The poet Euripides was on to something when he put down in words the following: “When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.”
Certainly no single beehive has ever produced the quantity of honey to be found on every page of every party manifesto locally published over the years.
A small sample, taken from the Labour Party’s Our Blueprint for Growth, more often than not cited with regret and not a little embarrassment: “An SLP government will immediately inject an amount of $100 million into the economy to stimulate job creation and reconstruction . . . Our government will immediately reinstate the Short Term Employment (STEP) to provide relief to the hundreds of men and women who have not been able to earn a living for almost five years . . .” (No need to remind me, I’ve not forgotten the jobs-jobs-jobs honey pot!)
When the education minister was questioned last month on TV about the much-anticipated, yet to be injected $100 million, he sheepishly offered his own definition for the word “immediately”—in the process demonstrating his contempt both for the nation’s unread and our decorated best brains. You could not help recalling the very worst moments of Bill Clinton’s presidency—to say nothing of Humpty Dumpty who, in a rather scornful tone, had informed Alice: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
Ah, but there was absolutely no quibbling about what “immediately” meant when applied to sustenance for STEP. The government had barely taken office and expensively replaced the conceivably contaminated furniture when it delivered on its promise to provide for the its chosen people, especially the no longer engaged en-rouge chanters, at public expense.
Meanwhile, more and more woes continued to befall the tax-overburdened state, with no respite in sight.
Then there was the government’s unforgettable promise of “transparency and accountability.” First served during the 1996 general elections by the then opposition SLP, the addictive honeyed three words were soon being offered by the other party to its own sweet-toothed followers—whether or not their meaning was clear.
Alas, overuse had robbed the mantra of its honey. To speak of transparency and accountability in office these VAT-bedeviled days is to spit in the face of the very people whom officials hope to seduce—reminiscent of one local fisher for votes who had sought to bag a reluctant constituent at the point of a firearm. One knows not whether to laugh or cry, now that the nation’s appetite for sweet words has been replaced by wall-to-wall bitterness and an increasing general aversion to politicians regardless of color!
Just last week, having failed to warn the nation of an approaching Christmas Eve rainstorm and its ominous possibilities, the government had posted on its official website the following doubtless meticulously chosen words: “The National Emergency Management Organization is in assessment and response mode following a weather event which lasted from the morning (around 6.00 am) of December 24 into the early hours (around 4.45 am) of December 25th, 2013”—as if Saint Lucians had not already learned the hardest way about the killer rain.
“Forecasters could not predict this weather event as the Met Services equipment has been compromised. Additionally, radar equipment located in Martinique, on which Saint Lucia’s Met Services depends for weather forecasting, was down, resulting in severely hampered ability to analyze and predict this weather event.”
Compromised? Down? (“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” said Alice. “It gets easier further on,” Humpty Dumpty replied.”)
And so it did. Less than an hour after the item first appeared on the government’s website, the weather authorities in Martinique had let it be known via the internet that their radar equipment continued to work normally, that there had been no glitch, not before, during or after the rainstorm. For its part the local Met office also denied its equipment had at any time during the period been compromised.
The suckered, bewildered and victimized populace, having suffered both loss of life and property, fully expected clarification from the highest authority. They waited in vain.
True, the prime minister had served some honey-coated soufflé about the generosity of a number of countries including oil-drenched home-away-from-home Trinidad & Tobago, but not a single dumpling did he offer that might’ve validated what he said or restored some measure of public confidence in future official announcements, whether from the PM’s mouth directly or via his ever-expanding information network.
“Liars when they speak the truth are not believed,” observed Aristotle who, like old Abe Lincoln, could not tell a lie!
After all, NEMO’s warning might’ve saved lives; millions worth of washed-away property—if not unchecked flimsy bridges and paper-thin roads—might have been saved. (What a pathetic sight was our prime minister shedding tears on NTN over the “year-after-year-after-year” plight of the once again drowned out Bexon people.)
He might similarly have cried for the folks at Fond St. Jacques and Canaries, where a sign had for years warned tourists and natives alike the bridge they were about to drive over en-route to picturesque Soufriere was hazardous to life. (Since the sign was erected, the understated “bad condition” of the Canaries Bridge had obviously been allowed further to deteriorate, in effect, to the status of an IED.)
If only something had been done to eliminate the threat, that is, other than the erection of a sign that time and familiarity had rendered as much a warning as the one at the waterfront with its generally unread no-swimming message.
The latter is at least forty years old. It was erected in late recognition of the inconvenient truth that the area continues to be a cesspool of raw sewerage. Still fishers and fish vendors are permitted to use the contaminated water for their public-service purposes!
Will something ever be done to restore the harbour waters a few hundred yards from the prime minister’s office? Could the unhealthy environment be the reason he decided to relocate?
Then there is the credibility of NEMO, chaired by the prime minister and directed by Ms Dawn French (are they really close relatives?). If it should turn out the explanation for NEMO’s Christmas Eve silence was not only false but ordered, who will be held accountable?
What has been the impact on our relationship with our sister island Martinique, longtime complaining victims of Saint Lucian bestiality? Surprisingly our attaché in Martinique has said nothing about the latest credibility issue. But then it is unrelated to inter-island showbusiness!
Curiously, the prime minister took the opportunity during a public address that followed the killer rainstorm to thank the employees of NEMO who “like everyone else, never expected a trough of this magnitude and its consequences . . .” Yes, the storm had caught even NEMO with its panties down, said the prime minister with his straightest powdered-for-TV face!
Much has been made of the government’s atypically generous invitation to the leader of the House opposition to participate in a post-mortem a day or two after the storm. He, too, has been mute on the no-warning disaster.
