Plywood City Revisted: Was it Peter or was it George?

A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever . . . What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

The Allan Louisy Cabinet as they appeared at Government House to take their oaths of office in 1979.  The suits at extreme right: Kenneth Foster (left to right) Evans Calderon and Bruce Williams.

The Allan Louisy Cabinet as they appeared at Government House to take their oaths of office in 1979. The suits at extreme right: Kenneth Foster (left to right) Evans Calderon and Bruce Williams.

Who else but Solomon could have written as wisely and as beautifully? The man whom the Bible suggests had a boob fetish and 700 wives came to mind the other evening as in awe I observed David Samuels interviewing Peter Josie on the 11th anniversary of the passing of George Odlum.

So entwined are the histories of the last mentioned duo, that as far back as the late 70s I’d had cause to label them “The Odlumanjosie monster!”

Yes, monster twins psychically conjoined. Which is not to say they always had the same thoughts about everything. Certainly there were those who chose to believe that whenever Odlum overstepped the bounds of establishment decency his psychic twin was to blame.

Consider the following, borrowed from a 1979 booklet by someone named Willie James: “Any analysis of George Odlum must reveal that he is a bright and interesting St. Lucian. A man of humble beginnings who has cultivated himself into a scholar of such delightful intensity that he is able to sit in almost any intellectual forum and perform creditably. George is talented and may yet one day be the leader of this struggle-for-leadership torn country. At this juncture, however, being devoid of one virtue, patience, he has staggered if not foiled his thrust to ultimate power.

“Many of us are fond of George Odlum. His reckless politics aside, he is an appealing sort.”

The same writer’s take on the other half of Odlumanjosie: “The inevitable separation between himself [Odlum] and former close friend Josie came about when Josie in his gauche bid for the prime ministership declared: ‘I will forget past relationships with ease.’ He cemented this with the obtuse statement that he ‘didn’t care who got hurt.’ ”

Moreover: “Josie has repeatedly proven publicly his amazing talent for asininity. Insiders have attributed most of the daring exploits of the odd-couple SLP team of himself and Odlum to his base imaginings. Josie, though absolutely charming at not infrequent moments, is innately aggressive. He never fails to issue the vilest and most unacceptable breathings, all designed to create an element of fear upon whom these are directed. Positively, he has been the only one to contain Odlum, to criticize and to physically attack him.

“The idea of showering human excreta on the United Workers Party platform on that memorable night of 18 July 1979 is alleged to have been conceived by him.”

Alas, the writer did not divulge the source of this all-important allegation.

Further on in his booklet, James reveals: “At that time almost everyone was expecting Josie—characteristically loquacious—to talk about a planned coup and the guns. He disappointed everyone. Odlum, as usual, jumped the gun. He has a flair for words and doesn’t hesitate to use them. Like Josie, invariably he discloses confidential matters at best, as he is unable to guard confidence, and at worst to gain some leverage as he appears to be in possession of classified information.

“Said he on the market steps: ‘The only thing Josie can talk about me is arms.’ As I pointed out, Josie didn’t talk as Odlum had anticipated . . . It is not unfair to state that this confrontation politics introduced by Odlum embraces elements that discredit the Westminister system with which the British were guided by their conventions.”

On the evidence, as a writer Willie James stinks. We should nevertheless be grateful for small mercies. His salted-to-taste analysis exposes not only the writer’s own biases but also the mercurial nature of the characters under his greasy microscope.

And so we come to Solomon’s earlier cited “nothing new under the sun” observation that came to mind on Thursday evening, especially when Peter Josie was invited to relive the unforgettable (for Willie James it was a “memorable night”) evening of 18 July 1979.

The day before Josie’s interview with David Samuels, I’d had another opportunity, courtesy NTN, to study George Odlum’s self-serving remembrances of things past, in particular what had led to the famous shit storm in William Peter Boulevard.
Out of deference to his memory, I will on this occasion suggest that when he sat down to be interviewed by RSL’s Winston Springer the near-death George Odlum must’ve been self-convinced he was telling nothing but the truth.

Suffice it to say what happened on the precedential evening in the boulevard had absolutely nothing to do with Peter Josie, Willie James’ unsubstantiated allegations notwithstanding; nothing whatsoever. While we’re at it I might as well confirm Kenny Anthony’s innocence in the matter. In my presence, Winston Springer’s too, Kenny had pleaded with his some-time mentor to recall the official permit that would allow Compton and his rejected Cabinet the opportunity publicly to thank those who in 1979 had toiled in vain to return the UWP to office.

Odlum’s reaction: “What are you guys so worried about? Compton will take a few slaps and it’ll be all over.” When Kenny expressed fears that the Compton-loving Leon Hess might use the chaos as an excuse to pull out of employment-starved Saint Lucia, Odlum replied with undisguised contempt: “No way. Hess eh goin’ nowhere. Hess is first and foremost a businessman!”

And as someone said with almost Solomonic perception: “Politics is deals.” If on that score alone, Odlum proved right; Hess stayed put for years after the boulevard explosion.

Meanwhile, we continue disastrously to make worse much of what had started in the mid-seventies: the flouting of our Constitution, the bullying of House Speakers by MPs, the never-ending demonstrations of contempt for the people, the lack of respect for the House opposition.

In the last two weeks the House and the Senate both conspired to make legal what the prime minister himself had earlier declared illegal. By all accounts, there will be more “belated guarantees” on Tuesday.

A reminder to readers: the 1982 barbarism in the House that brought about the election that returned the SLP government to the political garbage can until the coming of Kenny Anthony was precipitated by the Cenac government’s criminal decision to make legal what was, according to the Saint Lucia Constitution, illegal!

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  1. Pingback: Plywood City Revisted: Was it Peter or was it George? - Black in St. LuciaBlack in St. Lucia

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