By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRESS Secretary Anthony Newbold has not hosted a press briefing in two months, raising questions about the purpose of his role.
There were high expectations in 2017 when Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, promising unprecedented openness in government, appointed Mr Newbold as press secretary.
In a press statement announcing the appointment on May 18, 2017, the government said: “This appointment is the beginning of the resolve of newly-elected Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to make transparency one of the watchwords of his new Free National Movement government. (Anthony Newbold) will conduct media briefings on Cabinet decisions after Cabinet meetings and coordinate media appearances and press conferences for the prime minister among other duties.”
Nonetheless, a press briefing has not been held since before Christmas.
Reporters have long been frustrated by Mr Newbold’s limited ability to get substantive responses to queries.
Sources in the government, speaking anonymously to The Tribune yesterday, blamed civil servants and a political culture which, for all the rhetoric, struggles with transparency.
Some also criticised Dr Minnis, saying he never sent a directive to senior civil servants ordering them to respond to information requests that come from senior communication personnel like Mr Newbold.
Mr Newbold declined to comment about the matters when contacted.
However, Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell said he recently wondered what happened to the role of press secretary.
“I found it interesting,” he said when contacted, “that it was (Communications Director Erica Wells Cox) who issued the statement about the gaming tax agreement between the government and operators (on Wednesday) and I thought, ‘where is the press secretary and BIS?’ We indicated before that there are three different people, the press secretary, the communications director and BIS director and usually such a statement would come from the BIS director. I also wondered what happened to the press secretary and the interactions with the press that were supposed to take place. It begs the question. No one has a quarrel with the government for having its public relations machinery but people must have work to do. It doesn’t seem that there is sufficient work being generated out of this government to generate the three different positions that it has, so something has to give.”
Mrs Wells Cox was appointed to her new post last month.
The administration also pledged Dr Minnis would hold quarterly press conferences in a bid to boost transparency and accountability, but this too has amounted to little. As the third anniversary of the May 10 general election nears, the Killarney MP has yet to host such a briefing, although he does occasionally take questions from reporters at various events.
During an event yesterday, reporters sought to ask Dr Minnis about the substantive chief justice role which has not been filled and the opposition’s calls for National Security Minister Marvin Dames and Health Minister Dr Duane Sands to resign because of their involvement in the Frank Smith bribery trial.
Rushing away, Dr Minnis did not stop to answer reporters’ questions, saying he had a flight to catch.