Sunday, March 3, 2024

ONLY HUMAN: What frenzy, Mr Sinckler?


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WHY IS IT that each time there is a major discussion on an issue in this country, our politicians blame the media for instigating it? Don’t they realize that the media, in general, reflect the views of the public and are therefore a gauge of their constituents’ views on an issue?
We witnessed the tirade of Senator Haynesley Benn on what he termed the unfair comments by this newspaper concerning the cost of living and Government’s actions to address it. Now on Monday there was Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s accusation of whipping up a frenzy over the CLICO issue.
It is time politicians here understand that the media cannot whip people into a frenzy over a non-existent issue. When people feel strongly about a matter they seek to have that matter addressed.
And when all else fails, they turn to the media to let the public in general know that they think they have been wronged and they want justice.
We are as integral to the process of a functioning democracy as free and fair elections at specified intervals are. Indeed, the media act as a watchdog on moves made by government and other key political, social and economic players, seek to ensure that the public interest is served in whatever is done.
This CLICO issue is one where policyholders – feel they have been disadvantaged, disrespected and disregarded. Their collective feelings found a voice in one of their number, June Fowler, and THE NATION published her letter saying that she wanted her money back, and immediately. Other policyholders wrote letters, formed an association, and hired an attorney.
The media did not have to do anything to whip these people into a frenzy. They were already agitated by the dearth of information from the Government and the company, and the lack of transparency on this issue.
Mr Sinckler, it is because of your Government’s lack of openness on this issue and the company’s equal silence that policyholders are so riled up.
So don’t blame the media, Mr Sinckler. Quite frankly, if there is anybody you should be annoyed at it is former CLICO head Leroy Parris. His words and actions are what have caused problems for your Government.
Think about it. When CLICO buckled in Trinidad, immediately on January 30, 2009, then Prime Minister Thompson reassured the public that Government was “fully satisfied that CLICO’s Barbadian operations are sound, prudently managed and well regulated”.
Shortly after that the Central Bank put $10 million of taxpayers’ money into CLICO. Then in May he announced the formation of a Government controlled Oversight Committee, led by William Layne, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, and to boot a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Government and CLICO for the establishment of the Committee.
Up to that point the majority of policyholders were not panicking.
By August of that year the Supervisor of Insurance prohibited CLICO from writing new business. No one was told but it never came out until the following year when Parris in responding to Layne’s comments about the company revealed the company had sold 800 policies in two months in 2010 in violation of the Supervisor of Insurance’s directive.
But worse, while some people were calling for their money but could not get it, Parris received more than $250 000 for matured policies. And recently it was revealed that he received more than $3 million in payments up to late last year and was now suing CLICO for more than $10 million.
With all of this coming to light Mr Sinckler, the media do not have to do anything to whip people into a frenzy.


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