Flashback: A day destined to live in infamy?

Yep, the booklet featured in our last FLASHBACK was indeed written by the singular Willie James, a former UWP administration public relations man. Alas, Turmoil offers no publication date. For those who have never read it, and those who have and forgot what they read, enjoy this treat courtesy the STAR:

“The rays of the 7.30 a.m. sun pierced brilliantly to hint that it would after all be a hot day. As early as 8.30 people were already milling about on Constitutional [sic] Park. The core of the city encompassing the commercial sector from Jeremie and Peynier Streets, Bridge and Brazil Streets on to Peynier, was reflective of a mood reminiscent of a holiday eve.

“On the Boulevard especially, everyone seemed conscious of the reality of the situation. It was not an insignificant day. And the tiny gatherings of people appeared to bear witness to government’s indictment. The vocal gatherings were to later swell to considerable crowds within the surroundings of parliament.

“As I got to the main entrance of parliament, SLTV’s Jeff Fedee stopped me to remark: ‘Look at this. Few people around the House. Total lack of interest. I think the people are so fed up, they will just attend to their own business and allow government to serve the rest of its term.’

‘It’s early yet. They’ll be here,’ I replied.

‘No, I don’t think so. On a day like today where are the people to give support?’ he countered.

“En passant, Fedee’s hatred for John Compton parallels only that of Peter Josie’s and Darnley Norville’s. I am still unable to accept why people hate so fiercely. Later developments were to prove Fedee wrong. In Parliament the gallery was already jammed to capacity. The press seating is within the gallery, close up to the barrier that separates the gallery from the horseshoe seating of Members of the House. The northernmost seatings, east and west of the entrance of the Chamber to accommodate officials, diplomats or invited guests, were sparsely occupied. Gradually members of the House began to filter in. Agriculture minister Gregor Mason was about the first to take his seat. There was some applause and cheering form the western side of parliament.

“Some thirty seconds after, George Odlum, his brother Jon and Mikey Pilgrim entered the Chamber. They received additional applause from supporters in the gallery behind me. George Odlum was dressed in heavy boots and dungarees, Pilgrim and Jon Odlum in shirt jac. Government backbenchers Cecil Lay and Allan Louisy slipped in and took their seats.

“Shortly after, cheering and sustained applause invaded the Chamber from outside. About forty-five seconds later opposition leader John Compton, with George Mallet, Allan Bousquet, Ferdinand Henry and Rodney JnBaptiste entered the Chamber. A crash of applause, engineered by UWP public relations officer Eric Branford, welcomed them to their side of the table.

“Jeers and boos sailed up to precede Prime Minister Cenac, attorney general Kenneth Foster, foreign minister Josie and communications & works minister Remy Lesmond into the chamber. The resentment was further supplemented from the gallery. Backbencher Evans Calderon, whom the amendment to the disqualification clause sought to free from disqualification, walked into the Chamber. His countenance seemed to exude an ill-designed smile that mirrored an air that was a mixture of despair and self-confidence . . .

“The sergeant-at-arms with shouldered mace preceded the Speaker and rested the mace on its cradle. Speaker Donald Alcee commenced by wishing all honorable members a happy and prosperous New Year and hoped their contributions would live up to far higher expectations than in 1981. As if timed by a spring attached to the very last word of the Speaker, opposition leader Compton popped to his feet. He thanked the Speaker and said: ‘The sentiments expressed are reciprocated. But whether your wishes would come true would depend on the outcome of this meeting.’

“George Odlum jumped to support Compton’s thrust. ‘Is the government pursuing the passages of these outrageous bills? Government must withdraw them.’ Remy Lesmond counter-charged that it was an attempt to impede the passage of a bill that is intended to remove doubt as it relates to government ministers and back- benchers receiving government contracts. Odlum told him to shut up. He said government’s case was ‘indefensible.’

“Calderon jumped up: ‘The Honourable minister for southeast Castries is using a mike while other members around this table have none.’ Odlum was in fact using a mike of his own. It was rigged to a van outside parliament, on Laborie Street. People were listening to the uproar in the House through the horns erected on the van.’ ”

Yes, fans of FLASHBACK, so started what would turn out to be a historic, altogether unforgettable House meeting with unimagined repercussions. Check my book Lapses & Infelicities for more on the juicy event.

And now for this week’s memory jogger: It’s unlikely you’ll have trouble identifying two of those pictured. But do you know where they were photographed and the occasion? 

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