Despite his pachydermatous proportions, he has never advertised an appetite for violence, not even when he is obviously angry. His mannerisms, the way he throws his arms up, down, and around his torso when excited, suggest to the beholder’s mind an over-gesticulative lecturer—if not a pompous know-all talking down to presumed less endowed fellow parliamentarians, including some on his side of the House. At least once on Tuesday evening he moved away from the prepared script on his lectern to dramatically caution a feisty fellow-Labour MP to settle down and “don’t behave as they do,” they meaning hecklers on the other side.
When a taunting Ezekiel Joseph suggested he was possibly misinformed about something relating to the agriculture ministry, he stopped mid-sentence, and with eyes narrowed down to slits and demeanour dripping condescension gently reproved him for his failure to recognize his own limitations—to the extent that he had foolishly sought to confuse an obviously superior mind. The House roared, for once without the smallest hint of cynicism.
His parliamentary colleagues guffawed (alas, this time embarrassment was in the sound) when he pointed his extended forefinger at the über-vulnerable Keith Mondesir, the extended digit now distorted by the lens of a nearby television camera so that it resembled the forearm of a small child or the business end of a jouster’s lance, and barked: “Step outside and repeat that!” Fighting words, true, normally heard in low-rent out-of-town bars—usually a prelude to bloody violence. And yet, somehow you knew violence was the last thing on the erudite mind of Kenny Anthony, whose bark was always worse than his bite, was that the buffoonish MP for Anse-la-Raye and Canaries might yet again fall victim to his own notorious bravado and repeat outside the privileged House his slanderous comment about “your furniture at home,” spewed out in desperate retaliation to the opposition leader’s calculated references to the “corruption at the heart of the Tuxedo Affair!”
After all, the average mind might conclude, taking his critics to court is precisely what Kenny Anthony is most noted for. Well, apart from his too-close-for-comfort association with such name-branded scandals as Rochamel, Frenwell, NCA, Helenites—not to say the foot-in-mouth disease that from his earliest outings as a politician had plagued him. Messieurs, the uninformed might in the local vernacular declare, dah mun rell like to take people to courtee. If you even fart too close de mun threatenin’ to sue yuh ass!
Others have blithely suggested: “Since he obviously loves no place better than the courthouse why bother with a career as vicissitudinous and for the most part as thankless as small-island politics?”
The unassailable truth is that Kenny Anthony, while seemingly addicted to litigation, harbors no special love for the practice of law. He admitted as much to me during one of several sit-down interviews for my book Lapses and Infelicities: having decided in 1980 that the troubled Allan Louisy government was on the verge of implosion, his sole concern was self-preservation. He abandoned ship when his presence was most needed, if only by his then benefactor George Odlum, later to proffer the following justification: “I had a family to support. I was fully aware of the consequences should the Labour Party be forced into an election it had no chance of winning, among them that I would be out of work and without a salary, and in our political circumstances effectively unemployable. I was never crazy about being a lawyer but there were few other choices open to me.”
Yes, so while Kenny Anthony may be among Saint Lucia’s most litigious sons, the fact that he holds a PhD in constitutional law has had little impact on his love-hate relationship with the legal profession. Seldom has he been observed addressing a judge and jury. On the several occasions he has appeared in court he was there either as an interested observer or as a witness, represented as always by the ever-ready senior counsel from neighboring Dominica Anthony Astaphan ably assisted in more recent times by Peter Foster. He famously sued for slander or libel such as Sir John Compton, Vaughan Lewis, Peter Josie and Dennis DaBreo, all of whom had publicly criticized his policies. But not once did he represent himself—possibly on the basis that a lawyer who defends himself in court has a fool for a client. But then he was neither a complainant nor a defendant at the 2009 Ramsahoye commission of inquiry. Over and over Sir Ramsahoye reminded him that he was implicated only because he had been, at the time of the occurrences under investigation, prime minister of Saint Lucia and that it was the commission’s hope he might volunteer information helpful to their assignment. Alas, not once, despite repeated invitations, did Kenny Anthony directly address the commission or supply answers to their questions. He proffered no clarifications, permitted to remain ever open to possibly unflattering speculation questions he might easily have put to rest. He alone knows why he chose not to.
