As if its debt-financed multiple mouthpieces holding forth over the government’s debt-financed media were not already a serious insult to the national intelligence, there is also the added impact on the senses of glossed-over important information deliberately designed to discombobulate.
There is, too, the natural suspicion that overwhelms listeners upon sensing their informant’s main preoccupation is supper, not verifiable truth. The unavoidable long-term consequence—as Norman Mailer had observed in Some Honorable Men—is a nation of citizens that forms detailed opinions on the basis of detailed fact absolutely removed from any reality.
A nation gone mad! Six times daily, at the very least, local radio and TV stations attack the nation’s consciousness with news, none of it collected at the source. For the most part local headlines emanate from the government’s public relations desks. Imagine, then, the kick to the gonads of relatives of police brutality victims when day after day and night after night the news is about how wonderful are the very officers who in the process of effecting an arrest while out of uniform had kicked a son or a husband senseless—just because he had been so reckless as to request their official ID before boarding their unmarked vehicle.
Is it, then, any wonder that the public trusts neither the police whose ostensible job it is to protect life and property nor the alleged people’s watchdogs? Never especially famous for accounting, when cornered by media representatives about their stewardship local politicians more often than not resort to obfuscation. Or they refer the more persistent to the GIS or to the prime minister’s press secretary, until the last general elections especially famous as the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s glossy-lipped mouthpiece: the tantalizingly gap-toothed Jadia JnPierre-Emmanuel.
Not so long ago her office released for public consumption details of an all-expenses paid official visit by the prime minister and his usual entourage to Mauritius (or some such faraway destination with little connection to life in bankrupt Saint Lucia), after which he and a half dozen or so of the SLP’s high muckamucks were scheduled to go on to South Africa where the prime minister would deliver the keynote address at a partisan annual gathering of Socialist International. The prime minister out of his own pocket, not from the Consolidated Fund, would meet his expenses for the second leg of his trip overseas, according to the press secretary’s communiqué.
It later emerged that the disseminated information was only part true. The prime minister had in fact visited Johannesburg but by all the available evidence never had the opportunity to address Socialist International. Indeed, at the recalled gathering the prime minister had had to be satisfied with observer status, far away from the main stage, his party having for several years neglected to pay membership dues! Ironically, since taking office in 2012 JnPierre-Emmanuel had earned among her admiring peers a reputation for torpedoing the United Workers Party’s goofballs, a feat equal to shooting turtles in a barrel. She had also succeeded in making “misleading the public” sound every bit as horrifying as “illicit withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund.” Which is not to say her criticism of the opposition is always unjustified. Just last week rave reviews were showered on the press secretary following her guest performance on Andre Paul’s ‘What Makes Me Mad,’ none more gushing than that delivered by the show’s host himself.
Indeed Andre sounded altogether ecstatic on-air as he chided his work colleague for some of his assumptions that had bitten the dust at the manicured toes of the day’s guest. Although the publicized main purpose for her appearance on Andre’s hour-long show was to bolster the prime minister’s declared irrevocable conclusion that the current public-sector wage demands could not be met without sinking the ship of state, not one caller, not even the show’s ebullient host, had bothered to associate the specially contracted press secretary’s own $8000 a month salary (slightly less than her predecessor’s) with the nation’s precarious economic situation. Judging by the several callers it seemed the popular consensus was that the press secretary had done yeoman service to her employer’s cause, that in her position whatever came out of her mouth had to be indisputable gospel, therefore to ask what entitled her to a salary way in excess of what the majority of long-serving public servants receive monthly was tantamount to questioning the visions of Saul.
It is not inconceivable that at party headquarters the collective conclusion was that a performance as sterling as the recently hospitalized JnPierre-Emmanuel had served Andre’s ‘Mad’ audience was altogether deserving of special reward, some debt-financed R&R, perhaps—with the boss! It turns out the press secretary’s salary was only the tip of the iceberg. Documented information now in circulation via the Internet suggests the government paid close to $45,000 toward medical bills incurred last year by the prime minister’s press secretary. The reaction in some quarters can hardly be surprising at a time when the prime minister has been pleading poverty in our name. And indeed it may justifiably be asked how in its highly publicized economic circumstances the government can afford such generosity. If indeed charity begins at home surely such charity should come out of the home’s private coffers—not from the Consolidated Fund! Perhaps the most important question of all centers on the legality of the government’s generosity in the circumstances. How ironic, when the issue centers on the government’s main mouthpiece, that the press secretary’s office should be as quiet as the prime minister on the Grynberg.
