Did PM’s press secretary misdirect media?

Government Press Secretary Jadia Pierre-Emmanuel.

During a recent episode of Straight Up, one conceivably concerned citizen wanted to know why Saint Lucia’s heavy-laden prime minister had reportedly accepted an invitation to deliver, at his personal or the nation’s expense, a keynote address before the ANC-sponsored—and decidedly partisan—XX1V Congress of the UK-based Socialist International in Capetown, South Africa.

His caller’s suggestion must’ve struck the show’s host, who also happens to be president of the Saint Lucia Senate and an avowed front-line member of the incumbent party, as unusual, to say the least. Far-fetched, even, and certainly confusing. Precisely the reaction of the day’s seeker of plain truth and other concerned citizens who had heard and read the related publicized media announcements. The host deftly danced away with his practiced assurance that the caller’s suggestion made no sense, there had to have been a mistake, he may have misheard the cited news item.

If memory serves, the talk-show host may even have suggested the press had misreported details of the prime minister’s visit to South Africa, inadvertently or otherwise—but please don’t hold me to that. In any event, and quite atypically, the senate prez was not at the time disposed to set the record straight. If only the caller had known enough to let him know the history of the troublesome news broadcast. A reality check soon revealed the indisputable truth: a 24 August 2012 press release from the office of the prime minister confirmed the caller’s concern.

On the same day the release left the desk of the prime minister’s press secretary Jadia JnPierre Emanuel, the prime minister and an entourage including the education minister Robert Lewis and the prime minister’s speechwriter Calixte George Jr. had boarded an aircraft en-route to Mauritius where Dr. Anthony was slated to deliver the keynote address at a conference of Ministers of Education of the Commonwealth. Still according to the release, following the Mauritius conference Dr. Anthony would travel to South Africa to attend the ANC-sponsored XXIV Congress of Socialist International—a partisan grouping of socialist parties from some 150 countries, including the People’s National Party of Jamaica, the Barbados Labour Party and the United Labour Party of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The two-page communiqué from his press secretary’s desk clearly states that Dr. Anthony was invited in “his capacity as prime minister of Saint Lucia to address the congress as keynote speaker.” The quotation marks appear in the release from the office of the prime minister, presumably with calculated purpose. More importantly: “While the Commonwealth Secretariat will be meeting the expenses of his travel to Mauritius, Dr. Anthony will be meeting the cost of his stay in South Africa from his personal funds.” If only Guy Joseph & Company had been half as transparent and accountable at the time of Barack Obama’s inauguration, they might’ve saved themselves a heap of trouble, not to say some serious finger-pointing.

They were not and the opposition Labour Party effectively took them to the cleaners! The prime minister’s August 24 press release lays to rest the Senate president and show host’s evidently off-the-cuff on-air suggestion that aspects of the published reports about the prime minister’s visit to South Africa were exaggerated. Whoever had misrepresented the facts, if only on this occasion the press could not legitimately be blamed. But if not the usual suspects, then whom? Ms Pierre-Emmanuel, the prime minister’s press secretary, has persistently, and not always without cause, chided the opposition for its too often self-serving dissemination of public information.

Not once has she been so generous as to attribute such lapses to human error or plain ignorance. This is politics, after all, with little room for generosity, least of all toward the opposing party. Even if her natural instincts had tempted her to be motherly kind, I suspect her testosterone-overloaded colleagues would quickly remind her of the facts of life in permanently polarized political Saint Lucia. It need also be said that the last thing anyone might expect to encounter would be the gap-toothed Jadia on high heels daintily traipsing in the muddy footsteps of the handicapped opposition, especially when it comes to keeping the interested but information-starved public updated on the movements of notoriously peripatetic parliamentarians, in particular, the comings and goings of the nation’s prime minister.

So, was that Ms JnPierre-Emmanuel’s slip showing when presumably she absentmindedly insinuated in her press release that so desirous of being heard in Capetown was her boss that he didn’t mind at all paying out of his own pocket for the privilege? Did she have in mind the flack that had followed his official visit to the London Games and set out to avoid a repeat performance? Is Socialist International so recession-broke as to be unable to afford airline tickets and hotel expenses for Saint Lucia’s prime minister and his entourage, never mind that he was reportedly scheduled to deliver one of the event’s more important addresses?

And speaking of the prime minister’s South Africa entourage: Did it also include, as bruited about, his supremely talented wife who had also accompanied him and other cheerleaders for Saint Lucia at the London Games? Who paid? The taxpayer? Caricom? The Commonwealth Secretariat? The ANC? The good lady’s famously generous hubby? Especially intriguing is that according to my research the Saint Lucia Labour Party—like that of St Vincent and the Grenadines—has not paid Socialist International membership dues in a long time, consequently could not attend the Capetown congress save as “observer parties.”

Inexplicably, nothing in the related literature our sources accessed indicates Dr. Anthony was in any capacity invited “to address the congress,” let alone as a “keynote speaker.” So was that also a faux pas on the part of the prime minister’s normally efficient press secretary? With all the advertised expertise at the government’s disposal, why did no one correct the mistake before it went out to the media—if indeed there was a mistake? Is it indicative of anything, that the date of the release and the date of the prime minister’s departure are precisely the same, August 24? Does the coincidence suggest last-minute decisions? We were happy to present to STAR readers our prime minister’s address at the earlier mentioned Mauritius conference of education ministers. But try as we might, we have not been able to lay hands on his keynote address at the Socialist International congress.

Truth be told, none of our sources at the Capetown conference could recall a speech by the Saint Lucian prime minister—which does not necessarily mean our prime minister simply sat on his duff and took in the proceedings like other observers not slated to take center stage. Perhaps our prime minister did address the congress at a time when our sources were elsewhere, perhaps enjoying a refreshment break.

On the other hand we easily accessed addresses by Socialists International president George Papandreou, Jacob Zuma, Nabeel Shath, Hermes Binner and several others. But not the keynote address that might’ve concerned most Saint Lucians. Might someone closer to home be better placed to set us right following that well circulated August 24 press release from the office of the prime minister?

Or can we expect to be told it’s none of our business whom or what Dr Anthony, in “his capacity as prime minister of Saint Lucia,” represented in Capetown, whether or not as an “observer party?” Can we expect official confirmation that Dr. Anthony paid his own fare and the expenses of his entourage, government speechwriter and all, therefore is accountable only to such as Alva Baptiste, Earl Bousquet, Leo Clarke and the handpicked ladies with their red dress on, all of whom are at this time making whoopee with their Chinese brothers and sisters, and too busy getting fraternally tight to care about what went down, or didn’t go down, in Capetown seemingly an eternity ago, never mind it was for the rest of VAT-fearing Saint Lucia just about three weeks?

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