As Vincentians gathered to pay tribute to Sir Federick Ballantyne at The House of Assembly in Kingstown, where he laid in State, several members of the media were not allowed inside the dignified halls.
This, according to one protocol officer, was due to a restriction that was hitherto not communicated to local media houses. He told ANN that “no media is allowed up there.” Prior to that the sole restriction sent out by way of media coverage invitation was the time honoured request by the mourning family that no photographs be taken of Sir Ballantyne in his breadfruit box casket.
A second protocol officer was overheard telling two media practitioners that they could not enter because of their dress code.
ANN caught up with I-Witness News’ Kenton Chance as he was one of the journalists who were barred because of his dress code. His aim “was to do a photo essay of people paying their respects to Sir Fredrick. I’m dressed as I am – and this is the way I normally dress when I’m going to work,” he said clad in his trademark long pants and company branded polo shirt.
Chance further explained that, due to a power outage at his Rillian Hill home, he was unable to iron the clothes he’d intended to wear to “the formal funeral ceremony.” So he brought them to Kingstown with him instead.
“When I came here… I met some of my colleagues and they were agitated because they weren’t allowed to go up, y’know, when the Prime Minister was paying his respects. One of my colleagues was dressed similar to me, he was wearing a polo t-shirt and long pants. Anyway one of the protocol officers came to me and said that I can’t go upstairs because I’m not properly attired. So I asked her ‘well, what does properly attired means?’ and she says I’m an educated man so I should know what that means.
So I told her ‘I’m educated on certain things I don’t pretend to be educated about all things and I’m hoping to be educated about what properly attired means.’ And she said that to go and pay respects to Sir Fredrick one has to wear long sleeve dress shirt, long sleeve dress pants and a necktie,” Chance said.
Taking a good look at the line of persons congregating to offer their tributes, Chance observed “I’m happy to see in the line there are people who are wearing t-shirts and wearing – they’re coming as they are.
What I find most ironic about this is that Sir Fredrick, who by all accounts was a very humble Vincentian, humble to the extent that he not only asked to be buried in what we would call colloquially a ‘breadfruit box’ but he made the arrangements from all indication to ensure that was done. And I think it’s regrettable that persons, whether I’m a journalist or what have you. To be turned away because I am not wearing what you think I should wear…”
The long time communications professional questioned the rationale behind the protocol officer’s directive. Especially given that a communiqué was sent to media houses some time in advance of Wednesday’s State funeral. “I’m not here to fight with anybody over their wishes or however they want to conduct their funeral but my only contention is that things should be communicated properly. I can’t see, for the life of me, how you can have a state funeral where there’s a public viewing and when members of the public turns up – journalist or not – you’re gonna tell them that I have to be dressed a certain way. I dress like this for my comfort! If you had said in your note that I have to dress a particular way, I would comply. But you said nothing like that…”
Another confusing factor popped up when journalists were told that there would be “absolutely no photographs taken” in the House of Assembly. The proceedings were however broadcast live via the Facebook pages of local cable channel VC3 and the National Broadcasting Corporation’s NBC Radio.