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Letters

The Calistra Farrier affair

Hon. Clarice Modeste-Curwen
Minister of Tourism &
Member of Parliament,
St. Mark’s

September 14th, 2019

Hon. Minister,

Re Post Cabinet Press Briefing, September 10th, 2019: Incident re Journalist Calistra Farrier

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” – Martin Neimoller (1892-1984)

Greetings Hon. Minister!

I take this opportunity to address you via this letter on a matter causing great consternation in the nation – an incident involving freelance female journalist, Calistra Farrier – which occurred after the Press Briefing that was hosted by yourself and the Hon. Minister for Legal Affairs on Tuesday, September 10th, 2019.

Fortunately, this means of communication does not require me to seek permission to address you. Permit me to clarify that I write in my individual and personal capacity.

We the people have seen a photo of Sen. Winston Garraway standing over Ms. Farrier who, in the photo, seems to be perching one hand to steady herself while in the other hand she is holding a device (it is understood to be an audio recorder).

According to a newspaper report[1], Sen. Garraway can be heard on the audio records calling Ms. Farrier a liar, denying that he touched her and rebuking an evil spirit in her. We know that Sen. Garraway is also a minister of religion. The issue of concern is how did Ms. Farrier end up in that position vis-à-vis Sen. Garraway?

We the people understand as follows:-

  • Ms. Farrier had alerted you, Hon. Minister, that at the end of the post Cabinet briefing, she was desirous of getting a comment from you on a chopping incident in St. Mark’s, the constituency that you represent in Parliament, and you had agreed.
  • Ms. Farrier approached you following the conclusion of the post-Cabinet press briefing. However, Sen. Garraway interceded and instructed you not to respond to Ms. Farrier’s question and ushered you out of the room.
  •  You advised Sen. Garraway that you were quite prepared to answer the question posed by Ms. Farrier.
  •  When you were out of the room, Sen. Garraway stood in the doorway – which prevented Ms. Farrier from getting access to you.
  •  We understand that “contact” re Sen. Garraway and Ms. Farrier, resulted in Ms. Farrier tumbling to the ground. It appears that both parties are contesting the nature of the contact – deliberate or accidental – and the responsibility for making this contact.
  •  While your male colleague, Sen. Garraway, towered over Ms. Farrier on the ground, calling her a liar and purporting to rebuke an evil spirit within her, both of you Ministers left the scene – apparently without a care or concern about the well-being of the journalist who was only trying to pursue a response promised by you Hon. Minister.

Hon. Minister, I am appalled, alarmed and disappointed.

· Whose Authority: From whom or where does Sen. Garraway get the authority to prevent you, a Senior Minister of government from answering a question pertinent to your constituency, when you had indicated your willingness to grant an interview to Ms. Farrier, who, incidentally, is also from St. Mark’s?

·Why Intercept/Prevent Access of Journalist: Why did Sen. Garraway find it necessary to go to lengths of escorting you out of the room and intercepting/preventing Ms. Farrier’s access to you?

· Discrimination: Is Ms. Farrier a victim and a target of discrimination at these post-Cabinet briefings – this being the second consecutive week that attempts were made to prevent her from posing a question to individuals who had indicated to her that they would accommodate her questions? The previous week involved a question to the US Ambassador to Grenada and the Eastern Caribbean. Ms. Farrier is merely going about her business of being a professional journalist, asking probing questions about the business of the state, i.e. the business of we the people.

· Status of Women in Parliament: Hon. Minister, your administration is proud of its record of the percentage of women in Parliament (currently 6 out of 15 seats or 40 percent) – women in national decision-making, a positive indicator of action taken in Grenada to advance the status and equality of women. But cynics may well ask whether the women of Grenada are benefitting or whether it is just a “numbers game”? If you, Hon. Minister, an ELECTED representative of the people of St. Mark’s since 1999, cannot in your own deliberate judgment CHOOSE to answer a question pertinent to a serious matter which took place in your constituency – being prevented from doing so by an UNELECTED MALE colleague who has only been in the Senate for some 6 years – then we the people need to seriously rethink the status of women in Parliament!! Merely a façade!!

· Patriarchy and the Oppression of Women/Violence Against Women: Hon. Minister, the actions of Sen. Garraway represent patriarchy, a system which oppresses and seeks to subordinate women. His image, towering over a female journalist, calling her a liar and rebuking evil spirits within her, is an image of that patriarchal oppression – a male in authority committing an act of “violence” against a female journalist.

Violence against women can be both physical and mental. That image accompanied by the audio recording testify to MENTAL violence being inflicted by a male figure of authority – a Minister of Government and a RELIGIOUS LEADER – seemingly to intimidate and belittle Ms. Farrier, calling her a liar and purporting to rebuke an evil spirit within her. Accidents happen. One would have thought that the “Christian” thing to do was to offer Ms. Farrier a hand-up and enquire as to her well-being.

· United Nations “Spotlight” Initiative: Permit me to comment, Hon. Minister, that it is so ironic that recently the Government of Grenada has been boasting about the UN Spotlight Initiative – a regional project of Euros 2 million – through which Grenada will access funds to work towards improving the status of women in Grenada and combating violence against women. It appears that the work will have to start in the Cabinet!!

· Response of Female Ministers: The saddest part of all of this for me, Hon. Minister is that two female Ministers, yourself and your colleague Minister of Legal Affairs, appeared to be rather unconcerned and simply removed yourselves from the scene. Indeed, it is alleged that your colleague Minister of Legal Affairs appeared to be amused by the incident. I wonder what are the take-aways for the women of Grenada from this incident and in particular, female journalists, if their questioning or persona does not please the honourable Senator.

I trust, Hon. Minister, that you would have reflected on this incident and your own actions – a missed opportunity to exert your independence in honouring the commitment you made to a female journalist and citizen of your constituency. I trust that you and your Cabinet colleagues, particularly the women, will ensure that the honourable Senator understands the errors of his actions following the conclusion of the post-Cabinet briefing and how inimical his actions were to the image of Grenada. I trust that he would demonstrate humility and offer a public apology.

Tourism Development in Rural Areas:

At the press briefing, you were very pleased, Hon. Minister, to advise/announce of tourism development projects for St. David’s through Range Developers. Permit me to enquire, Hon. Minister, of the progress and impact of Peter deSavary’s projects in St. Mark’s? It is understood that you were influential in assisting him to access property in St. Mark’s. After 12 years of presence in St. Mark’s, what has changed as a result of Mr. deSavary’s “developments” in St. Mark’s?

Hon. Minister, I thank you for the opportunity to offer these queries and comments. I also thank you (belatedly) for the very warm welcome proffered when I visited your constituency sometime last year to attend the constitution reform public forum re the Caribbean Court of Justice replacing the Privy Council.

Kind regards!
Sandra C.A. Ferguson