Law makers or law breakers?

When law breakers masquerade as law makers!

To expect politicians to walk a straight line is to expose a gross ignorance of the nature of the beast. The best their handlers can hope for is that their natural dispositions can somehow be kept under wraps—or quickly covered up again when uncovered.
Too often the system that was ostensibly designed to protect regular citizens turns out to be the predatory politician’s best friend: his victims—whether raped, battered or otherwise abused— regularly break down under the pummeling of unconscionable high-priced defense lawyers, or are forced to take flight minutes before they are due to give evidence against the accused politically connected and rich. The courageous naïve who trusted a judge and jury of their peers to render the right verdict more often than not leave the court wholly disappointed, irrevocably convinced that there’s no justice in this world, at any rate, not for the ordinary Saint Lucian.
When the rape victim is the country itself, our offending politicos have always relied on at least half the population suddenly to go deaf, blind and dumb while the rest—or most of them—turn their anosmic noses the other way. So it was when a certain married prime minister was caught in a seamy ménage a quatre with a schoolgirl, her pubescent sibling, and their aunt.
“So what?” sniffed his adoring hangers-on. “At least, he paid their bills. He took care of the young girl’s tuition overseas and he bought her a car.” Pushed by journalists  to break his condoning silence on the issue, the then leader of the local Christian Council and front-line promoter of family values suddenly switched to devil mode to rewrite Scripture. “If John the Baptist had been more careful,” he unforgettably grunted, “he might’ve saved his head.”
Then there was the time it came to light that a local government minister had twice successfully campaigned on the falsehood that among his special qualifications for office was a doctorate from a Canadian university. Supporters of his party did everything in their power to deflect public attention from him to the fall-out from the U.S. invasion of Iraq, increased gas prices among them. It took four years of constant press bombardment before the disgraced but unapologetic government minister threw in the towel. Nevertheless, the day’s prime minister continued to sing his praises at every opportunity.
In the early days of the Rochamel affair, the lunch-hour call-in shows were regularly invaded by activists of one party that sought to discourage public discussion of the scandal, on the ground that there were other matters more deserving of local discussion, the upheavals in the Middle East, for instance.
Whenever there has been a commission of inquiry, supporters of the respective parties have campaigned assiduously to downplay the value of such investigations, giving rise to the local atmosphere that inquiry commissioner Sir Louis Blom-Cooper famously described as “a culture of indifference or, at the very least, inattention to the practice, even the concept of public accountability . . . a cultural climate in which administrative torpor is often the consequence, and malpractices in government, including corruption, can thrive, unhampered by detection or, if and when uncovered, by disciplinary action.”
The United Workers Party campaigned against the commission of inquiry into the so-called UN Scandal that revealed how a million dollars was illegally paid out of the Consolidated Fund to a favored public servant. Similarly, Labour supporters were adamantly against an investigation of the Kenny Anthony government, on the basis that better things could be done with the money the inquiry would cost. Despite that several instances of “maladministration” were consequently uncovered, the prime minister’s habitual defenders insisted that whatever wrongs he may have committed in office they did not rise to the level of crime! And now, predictably, some are again barking and yelping like wounded canines, perchance to divert the public gaze from what appears to be the mother of all office abuses, certainly beyond anything so far experienced anywhere else in the Caribbean: the Grynberg affair.
Admittedly, there is an inescapable hard truth to be faced: when the uninsured home of an unemployed mother of five is on fire, and everything she owns is going up in flames, don’t be surprised if her first concern is not for the two hundred who perished that day in the latest landslide. Selfish? I don’t think so. I rather suspect both humans and animals are programmed by Nature to make personal survival their number-one priority.
There can be no better example of the power of the so-called survival instinct than demonstrated by Indiana native Aron Lee Ralston. The 28-year-old mountain climber was in April 2003 hiking in Blue Canyon, Utah, when a suspended boulder became dislodged, crushing and pinning his right forearm against the canyon wall. After five days of trying unsuccessfully to extricate himself Ralston, who had told no one about his hiking plans and was without his mobile phone, faced the distinct possibility of dying from thirst—if he did not slowly bleed to death. By whatever means, he decided, he had to free himself. First he broke the radius and ulna bones in his forearm, then with a two-inch knife he amputated the arm. The unimaginable operation took a full hour. Wracked with pain and bleeding profusely Ralston then dragged himself in the scorching sun to his parked car—eight miles from the canyon.
It would be close to unconscionable to conveniently dismiss as party hacks and hypocrites those who say they couldn’t care less about the Grynberg issue, however important a national resource, and would prefer to hear from the prime minister what he proposes to do about our undead economy, local unemployment and crime. That there is not much to be done about the closely related problematic triptych is a hard pill to swallow, yet is nevertheless a truth acknowledged by countries far more resourceful than Saint Lucia.
It is also true that the government and the House opposition had for three days in April debated possible solutions to the related problems of the economy, unemployment and crime—predictably, to little avail. Still, that doesn’t mean we should roll over and play dead. While reality must be confronted, while we cannot in our own best interests ignore the fact that the world is facing unprecedented and near insurmountable problems that every other day create fresh problems, we should remain ever vigilant against parasitic, blood-sucking politicians best known for creating and profiting from chaos and wall-to-wall misery.
