Clearly Lorraine Williams retains her mojo.
Undiminished is the magic that had made her an outstanding gender affairs minister and a no-nonsense politician ever ready to tread where her male colleagues never go. I, for one, will never forget her stand against a Cabinet colleague now legendary for his egregious maltreatment of his then wife, in the presence of their two young impressionable sons—to say nothing of the endorsing defensive reaction on the part of the day’s UWP government.
Doubtless in its own determination to maintain the flow of dirty water under our most famous bridge with no name, and with reelection uppermost in mind, the current government had conveniently forgotten its opposition stance on the matter: in 2011 the campaigning SLP had invited the gun-toting wife batterer to address several market steps rallies, notwithstanding his personal and political records.
As if further to compound their palpable hypocrisy, prancing onstage with our most notorious misogynist were female politicians especially well known for their advertised church connections and their shrill cries for justice.
Whenever someone has dared to refer to the prevailing popular attitude to rape and other sexual assaults, the knee-jerk red or yellow hack response has been: “Oh, but the man was never convicted!”
No matter, it is worth bearing in mind that the famous Criers for Justice rally, earlier alluded to, had been organized in protest against the admittedly shocking result of the Valerie Lorde murder trial. The matter was dismissed, some might recall, on the basis of a prosecution screw-up. The suspect Titus Reynolds—soon to be taken care of by the SSU— was never declared guilty. He, too, was never convicted!
As I say, her official stints abroad quite obviously had not softened Lorraine Williams. She had remained closely in touch with the home front, whether domiciled in Ottawa or in Italy—evinced by her Serenity Park address on Tuesday.
I couldn’t help wondering, as the former magistrate and attorney general read out her indictments, how many of the attendant officials had ever heard of Mary Rackliffe. No matter, Williams reminded her Serenity Park and TV audience in a fashion not likely to be forgotten any time soon.
Setting aside the usual umbrella euphemisms for murder and rape, she recalled in impressive detail the 1989 decapitation of Mary Rackliffe by the man with whom she had shared her home and her bed and her children—and who conceivably had promised to love her until death parted them.
Mary’s life had been taken from her and her children simply because she had found the courage to do the right thing and report to the police her live-in lover’s rape of her 11-year-old daughter, on his own stated premise that he needed the child’s “virgin blood” for devilish purpose.
Ms Williams also brought to my mind the famous line that continues to be associated with the unconscionable rape and murder of a 13-year-old Saltibus child named Verlinda Joseph—turned into a public spectacle heavily attended by the usual political suspects.
With a shrug and a crocodile’s smile, the day’s attorney general had issued to reporters the following unforgettable statement:
“The system let Verlinda down!” (See Ms Williams’ full address elsewhere in this issue.)
Also in her Serenity Park audience were the mothers of two or three young women, murdered with no related arrests—and two frumpy female parliamentarians on the government’s side. The sole female opposition MP Gail Rigobert was not invited; who knows why?
I couldn’t help wondering what went through the minds of the attendant holy men and politicians in bras as Ms Williams rammed home yet again the all too obvious fact that our justice system continues to be a national disgrace that spits daily in the face of our Constitution.
In the abused name of justice, citizens are incarcerated for years without trial dates, among other things, a gross violation of human rights. Then there are the unresolved and forgotten over 400 deaths, for which some hold our police responsible.
Although Williams never mentioned her, she said enough to remind me of Hannah Defoe. The UK-born 21-year-old was electrocuted on July 25, 2012, seconds after she stepped into a swimming pool at a Vieux Fort holiday resort. Cause of death was established soon after her body was with difficulty fished from the bottom of the electrified pool. What remains in question is why the enticing water had proved for a young woman in the prime of her time nothing less than a death trap.
Hannah was a close relative of Jermain Defoe, a star football player resident in the UK. He had visited Saint Lucia on more than one occasion, and taken time to visit some of the island’s schools and to inspire our woefully neglected young athletes.
Jermain Defoe had also made financial contributions to sports in Saint Lucia, his generosity based on his family’s native connections with our island. You’d have expected the authorities, if only to show appreciation, to go out of their way to afford the Defoe family, as they say, quick closure, by letting them know precisely how Hannah had lost her life.
It had taken more than a year before the government appointed gas-station operator Everiste JnMarie to investigate whether all laws were adhered to with regard to the supply of electricity to the hotel with the deadly swimming pool.
