Sick interruption

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THE opening statement of counsel to the Paria Commission of Enquiry Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, on Monday was interrupted by state broadcaster TTT to facilitate NLCB’s Play Whe draw.

This intrusion was distasteful and inappropriate.

Mr Maharaj was less than ten minutes into his overview of the material facts and issues when at 10.30 am, advertisements flashed on screen, followed by the Play Whe, Pick 2 and Pick 4 draws, complete with upbeat parang music.

This was bad enough. But it was made worse in light of the harrowing nature of much of Monday’s proceedings.

Fittingly, the Play Whe mark called in the offending draw was 15, or Sick Woman. There was indeed something sick or sickening about the way the broadcast of the commission was abruptly cut off.

Mere moments earlier, Mr Maharaj had disclosed that a pathologist believed one of the five men trapped in the underwater pipeline at the centre of the events of Carnival Friday might have been alive as late as the following Monday.

Later in the sitting, distressing evidence was also aired, including video and audio footage taken from one of the diver’s GoPro cameras, covering the moments before and immediately after the incident erupted.

This evidence was so horrific (the shell-shocked divers are heard crying out that they are trapped inside the pipe) that enquiry officials gave several content warnings of its distressing nature.

Also a matter of grave disquiet was the stunning litany of errors and omissions on all sides suggested by the various investigations and reports canvassed by Mr Maharaj in his remarks.

The sombreness of all of this made the decision to proceed with the Play Whe draw appear even more jarring.

Play Whe has long been a part of our culture and a fixture of our broadcasting landscape. There are, undoubtedly, legal reasons why the state broadcaster must often cut away from its programming to facilitate draws.

But for too long the sometimes deleterious impact of this practice has been ignored.

It is not only commissions of enquiry that are affected. Over the years, many Cabinet media briefings, special press conferences and live events have been cut off at crucial moments through the sheer ill-luck of being timed around a Play Whe draw.

That has to change.

All the parties to this matter are state entities: TTT, NLCB and the Paria enquiry. There is no reason why a workable solution cannot be adopted. For example, the screen can be split to allow those interested in watching the draw still to do so, minus the benefit of audio.

Given recent concerns about game-fixing, it is understandable that the authorities might not wish to tinker too much with current practices.

But action must be taken to prevent disruptions like Monday’s from recurring.


"Sick interruption"

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