Credibility Matters

Kenny Anthony speaks in the House following the tabling of the Commission of Inquiry report in 2009.

As I see it, there is no evidence in the public square that Opposition Leader Kenny Anthony committed any illegal acts during his tenure at the helm of the SLP administration. At any rate, none that was determined by a regular court. Whatever the suspicions from the Ramsahoye Inquiry, the DPP evidently saw no need to put the former prime minister before a judge and jury. It is my view that if evidence of illegality existed Richard Frederick, Rufus Bousquet and Guy Joseph would by this time have hauled the opposition leader to court.
But this is an election year and the foxy trio of ministers has obviously decided to target Kenny Anthony’s vulnerabilities. I will resist the temptation to blow my I-told-you-so trumpet. I will say only that I have warned the St Lucia Labour Party on several occasions of Kenny’s soft spot—and now my prediction has materialised. Trust me, we’ve only witnessed the tip of the iceberg.
The allegations leveled at the former prime minister during the recent budget debate, while tantalizing, are deceptive. Political mischief. The purpose is twofold: to profit from Dr Anthony’s political vulnerability  and to cast doubt in the minds of the electorate on the eve of an election. I observe with particular interest from my off-shore perch that Prime Minister Stephenson King has stayed above the fray. As far as the Grynberg matter is concerned, anyway. Perhaps the tactic is for him to be seen as behaving prime ministerially while his ferocious political pitbulls rip chunks from the opposition leader’s exposed behind.
During the rambunctious most recent budget debate, Richard Frederick, behind the prosecution-proof parliamentary privilege, read from a document he claimed to be an agreement with oilman Jack Grynberg and signed by the then prime minister that said that royalties will be paid to the “Minister of Finance.”
In dramatic fashion, the criminal attorney in Frederick asked: “Why should an agreement require royalties to be paid to the minister?”  At the time the Minister of Finance was Dr Kenny Anthony, who, curiously, chose not to answer, in much the same way he had chosen to remain silent in the face of several queries from Sir Ramsahoye. Dr Anthony permitted Frederick to assault his performance in government and never once objected. Quite uncharacteristically, he never once on the occasion sought the intervention and protection of the House Speaker—as is his right. So different from an earlier time when the government had sought to introduce the Ramsahoye report.
Why did Dr Anthony sit in such deafening and confusing silence during one of the most vicious assaults on his good name?  I am informed by usually reliable sources that the opposition leader’s silence was calculated, that he was hoping to bait the accusing trio into repeating their allegations in the public square, away from the privileged environment of the House. But then I am reminded too that the allegations where first made by the same MPs back in 2009, with fewer details, and that the leader of the opposition had remained as silent then as he did the second time around. I am further reminded that the MPs repeated their allegations when they were unprotected by House privilege—without a consequent suit.
It is only natural that Dr Anthony’s detractors have latched on to everything Frederick said during the budget debate and no doubt will repeat them in one form or another. The seeds of doubt cunningly scattered by Frederick and company, and, if only inadvertently, watered by Dr Anthony’s silence, will have grown into suffocating weeds by election time if not immediately deracinated.
Dr Anthony, of all people, must know that in politics especially, perception is everything—and a price will be paid if the current perception is not proved false by the immediate introduction of verifiable truth.
Dr Anthony’s silence can have absolutely negative impact on even his staunchest supporters, if not effectively explained. Threats of libel and slander are not nearly enough to do what must be done. The nation has grown weary of his “Take me to court!” response to every opposition allegation.
It is said that a politician should never permit himself to be defined by his opponents. But now there is the imminent danger of Frederick & Company achieving precisely that if Dr Anthony maintains his current silence on the more important aspects of what Earl Huntely has referred to as “The Dauphin Oil Project.” Waiting conveniently for Frederick & Company to commit themselves outside the House does not cut it. It merely sounds like an excuse to say nothing—while expecting a fearful public to do likewise.
