When will our prime minister get his speechwriters and fact checkers to understand that what he is made to say, and how he is made to appear, can have serious implications for Saint Lucians the world over, not the least of them wall-to-wall embarrassment? Poorly researched material, outright fabrications, sloppy mistakes, and other obvious insults to the people’s intelligence speak volumes about our leaders and their tolerance of mediocrity. One faux pas by a head of state can turn him forever into an object of worldwide derision, fodder for YouTube. Remember when one United States vice president sought to correct a schoolboy’s spelling of “potato” by adding an e at the end of the word, so that it read “potatoe?” After all these years poor Dan Quayle still cannot live that down! Then there was the time our erudite governor general was expected to deliver a Throne Speech that referred to Beijing and Taiwan’s simultaneous operations of separate embassies in New York City. Dame Pearlette knew better and refused to read the uninformed line until it had been appropriately readjusted. And now there is our current prime minister’s most recent televised address to the nation, wherein he confirmed the on-going diplomatic relationship between Saint Lucia and Taipei: “We are fully aware of the fact that, as the government of the People’s Republic of China has said, the One-China principle is the political basis for the establishment of relations between China and Latin America and the Caribbean countries and regional organizations. We recognize too that in China’s language there is but one China. But we also recognize the present circumstances in which we have been placed over these last many years and the necessity to move, not like Jack in the Box, jumping from one country to another every few years, but to follow the evolution of relations between China and Taiwan and then to act accordingly.” I’m not sure I got any of this. What circumstances? Was the prime minister pointedly reminding the nation that Beijing’s assistance had always depended on our strict adherence to its One-China policy? Gosh, how long have we known that? How many times has that fact been forced down our throats? Had China not viciously punished the people of Saint Lucia after the government of Sir John Compton chose to disregard the all-important One-China policy in favor of Taiwan? Did Beijing not soon afterward abandon an all-important hospital project, later rescued by the Taiwanese? What is the prime minister referring to when he says “we also recognize the present circumstances in which we’ve been placed over these last many years . . . and the necessity to move, not like Jack in the Box jumping from one country to another every few years . . .?” The record confirms it was the Labour Party that had dumped, albeit reluctantly, Saint Lucia’s established relationship with Taiwan back in 1997, in favor of China, and in highly controversial circumstances involving foreign affairs minister George Odlum. (While the Kenny Anthony government has always maintained Compton should’ve fired foreign affairs minister Rufus Bousquet for adhering to the instructions set out in a 2007 Cabinet Conclusion after the prime minister had at the last second ordered him to do otherwise, Anthony had himself chosen to let Odlum have his way with Beijing when the rest of the government had all but finalized a lucrative deal with Taiwan!) And now we come to the line that left me in stitches: “. . . the necessity to move, not like Jack in the Box, jumping from one country to another every few years . . .” Jack in the Box was never a jumper, high or long. Let alone a jumper over countries. Jack in the Box is a children’s toy that outwardly consists of a box with a crank. When the crank is turned it plays a melody, often ‘Pop Goes the Weasel.’ At the end of the tune the box lid suddenly opens and up pops Jack, to everyone’s surprise, feigned or otherwise. Jack never actually leaves his box. The idea is synonymous with the unexpected, like someone showing up where least expected—not with jumping from country to country or even from party to party. It may also be worth repeating that Jack cannot move from his folded-up position in his box unless he is first cranked up! The prime minister in his address acknowledged it is no secret that the Saint Lucia Labour Party has had historical and fraternal ties with the governing party in China for several years, long before that goodwill visit in 2006. Indeed, the Labour Party’s relationship with China may have contributed to its lingering reputation as a Communist party. Nothing new here. What is new is Beijing’s reportedly reformed attitude that the prime minister says now permits discussion centered on how Saint Lucia can benefit “from the new and positive ties being developed across the straits between China and Taiwan.” The trick will be to prove Tom Chou corruptly handed to local government ministers millions of dollars donated by the government and good people of Taiwan, as the prime minister says he will, and yet maintain cordial relations with the current ambassador, Taipei and their reportedly reconciled One-China brethren. But then, to be fair, the song that the prime minister sang last Tuesday evening was somewhat different from what he had delivered several times from his election platforms. In the last instance he seemed certain that then Taiwanese ambassador Chou had surreptitiously placed millions in the hands of government ministers. More recently, however, this is what he said: “Finally, you may remember that the Labour Party in opposition expressed on several occasions concern regarding the alleged payments made to UWP members of parliament by the government of Taiwan and its agents upon the establishment of diplomatic relations . . . We expressed the view that in our judgment, such payments and procedures, if made, breached the law . . . “ (My italics) The language is at once legalese and diplomatic—not blatantly accusatory, as it had been back in November and earlier. In any event, an international forensic accounting firm has been engaged, the prime minister has revealed, to look into the alleged transactions. He may well find no evidence of wrongdoing. At any rate, that no laws were broken. We’ve been there before, many times. Besides, those who cannot wait to condemn Tom Chou based only on allegations should take a lesson from last Tuesday’s speech. What many had imagined was vitriol turned out to be, if I might borrow from Mary Poppins, the “spoonful of sugar” that made the Taiwanese medicine go down! A final thought: if it remains to be proved that Tom Chou acted contrary to our laws, if all we’ve heard so far were mere allegations yet to be confirmed by a forensic accounting firm, then was Tom Chou treated in accordance with our laws that require accused persons are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty?
Are suspects now guilty until proven innocent?
Person of the Year – 2016
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