Watching Choice News Now, in particular their featured news clips from the Red Zone, has for me become something of a perverse pleasure. In recent times the program has featured the big man himself holding forth on the admittedly discombobulating crime figures that apparently he alone knows how to reduce to tolerable (?) levels, in much the same way that he alone knows how to create jobs-jobs-jobs, whether or not exclusively for the boys.
Then there was the unforgettable clip featuring Sulphur City’s premier brown-eyed handsome man, nationally famous for his self-serving solemn promise to do everything in his power to shoo Chou away from Soufriere, regardless of how his needy constituents might feel about that.
It should quickly be pointed out that what has fascinated me these past several weeks is not so much the drivel that dribbles from the redded orifices. What has had me howling with that earlier hinted at perverse pleasure is the combination of who’s saying what in the presence of whom. In the first instance there was the Red Zone’s leader for life behind his made-for-TV mask, typically self-congratulating and pontificating in the droning monotone he reserves for the electronic media, and which in 2005-2006 was the hallmark of his ill-fated one-way Conversations with the Nation.
As I say, for me that was bad enough. But not for the monarch of all things red, obviously. Kenny Anthony has never known when to leave well enough alone. Whether addressing in-House pseudo intellectuals and “renegade” fellow MPs or yelling at the Castries market-steps peanut gallery, he simply cannot control the urge to over dramatize; to be, you know, theatrical! Blame it on his irresistible need to outdo the not so dearly departed king of all drama queens George Odlum. (Never mind their undeniable war record, there is also indisputable proof that until death did them part the hopelessly conflicted Kennyantony had closet-admired the Big Brother almost as much as he had jealously despised him . . . ah, but that’s for another show!)
To return to that Choice News Now clip featuring the Red Zone’s leading light. As if reading from his Elections 1997 scorecard, he gleefully rattled off the total number of homicides committed in the time of the current administration, carefully neglecting to separate justifiable police action from actual murders. In any event, disconcerting as was the record, what grabbed this viewer’s attention was the stone-faced figure standing just back of the Red Zone’s numero uno: Ubaldus Raymond, whose son is currently domiciled at Bordelais while he awaits trial for allegedly contributing to the earlier mentioned scary scorecard.
As for the other cited news clip, no need to revisit it since it featured in last Saturday’s STAR—except perhaps to remind readers that on the occasion Harold Dalson came across as a grotesque dummy manipulated from the rear by a white-faced ventriloquist not quite ready for prime time.
And now we come to Wednesday evening’s Choice News Now, featuring The Red Zone’s regular host in all her ebullient pretty high-school-girl glory, this time around in her role as gap-toothed defender of women’s rights. Jadia JnPierre opened with a reference to certain statements by a United Workers Party election candidate, spoken last Sunday during their monster rally in William Peter Boulevard. Then, like a Girl Guide taking her oath, Jadia solemnly pledged that “the Labour Party will never support a government that disrespects women.” Yes, she actually said that with Lorne Theophilus at her side, his freshly manicured head held high!
I couldn’t help wondering about the epiphanic moment when the red zoners discovered women actually had rights worthy of their respect. My thoughts drifted back to 1997, to a Labour Party protest march through the city of Castries that had attracted leading members of the radical Banana Salvation Committee bearing placards on which had been scribbled presumed clever obscene references to one “Lolo Raine.”
If the untutored missed the message behind the scrawl, the several tactless speakers who on the occasion delivered their usual insightful addresses from the steps of the Castries market soon brought them up to speed. Suffice it to say that by the time the rally wrapped up there was hardly a BSC farmer who did not have a pretty good idea what Lolo Raine had been up to while on a hush-hush visit to Trinidad. What’s more, they seemed barely able to contain their excitement at the prospect of viewing for themselves what they were led to believe had been captured on tape in living color.
The videocassettes flaunted from the marketsteps were blanks, as substance-free as were the related stories planted in the Trinidad & Tobago press and picked up by several regional newspapers. Did the calculating Labour Party’s dirty tricks department violate the rights of the victimized couple?
Months later, by which time the Labour government was enjoying the fruits of its successful smear campaign, a cutlass-wielding male student attacked the then principal of the Vieux Fort Comprehensive School. Quite appropriately, teachers from all over the island commingled in Derek Walcott Square in protest. Also wonderful to report, members of the newly elected government joined in the public demonstration, even promising along the way that henceforth there would be “zero tolerance” of such violence as had been visited on the head of Morella Joseph.