JnMarie handed in his report some four or five weeks following his inquiries. And while the government has revealed no details, those
who have read the nearly 30-page document almost unanimously agree the report is “damning.”
But damning to whom?
That is the question it seems officials are in no great hurry to confront.
Meanwhile, as if already the overseas image of our tourist-dependent island were not bad enough, what with the widely publicized fact that our police department is presently under investigation for human rights violations, including suspected extra-judicial executions, the UK press have been suggesting there’s more to the Defoe electrocution than the government would wish known.
Indeed, local inquirers into the matter have consistently received the same official response: “There is nothing we can say until there has been an inquest.” And why after more than a year has there been no inquest? Again, the incredible answers depend on whom you ask.
Then again, there can be no denying, when it comes to law and order in our country, that the buck stops at the desk of the Justice Minister, himself as miserable a let-down as is the justice system he controls. Meanwhile, there is widespread speculation that the government’s reluctance to put to rest the issue of Hannah Defoe’s death is rooted in self-preservation.
At a time when the topic du jour centers on human rights, with particular emphasis on crimes against women and girls, how absolutely discombobulating that the name Hannah Defoe has never once come up. Not even the brave and resourceful Mary Francis remembered Hannah in this particular season of hypocrisy—when obligatory praise and appreciation for what Mandela stood for are the order of the day.
Is Hanna Defoe to be buried and forgotten as Mary Rackliffe and others recalled by Lorraine Williams were buried and forgotten? As were over 400 other citizens and visitors, all scraped from our memories like road kill from John Compton Highway?
It is not nearly good enough that the DPP casually blames her dysfunctional office on a lack of funds from central government, while the bodies pile up.
It is not nearly good enough that the police appear to have forgotten their primary function centers on the protection of life and property. When they have failed in that regard, the popular expectation should be that they will bring the perpetrators to justice. Alas, the record proves that is not the reality!
As laudable as is the publicized police PR effort to appear as off-season representatives of Santa Claus, as comforting to some as is the demonstrated sudden police sensitivity to the needs of lesbians, still the people’s first expectation, regardless of sex orientation, is that their tax-funded protectors of life and property will make it possible to keep their eyes closed while in bed.
It is high time we heard from our parliamentary representatives, at the very least, expressions of concern for victims of violence — dead or undead—from the House floor; time we heard from our MPs how disturbed they are about the reported proliferation of serial rapists in our community, for the children turned abruptly into mothers of other children.
It is also of public concern that the majority of rape victims abandon their quest for justice in mid-trial, more often than not because of pressures beyond their tolerance. Why has the government, our female MPs in particular, demonstrated no interest in legislation protective of the rights of rape victims?
The government must cease passing itself off as an NGO.
Tuesday’s Serenity Park ceremony, but for the riveting address by Lorraine Williams, would’ve been like so many other safe, chewing-gum events sponsored by the perennially broke Crisis Center or by CAFRA before its once fiery leader was shut down by chronic laryngitis. After all, NGOs exist mainly to pressure governments to do for the people what they are reluctant to do for whatever arcane reasons.
The Division of Gender Affairs may think it’s a duck. It may even believe it quacks like a duck. When it comes to walking the walk, however, this make-believe duck bears all the markings of an official canard—a falsehood attempting to cover up countless sins against the people. Speaking of which, reminds me: Where were the government ganders on Tuesday?
We know the prime minister and his body double were off-island. But where were the House Speaker, the Senate President, Lorne Theophilus and the rest of the male dominated Cabinet?
Where were their male permanent secretaries and other stand-ins? For crying out loud, even the Minister for Just Us was missing in action.
Count on seeing the above-mentioned at funerals island-wide. At state-sponsored cocktail parties, too. They pass up no travel opportunity paid out of the public purse. So why, when the activity at Serenity Park concerned our numerous victims of rape and battery and child molestation—and “the system”— did our male MPs choose to absent themselves from the most serene venue?
By the way, remember the earlier mentioned trigger-happy MP with the itchy foot that could not resist his wife’s behind? The government that had criticized his behavior with such passion recently discovered good reason to reward him: he is now the holder of a NICE job that pays $6,000 a month.
Now if that ain’t still another kick in the butt for victims of gender-based violence, please tell me what is!