House Speaker slams Observer editor for perceived snub, but Handy says the blame lies with Sir Gerald’s misdirection

A private media house and its editor have had to respond to an apparent attack by Speaker of the House Sir Gerald Watt – concerning a personal matter – during the April 17 sitting of the Lower House.

For more than five minutes, Watt used the Speaker’s chair to express his displeasure with the manner in which he alleged he was treated and to complain that he had been billed when he attempted to publish a piece he had written.

Watt’s article – reportedly five pages long – was in response to an opinion penned by former Speaker D. Gisele Isaac.

Isaac had written an opinion piece in the Daily Observer that, in part, questioned whether Deputy Speaker Sir Robin Yearwood had been properly sworn in, having not signed the register after taking the oath of office.

Watt opined that some points in Isaac’s piece were false and misleading, and so he sent a correspondence to the newspaper in response.

However, he said, the clerk to Parliament, who dispatched the missive, was told that a payment amounting to more than $1,400 was required.

The Speaker laid the blame at the feet of the paper’s editor, Gemma Handy, while admitting that he, personally, had not called the media house to ask why he was being charged for an opinion piece.

Watts said he would be writing another piece and he guaranteed that he would not be paying any money to get it published.

However, Handy has since responded to Watt, pointing out that the Speaker failed to say that the article in question had been sent to the advertising – and not the editorial – department.  Accordingly, she said, no one in the relevant department had received Watt’s piece.

She added that the figure quoted had to do with the length of the article – which was treated as an advertisement.

Handy also noted Watt’s admission that he did not follow up with a phone call, which, she said, would have been the appropriate thing to do before making his comments in Parliament.

Handy’s workplace also put out a statement on the matter confirming that the article had gone to the advertising department, which operate separately from the editorial desk “for obvious reasons.”

Sir Gerald’s lengthy rebuttal to Isaac’s opinion piece, meanwhile, was carried in its entirety in the Pointe Xpress newspaper and was discussed in what reportedly was a 15-minute interview on ABS-TV, “the Nation’s station.”