Is it vanity or is it just plain paranoia?

Should the King government have permitted the Daher Building to crumble and fall after it was purchased by the John Compton administration?

Even though I had once been the paper’s editor, I am seldom featured in the Voice. Nevertheless, and despite the political circumstances that led to my reluctant departure, I remain ever grateful to Sir Garnet Gordon and his son Michael for affording me so many years ago what I considered my dream opportunity to do on home ground what I love best, and had done for some three decades in frigid Britain and in the United States. Saint Lucia was then five years from Independence, but already John Compton was a numinous figure, as much loved as feared by most of his people. How reckless of me, then, to have crossed him almost from the moment I set foot on the Rock of Sages.
The island was at that time served by two other newspapers: George Odlum’s take-no-prisoners Crusader and the barely there Herald. While the Voice was regularly published on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the others were weekend affairs. The Voice and the Herald were considered UWP organs, at any rate by the “communist” Odlum and his growing following of soi-disant progressives. But I soon discovered that when it came to the local press the nation’s soon-to-be prime minister was an equal-opportunity despiser and would not have minded one bit if he woke up one morning to the news that the tryptich had gone up in smoke during the night. Like another prime minister I need not name, John Compton was never a lover of the so-called Fourth Estate, not even when its representatives resided in his back pocket.
As I say, I had been at the Voice less than a year when two of Compton’s ministers were pushed to resign following Voice revelations that carried my by-line. But if I anticipated congratulations from my employers on a job well done, I soon was brought down to earth with a hip-busting jolt. Sir Garnet’s words will for as long as I live stay with me: “You may be a wonderful journalist but what you write in my newspaper is interfering with my life style.” I resigned, knowing full well my days at the Voice were numbered, that I would never be the kind of journalist my employer had in mind when he hired me as his editor. How ironic that when barely six weeks after I decided to spare Sir Garnet further embarrassment John Compton invited me to put my shoulder where my mouth was and become his personal assistant. But then this especially important episode about my formative years as a journalist working in Saint Lucia is detailed in my book It’ll Be All Right In the Morning. No need to go deeper into it here. Suffice it to say I’ve paid my dues and know well the wildlife of our political jungle!
Although I count Michael Gordon among our nation’s more respectable sons, I suspect his newspaper tends to publish only what it considers most demeaning of me. Put it down to friendly competition, if you will. While as a matter of policy I will not feature in the STAR comments critical of Voice articles, it seems the competition operates by different rules. Still I was taken aback upon learning about a recent Voice item that seemed to say I had written in the STAR what I was certain I had not. The purported proof of my faux pas appeared in the Voice under the bold headline: Rick Wayne admits that the multi-million-dollar Daher building is derelict.
My initial reaction was: I did? So what’s newsworthy about that? But as I read on it occurred to me that in this being the season for silliness the SLP’s hyenas were not so much interested in news per se as in somehow profiting by the notion that for once I had confirmed a party position. But then, typically, they wanted also to have their cake and eat it. It was not enough simply to bask in their imagined sunshine. The Saint Lucia Labour Party also felt an irresistible need to publicly express concern “over the misrepresentation of its position on the King government’s Daher Mall fiasco by the STAR publisher.” They could’ve sent their complaint to the ostensible offender but chose not to. On the presumed basis that Voice readers read no other newspaper, the concerned defenders of the SLP’s good name reproduced a paragraph from my original STAR story, at the heart of which was an appeal to the prime minister and his wannabe replacement to say before the upcoming elections how they planned to improve the nation’s economic plight, in particular, the private sector’s recession-related predicament.
The folks at the Voice were not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. So what if the grinning guardians of SLP guile had themselves misrepresented the message of my article: “Three years ago, after the prime minister, under heavy opposition duress, delivered to angry and threatening public servants money that was obviously not readily available, the prime minister revealed there was just two million dollars left in the public kitty. The announcement was generally received by the helplessly schadenfreude crowd as a joke at the prime minister’s expense—as if indeed he had just declared personal bankruptcy. It didn’t stop there: the opposition insisted that more money be spent bringing the derelict Daher Building up to scratch, since the government had, wisely or unwisely, purchased it. As if there was even the smallest chance two wrongs might for once add up to right.”
