According to Mark 6:4: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives, and in his own home.” I suspect no other Saint Lucian took more seriously the apostle’s pronouncement than did the late great Sir Vincent Floissac. Which is not to say his wise counsel was never appreciated by a fellow countryman.
Among the highly appreciated lessons Sir Vincent taught me was that, although universally considered the King of Beasts, no lion ever was so much a jackass as to attack a crocodile in the churning Zambezi.
Last week it may have appeared to the deaf, the numb and the blinded that I had dived mindlessly into crocodile-infested waters when I called Shelton Daniel’s morning show on RSL to offer my side in a debate centered on a now famous Government House correspondence dated 3 June 2013 and addressed to then leader of the opposition Stephenson King.
Dame Pearlette’s missive was in response to King’s “expressed concern that the governor general’s authority may have been usurped and that an illegal act may have been committed, presumably by one of the parties involved in a contractual arrangement/agreement drawn up in March 2000, between then Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony on behalf of the government of Saint Lucia and one Mr. Jack Grynberg, CEO of RSM Production Corporation of Denver, Colorado.”
King’s letter was dated 13 May 2013. Dame Pearlette’s calculated response: “On this matter I can only say that I have no personal or first-hand knowledge of any contract, arrangement or agreement made by anyone or entity in or outside government with Mr. Jack Grynberg or his Corporation. No such agreement or arrangement was ever brought to my attention in my capacity as governor general. That subject was never discussed with me, not even as part of the ‘enormous investigative efforts’ which you indicated were initiated by the Ministry of External Affairs during your administration. My advice was never sought and I played no part whatsoever in anything that may have transpired then or at any time subsequently.”
Additionally, the governor general hissed: “Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 65 of the Constitution of Saint Lucia, no prime minister from March 2000 (the date you cited) has taken up this subject with me, neither, admittedly, have I requested any information relating to it. . . Sadly the current situation reflects only too poignantly the general perception (and delusion) that the role of governor general in our governance system is purely ceremonial. Except, it would appear, when we are faced with a constitutional or legal crisis, as this one seems to be.”
I formed the impression, soon after landing in Daniel’s den, that his purpose for going where no other lion tamer had gone before was to clear once and for all the pungent black smoke around Grynberg and perhaps put to rest before the election bell rings again two particularly noisome questions: 1) Did the prime minister act illegally when he signed that earlier cited March 2000 agreement with Jack Grynberg? And 2): Did he act contrary to law when quietly the prime minister handed the notorious American oilman a license to explore some 83 million acres of the Saint Lucia seabed?
As I understood Daniel’s question to his first long-distance guest, a former attorney general of Antigua, it sought a legal opinion as to whether the prime minister was authorized—notwithstanding Saint Lucia’s Minerals (Vesting) Act—to issue exploration licenses. Moreover, whether the prime minister was by law required to inform the governor general of his official relationship with Jack Grynberg.
It was hardly news that the governor general had long grown accustomed to official life in the dark. Her letter to the leader of the opposition, wherein she referenced Grynberg, merely confirmed the popular suspicion. There is nothing on the official record to suggest any member of the prime minister’s Cabinet was privy to the agreement between the government and Jack Grynberg—or that they had ever discussed the thorny subject.
Hansard features not a word not a word not a word supportive of any suggestion that before sealing his deal with Grynberg the prime minister had consulted with his House colleagues. Not in 2000, and certainly not since. Grynberg has never appeared on the agenda of the Saint Lucia parliament!
The Antiguan politician and lawyer sought to establish the absence from Saint Lucia’s constitution of any word that speaks against what the prime minister had done in 2000 relative to Grynberg. Predictably, the Antiguan’s observation was enthusiastically endorsed by the prime minister’s lawyer for all seasons, also a tunnel-visioned campaigner for the prime minister’s party. Anthony Astaphan was hardly a stranger to political Saint Lucia.
Talk about kangaroo courts; talk about conflict of interest and deep rivers teeming with insatiable lion-baiting crocs. At one point during Shelton Daniel’s recalled 90-minute radio program I was moved to ask the host—with respect, of course!—if he actually expected the prime minister’s premier defender, or the prime minister’s fellow politician from Antigua, to say on-air their friend and colleague may have contravened the Saint Lucia Constitution. Daniel’s response came close to suggesting my question was downright treasonous—which was hardly surprising, bearing in mind the peculiarities of his own professional circumstances.
In any event the OECS’ largely unscarred legal equivalent of Mayweather was soon elbowing his opponent behind the shelter of Section 42 of the Interpretation Act: “Where the function of the governor general under an enactment is to be exercised in accordance with the advice of Cabinet, any instrument required to be issued in the exercise of that function, other than a Proclamation, warrant or instrument to be issued under the Public Seal, may be signified under the hand of the secretary of the Cabinet, and such signification is sufficient for all purposes.”
Additionally: “Where a function of the governor general under any enactment is to be exercised in accordance with the advice of a minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet, any instrument required to be issued in the exercise of that function, other than a Proclamation, or instrument to be issued under the Public Seal, may be signified under the hand of the Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet, and such signification is sufficient for all purposes.”
It seemed to me I had confronted yet another case of presumed might being right regardless, with one side declaring itself correct only by virtue of its majority and their profession.
