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Khan: Media made PM’s statement into roti war

The trinidad Guardian / Chairman of the PNM, Franklin Khan, is arguing that the media’s coverage of the roti statement made by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in the recent Local Government elections campaign was “a disservice to the election campaign.”

Speaking on the Morning Brew on CNC3 Khan stopped short of blaming the media for the outcome of Monday’s elections but he said the low point of the campaign was “when the media put a spin on our reform agenda and made it into a roti war.”

Khan was responding to questions about whether 80 per cent of the population who did not vote in the election on Monday were sending a message to the PNM and the UNC that they were tired of the brand of politics being offered.

Khan said the PNM was still to analyse the result “but if you take the 80 per cent who did not vote it means you did not excite them. We cannot say the per cent who did not vote voted against the PNM that is ludicrous but we take that to mean there is probably some work to do.”

He added: “We latched our wagon on a campaign for Local Government reform, Rowley and myself and all the other candidates and the PNM frontline speakers on the platform night after night articulated this message because it will bring a fundamental change in the governance structure in this country.”

However, the message was lost according to Khan. “The media did not cover it properly because the media were just looking for excitable issues to publish on their headlines,” he added.

He said: “Sometimes a statement is made in passing but you want sensationalism in the headlines.”

Khan said statements, like the “roti, is what the media likes.”

He added: “I was on the platform every night I heard when Rowley made the statement. He made it in the context of profligate spending and he quoted from the Divali function that a $350,000 bill was for a meal.”

Asked whether in retrospect Rowley should not have made the roti statement, Khan responded: “So if I had made the roti statement would it have been different? Why is it so wrong to say roti in Trinidad? Is it wrong to say bake or dumpling? We are overly sensitive. How could that ever become a campaign issue to overshadow our Local Government reform agenda?” he asked.

Khan said during that same speech Dr Rowley quoted figures from Emancipation Day, and Shouter Baptist Day, “but this (roti) was excised as a clip and made into some sensational headline but you all in the media, what can I say.”

He said Rowley made three comparisons — Emancipation, Shouter Baptist and Eid — “and it was all to show it was profligate spending. Whether roti was served on the menu is a non-issue,” he said.

Khan argued that “if I and Dr Rowley go and say we will bring social service delivery to Local Government where it more naturally resides you will not cover that, and you will not cover that we will bring a cadre of local contractors who will bring added value and the multiplier effect to the local economy in Sangre Grande or Couva or in Siparia.”

Asked whether he was blaming the media for the PNM’s loss in the elections Khan insisted: “We did not lose we won.”

According to Khan “the PNM won this election in every single category. There are 14 corporations up for grabs, the PNM won seven and the UNC six, the PNM won more electoral districts than the UNC, the PNM won 81 electoral districts and the UNC won 56, that’s a very wide margin.”

He said “whatever spin you want to put on it, we have won in every single category in which you can determine this election.”

WHAT ROWLEY SAID

The Prime Minister told a meeting in Cocoyea Village, San Fernando, on November 16, 2016:

“I saw some records at the Prime Minister’s residence. You know every year at the Prime Minister’s residence we have a function for Divali, for Eid, for Christmas, for Emancipation. For one Divali function they (the Peoples Partnership) paid $350,000 for roti.”

The ‘roti bill’ found its way into Parliament with Princes Town MP Barry Padarath challenging the Prime Minister to produce the bills. Padarath was suspended from Parliament for 15 minutes as he shouted across the Parliament floor for the Prime Minister to produce the bills.

On November 18 in Parliament Dr Rowley revised the figures for the roti, saying it actually cost $250,000. He put the price tab on the Divali function at $394,000.

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