Secrets and lies

IT’S HARD to get facts these days.

How did Andrea Bharatt die? The State’s findings are inconclusive, but a private autopsy reveals blunt force trauma to the head.

How did suspect Andrew Morris die? The police say he fell from a chair, but autopsies suggest multiple blunt force trauma. Police also say a second suspect, Devon Charles, had to be “subdued,” but an autopsy suggests he too was beaten to death.

The Prime Minister tells a crowd in Belmont he was asked to attend Ms Bharatt’s funeral but declined because he did not want to politicise the issue. Days later, he says he was not asked by the family of Ms Bharatt (who else could ask him?) and declined to attend for another reason: parliamentary duties.

Minister of Finance Colm Imbert says Industrial Court rulings have precipitated losses at a state agency. Within days, he is forced to justify this statement in a lengthy media release.

It is tempting to blame Donald Trump for all this. Mr Trump’s tenure as US president, for many, marked a shift into a “post-truth” era, when facts no longer matter in public life, only perceptions and prejudices. All over the world, Mr Trump has spawned imitators, with some, for instance, comparing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to him.

In truth, TT has been going through its own “post-truth” convulsion for decades. If we can accuse our public officials of deliberately seeking to mislead or obfuscate, we can also point to a larger, all-pervasive culture of secrecy that informs their actions.

The media have a role to play in all of this. But the Fourth Estate faces an uphill battle when the highest echelons of our society choose to perpetuate the same culture of secrecy they were appointed to dispel.

To whom can the media turn when the custodians of official information are themselves hostile to the most basic form of scrutiny: questioning?

Independent institutions have a key role to play in unravelling fact from fiction. But those institutions are increasingly beholden to the executive, which controls their purse strings and defines the scope of their powers.

Who has faith that the Police Complaints Authority will ever release its findings on the two suspects who have died in police custody, when that “authority” cannot even tell us who is responsible for the death of Ornella Greaves, shot during a protest last year?

Knowledge is power, it used to be said. Today, we have refined this to: whoever controls information controls the narrative.

The casualty is truth itself.

Meanwhile, citizens and the most vulnerable continue to pay. Cases like that of a Belmont resident who has been missing for two years slip through the cracks, with no answers in sight.


"Secrets and lies"

More in this section