy of immediate correction.

Firstly, the editorial accuses me of disregarding due process and states that, “... National Security Minister Stuart Young on Monday described a speaker on an Opposition political platform as a criminal. The stated basis for that label was not successful conviction but charges i.e. accusations.” This accusation by the Express Newspaper against me is completely contradicted by its own lead story at page 3 of its February 20, 2019 edition in a story written by Anna Ramdass, which is advertised on its front page as, “NO HELP FROM PNM, Young man who appeared on UNC platform lashes back at Stuart”.

I draw attention to paragraph four of the said lead story in the Express where the newspaper prints, “Hughes admitted he was charged with several offences, some of which he pleaded guilty to and was fined or received bail.” Therefore, the same Express newspaper, as its lead story confirms what I knew as Minister of National Security, i.e. that this young man has been convicted of criminal charges and it was not merely accusations against him as the editorial suggests.

This shows clearly, without me even needing to provide the facts myself, that the Express’ editorial criticism of me is completely unfounded. It also shows unfortunately, that the newspaper chose to ignore the facts reported by it, in the same edition of its paper, that there were convictions. Rather, the editorial falsely accuses me of disregarding due process, an allegation that is completely false and misleading.

The second accusation against me by the said Express editorial is the surprising repeat of the narrative raised by the Opposition Member of Parliament for Oropouche East, questioning how the Minister of National Security came into possession of information that a person who appeared on a political platform had twenty two charges laid against him (many of which were brought to conclusion by convictions against him).

The Editorial states, “How the National Security Minister came to possess that information of a political opponent is an as yet unanswered question.” This accusation against me is again completely unfounded, mischievous and intended to mislead the reader.

As the Minister of National Security, the office holder receives many security briefings on matters and issues that affect the national and even international landscape. On a daily basis throughout the day, a Minister of National Security receives briefings on many issues of a national security nature. In fact, the media constantly reaches out to me for comment on crimes and national security issues e.g. murders, accidents, border breaches and other serious issues. By definition, the media and the public expect the Minister of National Security to be aware of issues related to the criminal landscape in Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore to repeat a political narrative of the Opposition as to how, I, as Minister of National Security came to possess the information that a person appearing on a public political platform had twenty two charges laid against him is rhetorical.

What I can assure the public of, is that, I did not call for, or seek of my own volition, the information surrounding this individual who it was reported by the same Express Newspaper, and the same reporter, Anna Ramdass, a week ago, was shot nine times. I did not ask for any report of my own volition. A report was provided to me, as many reports are, on a daily basis. This is an issue of national security.

It is unfortunate that I have had to issue this statement as I would have hoped and expected more responsible and fair reporting by the Express newspaper, particularly in its editorial. However, it is necessary for me to clarify the above by using facts, as these are very serious allegations made against me and it is incumbent of me to show that the Express’ allegations against me are inaccurate and misleading.

I conclude by stating that I believe fully in the freedom of the press and I will always defend this principle. It is however incumbent on the media and editorials to be fair, factually correct and accurate as they carry a responsibility to us the public to so be.

Stuart R. Young, M.P.

MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY

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