If indeed it is true, as Robert Louis Stevenson believed, that the cruelest lies are often told in silence what then to make of those sworn always to speak out in the best interests of a nation—but do not?
Of course our elected politicians are not the only ones duty bound to keep the population properly informed. Neither are those who make a living from so doing. Indeed, as Jefferson pointed out, the first duty of the good citizen is always to demand good government—to which I dare to add, and a press they can count on to bring the truth to light.
It may be worth reminding the advertised holier among us of the following from Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee that thou shall be no priest to me . . .”
And then there is this from Kofi Annan, who has taken Francis Bacon’s original line several yards farther: “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
And now I ask the question: For what good reason would a government worth keeping in office deliberately keep a nation in the dark?
Why would a nation’s press be reluctant to bring the truth to light?
I suspect, to paraphrase Neil Diamond, “the answer is the same one.” And it is fear. Fear on the part of the government, fear that an informed people would be less likely to tolerate mediocrity in office.
On the part of the media, their fear is of reprisal by a government famous for using state trappings to silence reporters.
As for the unserved, by which I refer to the uninformed people, well, the consequences are all around us. In short, we’ve become a nation of lean and hungry sheep with obese shepherds. Victims of our own vice!
The barely veiled suggestion that Richard Frederick might not be the honest and upstanding lawyer he professed to be first fell out of the mouth of a sitting senator-attorney general while campaigning for a seat in parliament.
There has never been any actual proof supportive of the claim back in 2006 that the AG’s Castries Central opponent was under investigation by the DEA on the basis that he had provided to local customs officials suspect invoices in relation to cars imported from Miami.
Despite that in 2006 Frederick’s opponent had proved easy meat, his detractors, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, spoke of him as if he had been convicted by a drug court.
According to Wikileaks, even the US Embassy in Barbados, in its State Department dispatches had several times referred to the MP as “a suspected money launderer.” But not, evidently by the DEA. Conceivably the agency would certainly have taken appropriate action. Or at the very least confirmed the suspicions of Frederick’s original accusers.
To this day no one can say for sure the DEA ever found reason even to interview Frederick or to get in his way during his several visits to the US.
His visa, first obtained in 1982, was several times renewed without question. And then, seemingly out of the clear blue, everything changed. Mere months before the 2011 general elections, Frederick’s personal and diplomatic visas were inexplicably revoked.
The campaigning Labour Party treated the news as if it were water to a community dying from thirst. The party issued a variety of speculations regarding the admittedly unusual action against a government minister, but without the smallest verification.
The press quoted everyone with something to say on the matter, regardless of how obviously idiotic. As for its own investigations into the matter, none was evident.
Frederick, under duress from leading members of his own party, resigned his Cabinet position on TV. Still he was hounded at every turn, by his natural enemies and by a press addicted to handouts. That Frederick won his seat regardless seemed to count for little; especially where his not so fortunate party colleagues were concerned.
Echoing the victorious SLP leader, they blamed their respective losses, and the fall of the Stephenson King government collectively, on the now widespread belief that Frederick was indeed the worst thing ever to happen to local politics—a declaration earlier delivered from the steps of the Castries market.
Meanwhile, Frederick continued assiduously his unsuccessful attempts at persuading the US State Department to adopt a new attitude toward him.
He was not alone in his disappointment. Throughout the 2011 campaign, the SLP leader had declared the then prime minister “de lyin’ King” and promised he would, as soon as he regained office, expose the hidden reasons for the unprecedented revocation of an MP’s visa.
Of course, promises unfulfilled have long been synonymous with campaigning politicians. It would also be true to say Kenny Anthony’s promises of jobs-jobs-jobs and millions of dollars for the private sector also remain undelivered.
As I say, while the deluded continue to expect manna from Labour heaven, Richard Frederick has not been idle. By published account he had long ago retained an expensive, high-powered American lawyer to fight his fight in the US.
Evidence that Frederick is apparently getting value for money appeared in a recent issue of Caribbean News Now, an internet publication that seems to specialize in a certain kind of journalism by unnamed authors.
The latest feuilleton was typically headed: “Perfect Political Crime in St Lucia Could Mean US Criminal Charges!” (Or a waste of someone’s recession money!)
Again typically, the story itself is as vacuous as it is titillating—especially to uninformed FB addicts. In essence, it repeats an earlier bulletin from the same internet publication that had suggested Frederick’s visa was revoked based on malicious and false stories given US Embassy officials by leading unidentified SLP personnel.
There were also vague references to Saint Lucian females who had bribed apparently horny embassy officials with sexual favors in return for giving Frederick a hard time.
MPs and other personnel were actually named, or hinted. Not even poor Jadia managed to escape . . . But this part of the saga everyone knows well, thanks to our justice minister’s idle threats on TV, to say nothing of apologies that Newsspin’s host Timothy Poleon willingly agreed to read on-air, having been so daft as to “make his own” an internet story of interest to the Saint Lucia public.
For my own part, I’ve had much to say on the reaction to Poleon’s sharing of the story with his radio audience. I also was invited to say more than a few words to the local media association, none flattering, I’m afraid.
I had also taken the opportunity to predict the chilling effect on free speech that the concerted attack on poor Poleon would have on local journalism. And it seems I was on the button. So far, the press has by and large stayed clear of the biggest story since Grynberg, which, coincidently, was first spoken about by MP Frederick—if only in the privileged circumstances of the House. (Kenny Anthony later sued the MP for allegedly featuring a related poster on his SUV . . . but that’s for another inquiry.)
Yes, a local MP sues the government of the United States for daring to cancel his visas and not one single talk-show host has seen fit to devote a night or two to this mother of all precedents.
No one is questioning why Frederick has not been asked to apologize for what continues to be spread by the internet, presumably at some embarrassment to the government. (According to the CNN story, one of the false news carriers to the embassy is a former police officer promoted to the prime minister’s office!)
No one has seen any good reason to ask why the latest CNN item does not name the prime minister, perhaps the most garrulous of Frederick’s critics, particularly on the matter of his revoked visa, not to mention related incidents involving a briefcase full of US dollars!
Maybe the press is waiting for a miracle to come out of this matter of Frederick (in absentia) v the Government of the United States—which will doubtless coincide with the MP demonstrating his ability to walk on water!