A nation with selective amnesia

From my observations, the English-speaking Caribbean on a whole seems to be in a state of social decline and political degeneration. I have been struck in recent times by the lack of inspired leadership by the current crop of political leaders in the region from the crass language they use, the lack of principal and the reactionary and retrogressive positions they take on regional matters.
Recent examples: the crude characterization of aid to St Lucia in aftermath of Hurricane Tomas by the new Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, and her outright rejection of Trinidad’s participation in the CCJ; to the Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding’s stated preference for an independent Jamaican supreme court instead of the jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court; and the stench of his alleged association with a noted drug dealer now in custody in US prison. There are the several allegations of sexual impropriety leveled against the leader of St Vincent, to the dismal language used by the Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel Stuart to his CARICOM colleagues, in his characterization of CARICOM as a ‘corpse’. Yet those leaders would not apologise for their insensitive remarks or resign in cases where their reputations have been sullied, and they have violated the constitution laws of their countries.
Here at home an ex-PM feigns ignorance on matters of profound implications for our country in which he ignores the constitution, yet he seeks to intimidate those who point to his illegal indiscretions by threatening to sue anyone who offends his ultra-sensitive ego. Our news media has been saturated by widespread discussion on the topic of the day—the Grynberg affair. This issue started off as a trickling rivulet, but has developed into a raging torrent. I have followed the comments on Timothy Poleon’s NewsSpin, and noted that the vast majority of the contributions were tinged by blind party loyalty.
The problem that faces talk show hosts is that they are flooded with views from persons with no knowledge of the issues that are being discussed especially matters that have legal or constitutional implications. It is in those instances that lawyers and other professionals, for example, retired top civil servants, should contribute their voices with their knowledge of such issues for the public’s enlightenment. In St Lucia it is like waiting for Godot, or you stand a greater chance of seeing a horse flying in the air.
The view most commonly expressed by contributors to the Grynberg discussion is that governments are elected to conduct the business of the people and should not be wasting time chasing after scapegoats or members of the previous administrations over insignificant issues, when people are more concerned about bread and butter  issues such as unemployment and the post-Tomas recovery effort. Of course they are important but so too is the future of our country and its territorial waters.
I wish to present this historical perspective which shows that the view that we should be discussing issues of unemployment rather than the Grynberg affair is pure hogwash.
Sir John Compton by all measures was a flawed man like all members of the human race, but he was a remarkable and arguably the most outstanding leader of St Lucia to date with no figure to eclipse him on the horizon.
I state this despite the fact that I was nurtured as an adherent of the St Lucia Labour Party from my early days as an impressionable young man, moved by the SLP’s struggle for social equality and justice and the elevation of the poor of which I was part. But in recent times and more accurately from 1997, I discovered that new labour as it was termed, had alienated its core support and cultivated a small clique of elitists with no empathy for the less fortunate among us, but only concerned about their personal financial gain and careers whilst the Labour Party was in power. Those “careerists” have not contributed a single word or idea for a more positive course or alternative agenda for the St Lucia Labour Party while in opposition as they sit on their regional perches enjoying rich financial rewards from jobs engineered by the leadership of the Labour Party when it exercised regional influence.
Despite my early affiliation with the Labour Party, I was not so blind to acknowledge that it was Sir John Compton who was responsible for the strides in the social and economic development that St Lucia has achieved compared to the other OECS territories.
The level of St Lucia’s development in the period of Sir John’s leadership can be described as a great leap forward for St Lucia. It was under Sir John’s leadership that the St Lucian economy developed at a rapid pace, with major expansion of infrastructural works such as the Castries-Gros Islet Highway from a single lane road; the east and west coast roads to Vieux Fort and Soufriere; the dredging of the swamp in Gros Islet to create the Rodney Bay Marina which has transformed a once sleepy mosquito and sand flies infested village to a dazzling and bustling mecca in the Caribbean. Where would our rapidly growing population be without the magnificent Roseau Dam? Compton’s administration built an ultra modern waterfront with five storey buildings that sparkle at night like the vista of great cities of the world, from the funds of the NIS, arguably the most profound and visionary of his social policies. A modern market which upon entering the city centre once gave off the putrid smell of rotting animal carcass. All the low cost housing projects ever built in St Lucia from San Soucis, Entrepot, Independence City, Reduit Park, Beausejour, Black Bay in Vieux Fort, giving St Lucians pride of ownership of their own homes which they later transformed by remodeling and expansion to magnificent homes.
Not one original housing project was initiated by the Kenny Anthony administration during its nine years in office, for a party that purported to represent the poor. By his transformation of St Lucia Sir John ranks among the pantheon of the great Caribbean leaders. Sir John led St Lucia uninterrupted from 1964-1979, until the disastrous period of the short-lived Labour government of 1979, but was returned to power in 1982 and served for another 15 years until 1997.
