Astounding and appalling

By Kambes Kesolei

It is often popular but misguided practice by those who are in a position of influence or authority to attack the messenger and not the message. Such action is not a new thing or secret. It is known by its nature as character assassination. It is a form of propaganda science.

The rationale is to create a diversion by attempting to discredit the source while re-directing the public away from addressing the real issue. But employing such tactics rarely works and results in just the opposite reaction. It only serves to highlight the issues casting more doubt and confusion than intended.

This newspaper has been in existence for over 30 years and does not claim to be mistake-free. It has made its fair share of errors and corrections along the way. It respects readers’ right to disagree on a storyline, and accept fair criticisms on the quality of its news reporting, printing, and any other aspects of the news operation.

The headline story that appeared in this newspaper last Monday, August 16 seemed to have touched-off a firestorm from the administration. The subject article is “Palau companies bypassed in Taiwan stimulus projects.” And judging the response elicited by the story was both astounding and appalling. It is astounding for the tone of emotional immaturity coming from what should be a beacon of professionalism and appalling for the plain contradictions appearing in one message.

The response from the administration published in one of the local newspapers last Friday sounds so primitive taking a more vicious and personal attack on this news organization. However, it did nothing to counter the facts of the story, unless one is compelled to believe the administration’s general accusation that this newspaper is “engaging in unethical practices…and perpetuate lies and untruths,” without citing any evidence.

The reaction to the story can be categorized as self-induced hullabaloo. The projects description, name of contractors, and cost of each stimulus package cited by the article were from an official document obtained at the CIP Office.  Perhaps emotions ran so high that no time was spent to dispel doubt of the Koksai-Ngchesar winning bidder Shine Engineering in which the company’s office, equipments, and employees are nowhere to be found or located. It boggles the mind. Question remains of the total package for the entire 4-mile Koksai-Ngchesar road?

The administration’s response listed only seven projects; however, it failed to account for the existence of the $750,000 Agriculture Development center in Koksai awarded to Lucky Ocean, Ltd., and the $500,000 Ngardmau connecting road awarded to PTC that were mentioned in the story. Perhaps, it was simply an oversight and not intentional. But who knows?

If there are untruths and confusions then this newspaper might not be the source of it. Exhibit A, by all indication, there was never a deadline for the completion of the projects as evidenced by contradictory statements by various officials. In an earlier newspaper report, Vice President Kerai Mariur clarified the waiver confusion of the procurement law and explained that all projects shall be completed by no later than the end of this calendar year.

In the letter attacking this newspaper, the deadline as it turns out has been removed and no longer dead set on December 31 but moved to something like “must be completed to a major extent by December 2010.” Repeat “to major extent.” Perhaps, reality has settled in. The deadline imposed on the major projects is impractical.

The same letter few paragraphs down confuses even more, “If Taiwan firms received contracts for the majority of the projects, it was simply because they demonstrated their ability to quickly and expeditiously start and complete the projects within the short timeframe remaining before the fund lapse, which would nullify millions of dollars in infrastructure development.” So now we are told the funds have a lapsing date? And when is that? December 31?

As a matter of fact, the public never bought the deadline justification. A simple “drawdown” or “obligation” of the funds would have sufficed as an explanation and not the deliberate and misleading use of project completion date. Hate to pop the balloon, but the administration is not so much as transparent as it is predictable. Sometimes we just have to take responsibility to the mess we created ourselves.

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