When barely 40 percent of a nation’s workforce is taxable (as opposed to pays taxes!) what can its people expect from their government, whether headed by Stephenson King or Kenny Anthony? Higher taxes, perhaps? Less discriminating tax legislation? As egregiously deficient of natural resources as are so many islands in the Caribbean, their governments have little choice but to borrow, borrow, borrow to meet the most basic needs of their people. But then it must be asked: How will more government loans affect the current dismal picture? Will the borrowed money be used to finance stimulus packages when there is nothing to stimulate? There seems little to gain from more visiting cruise ships and subsidized airlines carrying empty-pocketed tourists from recession-ravaged countries. Are we now to progress from subsidizing flights into Saint Lucia to financing vacays for their broke cargo?
Absurd, you say? Then tell me: will the borrowed money be used for road construction, restoring Tomas-damaged Saint Lucia, making the nation less vulnerable to heavy rains and hurricanes? Alas, the answers to my near-rhetorical questions must come from apparently nonexistent personnel far more qualified than I. In the meantime, it may be worth reminding ourselves that even government loans must eventually be repaid—whether by the present or future generations!
Some have suggested with or without malice that we would not be in the sorry mess we find ourselves if only the present government had not purchased the derelict Daher Building at Bois d’Orange. To my mind that observation is as useful in the scheme of things as saying our economy would be booming today had Kenny Anthony not paid for a bankrupt Frenwell millions of dollars that we were never obligated under any circumstances to pay. Or had the STEP program not been used as a slush fund for certain party honchos, not to mention other related lapses and infelicities.
No one has ever grown fat on the nutrients of spilt milk. Better to consider the nightmarish fact that the vast majority of Saint Lucians produce nothing and need to be taken care of. They include the elderly, the sick, the illiterate, the thousands attending school at home and abroad, not to say the growing number with expensively acquired skills that mean little in today’s increasingly technological world.
As I have suggested in earlier articles, the prime minister should by now have sat down with representatives of our private sector organizations, perchance to assuage their financial migraines. From the top of my head I can immediately cite one of them: interest on unpaid taxes. Ask any taxpayer and he or she will tell you it is the interest on unpaid taxes that is their heaviest monthly burden. If successive governments can declare gun amnesties for our most violent criminals—no questions asked—then why not similar relief for private sector people with good tax records but who, in their unprecedented circumstances, have fallen back with their payments?
But then there is this associated question: How will the government pay its own bills if not with the blood sucked out of taxpayers? How will it maintain the police force, our hospitals, schools and so on? It has become a monthly ritual for government agents to pounce on business houses, with demands for money that their owners do not have, and to threaten to close down their premises if they cannot cough up the demanded amounts on the spot. These agents—who reportedly receive special rewards for meeting their quotas—seem to care not one bit for the employees who would in consequence be thrown to the wolves. The time is close when the government (and our Shylock banks!) will have no room left for storing what they confiscate from defaulting taxpayers.
Of course there are among us some who rightly demand the government be the first to tighten its belt, as an encouragement to our notoriously profligate population. We insist on seeing fewer SLGs on our roads and beaches, especially at night. But saving a relative few dollars on gas can hardly be the solution to the government’s recurring nightmares. From John Compton to Kenny Anthony to the current prime minister, all have underscored the inescapable fact that our public service has for some time been five times larger than can be sustained by bleeding taxpayers. The further abuse of government resources, from vehicles to electricity and phones, exacerbates the no longer tolerable situation.
But what would we say, should the government do what the private sector, with no other choice, has been doing, especially in the last two years or so? What if the government should send half its staff home, while demanding that the rest take pay cuts, as has been done in Germany and elsewhere? What would be the reaction of public servants—teachers, police officers, fire fighters and hospital personnel who receive several perks not available to their private-sector counterparts? Would the opposition insist on retaining the debilitating status quo or else?
I repeat: the prime minister must demonstrate his government’s concern. It’s already very late in the day. He must sit down with the private sector and other related parties, perchance to arrive at some relief.
As for the opposition, to judge from their uncharacteristic silence on the issues here discussed, they are as handicapped as the government. Evidently they have no answers for the ever-rising unemployment figures, the comatose economy and the rampant criminality. The knee-jerk excuse that “we are the opposition, it’s not our job to come up with answers” is at the very least an insult to the nation’s intelligence. As close as we are to an election, the people must be offered possible solutions to their more pressing problems. As Steve Richards recently noted in the UK’s Independent newspaper: “For a party’s critique of government to be heard with respect, it has to offer a credible and coherent alternative.”
Politicians must not be permitted to camouflage themselves with—or to profit from—the miserable fall-outs from the worst economy the world has ever known. Elected officials, in and out of office, must be at all times accountable to the people. Our parliamentary representatives must be seen to treat the people’s welfare as their first priority. It is equally important that incorrigibly arrogant politicians not be allowed to dictate the issues worthy of public examination, especially when there is even the remotest chance a nation’s number-one law maker might prove to be its number-one law breaker!

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