Text book piracy: Dr Luncheon’s second ‘take’
High-profile personages including politicians are, as a general rule, better positioned than run of the mill citizens to ‘make’ news, that advantage arising out of an entirely reasonable assumption that their pronouncements and actions will be of greater national import and therefore more newsworthy. This of course is not to say that our public persons are averse to what Elections Commissioner Steve Surujbally has described as “excursions into dotishness.” Since, however, the focus tends to be more on the messenger than the message, undeserving pronouncements, all too frequently, become news.
Shocking though Dr Roger Luncheon’s initial pronouncement on pirated textbooks was, it was entirely newsworthy. An official confession of a serious and inexcusable transgression on the part of the political administration certainly belongs in the public domain, never mind, in the case of Dr Luncheon’s first take on the issue, the perfectly nauseating “price” and “quality” justification for the transgression.
Not so – at least in our view – the Cabinet Secretary’s second ‘take’ on the matter, a remark to the effect that his earlier pronouncement on the administration’s transgression has nothing to do with either the media or with opposition and that it is a bilateral matter, between the administration and the publishers.
The government, of course, would have anticipated that Dr Luncheon’s revelation about it being in the market for pirated textbooks would evoke some measure of public reaction, and in the wake of that reaction the good doctor surfaced again, declaring this time around that the administration couldn’t care less about what either its political opponents or the media thought about its transgression. This is unadulterated drivel.
Dr Luncheon himself must surely be aware that his second ‘take’ on the textbook issue amounts to an excursion into the most mind-boggling feistiness, knowing as he does that a rational case simply cannot be made for the pirating of school texts. It is an illegality; information on it belongs in the public domain… and that, pretty much, is really the end of the matter.
Nor do we believe for a moment – as has been suggested elsewhere – that Dr Luncheon’s second take on the textbook pirating issue suggests that time has now caught up with the administration’s spin doctor. It is, rather, one of those cases of what is best described as fudging the issue, that is, seeking to induce a healthy measure of dissonance into a perfectly serious matter in the hope that it will simply go away.
Here, one might argue that having blundered its way into a cul-de-sac on the pirating of textbooks (recall that over a protracted period former Education Minister Shaik Baksh simply assumed a public posture of evasiveness on the issue) there was simply no place else for the government to go. At any rate there was simply no reasonable argument that could be mustered to justify the stealing of other people’s intellectual property, so that while Dr Luncheon’s second take on the issue opens the government up to an even greater measure of public ridicule, it can presumably argue that it simply couldn’t think of anything else to say. If that were indeed the case the Cabinet Secretary ought to have taken a position that following the public and political response to ‘take one’ the less said about the matter, the better.
Beyond the government’s self-confessed lack of mindfulness of public opinion on the book piracy issue, the Cabinet Secretary’s second pronouncement asserts that “the engagement will have to be with the publishers” which we take to mean that government acknowledges that it owes the publishers, writers, booksellers el al some sort of explanation for its shocking delinquency. In this context one must wonder as to the likely nature of that engagement since, presumably, the publishers and the various other wounded parties would be, at the very least, deeply upset over having been denied their entitlements under the law for God knows how long and discomfited over having to engage a sovereign government that has owned up to being party to the pirating of their books.
The government, of course, is only too well aware that the issue of pirated text books is unlikely to provoke vigorous public protests of the magnitude of those that occurred at Linden a few weeks ago. Education Ministry officials have for years been telling the media – off the record, naturally – that pirated textbooks means cheaper textbooks. The government is aware of the persuasive nature of that argument and recognizes that the anti-book piracy lobby is weak and ineffective. The argument that it might be less keen to confront is the one that alludes to the opportunities which the pirating of textbooks potentially provides under the current arrangements for the selective allocation of contracts.
It may well be that Dr Luncheon’s second take on the pirating of text books took account of all of the various issues including – as has already been mentioned – that fact that it is unlikely to provoke demonstrations in the streets and that it understands only too well that it can get away with what, on this occasion, is the Cabinet Secretary’s excursion into eye-pass. Indeed, even as it cocks its customary snoot at the media and the political opposition, it appears worryingly unmindful of the national embarrassment which its unpardonable indiscretion has visited upon the nation.