In that year came a knight in shining armour by the name of Dr Kenny D Anthony on a wave of popular support and great expectations. In victory one should display magnanimity, not petty vindictiveness. By his subsequent actions Kenny seemed determined to humiliate Sir John and bury his name and reputation in the graveyard. Instead of honouring the man who laid the platform for St Lucia’s development on which he could build on, and whose achievements I have only partially chronicled, and who earned the right to be considered the Father of the Nation, an honour that was bestowed on Errol Barrow of Barbados, Kenny instituted a Commission of Inquiry just three months after ascending office in order to humiliate Sir John.
And what was Sir John hauled before a Commission of Inquiry to answer? It is instructive to read verbatim the directive given to Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, the Commissioner, to investigate Sir John over the Shanty Town Affair. The Commission of Inquiry was required to look into the circumstances surrounding the construction of a road in Shanty Town, Vieux Fort.
Sir Blom-Cooper gave a preamble of the whole issue in those terms: Between 1970 and 1995 several attempts were made to effect the drainage of the ‘Mangue’ but these were ineffective because of inadequate financing. The Mangue remained a source of concern, both as a social problem and health hazard . . . In 1993, Vieux Fort was declared by Prime Minister Sir John Compton in the country’s Budget as ‘the new frontier for development,’ which Sir Louis Blom-Cooper quoted Sir John’s statement to the House in which he said “The blight of the Mangue will be removed through adequate drainage and road improvement . . . The old Vieux Fort will be fully incorporated into the new, as St Lucia and Vieux Fort enters the 21st Century.”
These were the noble aspirations that guided Sir John in the fateful construction of a road that after thirty years in office, Kenny Anthony would haul him before a Commission. And what was the expenditure for undertaking the drainage and building a road through the Mangue? A grand total of EC$50,000.00.
What was Sir John’s error? After the contract was awarded, while the bureaucratic process dragged on, in order to speed things up Sir John personally ordered the contractor to start the work. In his final report Sir Louis Blom Cooper issued a mild rebuke to Sir John in the following terms. ‘That you Sir John, knowing that Nicholas Glace (The Contractor) had been dismissed from the Public Service, ought not to have recommended Nicholas Glace as Project Supervisor to the Shanty Town Road. (Comm. of Inquiry Pg. 79).
Under the new methodology introduced under the Kenny Anthony administration a new concept, Direct Contracts can be awarded by the Minister of Finance by a stroke of the pen amounting to millions of dollars without the bidding process.
After the treatment meted out to Sir John how can Kenny and his minions claim that he is being persecuted and hounded on issues of greater magnitude than Sir John’s infraction? After ordering the Inquiry and the admonition by Sir Louis Blom Cooper that future administrations should be scrupulous about how they manage the affairs of the state, why would Kenny violate the constitutional laws of the state by signing an agreement to guarantee a US$100 million dollar loan in the infamous Rochamel affair without Parliamentary approval?
Kenny Anthony is purported to be a legal luminary. He is required to be guided by the principle that the basic conduct of lawyers in the legal profession is the requirement of honesty and integrity, attention to detail, and a knowledge and familiarity with the constitution and the laws of St Lucia.
Shouldn’t Kenny Anthony as Lawyer/Prime Minister be more thoroughly versed on aspects of St Lucia’s constitution than the ordinary citizen? That it violates every canon of procedure to keep secret from your colleagues a contract of such magnitude that cedes the territorial waters of St Lucia to a private businessman? We must recall that the establishment of the lesser oil terminal by the Hess Corporation in Cul-de-Sac required passage in parliament with the approval of both sides of the House.
Why are the former members of Kenny’s Cabinet keeping a conspicuous silence over such an egregious act, that should disqualify Kenny from leading the St Lucia Labour Party or holding the reins of the office of Prime Minister of this country in the future.
The actions of Kenny Anthony compromised the patrimony of St Lucia on a childish whim. This is both a reckless disregard of the constitution and an illegal act. Kenny ascribes to himself the same ‘infallibility’ that thoughtless persons ascribe to any person who ascends the papacy in Rome. Corruption and illegality by his close associates are dismissed as ‘lapses and infelicities.’ Kenny made a fetish of ‘transparency and accountability,’ but what we got was the direct opposite— secrecy and a refusal to account and admit to his mistakes.
If Kenny has violated the provisions of our constitution as it relates to the correct authority for granting permission to explore the territorial waters of St Lucia then this is an indictment of immense proportions.  The constitution clearly states that the power lies in the hands of the Governor General, and goes to the genesis of the Queen’s Chain, and access to the land by the surrounding waters. That is why our surrounding waters remain under the authority of the crown.
The unpleasant truth is that for the damage to be corrected, expensive litigation will have to be undertaken in order to extricate St Lucia from this reckless act. The drama must come to its logical conclusions and the persons responsible held to account. We can surmise what the next step should be.

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