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Ken Ali

KEVON [email protected]

“Oh my God. I was not aware” was how Public Utilities Minister Fitzgerald Hinds reacted to realising a live Facebook broadcast of his interview on U97.5 FM was not switched off during a heated exchange. The live video revealed radio host Ken Ali being cursed out by station manager Anand Rampersadsingh over his alleged bias. Hinds, the People’s National Movement (PNM) candidate for the Laventille West constituency was the guest of Hot Like Pepper Radio’s 10-1 weekly programme when things got heated. In the end, Ali, a former CNMG CEO and journalist for the past 46 years left of the station after a two-year stay. It was during a commercial break when Rampersadsingh went into the studio, accusing Ali of asking *expletive* questions. A smiling Hinds sat quietly during the quarrel between the men, not conscious of the live stream. By yesterday evening, a shortened clip created debates as it went viral on social media. “All this going live?” “I never stopped this.” We have a problem. That thing was live all the time,” Hinds said following the argument. An incensed Rampersadsingh responded, “that’s ok”. Rampersadsingh told Guardian Media that Ali showed bias and did not conduct a proper interview. He said he wanted Ali to speak to Hinds about the PNM’s plans for the next five years. However, Ali refused, saying that was he is a journalist and not a public relations agent. In a telephone interview, Ali stood by his handling of the interview, saying that he felt Hinds wanted to go on talking for a lengthy period. However, he believed that as a host, he was fair to the callers by asking Hinds to be brief so that he could answer more questions. Ali said during a break, Rampersadsingh barged into the studio and began accusing him of bias. Rampersadsingh, who was off-camera, tells Ali, “Let us find out what he is going to do to improve the country.”Ali responds: “So, therefore, it is a PR interview then?”Rampersadsingh said: “Yes! It has to be from now on.” Ali said: “If I had known that and I would have asked Kenrick to do it. I am a journalist.” When Ali said that he could not do PR, Rampersadsingh said that Ali could not continue and ordered his co-host to carry-on. It was then Ali became the recipient of a scolding filled with expletives. Rampersadsingh accused Ali of asking bias questions of Hinds but when former Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh and former government senator Vasant Bharath were on the programme, it was a different story.

He accused Ali of doing PR at the station for free with Bharath and Gopeesingh, who paid on the low. After the argument, Hinds told Ali that since he sat down, the programme was scrappy and that he was not getting a chance to say what he wanted. “The programme has been scrappy for the last hour. Scrappy. They are asking questions, but you know it is hostility, but I am not afraid of it, so I will answer them. Ali said he took up his belongings, shook the hands of Rampersadsingh, Hinds and other colleagues and left. He said, “I think it is most regrettable. I tried to run an even, balanced ship to get the views of everybody and build democracy. It is more regrettable that I did not think it would take place given the efforts to build the brand lately. I think I was fair to minsters, and my guests appreciate that. But as for me, I fair because on both sides there was unease. Clearly, the boss wanted me to do PR,” Ali said.Governance issues, Hinds’ national security portfolio, the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery, the Point Lisas estate and Caroni Lands were some of the questions callers asked of the minister. Ali said Hinds did not appear upset, adding that he found the minister to have a good nature generally. He said Hinds understands the relationship between politicians and journalists and did not seem unnerved at any time during the programme.With his free time, Ali said plans to provide coverage of next month’s general elections. “I have offers available, but I want to be part of the mix for election and then get back into the things. I have covered every general election since 1976,” he added.