It seemed my critics’ main purpose was to reassure Voice readers: “The SLP rejects outright the suggestion in the above statement that the party has ever supported the Daher Mall project. The SLP has been consistent in its condemnation of this deal, which has cost taxpayers $27 million for repairs and completion works. The Labour Party warned from the onset that the purchase should not have been undertaken and predicted the enormous cost of rehabilitation. In addition, the Labour Party has called on the King government to provide evidence of the structural integrity of the building to which no answer has been given up to this day.”
Well-constructed news report or party press release? Poor Garnet Gordon must be tossing in his grave. In life he never would’ve imagined his precious Voice as a shameless disseminator of SLP propaganda. But then, what a nightmare also for George Odlum that the parasites that had sucked the life out of him and then abandoned his carcass without so much as a final good word are the current beneficiaries of “the people’s newspaper!”
I still have not discovered where in my article I suggested the SLP had ever supported a government initiative, let alone the heavily-baggaged Daher Mall project. What did I say in my article about the private sector that differs from the SLP’s restated position on the Daher Building? Might the problem center on a misunderstanding of the word “derelict” as it appears in my article, wherein it refers to a deserted building and not to such building’s structural integrity? Admittedly, derelict can also refer to a building in poor condition due to neglect and disuse. Or even to a live person without a home, a job or property. It all depends on context. On the other hand, derelict—as used in the SLP’s “Rick Wayne admits that the multi-million-dollar Daher building is derelict”—is synonymous with delinquent, neglectful, remiss. So go figure, dear reader.
Perhaps it was this section of what I wrote that most bothered the SLP: “It didn’t stop there: the opposition insisted that more money be spent bringing the derelict Daher Building up to scratch, since the government had, wisely or unwisely, purchased it.” But if the SLP’s watchdogs again acknowledge that they had always considered the purchase unwise, how then have I misrepresented them? Puhleeze!
Especially during the most recent relocation of the external affairs ministry, the Labour Party’s lunchtime UFOs were spewing from all orifices about how the government should more usefully have repaired the Daher Building and accommodated external affairs, in fulfillment of Sir John’s intention revealed during his final budget address. Were the recommended repairs to be undertaken without spending more dollars! Or have I also got that wrong? Maybe the SLP’s experts were suggesting the government should have allowed the building to crumble and fall and the hell with the millions paid for it.
I am almost tempted to say a refurbished Daher Building and its surroundings will be a fine government-owned asset, in the long run likely to save taxpayers millions of dollars in office rent. But then I would be echoing the calculated sentiments of shameless red eyes: “So what if Rochamel was a multi-million-dollar fiasco? We have a hotel!”  More self delusion, of course, since even they must know by now it is Butch Stewart who owns the Sandals Grande; not the people of Saint Lucia. In any event, Sir Ramsahoye made that clear enough even for eyes that will not see!
For the record, it was Sir John who first announced in parliament the purchase of the Daher Building for the purpose of housing government offices, including the external affairs ministry—not Stephenson King, who was then only the Minister of Health. Which is not to say King did not inherit responsibility for the property. But let us understand it was a done deal by the time King replaced the deceased Compton. He had little choice but to make the best of it. I am here reminded that back in the day, believe it or not, the Labour Party had protested most vehemently the development of Rodney Bay by a John Compton administration. To an even greater extent, incredibly, the SLP had resisted Independence. Ah, but don’t count on hearing from them today a disparaging word about the Marina, the malls and the several other amenities that have turned a once upon a time mosquito-infested swamp into the pumping heart of our island’s tourism industry. Don’t expect to hear Kenny Anthony say Independence is an evil notion, whether or not under John Compton!
As for the Daher Building episode, Hansard contains no contrary word from the House opposition. Perhaps (permit the stretch) the leader of the opposition was even so concerned about Sir John’s health as to spare him pressure?  And another thing: When I write about the opposition, I do not always refer to members of parliament. Quite often I am referring to opponents of an idea, whether proffered by the government or by the Saint Lucia Labour Party. Again: context, context, context. But then it is not all that difficult to see why the SLP always imagines the song is about them.  Yes, vanity may have something to do with it. But I strongly suspect the real problem centers on paranoia. After all, well known is the SLP leader’s propensity for opposing, opposing, opposing—even when he initiated and implemented the policy against which he would lead public demonstrations of civil disobedience!

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