It would seem that when it comes to Saint Lucia, all men (and women) are certainly not created equal, at least in the eyes of politicians. Take for instance the furore that has been created over the announcement last year by Jeana Corneille of her intention to partake in active politics. The aspiring United Workers Party politician has since been written to by the Public Service Commission for what the Commission deemed a violation of the Staff Orders.
Corneille is facing disciplinary action by the Commission for alleged misconduct stemming from a television appearance last year when she announced her political aspirations. She is employed with the Government Information Service. According to a letter addressed to Corneille by the Commission, she allegedly publicly showed and/or indicated her support for the United Workers Party and/or its representative for the Gros Islet Constituency. The Commission went on to claim that during the said television programme Corneille expressed her intention to vie for the UWP candidacy in Gros Islet and to contest the next General Elections here.
Corneille is facing disciplinary action on five counts for breaching section 4.16 of the Staff Orders. Staff Orders section 4.16 states that officers are expressly forbidden from engaging in party political activity at any such time as
(a) holding office or taking part in any political organization; (c) writing letters to the press, publishing books or articles, circulating leaflets or pamphlets or participating in radio or television broadcast on political matters; (d) canvassing in support of political parties or in any way publicly supporting or indicating support for any political party or candidate.
However, one has to wonder whether this rule applies to all public officers. On Sunday December 8th, 2015 during the celebration of its 65th anniversary in Vieux Fort, the Saint Lucia Labour Party introduced three new candidates – one a schoolteacher. During his introduction of the candidate, prime minister Kenny Anthony described him as “a most unique and unusual individual”. “They call him Pharoah . . . he will do battle for us in the constituency of Dennery South and he will soon terminate his employment with the teaching service so he could begin to wage war in Dennery South,” proclaimed Dr. Anthony.
Was there something that exempted Jerome “Pharaoh” Gideon from resigning from the service before declaring his candidacy? And was there something or someone standing in the way of the Commission taking disciplinary action for this clear violation of the Staff Orders? As I write, the Saint Lucia Civil Service Association, of which Jeana Corneille is a member, is mounting a challenge against the Staff Orders. President of the CSA, Cletus Cyril, and Wilfred Pierre, the General Secretary, have decided to pose this challenge based on their observation that the Staff Orders may be violating the Constitution of Saint Lucia which grants every citizen the right of association. This challenge is separate from the Corneille matter which the CSA says it is mounting on behalf of all of its members who it believes should feel free to participate in active politics.
Jeana Corneille will appear before the Commission on February 11th, 2016 following an initial hearing last week. Alberton Richelieu represents her.