It’s a good thing House sessions are televised live, pronounced the prime minister this week, at the conclusion of yet another taxpayer-funded Game of Drones that further guaranteed the nation’s death by drowning in a sea of red ink. Obviously trapped in the relentless grip of self-deception and amnesia, the prime minister imagined regretful and embarrassed Castries Southeast voters cursing themselves for having elected Guy Joseph as their MP, not just once but twice!
By all the prime minister implied, Joseph had, by his demonstrated contempt for the House, and especially for the Speaker, proved himself absolutely unworthy of the honor bestowed on him by the trusting people of his constituency.
To hear the prime minister, the way MP Guy Joseph behaved during Tuesday’s House session was altogether without precedent. Did it slip the prime minister’s beleaguered mind that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?
Obviously he did not at the most recent House meeting recall his own last performance as Leader of the Opposition shortly before the 2011 general elections, on which occasion he had sought, like Humpty Dumpty, to give his own meaning to the following words: “If the office of Deputy Speaker falls vacant at any time before the dissolution of Parliament, the House shall, as soon as convenient, elect another member of the House to that office.”
When the Speaker properly determined she would stick to the ordinary meaning of the above-quoted words, “as soon as convenient” in particular, the opposition leader had noisily jumped to his feet to protest. Moreover, he had arrogantly refused to take his seat, despite the Speaker’s countless appeals. Finally, he grabbed his briefcase and an armful of loose papers and stormed out of the chamber with his jeering opposition colleagues. But not before he had loudly denounced the government MPs as morally corrupt “criminals and renegades.”
Of course, that was hardly the first time opposition MPs had referred to the House as a den of thieves. During an unforgettable session in 1982, one Labour parliamentarian had threatened to “shoot from the hip and make shit come out of your mouth.” Speaker Donald Alcee finally was forced to take refuge in his private chambers, even as riotous MPs played catch with the Mace.
So much for the pot calling the kettle black. Of course none of the above is recalled for the purpose of proving there’s something to be gained from tit-for-tat wrongdoing. I’ve revisited the past only to indicate how we arrived at our present sorry situation—and why we continue to plummet into mediocrity. (I’ve lost count of the number of occasions when the MP for Castries East, Philip J. Pierre, defensively cited parliamentary punch-ups and low-rent name-calling in such far-flung zones as Korea and Israel as his excuse for what at home was considered déclassé, if not altogether unseemly, behavior on the part of an MP).
My concern about what transpired in the House on Tuesday has little to do with who said what to whom in what tone. It is by now common knowledge that right and wrong depend on which side of our predictable parliament forms the majority. Pointless arguing that one plus one equals two when the side with the bigger battalion has determined the sum total of one plus one is eight. To paraphrase Humpty Dumpty, the all-important question is “which is to be master—that’s all.” What continues to concern me is our unceasing encouragement of all that is counterproductive and mediocre, whether with our silence or with comments that make sense only to those hell-bent on suicidal mass-distraction.
At the center of Tuesday’s House rumble was a resolution that belatedly sought parliamentary approval of a loan guarantee in the name of a road construction company contracted by the government in November 2014. Keep in mind, dear reader, the law that says: A guarantee involving any financial liability is not binding upon the government unless the minister grants the guarantee in accordance with an enactment, or with the prior approval of parliament by a resolution of parliament, and must give full details of the amount guaranteed, the person or legal entity in whose name the guarantee is intended and the object and reasons for giving the guarantee.
That the government was seeking parliament’s approval for a loan guarantee nearly a year after contracting the road construction company seems, on the face of it, to be in dissonance with the law that governs loan guarantees for private entities. It is hardly surprising that there is no law that provides for so-called “belated guarantees.”
Of course some have argued that the government is on safe ground since no monies have yet been paid the contracted company. I disagree. The law governing loan guarantees is clear: before the government enters into an agreement based on loan guarantees, details of such agreement must first be debated and approved by parliament. By all accounts what came before MPs on Tuesday was a deal undertaken without parliamentary approval—in the same way that Grynberg, and Rochamel before it, were undertaken by lawmakers in brazen defiance of the laws of Saint Lucia.
And speaking of Rochamel. I could hardly believe my ears when on Tuesday the prime minister sought to justify his pivotal role in this disastrous affair that had cost local taxpayers over $40 million dollars—by saying the former government’s investing of Black Bay lands in a hotel development project that went bankrupt had resulted in a greater burden on taxpayers. All the prime minister proved yet again was how reckless with the public purse have been our wrong-and-strong political leaders!
To return to Tuesday: The legality of the earlier cited road-building contract was afforded scant consideration, thanks to the lengthy over-heated exchanges between the frustrated MP for Castries Southeast and the obviously affronted House Speaker. As for the prime minister, in his rebuttal he claimed there was a whole lot more to Guy Joseph’s “disrespectful” contribution than the Speaker had discerned before he ordered the sole opposition MP at Tuesday’s meeting to take his seat and STFU.
And of course the prime minister proceeded to say what Guy Joseph did not say: in effect, that the prime minister was a shareholder in the earlier mentioned road-construction company, when nothing could be further from the truth. That when the Castries Southeast MP was communications minister the company’s CEO had been victimized to such an extent that he was forced to seek relief from the former prime minister Stephenson King. Alas, he did not say the source of that particular tidbit!
I expected at any moment the Speaker would interrupt and inquire about the relevance of the prime minister’s wholly unsupported revelations that sounded like nothing more than rum-shop discourse by unidentified bibulous individuals. Alas, I waited in vain. Evidently, relevance mattered only when the Southeast Castries MP was on his feet seeking to score off what may or may not have been a harmless coincidence!