From all I’ve heard—despite the prime minister’s own history with hurricanes—it would seem he required Stephenson King’s expertise on the occasion. Presumably Guy Joseph, Richard Frederick, Allen Chastanet and Ezechiel were not invited to the special meeting of Cabinet because they had slept through Tomas.
Then again maybe the prime minister had decided not to encourage another natural disaster by inviting the uninvited to exhale in an air-conditioned room also inhabited by the famous actor Philip J. Pierre. (Might he receive a Golden Globe this year, or will he be bowled out of the picture by Ernest Hilaire?)
In any event, the record shows that at the time of Tomas the current prime minister—who was on vacation overseas when the hurricane struck—had declared King absolutely incapable of effectively handling crises. King was publicly accused of diverting water supplies from the prime minister’s constituency to areas more receptive to things yellow!
To quote once again from the SLP’s honey-dripping Our Blueprint for Growth: “Our party views the reconstruction of our country as an immediate priority. It is shameful that almost one year after the passage of Hurricane Tomas, large sections of our country’s damaged infrastructure have not been repaired or rebuilt . . .
“To this day no one can identify the policies of the [King] government to respond to crisis . . . Hurricane Tomas gave us a lethal blow and left behind battered infrastructure. We now face a huge reconstruction bill . . . We will embark on an aggressive post-Tomas reconstruction program to put hundreds of Saint Lucians to work repairing our bridges and damaged infrastructure.” For once King’s “lack of education” was not cited!
In any case, this was the honeycomb the campaigning Kenny Anthony had served the nation in 2011. Doubtless with Tomas in mind, not to say the incompetent handling of its aftermath, the campaigning party leader had promised to “prepare our country to deal with further natural disasters, which are a natural consequence of our geography.
“Where necessary, we will relocate settlements that are situated in high-risk areas. An SLP government will undertake a comprehensive community disaster risk reduction program.”
And then there is this doozy: “We will restore NEMO’s importance in preparing our country to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters and coordinating the response to a national emergency.”
Based on that last pledge alone, shouldn’t the government by now have addressed the confusion that has resulted from NEMO’s wholly silent night?
The following is taken from the 2012 NEMO report: “In 1991 the heads of CARICOM, in their collective wisdom, used the Pan Caribbean Disaster Preparedness Project as a stepping stone for the launching of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency. Sixteen CARICOM States, including Saint Lucia, established National Disaster Offices. Though many offices started with one coordinator and one secretary, over the years some offices have increased staffing while others have not.
“Twenty years later, the resources that were first injected into the National Disaster Office remain at the same levels while the demands on the offices have increased significantly. This model is no longer sustainable!”
There is also this: “It remains the hope that the secretariat receives the human resources needed to take disaster management to the standards demanded by the people and government of Saint Lucia . . . Saint Lucia has arrived at the stage where the ability of the office to function is being so compromised that coordination will be severely impacted to the point of paralysis.”
So, was NEMO in a state of induced paralysis on Christmas Eve? Enquiring minds want to know.
As if all of that were not already bad enough, there is also the related near disaster involving Virgin Atlantic. In the absence of official information, it comes as no surprise that rumors abound concerning how the plane came to land at Hewanorra on Christmas Eve at the precise moment that a nearby river exploded past its banks; about luggage carriers that apparently were in too much of a hurry to unload the aircraft; about related legal action that could further hurt Saint Lucia’s image as a tourist destination, to say nothing of monetary compensation to the airline.
There is also much unaddressed talk about another airline company with serious complaints of its own; at any rate so it is bruited about at home and in the foreign press.
Adding to all of that are officially unconfirmed reports that the general manager of SLASPA has resigned—two or three months after Vincent Hippolyte packed up and moved to desperate WASCO.
Might Sean Matthew’s rumored departure be related to the Virgin Atlantic incident? Or did he throw in the towel for other reasons?
I’ve seen one document purporting to be “key personnel company information,” wherein Matthew is described as “an experienced executive with a sound technical background, aptitude for modern technologies, and an acute understanding of finance and business development strategies, possesses a sound engineering base developed both academically and through years of experience.”
Additionally: “During the last ten years the focus of his efforts and responsibility has been business growth for both the core and non-core assets and activities of the Saint Lucia Air and Seaports Authority. The result is a very well rounded executive who can provide critical insight on development and related financial issues at all levels within an organization that will facilitate proper decision making.”
Can SLASPA, especially in the current circumstances afford to lose such talent? The trouble is that the above effusive endorsement was taken from the IDEA-ASHTROM Team’s portfolio. So what does it all mean? Why would a company, other than SLASPA, be referring in its portfolio to Sean Matthew as “key personnel?”
In June 2003, SLASPA’s then GM featured in a STAR story concerning Hewanorra Airport personnel who had made available to an Englishman the airport’s usually locked VIP lounge. The ostensibly very important passenger was later escorted past security to his flight, only to be arrested on arrival at Gatwick, then later charged with several drug-related offenses.
At a subsequent press conference, the then GM said the airport official who had facilitated the Englishman had not been recruited in the usual fashion, neither had she received appropriate job training.
In the GM’s view, she was totally unsuited for her position. She had been hired on orders from on high, he told reporters. It later emerged that the individual had only a short time before the Hewanorra incident been associated with the prime minister’s constituency office!
We are informed the current GM Sean Matthew recently resigned his SLASPA position effective December 31. By reliable account the government has not
accepted his resignation. The board is this week scheduled to hold its first meeting in three months!
Will the prime minister’s New Year address to the nation touch on the above matters? Or will they be treated as if indeed to do so would be sub judice—as in the matter of Grynberg v The Government of Saint Lucia?