The strategy of not replying in the hope Richard Frederick will leave himself open to a lawsuit, if at all it has been useful, is doomed eventually to prove mindless—if not a lousy excuse for denying the public full accountability. It would be yet another big mistake to underestimate the Frederick gang.  It comprises a calculating and charismatic politician that Dr Anthony recently tagged  “a poodle,” with a record for biting Anthony’s hand when it fed him during the early months of the previous administration. He accomplished what was earlier perceived as a mission impossible: grabbing for himself Menissa Rambally’s supposedly safe seat. Then there is the once-upon-a-time Bruce Duane Tucker, about whom nuff said. And Richard Frederick, reportedly rich from years of defending criminals in court. Together the threesome comprises a bomb not to be underestimated.
Last Sunday, in what was advertised as his response to the House battering, Dr Anthony calculatedly appeared on TV in front of what appeared to be his law library. He moaned about the effort to destroy his good name and character. His language was strong as he challenged “the cowardly” Frederick trio to repeat their allegations outside the House. He said the accusations were malicious and false. If only he had read from related official documents in his effort to put the allegations —and consequent public suspicion—to rest. Instead he referred viewers to an article by Earl Huntley, published some time ago in the Voice, as if Mr Huntley were a totally disinterested party and not the man who started this whole secret oil episode in the first place.
Even if there has so far been no evidence of illegal activity in the Grynberg matter, that does not mean Dr Anthony, who signed the deal as prime minister, does not owe the public a verifiable and detailed accounting. After all, while Dr Anthony’s reputation is important to him personally, he should remember he owes the public transparency in his official undertakings. By all means take Frederick & Company to court, as is your right. But the people, in the meantime, also have a right to know what inspired the Grynberg deal and where it stands right now. Dr Anthony needs to back his words up with proof of their veracity. This has nothing to do with exonerating Dr Anthony. It has everything to do with being transparently accountable.
Moreover, Dr Anthony must remember that the St Lucia Labour Party has always promised transparency and open government. When it seems ventures undertaken by Dr Anthony are shrouded in secrecy (as was Rochamel-Frenwell), with the public left to speculate, chances are they might speculate wrongly.
Permit me, Dr Anthony, to suggest you explain fully to the people how you first connected with Jack Grynberg. What did you know of his history when you signed the controversial agreement in 2000? What prompted the continuation of the deal? Tell us why you took Earl Huntley’s advice so readily when his obsession with oil at Dauphin was based solely on discovering a black mess on his foot and on his girlfriend’s swimsuit following a medicinal dip in the Dauphin sea. Did you indeed swear Huntley to secrecy?
Trust me, Dr Anthony, we the people are capable of discerning truth from fiction.
I have said before, and will say it again: you should have handed in your resignation after the people spoke in December 2006. With a UWP government that is so lackluster and short on performance, with its leader who is “not fit to lead boy scouts,”  the Labour Party would have had an easy time returning to office under a new leader. You chose, instead of passing on the baton, to defy the spirit of necessary change. You permitted, if not required, your party’s head honchos to rework its constitution for your convenience—an unforgivable arrogance for which we the ordinary supporters of the SLP might yet pay in the worst way, unless God lends a hand.
The marginalizing of Mario Michel was a disgrace on several levels, not the least being that St Lucia was denied a great leader. An unpardonable sin, if not a demonstration of egregious selfishness.
I am not among those who would seek to paint you as corrupt. Instead, count me among the first to underscore your lack of talent when it comes to management. I believe your shortcomings in that regard contributed to the finding of “maladministration” by the Ramsahoye Commission.
It is still not too late to do the right thing. But if you insist on manning the SLP helm regardless, then do the party supporters the favour of answering the nagging questions pertaining to the Grynberg fiasco before it is too late. The immediate future of the St Lucia Labour Party, and for all I know, St Lucia, will be determined by how the electorate perceives your credibility!

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