Vaughan Lewis had learned the hardest way that while the truth may set you free and confession work miracles for the soul, it all depended on whether you were a permanent resident of Dreamland or a wide-awake native of Planet Earth.
Back when he was still a political virgin and oozing faith in his fellow man, that is to say, between 1995 and 1997, Vaughan Lewis had placed in a long-time family friend such trust as allowed him to be seduced into abandoning the relative security of academia in favor of the hottest seat at the devil’s table—precisely what his thrice-bitten father had often warned him about when professional politics was just about the farthest thing from his youthful imagination.
Then again Lewis the Father had himself fallen victim to ambition when he agreed to serve an administration that, when in opposition, had considered him altogether undeserving of respect.
Indeed, he had suffered gladly every conceivable insult to his widely acknowledged integrity, until finally he was ignominiously evicted from Government House in the interest of another tenant named Boswell Williams—himself with his own, shall we say, colorful history.
Obviously a man can be separated from his jeans—but never from his genes. In much the same way the governor general’s office had proved his father’s undoing, so the prime minister’s chair had brought into public view a previously unimagined Vaughan Lewis.
The newcomer was a welcome voice at a time when it seemed the Labour Party was hell-bent on destruction of both country and self; when even its strongest supporters were ready to desert the star and follow the latest messiah, never mind that through and through he was yellow.
It mattered not that during his first sermon from his flambeau-decorated mount the new shepherd had gone out of his way to remind his inherited flock that his dearly departed dad had once been a front-line citizen of the Red Zone—until it became too red for comfort.
The Jamaican in the son’s soul had a message to those still determined to turn off the torch: “Tell them me nah ‘fraid dem!”
The rest is recent history: Vaughan Lewis had ecstatically grabbed the gift-wrapped prime ministerial raiments, in the process promising to put right all that was wrong in the world, at any rate, our part of it.
He had no trouble acknowledging some previously unspoken inconvenient truths: Saint Lucia’s workforce was barely capable of performing what in other zones was considered menial work, one consequence of a flawed but expensive education system.
In the course of placing before parliament his 1996-97 Estimates of Expenditure that totaled to $582,119,931, Lewis had cited “the great ferment and foment” in a world that in addition to being a global village was “increasingly an open one.”
Consequently, “small, open and vulnerable resource-poor countries such as Saint Lucia, with their reactive economies,” were hard-pressed to keep abreast of the dramatic developments and “even harder pressed to plan and implement effective responses.”
He said the clear message from the international donor community was that we are on our own and “forging strategic alliances” had to be the order of the day. He proffered “a necessary slogan for our development and survival: Business before Friendship!”
By election-time, that is to say, one year after accepting his gift from the Indian giver, a third Vaughan Lewis had emerged. At any rate, according to the crimsoned messiah-in-waiting. From the steps of the Castries market, Kenny Anthony loudly acknowledged the campaigning UWP propaganda.
Yes, he concurred, the UWP had changed since the advent of Vaughan Lewis. But it was clearly a change for the worse: “Never before have we experienced such vindictiveness, such narrow-mindedness, such pedigreed arrogance.
“Many hoped the entry of Vaughan Lewis into the political arena signaled a higher level of public morality and a higher tenor of political discourse and debate. Some thought he might’ve attempted to clean out the rot, cut the patronage and excise corruption. Instead of rising to his historic opportunity, Vaughan Lewis sank to the lowest common moral and intellectual denominator. Not even John Compton in his worst moments ever sank so low!”
Who, then, would blame Saint Lucians, particularly the younger among us, if they remain convinced the character traits attributed to Lewis in 1997 are precisely what qualify him for his job as Kenny Anthony’s foreign policy advisor.
On Tuesday, the ever-resourceful Jadia JnPierre-Emmanuel, presumably in the national interest, took over Radio Saint Lucia to do what she does best. Her entranced accomplice on the occasion was the “former prime minister” Vaughan Lewis, whose morals, intellect, lust for revenge and profligacy had been cause for pause while he held office.
The couple’s advertised topic on Tuesday: “The role of the Foreign Service and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Impact of International Developments on Saint Lucia . . .”
For the benefit of those so unfortunate as to have missed the live program, the PM’s press secretary served up some of Lewis’ gems via the Internet and a press release from the office of the prime minister. I imagine the egregiously uninformed governor general will in her next Heads of Overseas Missions retreat express her gratitude.
The Lewis nuggets appeared under the heading: “Abstaining Not a Dishonorable Thing!”—leading me to imagine the allegedly amoral “former prime minister” had enlisted in the say-no-to-sex, say-no-to-condoms brigade.
