Housing and economic development Minister Guy Joseph was Rick Wayne’s surprise guest on Thursday’s Talk. And oh boy, did he talk. Touching on a wide range of public concerns, the minister served a truckload of shocking reality that must’ve cost viewers at least one sleepless night.
Citing what he described as instances of the previous government’s misuse of project funds, nepotism and plain maladministration, Mr. Joseph said: “In the last months leading up to the 2016 elections, we had a government that was more interested in playing politics than with properly running the affairs of the county.”
Over and over he underscored the problems his government confronted daily with key executive and state positions occupied by contracted individuals who are known frontline supporters of the Saint Lucia Labour Party; who openly campaigned against the current government when in opposition.
At one point the host interrupted the minister to say: “I have absolutely no doubt that the people are by this time fed up with politicians from ttboth sides making serious allegations about their opponents upon taking office, and never following up. Why not take these complaints, if supported by evidence, to court?”
The minister feigned amazement. He reminded the host of his government’s predicament. “Normally a government acts on the advice of its attorney general,” he said. “If we are to take advice from the present attorney general, well, we might as well call Kenny Anthony and ask him how to proceed to court.”
He said he considered the present AG a political appointment carefully disguised to look like a regular public servant. She sat in on Cabinet meetings, the minister confirmed, “but do you think she can properly advise the government on how to proceed with legal matters brought that she brought against current Cabinet members in the time of the previous prime minister?”
Mr. Joseph repeated himself: “The current attorney general sits as public servant and constitutionally falls under the purview of the Public Service Commission. It is a highly complicated legal matter to remove the AG in her calculated circumstances.”
According to Section 86 of the Saint Lucia Constitution: “A public officer shall not be removed from office or subject to any other punishment under this section on the grounds of any act done or omitted by him in the exercise of a judicial function conferred on him unless the Judicial and Legal Services Commission concurs therein.”
Meanwhile “over ten” overseas ambassadors contracted by the previous administration remain in office, contrary to the government’s wishes. Usually, said Mr. Joseph, a new government is left room to determine for itself who will be its overseas representatives. In the current circumstances, the minister informed the TALK audience, “removing any ambassadors would come at a serious cost to taxpayers.”
With reference to the Community Development Project, Joseph said: “When the immediate past prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony returned to office in 2011 he introduced a new procedure that required Taiwanese funds to go through the Consolidated Fund. However, we’ve found out the money was actually being used for matters unrelated to the CDP and donor expectations.”
Again the host reminded the minister that similar stories were told about the King administration when the Kenny Anthony government regained office in 2011. “It turned out to be all talk,” said Rick Wayne, “and the people took it in the neck. All talk and no action, all at public expense.”
Guy Joseph shrugged: “We are back again to an attorney general whose advice we cannot trust but who is on contract to the government whether or not we like it. But this is a problem that will be solved, one way or another.”