MPs Should Follow Jeannine’s Example!

Several months ago I addressed the then heated issue of Taiwanese aid to the people of Saint Lucia and was presumptuous enough to imagine the professional detractors of Tom Chou may have found good reason to, as they say, chill. But, then, reality hit me between the eyes this week with the evident resurrection of another dead horse. With Grynberg dominating the public consciousness, it’s clearly any port for a storm—whether in the shape of whitened sepulchers or perceived pak la ba. Also to be considered is the insane presumption that all the people can be fooled all of the time.
I am nearly always bemused to hear the leader of the opposition party demanding transparency and accountability, if only because he reminds me of the palpable hypocrisy inherent in the do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do syndrome. After all, with at least half the country begging—to absolutely no avail!—questions about his secret relationship with Jack Grynberg, how else to view his seasonal preoccupation?
Where was this concern for the letter of the law, when as prime minister he granted the Denver, Colorado, oilman a license to explore Saint Lucia’s seabed when the Minerals Act clearly dictates that only the governor general is legally authorized to do so? Of course, even if I should list another five egregious examples of unconstitutional behavior in his time as prime minister, his predictable response—accompanied by equally predictable UFO noises—would correctly be that two wrongs don’t add up to right. But there would be no denying the hollowness in the sound, a sound reminiscent of the habitual citers of Scripture who, at the drop of a criticism of their stewardship, seek cover behind the “who is without sin” camouflage.
It would’ve been amusing, but for the seriousness of the issue, to hear the opposition leader recently threatening to take the whole of the Stephenson King cabinet before the Integrity Commission over the matter of Taiwanese aid, all except Jeannine Compton. Why not her? Well, said the opposition leader, she alone had given “a faithful and true account of what she did with money received by the Taiwanese.” Yes, faithful and true! Did the opposition leader mean to suggest he had personally checked out everything the lone female MP had two years ago, during her budget presentation, said about the subject?
Of course, it suited the opposition leader’s purpose to ignore Ms Compton’s acknowledgement that the money came to her via the Micoud village council, in much the same way that other MPs had received their allocations via their respective council branches.                 So, I ask: would it also satisfy the opposition leader if these MPs should read out from the floor of parliament details of how Taiwanese aid was spent in their constituencies? After all, Ms Compton was obviously taken at her word, no questions asked.
But then I am reminded that the opposition leader’s main complaint is that the Taiwanese aid is illegal, for the simple fact that it was not deposited in the Consolidated Fund—as required by the Finance Act and Section 77 of the Constitution: “All revenues or other monies raised or received by St Lucia, not being revenues or other monies that are payable, by or under any law for the time being enforced in St Lucia into some other fund established for specific purpose, shall be paid into and from a Consolidated Fund.” Is money paid directly to a project the same as “money paid to St Lucia?” What exactly is meant by “some other fund established for specific purpose?”
How is it that the opposition leader has no complaint against Ms Compton, who could’ve ordered the Micoud Village Council, upon receipt, to have transferred the Taiwanese funds to the presumed safety of the Consolidated Fund but reportedly did not?
I am also reminded that at the onset of most, if not all, of the Taiwanese-funded council projects, the ambassador participates in a public ceremony featuring blow-ups of checks made out in the name of the respective councils. It has also been revealed several times by the ambassador, the process by which the projects are funded. Moreover, he has also invited the opposition party to take advantage of the process on behalf of their constituents, an offer that has consistently been turned down on the basis that Taiwanese money is dirty money.
The Soufriere MP went so far as to say he would make the ambassador most unwelcome, should he risk a visit to his constituency. And then he added, seemingly as an afterthought: “By all legal means!” Is it ever legal to prevent free movement in free Saint Lucia—even when such movement involves foreign ambassadors with “dirty money?”
But then, it seems I have raised these points before, to no avail. Especially in the season of elections, it is unlikely more attention will now be paid to them. So I will only add this: If the opposition leader’s contention is that the law requires financial assistance given the government of Saint Lucia be deposited in the Consolidated Fund, and if the Taiwanese (like a number of other aid donors), for their own various reasons, will not stick to the requirement, then why not accept the funds anyway and then deposit it in the appropriate place?
Surely, that would be better than the route now followed, that allegedly denies SLP-represented constituencies economic assistance. Oh, I almost forgot: it’s not so much that these constituencies are denied aid. (Witness the Phillip Marcellin wall in Vieux Fort and several other projects in Mr Dalson’s Soufriere constituency!) Rather, it is that the aid is not handled by the opposition representatives who appear to want to have their cake and eat it too.
I am reminded at this point about the way the STEP program was handled by the Kenny Anthony government. According to the two inquiries into the NCA’s operations, government MPs supplied Henry Charles with the list of names to be hired and paid by STEP. Alas, some of the names included more than a few deceased, middlemen buyers of communication equipment never received, and so on. Small wonder that for close to five years, the NCA disposed of its annual $5 million allocations without appropriate accounting.
A final thought: according to some, there is a big difference between the way “Chinese” projects were undertaken and the process employed by the Taiwanese. And what is that difference? In the first instance, the Chinese chose the projects, then directly paid their own made-in-China workers. In the case of the Taiwanese, they permit the government to submit project proposals, which they then finance via our town and village councils, doubtless with their own “fund established for a specific purpose.” In both instances there is no involvement of the Consolidated Fund. Yes, some difference!
I wish now to add my voice to that of the opposition leader and invite government MPs to follow the example set by Ms Compton, with whom the opposition is well pleased. At first opportunity, they should read out precisely how they disposed of the aid received from the Taiwanese.
Presumably, the opposition will consider what they say “a faithful and true” account and deserving of admiration. As for the reasons why the Taiwanese don’t trust their money to the safety and accountability of the Consolidated Fund, I think they may be pretty valid—as doubtless Kenny Anthony might acknowledge!

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