It is unclear whether the PM’s press secretary shared her boss’ published assessment of Lewis as prime minister. No matter, precisely what the doctor ordered was his perspective that “the world has changed, interests have changed and so each country now has a responsibility to project and protect its own interest.” Which freshly wrapped stale fish Lewis had first served in 1996!
I couldn’t help wondering, as I contemplated his quoted words, whether Lewis was acknowledging the changes he had himself undergone since entering the arena of local politics.
He regretted that abstention had been given a bad rap. After all abstention was “not a dishonorable activity. It simply says that the interests of those who are in contention do not operate on me so intensely that I am forced to make a decision.” (My emphasis.)
Which was all well and good for Lewis. But what about the possible consequences of his decision not to make a decision on our increasingly vulnerable nation?
For the record, Saint Lucians were never informed in advance of our transparent and accountable government’s decision to abstain from voting on the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 27 March 2014, calling upon “all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alternation of the status of the autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol . . . and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”
We still do not know why our government chose to abstain from voting. Surely it could not be that this decision is risk free.
One hundred UN member countries voted in favor of the non-binding resolution, while eleven voted against, and fifty-eight abstained. As well as Venezuela and Zimbabwe, Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Boliva, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan and Syria voted against the resolution.
But to return to the special advisor on foreign policy. By his convenient reckoning, international relations had two aspects. On the one hand there were “beliefs” and on the other “realities of interaction that have to do with the assistance we want from institutions and countries.”
Of course every dancer for money knew that. Besides, experience had taught Lewis when beliefs had to give way to other considerations, whether involving a customized red security blanket or a green-covered bed. Indeed, it was because he appeared to have sacrificed his own widely advertised beliefs in the name of political sexpedience that some had labeled him amoral and unworthy of public trust.
Then again, the more successful private dancers had always known better than to hook up with empty-pocket Johns. Which brings us to the latest word from the International Monetary Fund, issued on Wednesday this week:
“The global economy will be supported by the stronger performance of the advanced economies, particularly the United States. Expectations for an improved economic outturn in the United States is likely to outstrip the weaknesses in some of the emerging markets, such as some of the infamous BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] economies, as well as weakness in Japan and Europe.
“Economic activity in the Latin American region is expected to remain subdued in 2014 and 2015, constrained by lower commodity prices, tighter financial conditions and supply bottlenecks. Growth in the Caribbean region remains inhibited by high indebtedness as well as weak competitiveness.
“Brazil is expected to remain in low gear, with growth projected to slow to 1.8% in 2014 from 2.3% in 2013 . . . Argentina and Venezuela are both expected to underperform as loose macroeconomic policies have generated high inflation and a drain on foreign exchange reserves.
“The restrained expectations for the Caribbean are linked to fiscal inflexibility, which many governments face. The region continues to grapple with weak fiscal accounts as well as the associated high and rising public sector debt . . . Interest payments on existing debt stock in the most highly indebted countries with rising debt ratios are already in the range of 16% to 41% of total government revenues.
“Given the challenges of the past few years for the region, in terms of poor tourist arrivals, low capital inflows (foreign direct investment, remittances, tourism receipts) and high commodity prices, governments in the region had little muscle to implement counter cyclical fiscal policies and those countries that ramped up spending are now feeling the pressure.”
Other reliable sources count among the risks the Caribbean will face in the medium term “the uncertainty of the Petrocaribe, as Venezuela is beginning to signal its growing discontent with supplying much of the region with subsidized oil.”
Also, that “Caribbean economies are highly vulnerable to a sharp spike in energy import costs!”
With the nation’s testicles caught in an ever-tightening vice of our own making, our prime minister recently acknowledged in a televised address that Saint Lucia remained highly dependent on economic assistance from the United States. Who can say for certain what will be Washington’s reaction to our government’s no-position position on the Ukraine Resolution? Already we are reeling from the withdrawal of US funding for vital police operations!
Then again, why worry when we can be happily delusional? Surely Vaughan Lewis must know somewhere over the rainbow more than willing to solve our overwhelming economic problems. Conceivably, he knows a whole lot more today than when he said: “My mind takes its time to make itself up. I am a man of patience!”
It certainly is good to know, at the very least, that Lewis is not nearly as bereft as his present boss had led us to believe back in the day. Lewis has assured us that he is a man not without virtue. And what is patience if not a virtue that, hopefully, will serve us as well as it has Vaughan Lewis, who had, from hard experience, learned precisely when to stand by his beliefs—and when to sell out!