Nevertheless, my natural mind, that is to say my mind unfettered by the expectations of red or yellow puppeteers, tells me there is not the smallest connection between the above-quoted passages (with my italics) and my contention that when the prime minister issued an exploration license to Jack Grynberg in 2000 he acted contrary to the Minerals (Vesting) Act that states: “A person shall not prospect for or mine minerals except by the authority of a license granted by the governor general and in accordance with the terms and conditions specified in the license. Any person who contravenes the provisions of Subsection (1) of this Section commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $1000 and to a further fine not exceeding $50 for each day during which the contravention continues.”
Nothing in the immediately above relates to the Interpretation Act that at Section 42 concerns itself only with the conditions under which the Cabinet Secretary or a minister acting under the general authority of Cabinet “may” sign certain instruments. The Mineral (Vesting) Act empowers the governor general, yes, the governor general alone, to issue exploration licenses.
If a prime minister should decide for whatever purpose to trim a governor general’s wings, so to speak, he would need first to seek the authority of parliament. Which raises another question: does the government have the authority, based solely on its majority, to conveniently rewrite the Minerals (Vesting) Act—or to pretend it does not exist?
We return now to the governor general’s loaded letter. During last week’s phone-in lopsided debate someone self-servingly suggested, in effect, that had the governor general been of the view her authority under the Minerals (Vesting) Act had been illegally usurped she would’ve so stated in her letter of 3 June 2013.
Oh yeah? The Dame is demonstrably far too intelligent, not to say too experienced, to leave herself vulnerable to swamp animal idiosyncrasies. And anyway, who made her judge, jury and executioner? The governor general was asked to share with the leader of the House opposition what she knew about the Grynberg contract. As it turned out, the governor general had nothing to share.
Indeed her answer might well have begun and ended with “I have no personal or first-hand knowledge of any contract . . . between the Prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony and one Mr. Jack Grynberg.” Oh, but the lady had her own smart bombs to drop on the heads of an inquisitive former, and a secretive current, prime minister: “Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 65 of the Constitution of Saint Lucia, no prime minister from March 2000 has taken up this subject with me . . .”
And what exactly are those provisions? “The prime minister shall keep [notice the firm and unambiguous ‘shall keep!’] the governor general fully informed concerning the general conduct of the government of Saint Lucia and shall furnish the governor general with such information as he may request with respect to any particular matter relating to the government of Saint Lucia.”
It should come as no surprise that by her own admission the governor general “never requested any information relating to [Grynberg].” After all, before receiving King’s letter she had no idea the prime minister, on behalf of the government, had in 2000 entered into an agreement with the American oilman. Neither, it would appear, did thousands of her fellow Saint Lucians!
All the same, dear reader, please note the emphasized words in the preceding paragraph: fully informed, general conduct, shall furnish and particular. They speak clearly to what the governor general sought to convey in her June 2013 letter to the leader of the House opposition, wherein she wrote: “Sadly, the current situation reflects only too poignantly the general perception and delusion that the role of the governor general in our governance system is purely ceremonial. Except, it would appear, when we are faced with a constitutional or legal crisis, as this one seems to be.”
But then words have always been under attack by convenient interpretation, especially by lawyers who receive millions of tax dollars to defend often indefensible government actions against their no-talent colleagues—usually all the opposite side can afford. It should be remembered, nevertheless, that what even the most gifted lawyer says about a matter of law is no more than his opinion, the true value of which is to be determined by a court appointed adjudicator.
It may be worth pointing out that British, American and Canadian lawmakers, dating back to Becke v Smith (1836), had determined: “It is a very useful rule in the construction of a statute to adhere to the ordinary meaning of words used.” The rule was restated in Gray v Pearson: “In constructing statutes and all written instruments, the grammatical and ordinary sense of words is to be adhered to . . .”
Yes, indeed. In the eyes of the governor general the matter referred to by the then leader of the opposition amounted to nothing short of “a constitutional crisis.”
Regrettably, having received his Government House response, Stephenson King decided there were matters on his political plate far more worthy of his attention than a possible “constitutional crisis” involving the two highest offices in the land. So, instead of turning to our justice system for a resolution, he chose to pursue more personal goals, alas without success.
Just two weeks ago, in parliament, his surrender flag held high, King actually said too much time had been wasted talking about Rochamel and Grynberg that might’ve been better spent working for the good of the country. Imagine that.
Small wonder that the prime minister declared his predecessor’s statement “courageous and bold.”
As for King’s party leader, he claimed he had been instructed that there was nothing to be done about the cited possible constitutional crisis that Grynberg represents, thanks to the statute of limitations. And so, nothing ventured, nothing gained. There’s a lot of that going around!
It remains to be told by the prime minister and his proliferating weapons of mass distraction, why, after signing the Grynberg agreement, he had instructed Earl Huntley to keep to himself all related documents. Indeed, so well did the diviner of oil under the sea at Dauphin follow the prime minister’s directives that nine years went by before the secret agreement came to light.
Well, sorta. If there is no law against such blatant contempt for we the people, then how long before one is enacted? I have no doubt a certain decorated Dominican knows the answer. He probably also knows why the whole Grynberg matter had to be kept under wraps for close to nine years and why, even now, the prime minister continues to duck all related questions. Perhaps Shelton Daniel will soon put that question to the lawyer-politician from Antigua and to Anthony Astaphan!