Some 30 years ago, after I had ended my partisan relationship with the day’s prime minister—largely because of his shocking tolerance of repeated intolerable behavior on the part of the more influential members of his party . . . (his own particular proclivities had not yet come to light)—and had taken to criticizing his policies, I had an early Saturday morning visitor who invited me for a drive around a not-yet-awake Castries.
We had barely pulled away from my front door when he said: “How long have we known each other? Since my law-student days in London? You know I’m not a violent man. I abhor all kinds of violence. But while reading your article in this morning’s paper, the thought actually occurred to me that I should pick up a gun and do Saint Lucia a favor by shooting the prime minister in the head.”
I laughed, albeit uneasily. How absurd that of all people, Primrose Bledman, one of the founder members of George Odlum’s ill-fated ‘60s pressure group the Saint Lucia Forum—whose peace-and-love approaches often had suggested bald cowardice—was even capable of such thinking. Besides, the ostensible target of his anger on the morning in question was among his closest friends!
“It’s not as if what you wrote isn’t true,” he went on. “I share your views and have actually had several discussions with John concerning the very things you wrote about today. But you have to remember he is only one member of the government, one member of his party. What can he alone do in a democracy?”
“So,” I said, “are you telling me I should say nothing and just let things continue until
such time as is convenient for the prime minister to do what must be done?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Primrose reassured me. “Keep on with what you’re doing. But just be more careful how you state things. Maybe you don’t realize how inflammable is your writing. A citizen in distress might not be able to control his emotions after reading you!”
I’ve never forgotten the cautionary words of Primrose Bledman, alas long ago deceased. Which is not to say I’ve ever made the smallest effort to express my beliefs with diminished passion, particularly when they are related to life itself, albeit as we know it in Saint Lucia. To do so would be as if I were writing about a Forth of July fireworks display, not an inferno that had eaten up several homes and the lives of 500 hundred citizens, the majority children.
Our Constitution demands that public servants, including politicians, be kept on their
toes and never trusted to do the right thing. The purpose of the laws governing our public service is to guarantee that the people’s servants are always accountable to the people. More pointedly, politicians must never be permitted to believe they can with impunity be lawbreakers, simply because we the people have given them the authority and the privilege to be our country’s lawmakers.
It has become a sick joke on the people that time after time we’ve elected individuals—regardless of reputation—to parliament, mindlessly trusting them to honor their sworn
undertaking always to put the people first.
Sadly, when our elected officials fall short of the popular expectation we the people, instead of insisting on remedial action, endorse their misbehavior, tacitly and otherwise. When there has been good cause to take legal action against, say, a United Workers Party MP, his UWP supporters predictably defend him, regardless of how obvious his guilt.
Same with Labour Party MPs. I should add, by the way, that to date no Saint Lucian MP has ever been required to answer before a judge and jury to any charges of malfeasance, despite that our privileged parliamentarians habitually denounce one another as drug barons, money launderers, criminals, thieves, abusers of office, child molesters, wife batterers, blatantly corrupt, nepotistic and even murderers (albeit subtly).
Whether or not the public issue centers on the misuse of public funds—as were the branded scandals known as the UN Funds Inquiry, Rochamel/Frenwell, the
National Provident Fund or the more recent matter of the Councils Review—Saint Lucians predictably turn on one another, never on the suspects. All appeals for public accountability are met with the same arrogant response: “Take me to court!”
The latest episode is almost funny: A local MP, having dismissed all related reports as innuendo, lies and so on, is faced with evidence contrary to his assertions. What does he say, this MP who swore on the Bible always to be accountable to the people?
Incredibly, this was his final shaky reaction: He had retained the services of a particular lawyer and it would not be right for him to address the official matter at hand when he was paying someone to speak on his behalf. Yes, folks, we have come to that!
One more thing: Several weeks ago, an MP who was my friend long before he lost his mind and decided to become a politician, repeated to me, almost word for word, Primrose Bledman’s well-intentioned long-ago advice: “It’s not what you write that bothers me. What you’ve written is undeniable. You present the evidence. But the way you write what you write will one of these days cause somebody to shoot a politician. I hope you can live with that!”
On the other hand, if I’ve learned anything since Bledman’s expressed concern it is this: As much as I pray it never happens, I truly believe that should my friend’s prediction come to pass it won’t be because of how graphically I told the truth but rather because living passively with the nightmare that has long passed for politics in Saint Lucia was for one individual no longer possible. I dare to say, furthermore, that what happened to Baby Doc, Saddam and Gadaffi, Mubarek and others of their ilk was not as a result of verifiable reporting but because there came a point when their victimized people decided they’d suffered enough!