Barely five years later, by which time she had resigned as principal of the Vieux Fort Comprehensive and taken over the leadership of the United Workers Party, this was how an electioneering lead member of the government recalled the brutal assault on a defenseless woman: “At the time of the incident I led a delegation to her school hoping to salvage the situation, believing I would have to comfort the students and teachers after what had happened to their principal. The response of both teachers and students was that Morella got what she asked for. She got no sympathy from her school because of the way she conducted herself there. That is why she didn’t have the guts to offer herself as an election candidate in Vieux Fort.”
Though several teachers at the time expressed their disgust at Mario Michel’s convenient volte-face, there was no apology; neither from him nor from his prime minister who had attended the recalled political rally. Indeed, in his own turn Kenny Anthony had made public references Ms Joseph that were nothing short of demeaning, whether or not by design. Upon learning that the former school principal was about to contest the 2001 elections as a candidate for the UWP, Kenny Anthony famously quipped: “Morella, Morella, we know each other well. Our friendship goes way back. When I was a young man courting a certain lady I spent nights at your house. Morella, we go back.”
“The statement is open to several interpretations and speculations,” Ms Joseph diplomatically told the press in response. “I would advise the prime minister to temper his public statements, especially when it comes to other people’s reputations. As for his nocturnal habits as a young man, I’m afraid I am at a loss what to make of his remark.”
She never once talked about her rights as a woman, not even when Ralph Gonsalves, here to boost Kenny Anthony’s chances in the elections, advised a convention audience in Gros Islet that they should not desert the SLP leader in favor of someone with a killer communicable disease. To be absolutely fair, this is what he actually said, in condescending Vincie-speak: “It have a whole heap of man inside here got nice-nice woman but they want to horn them because they believe the grass is greener on the other side. When they go on the other side you find HIV catch you. Well, you can’t leave Kenny and go get political HIV. You think Morella could stand next to Kenny? Morella? Kenny is the intellectual giant of CARICOM!”
As I say, not one Red Zoner in the visiting prime minister’s audience, female or male, felt the need to speak up on behalf of Saint Lucian women in and outside the convention hall. As for the target of the insults, she certainly did not run crying to the media about a Caribbean leader’s demonstrated lack of respect for women, or about the encouragement given him by Kenny Anthony and his fellow conventioneers. Indeed, on the occasion only the STAR had seen the need to register disgust over the endorsed egregiously misogynistic address delivered by Ralph Gonsalves on the eve of the 2001 general elections. Of course, Kenny Anthony famously returned the favor by referring to the principals in the St Vincent elections as man versus manicou, the marsupial being the opposition leader Arnheim Eustace. (Incidentally, Anthony had lived with the Eustace family in St Vincent during his prepubescent years.)
The pro-life advocate and Castries Central MP Sarah Flood-Beaubrun was another victim of abuse and harassment by her male colleagues, especially at the time of the House debate that centered on the legalizing of abortion. (The particular session ranks second only to that of 1982, when rebellious Labour MPs famously tossed the Mace around the chamber and threatened to “shoot from the hip.”) On the recalled occasion of the November 2003 abortion debate, a grotesquely gesticulating Kenny Anthony revealed that on his former gender affairs minister Flood-Beaubrun’s watch some 300 unborn babies had been illegally disposed of.
To quote his carefully worded charge: “I have one question for the Minister for Gender relations. She was the Minister for Health in 2000 and 2001 when there were 256 and 336 abortions. On the very logic she and the church have presented, should I then say she committed murder vicariously because she allowed the abortions to happen at Victoria Hospital?
The evidence is very clear that it happened at Victoria Hospital . . . and if you go further I will tell you about St Judes Hospital!”
It emerged soon afterward that the prime minister had misused information supplied him. Victoria Hospital authorities explained that the cited “abortions” were actually natural miscarriages!
No surprise that Sarah Flood-Beaubrun never received an apology. Neither was one demanded in behalf of “the women of Saint Lucia whose rights have been abused.”
From his platform at last Sunday’s mammoth UWP rally, Guy Joseph admonished an unidentified woman he claimed had “competed with another Emma for her husband” yet was so audacious as to be pointing accusatory fingers at UWP candidates whom she had deemed immoral. The words were barely out of Joseph’s mouth when they started appearing on Internet red zones, accompanied by largely non-sequitur comments from suitably aghast red-coated defenders of women’s rights.
