August 20, 2004
Otto Sam

Searchlight is pleased to publish this response to our Editorial of Friday 13 August entitled Conflict Resolution signed by Otto Sam, the president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union. Except for our annotations, which are evident, and for our omission of a short section on the advice of our solicitors, we have reproduced the letter exactly as it was received by e-mail.

To: The editor of Searchlight

Conflict Resolution / Objectivity /
Class Interest

The Searchlight editorial of last Friday 13th August along with columnist ‘One Love Bassy’ made some very interesting comments in relation to the SVGTU’s Press Conference held on 10th August 2004. {{more}}
The attitude of the journalist representing Searchlight at the Press Conference concurred with the “penning” of its editorial and this writer is certainly not surprised at the conclusion drawn and comments made in its editorial.
For example, the journalist thought how dare we have a Press Conference and what issues are we talking about is evidence(sic) when the editorial said This prompted a stern response from the leadership of the Union who summoned the media to a briefing, even as the nation’s parliamentarian were in the House debating the people’s business.
Firstly, the bias and prejudice of the editorial is seen in the choice of word summoned. This Union never summoned but invited the Press to a briefing and what does the editor mean when he says “even as the nation’s parliamentarians were in the house debating the nation’s business?” Is it that teachers are not people? Or is it that there(sic) business is not important? And does the Press which is a guardian of Democracy think that the SVGTU should not be accountable to its members? Or has the Searchlight’s editorial whose personal and class interest is caught up in the issue is simply ignoring everything else in defending its family, friends and class? Or is it although it quotes the Minister as citing that the Union has legitimate concerns seeking to trivalise the issue and or give us a lesson in conflict resolution. Even after the President Otto and 1st Vice President Bro Calvert Woods went to great length to explain that there is no conflict but that the SVGTU are surfacing several issues which are of importance to education and to which the SVGTU and the Ministry of Education can and must address urgently.
I want to assure my friends at Searchlight that this executive will not take blame and responsibility from its members and the general public when it is apparently been set up by the leadership of the Ministry of Education. We will tell our members the truth because we are accountable to them.
Secondly, the Searchlight must understand that had it been the in a different era in the history of the Trade Union’s movement – The SVGTU may not have had a Press Conference to address all these concerns. They would have called a General Council meeting, then a General meeting passed a resolution and start picketing the Ministry of Education the following day. However, in keeping with the current trend in the Trade Union movement which dictates that Trade Union be more open and scientific and the fact that this is a mature executive the Union choose the method it took. Further more the fact that this government has made several good moves in education including the massive school repair programme and its liberal policy to granting teachers leave for Professional Development among others there is a lot of good will for the ULP and that’s why the (latter) approach might have been different.
The editor criticize (what they called) the strident language used by the President but its deliberate use of the word summoned is probably the most “honest” selection and its failure to make a single critique of the Minister or the Ministry is instructive and speaks volume. The Searchlight’s interest is at stake hence…!
However, the leadership of the SVGTU does not jeopardize anything by raising issues which affects education, its membership and the nation. A trip to Taiwan is not in jeopardy, a rise to Governor Generalship is not put at risk, nor is plenty government adds(sic) or building of dynasty in education put us at risk. Hence, the SVGTU will comment fearlessly in appropriate language when it comes to education. The Union and its leadership have absolutely nothing to loose! I wonder how the same Searchlight might have reacted if Curtis M. King was appointed principal of Grammar School or if someone like a Sylvia Findley was sent to Girls High School or brought in as CEO / Senior Education Officer with Hugh Wyllie / Tyrone Burke made CEO!
Read The Vincentian and The News of Friday 13th August 2004 to further understand the prejudice and bias that I am citing. The Vincentian presents a story as captured but its editorial was given some balance and did not seek to give conflict resolution lessons to SVGTU as done by a very prejudicial Searchlight while The News went even further to contact Minister Browne for his response. SVGTU knows that it cannot dictate who gets the top job but while former CEO Mr. Den – He was seen as a political appointment by the NDP. The job was advertised and Mrs. Browne and Dr. Marks all applied and were interviewed. Also when Hugh Wyllie, also seen as a political appointment was selected for the post of Deputy CEO. The job was advertised and the interested applicants were given an interview with the Public Service Commission. So what is the noise about now! As Bro Denniston correctly said at the news conference – It is Animal farm. Everybody is equal but some persons are obviously more equal than others – But it’s sad that a modern Media House will have so much to loose(sic) that it is afraid to say such.
But interestingly, my good friend Bassy also addressed mainly the promotion and transfer. He thinks that the SVGTU is correct to express it concern as regards to a number of issues but Bassy cleverly blames them on the Administrative Staff.
I guess he too is caught up in the whole class and “close frienditis”. So really, it’s the little black boys and girls not dealing with those letters, leave form etc, but the real shakers names cannot be called because they are Birds of a Feather.
[Section omitted] Why in God’s name would a Minister and government which is having and had a public battle with Mrs. Leacock’s husband now seek to let a technocrat have her way again in a case which is clearly ugly, untimely and unfortunate?
But interestingly Bassy gives his friend, his favourite PS none of the blame – Because that’s a mixture of class and party commitment.
One Love you don’t know what is happening at Education! When even as you spoke of knowing who senior who and who has more ability than who! The changes in Education generally had nothing to do with ability since all of the professionals involve have very good ability – It is just a matter of class. And Otto the citizen writes to this effect in The News…
For example, when Stanley Campbell was Deputy Chief Education Officer his office was at the Top Building at the Ministry of Education. When Mrs. Laura Browne was Deputy Chief it was at the same Top building (upstairs) you may say! But alas, when Hugh Wyllie, (the boy from a rural primary school) became Deputy Chief they throw him in an abandon room at the bottom building with two old chairs and give a class name the Deputy room at the top. It was Bro Denniston Douglas, the Union’s Industrial Relation Officer who had to beg the establishment for two chairs for Mr. Wyllie. So Bassy you don’t fully grasped(sic) / is it sheer class? And One Love if the Union is to raise the continued dirty work re: Ministry of Education / and other issues to show you how class determines everything in SVG not only you but the entire nation will be amazed.
Finally, it’s a surprise that Searchlight found the concerns raised by the SVGTU surprising since they were raised and published at the CTF’s workshop opening on 12th July 2004 and enjoyed favourable air play on radio and SVGTV for an entire week. But again, the editor might have thought that we were rude to have CTF Workshop when Parliamentarians were at the Pool Site at Rawacou. This might explain the paper’s absence from the CTF’s opening but now that their direct interest is a stake they turned up to defend … I am happy for the media and I am cognizant of its importance. However, Searchlight must show that it has more than family and class interest in the recent issues in education. Being balance(sic) and objective should not cause you to loose(sic) what your family, friends and clique are qualified for. Please put objectivity before interest
Thanking you!
Otto Sam

Editor’s note:
This letter speaks volumes. While in a democratic process, disagreements are quite healthy and must be encouraged, it is how we approach the resolution of the conflicts, with respect for each other always, that determines how we arrive at win-win solutions toward the common good.
History, we feel confident, will absolve our stated position on this issue.