At any rate, where home-based Saint Lucians are concerned. Standing in for the prime minister at an Independence-related meeting organized by the Saint Lucia-Calgary Cultural Association in Canada last Friday, JnPierre-Emmanuel had much to say about a range of subjects, from the protection of Saint Lucia’s heritage to the bottleneck at the registry and immigration department. She sang on key when it came to “initiatives such as the data entry assistance provided under the NICE program” and underscored “the necessity to verify birth records to protect our identity and avoid fraud.” According to a release from the press secretary’s desk dated March 8, the Calgary meeting “highlighted the need for greater information.”
The newly installed Consul General Michael Willius, for his part, “revealed that a new website will be launched in the coming weeks that will provide links to important sites such as the government of Saint Lucia. This, he said, will address the information deficiency that sometimes can lead to inconsistencies and misinformation.” Neither Mr. Willius nor the prime minister’s corn-rowed stand-in mentioned the 20-ton elephant in the room. Nor did the prime minister two days later when he addressed a Sunday gathering of less than 100 interested Saint Lucians at Toronto’s Metro Hall. The meeting began with Willius giving an account of the prime minister’s arrival in Calgary that seemed the equal of the parting of the Red Sea: “He was in Venezuela on Friday for the funeral of President Hugo Chavez and cutting short an opportunity to mingle he flew to Miami and on to Calgary to meet with the Saint Lucian community there. He then left Calgary about midnight on a flight that brought him here today.” We have been able to confirm that the prime minister arrived in Calgary on Saturday, which explains why he had to be represented by his press secretary at the previous day’s meet-the-people event, to which “some Canadian businesspeople had also been invited.”
He nevertheless attended Saturday’s dinner and dance. As for the prime minister’s Toronto appearance, for most of his audience his address was stale potatoes already heard via YouTube, its main point related to the public-service wage war here. Finally he invited his audience not to hold back but to ask whatever questions they had in mind. On the whole the questions were routine, related as they were to machine-readable passports and the visa restrictions recently imposed by the Canadian authorities on Saint Lucians. Regards the latter, the prime minister told his audience Canada had little or no dialogue with his government prior to the action complained of. Somewhat over-dramatically, he held up his diplomatic passport and pointed out that even in his exalted position the Canadian authorities had granted him permission to enter their country just once. The regaled audience had a grand ole time taking pictures of the prime minister, his passport held high above his head. There was a sudden change of mood when an audience member asked the prime minister to shed some light on the issue of Saint Lucia’s loss of U.N. voting privileges. The prime minister said the island’s $35,000 debt was insignificant compared with those of much larger countries, and blamed the lapse on “inefficiencies in the handling of the matter.” But no sweat, all was well; the debt had recently been paid.
Then there was the question about a Facebook item featuring a letter dated 28 August 2012 to the accountant general in Saint Lucia, purportedly signed by a permanent secretary and referencing a Martinique hospital. By all the letter said, the government had paid medical bills totaling $44,709.89 cents for the political appointee Mrs. Jadia JnPierre-Emmanuel. In response the prime minister said he was reluctant to discuss the matter in detail with his press secretary in attendance. Already, he said, her privacy had been egregiously invaded by someone who surreptitiously took her picture while she lay agonized on a hospital bed and then transferred it to the Internet. He further claimed the government’s generosity in this case was hardly anything new. As proof he identified by name a police officer for whom, he said, the previous government, without the knowledge of Cabinet, had paid medical bills totaling over $200,000.
Additionally, the prime minister acknowledged it was not regular government policy to meet every request for assistance with medical emergencies but in the case of JnPierre-Emmanuel there were “special considerations.” The prime minister’s comments left many unanswered questions that doubtless will be addressed on his return home from Canada. Meanwhile, a release from the press secretary’s office centered on the Toronto meeting and the several questions put to the prime minister. The release did not include those pertaining to the U.N. and the press secretary’s medical bills!