As I lay overdosing on the numerous tributes paid the deceased Muhammad Ali the weekend before Saint Lucia’s June 6 elections, one central thought kept racing through my head. Truth be told, I had turned to the champ’s televised tributes as a diversion from local politics. But as I listened to the eulogists I couldn’t help wondering who among our politicians possessed a modicum of the attributes for which the deceased champion had been especially famous and revered. Almost every name that popped into my head was synonymous with self-centredness, arrogance and braggadocio.
Without going too much into Ali’s story (you can Google it or buy a book), his most poignant and significant achievement to my mind had nothing to do with the sport of boxing. Ali’s greatest accomplishment was his having survived all that was thrown at him for daring to criticize the Vietnam war and refusing to be drafted into the US Army. He was eventually arrested, found guilty of draft evasion and stripped of his titles. Not a very good time for “The Greatest” who had often to depend on his friends in the Nation of Islam, headed by Malcolm X.
Ali successfully appealed and his conviction was overturned in 1971. However, his actions as a conscientious objector to the war at the time marked him as unpatriotic. As I say, read his most uplifting life stories for yourself. Suffice it to say, I could not think of a single recent election candidate who had stood up for anything worthwhile . . . who had stood up for anything for that matter.
With just a few days before Saint Lucians went to the polls, however, the politicians went into high gear in their efforts to appear caring and humble and concerned about the welfare of the people they had all but ignored for almost five years. Drains left unattended for years were suddenly cleared; roads paved; new bridges opened. They posed for Selfies with the elderly, the youth and ghetto folks, you know – the ones often neglected and forgotten among us. This sort of thing had worked before and was expected to continue working. But amidst the cacophony and chants of “Yo Pe’” and “Mwen Fache” the Dr Anthony-led administration remained impenetrable to the realities by their own arrogance. And for this and nine other reasons I am about to outline, they were made to pay the ultimate price on June 6.
10. Value Added Tax.
Described by the prime minister as an ‘oppressive tax’ when he was in opposition, upon re-election in 2011 Dr. Kenny Anthony and his team wasted little time imposing VAT on citizens at 15%. In addition, those of us who still had jobs, had to submit to PAYE and NIC. The effects on the business sector were everywhere to be seen: cutbacks, shutdowns and staff on rotations.
9. Attempts to muzzle the free press.
Nothing new here. Remember Article 361? Remember the labeling of Timothy Poleon and Guy Ellis as engaging in “media terrorism”? In 2005, Dr. Anthony amended the Criminal Code to add Section 361, which made it an offense punishable by a 2-year prison term for anyone, including journalists, to spread information “that he or she knows is false and causes or is likely to cause injury to a public interest.” Anthony had accused “certain persons in the media” of engaging in a disinformation campaign designed to undermine his ruling Labour Party. Despite being repealed in 2006 under intense criticism from journalists and press freedom activists, Anthony’s government had, in recent times, placed the media in shackles with constant threats by his closest apostles. Meanwhile his government sought to pass off shows hosted by Labour Party operatives as “legitimate” media.
8. Walid Juffali.
It was not until this name was brought to light by the British press that Saint Lucians learned he was our diplomatic representative at the International Maritime Organisation. And even though he never attended a single session of the organisation, Kenny Anthony kept him around our necks like a gold chain with the promise of a Diabetic Research Centre that has not materialised.
7. Soured Foreign Relations. Remember when Dr. Anthony chose not to attend a Caribbean meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden in favour of a get-together with ALBA friends? From there our relationship with the US plunged downhill. ALBA and Petro Caraibe have brought us nothing and the Americans have ceased all assistance to our police.
6. Broken Justice System.
The last administration found the system already in a mess. But with at least three lawyers in the midst, including Dr. Anthony, they did little to address the acute problems including remand prisoners, overcrowding at Bordelais
and dilapidating structures where courts are held. The DPP’s office also remained largely unstaffed and the Forensic Lab, which may have helped to solve some of the numerous rapes and murders, remained closed.
5. Philip La Corbinere.
It is mind-boggling why the country had to face the ineptitude of La Corbinere for almost five years. This minister of justice and national security will go down in history as maybe one of the worst, having nothing to show for his tenure. His constant denials on issues like the Leahy Law and the Forensic Lab, only to back-pedal later, were inexcusable. Still Dr. Anthony punished us by keeping him on our backs.
Everything went wrong here, including the amending of the law to accommodate the Jamaican investigators. The (former) prime minister changed the law, picked the investigators, was handed the report, made certain disclosures about the report, implicated the then commissioner and the police involved in “Operation Restore Confidence”, all the while without providing the DPP with any supporting evidence to act. Now the IMPACS report is still on our backs.
3. Rapists in our midst.
Without giving names Dr. Anthony told the nation that there were “one or two serial rapists in our midst”. Still no decisive plan of action was taken to protect our women and children and even our men who were also being impacted by a recent scourge of rape.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party was voted into office in 2009 on a promise of jobs, jobs, jobs – and with unemployment at the time hovering around 20%.
But by 2015 this had
shot to almost 25%. In true fashion of contempt, a package of lies and deceit was presented to the public earlier this year claiming that in the last quarter of 2015 unemployment had dropped to just over 20%. However, the bright red boys
in the SLP would know that this is not how the overall calculation is done. And so half way into 2016 Saint Lucia is faced with an unemployment rate of about 24%.
The number one reason, like I said earlier, why we are now faced with a new government is because the last one ruled with a stick of gross arrogance. Isn’t it arrogance when you neglect your constituency for years without a shred of evidence of any progress there? Isn’t it arrogance when you are unable to open the St. Jude’s hospital and return to sportsmen the stadium yet EC$60 million of taxpayers’ money from NIC is disbursed to start an administrative complex in Vieux Fort? If this is not arrogance then it has to be madness. Wasn’t it arrogance on the part of the government to shelve the Suzie d’Auvergne Constitution Reform report, because it decided on its own that it was not the will of the people? And the list goes on and on!
On Sunday June 5 I interrupted watching the Muhammad Ali tribute to listen to the Prime Minister’s final address that evening. I was hoping to hear a conciliatory message. I was hoping to hear Saint Lucians being urged to go out and vote peacefully and, whatever the outcome, that the rule of law and order must be obeyed, among other things. Sadly, I was once again disappointed as, it would seem too, were the more than 45,000 Saint Lucians who voted against Dr. Kenny Anthony and the SLP on Monday June 6, 2016.