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Dumas, media knocked over China comments

Published: 
Friday, November 17, 2017

Stop twisting facts into fake news.

That's the message from Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young yesterday, as he knocked commentators - including former public service head Reginald Dumas - and media interpretations of the changes concerning Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's China visit.

"Every commentator who didn't see the statement from the Chinese Embassy on (the change) pre-empted it as they were hell bent on trying to create an issue that doesn’t exist - including a former head of the public service who started off saying ‘I don't know,’” Young said yesterday.

“Quite simply put, sir, if you don't know, don’t comment if you don’t have the facts before you.”

Speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet press briefing, Young added: "It's rather disappointing and unfortunately not surprising to see what occurred on social and even mainstream media regarding the announcement I made last week about the Prime Minister's to visit China."

He recounted that the Chinese ambassador met Rowley in Parliament in October, following which the initial invitation arose to visit China at month-end.

But Young said the Chinese subsequently had a change of schedule.

"Something took place in China and they informed us there had been a change from the initially planned high level meeting. They said the format was downgraded,” Young explained.

“As a result, they no longer felt it was fit for the Prime Minister to attend as the meetings were no longer high level. They immediately extended an invitation for an official visit which is the highest level of visit."

He said the new visit is planned for next spring and the Chinese Embassy also issued similar statements on the matter.

"But certain persons, including the media, twisted this. When dealing with foreign states, however, Government takes this very seriously."

He said people on social media and the press made pronouncements, "some with the preamble 'I don't know' - admitting they didn't know the situation. Some elements in the media didn't report my statement (on the issue) accurately, putting spin on it, using words about ‘snub.’”

He added, “Former ambassadors were awash on social media, not having a clue, or a diplomatic note, or seeing China's statement, but they misled people, creating a storm in a teacup. We take serious issue with these people.

“Those who want to declare themselves commentators - please get the facts first,” he added.

Young said Government didn’t have an issue with criticism, “When you’re dealing with foreign nations, a country needs to be careful. People who were commenting, twisted facts we gave into things that don't exist. It wasn't criticism. It was the creation of fake news - facts that don't exist.

“There was no ‘snub’ of the Prime Minister. The inviters changed the invitation and offered something else. We weren't going to ask why they changed, that’s discourteous.”