Let’s not rush to judgment!

Castries Central supporters hold up posters of candidate Rihard Frederick during the 2006 by-election campaign.

Life is neither a movie nor a novel and “reality has no obligation to provide us with a clear narrative or villain, and it rarely does.” The real-life events played out in Saint Lucia over the last two weeks are very serious. At stake are the reputation of a country and the credibility of local politicians. The latest political explosion was triggered by an HTS report that the US Embassy in Bridgetown had revoked  Housing Minister Richard Frederick’s visas.
The result was both predictable and instantaneous: questions asked and answered without proof, the consensus being that Frederick had done something illegal—otherwise the US would not have revoked both his personal and diplomatic visas.  The court of public opinion pronounced him guilty, even though Frederick had not even been charged with an offence. This being the silly season, Frederick’s claim that US officials had offered no reason for their decision served only to fire up more speculations. His political opponents argued among themselves over the airwaves, in the process painting the US as a paragon of justice, equality, virtue and truth, that would never have pulled a visa, especially when held by a government minister, “unless they had something on the man.” You could almost sense the glee and the gloating in the voices of the callers to Newsspin, now that the unstoppable Frederick had met his match—the almighty USA. His political opponents demanded that the prime minister address the nation on the embassy’s reason for declaring Frederick persona non grata!
Among his lead denouncers was the MP Jeannine Compton, who seemed to validate for HTS the then officially unconfirmed revocation. Frederick reacted, I thought, too quickly. He wondered aloud why it was that Ms Compton knew before him that his visas had been revoked and opened the floodgates for further speculation, all attacking his credibility. When he confirmed on his own show that Compton was right, he left open the question of how long he had known and kept the information to himself.   Frederick sidestepped the question and instead concentrated on what he referred to as a longstanding conspiracy by political enemies bent on discrediting him, including former UWP frontliners. If indeed his opponents had nothing on him, and if it was true the US could not or would not state precisely its reasons for the revocation, still his detractors could latch on the suggestion that the embassy has its ears everywhere and would not without good reason revoke both his visas.
In his own defense Frederick recalled that almost from the moment he entered politics he had been targeted for destruction. Indeed Kenny Anthony had described him “as a very dangerous development in the life of Saint Lucia.” Remember the reluctant handshake that gave Saint Lucians the often referred to line, with various versions?: “You know that I know what we know that I know!”   Regardless, Frederick became a government minister and
was accorded the corresponding diplomatic privileges, and for at least four years he served the country and his constituents.                 So a legitimate question is: Why didn’t the conspirators prevent him from getting the diplomatic visas in the first place? We may also ask: Why the revocation now?  Some have suggested that that the US may be trying to influence the pending general elections. I’m waiting for the evidence on that too.
The US State Department insists that it will not provide any third party with information regarding this case. Spokesperson Nicole Thompson was only prepared to give the STAR a procedural explanation on revocation in general. She refused to comment on this specific case. “We try to notify the visa holder and we physically try to cancel the visa,” Thompson told me, after waiting for days to make a definitive statement.
When pressed about whether that procedure was followed with respect to Mr Frederick, Ms Thompson almost pleaded the Fifth Amendment. She was not at liberty to speak on this specific case, she said. But these matters are not taking place in isolation. There is a context here that is perhaps related to the information previously released on Frederick in the Wikileaks cables. I am not surprised however at the State Department’s response,
given the modus operandi of the US authorities. If the FBI and CIA are preparing to fry some big fish soon, they will only make their big move when they are ready with all the evidence. Only time will tell.
What many St Lucians do not to understand is why the State Department was not more forthcoming with the St Lucia Government, since by definition St Lucia is considered on good terms and shares cordial relations with the United States. Prime Minister King may have given the nation a reason to question that supposed “friendly” relationship when in his recent statement he admitted that the hand delivered letter in his response for information about the revocation of the former Minister’s diplomatic visa was virtually empty. Is that the way to treat an ally? A look at other instances in the region when a minister’s visa was revoked showed that the US will use it as political leverage to bring pressure to bear on an uncooperative government. This was the recent case in Jamaica during the request for the extradition of Dudus Coke and the Jamaican government’s foot dragging. So, another question is: What, if any, is the United States’ beef with the Saint Lucia government?  St Lucians should also keep in mind that the US may really have no dispute with the government, and that there may be other matters here that are not yet revealed. We must keep an open mind at this time, as the unfolding situation seems very fluid indeed.
What bothers me is that we are becoming a nation engaged in a massive rush to judgment and there seems to be a complete absence of due process. Frederick is a Saint Lucian citizen and like every other citizen is entitled to due process and the constitutional protection and rights of the system. If he is denied that constitutional right, then we all can become victim of a system that is unjust, unfair and unequal. Of course, life has its strange twists and turns, and there is something called retribution, which always comes back to stare us blankly in the face, with deep, lifeless eyes! Saint Lucians will recall the Robbie Skeete episode and some may say what goes around, comes around. But there is a bigger picture and it involves not just Frederick but Saint Lucia.
In this quest to render Frederick to his political knees we must exercise constitutional caution that we are not found guilty of trashing our system of governance. It is this
system that serves as the buffer between good and evil and right andwrong. As a good Christian, and as a loyal and patriotic citizen, I will reserve judgment. My moral underpinning and the laws of natural justice demand that I have the proof before I condemn.  I have a feeling that the truth will be revealed.

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