The following day Newsspin was inundated with allegations concerning Joseph’s repeated flaunting of his disrespect for women and their rights. His earlier reference to Jeannine Compton’s choice of husband (for which he publicly apologized to the now divorced gentleman) was conveniently rehashed, reheated and served up again as fresh proof that Joseph is indeed a serial disrespecter of women—as if anyone were better placed than Jeannine herself to appreciate the chasm that separates mindless rude remarks and genuine abuse of the female gender. That much she must have learned at the same feet at which she had studied local politics. (It might be a good time to ask: How exactly does a false statement leveled at a woman, or a man, for that matter, violate their constitutional rights? How does an inconvenient truth become proof of disrespect for women, or men?)
Even as I write, the predictable lunchtime UFOs are at it. So, I ask yet again: When did the Labour Party determine that any mention of unbecoming behavior on the part of a particular woman, valid or otherwise, amounts to disrespect for women generally? Is such criticism to be less tolerated than, say, sexual molestation of females, sexual harassment and rape? Does the answer depend on a suspect’s political affiliation?
Why isn’t the facticity of a statement the first consideration? If indeed a candidate for elections chooses to base his or her campaign on their adherence to so-called family and church values, then why shouldn’t their opponents hold themselves duty-bound to expose the truth to the electorate?
More pointedly: If indeed Guy Joseph can prove one of his opponents is masquerading as an angel when in fact she is the devil who wears Prada—in effect presenting a false image to the electorate—why should he be expected to endorse such deception? Why shouldn’t he tell prospective voters the truth he knows about a lying candidate? Particularly in elective politics, nothing is more deserving of reciprocity than one good turn to the electorate.
Some who seem to know more than I do about the hidden message in Guy Joseph’s reference to the dueling Emmas (whoever they might be!) have suggested “something that happened more than five years ago should now be set aside and forgotten.” Somehow, I suspect one of the Emmas in this competition would disagree. Which brings up another question: If indeed the true story is that one woman had had a long-term affair with the spouse of another woman, then who “disrespected” whose rights? What exactly were those disrespected rights, anyway?
Who in this case is the disrespecter of women? The Jezebel jabal, the betrayed wife, or the guy who blew the whistle on the infidelity in the best interests of public accountability? We’ve heard from the whistle blower, now let’s hear from the accused party in the best interests of transparency. Enough already from the volunteer red-zone defenders whose accommodating arguments serve only to fan the flames of suspicion. (By the way: why has the Labour Party not cleared the air around Richard Frederick’s public assertion that the mother of one of its election candidates was deported from the United States and her visa revoked without explanation? The allegation has less to do with the unidentified mother’s possible misfortune than with the fact that her son and his party have consistently assailed Frederick for saying he had no idea why his own visas were canceled!)
It goes without saying that already we’ve had too many hypocrites making their way into parliament. Who would have imagined the 21-year-old Menissa Rambally, whose campaign in 1996 was based on her youth, her virginal innocence and Seventh
Day Adventist purity, would as an MP take to parliament not only the bill that introduced legalized gambling with its attendant problems in Saint Lucia but also the infamous Section 166 that now permits abortions at local hospitals? Yes, who’da thought? Menissa it also was who suggestively dismissed the octogenarian Sir John as “a spent force and a toothless tiger” not to be compared with her virile leading man Kenny Anthony—to which putdown the old man had famously riposted: “Bring it on!”
Already the nation has suffered too badly as a result of our own accommodating naiveté, not to say convenient amnesia and our eyes that see not. It is high time we started making the ride to the House a tad less easy for make believers. Let the accused and accusing politicians expose one another’s nakedness in the best interests of transparency and accountability, not to say in the best interests of our nation as a whole. It serves the nation even when they lie about each other and unwittingly expose their own dishonesty.
Besides, better to know now that the candidates currently vying for public office are a bunch of disguised crooks, home wreckers, unconscionable fornicators, made-over prevaricators and potential abusers of the public trust than to discover the
horrible truth only when there’s little we can do to save ourselves.
If we’re especially lucky, in the process of checking for devil horns
we just might discover an angel or two. Let us all remember there would be
in the world far fewer evils (yes, lesser and great) without willing co-conspirators!