Darcus Howe finds fault with the BBC
The BBC gets it wrong on the Caribbean and undermines its reputation
For nearly 30 years, I have been writing and speaking about the Caribbean. Not the sentimental trash about sun, sand and sea and the beautiful landscapes that make for good tourist advertisements, but the degeneration and consequent revolt of Caribbean peoples. Not much appears in the press here on these matters, even though a substantial section of our population originated in those islands and there are still huge British investments there.
So I was pleased to note that the BBC has returned to social commentary on the Caribbean. But I was not pleased by a report on Antigua, broadcast on the Today programme on Friday 5 July. It was deeply flawed: a mild-mannered friend, phoning from the island, described it to me as "malicious".
It began: "A royal commission set up to investigate corruption in the Caribbean island of Antigua has found that the prime minister, Lester Bird, has spent more than $200m of the country's health fund on parties and foreign trips for his friends and colleagues." This is wrong. The commission was organised to investigate a single statutory body. It has found no evidence against the prime minister, who was never even called before the commission. The report continued: "Mr Bird has in the past been accused by both the American and British authorities of gun-running and drug trafficking." No. Ivor Bird, Lester's brother, was arrested at the local airport in possession of two kilos of cocaine. He was hauled before the local courts and charged. Neither the British nor the Americans were involved.
Gun-running? No. As editor of Race Today, I once reported how Space Research Corporation, with the direct involvement of the CIA, had used Antigua to export howitzer parts and technology to South Africa during the apartheid years. In 1989-90, I attended an inquiry into the export of guns from Antigua to the Medellin cartel in Colombia. Vere Bird Jr, also Lester's brother, was the minister involved, and it turned out that it was Israeli intelligence exporting arms to narco-terrorists.
This is a far cry from the BBC I was brought up with as a child. Bang on 4pm every day, except Sunday, my parents silenced the household. Then this sonorous voice came on the radio: "This is London calling, this is the voice of the BBC." I received this in total awe. The BBC's reputation is now being undermined by imperialist cant and stupidity.