At times it was embarrassing to watch Astaphan, so reminiscent of Danny Devito’s Penguin (Batman Returns) flopping around in pursuit of a reasonable response to relatively innocuous questions, among them: “Why do you keep referring to government shares when the government never held any in the hotel? What was the necessity for Frenwell? What precisely were the government’s obligations to the hotel formerly known as Hyatt? Why was the finance minister not accompanied by a senior public servant when he undertook related visits to Trinidad & Tobago?”
Meanwhile Astaphan’s client, the decorated constitutional law specialist, was as mute and stone-faced as the bust of the man for whom Bideau Park is named. Even when at one particularly heated juncture Ramsahoye asked Astaphan if there was anything his client might wish to say regarding a certain matter, Kenny Anthony declined through his presumably paid mouthpiece. Still it came as a surprise to me on Tuesday evening that the MP for Central Castries was permitted without a retaliatory interruption to breathe new life into the undead Rochamel Affair and other disturbing issues involving the leader of the opposition, both in his present capacity and when he was Saint Lucia’s prime minister. Equally surprising to me was the stony silence of the lamb Philip J Pierre, both when Kenny Anthony curiously chose to absent himself from the proceedings and when he had returned to his seat.
Frederick accused Anthony several times of misleading the House and of unusual involvement in an oil transaction that required money to be paid directly “to the minister” Kenny Anthony, not, as is the usual procedure, to the accountant general. More than once Frederick used the word “lie” with reference to the former prime minister, without the speaker’s intervention and without a single challenge or invitation from the floor to step outside. Indeed, when it seemed Frederick was most brutal the opposition leader appeared far more concerned with the intricacies of his BlackBerry.
For almost an hour the Central Castries MP directed his verbal smart bombs at his gargantuan soft target without response. Never was the smiling (gone were the characteristic grimaces of earlier times!) Bombardier Frederick more relentless.
Even the House speaker appeared shell-shocked—whether by the onslaught on the reputation of the notoriously thin-skinned opposition leader or by his uncharacteristic silence. (Perhaps he was by now worn out from his attacks on the House’s presumed lesser mortals?)
As I took in the proceedings from my Floridian perch, I was reminded of the unforgettable argument that ensured shortly before the last general elections, when Nicole McDonald invited the warring Kenny Anthony and Richard Frederick to set a fine example for the polarized nation by shaking hands for her camera. Anthony reluctantly agreed but not before promising Frederick he would never forgive him for suggesting the then prime minister operated a corrupt government. Yes, even though for weeks on end leading Labour lights had been implying that Frederick was a misogynist, an abuser of women, trigger happy, a showoff, egregiously ill tempered and a money launderer. Kenny Anthony had repeatedly described Frederick as the nation’s “most frightening prospect.”
While the STAR editor clicked away with her camera at the recalled handshaking, the two men engaged in their now legendary “you know what I know that you know that I know that you” exchange. Kenny Anthony later sought to dismiss the discombobulating outburst as just another example of how the press tends to exaggerate things. In his own turn Frederick on TV described it in terms absolutely ominous, recalling along the way a particular transaction at a Hospital Road nightspot! None of the earlier named individuals that Kenny Anthony took to court in defense of his good name had ever come close to impugning his reputation as it seemed Richard Frederick had with impunity.
It should also be said, finally, that not long after the 2006 general elections Kenny Anthony quietly sued Frederick for defamation related to a statement about drug trafficking at Hewanorra Airport.
Frederick cross-sued. Alas, the two gentlemen, both lawyers, agreed to settle their differences out of court. Yes, indeed, the public can only speculate about Kenny Anthony’s reasons for his preferential treatment of Richard Frederick. I suspect Tuesday’s performance was but a dress rehearsal for what is soon to come!