Sorti la?

When Kenny questions Taiwanese Funds, should Rufus & Company say:Sorti la, Sorti la?

In 2006 Rochamel was to Kenny Anthony what holy water is to the devil. He and his party made every effort to avoid the issue. When that proved impossible, the government attempted by various nefarious schemes to minimize the importance of what had transpired mostly behind a curtain of secrecy—from guaranteeing millions of dollars for two cagey foreign developers without parliamentary approval to the declared bankruptcy of “the hotel formerly known as Hyatt.”
A short time earlier there had been the Helen Air scandal, at the center of which was the same government’s calculated nepotistic determination to guarantee a bank loan for the broke airline, owned by ostentatiously generous party bankrollers. In the process, not only was important information deliberately withheld from parliament, much of what the House was told by the day’s prime minister later proved to be self-serving low-rent fiction: the airline’s exaggerated financial status, for one, for another, the story that its owners had offered as collateral a parcel of land that was not only conveniently over-valued by a relative of one of the company’s CEOs but was also hardly theirs to bargain with in the first place.
The prime minister also claimed the ailing Leader of the Opposition had from his bed at Tapion Hospital endorsed the loan guarantee, an undertaking that by all Louis George later said on the matter existed only in the prime minister’s febrile imagination.
With his overwhelming 16-1 majority, it seemed Kenny Anthony truly believed he was monarch of all he surveyed, including the water he presumably walked on. When a trio of curious senators dared to ask questions about the bankrupt private airline the prime minister angrily kicked them out of the senate, on the ground that they had been disloyal to the Labour party.
Barely two years after being elected to office, the party that had campaigned on the virtues of transparency and accountability now considered the national interest a distant second to party loyalty.
The prime minister soon introduced Section 361, a law that he said was for the protection of non-specific “public interests.”  In truth, the law sought to imprison for two years journalists who might write about suspicious official behavior without supportive documentary evidence. For instance, and here I am paraphrasing the government’s rationale, should a journalist write without hard proof that there was a sars outbreak in Saint Lucia, he or she would be taken before a court and, if found guilty, sentenced to two years hard labor. During an interview with this newspaper, the true purpose of Section 361 became clearer when the prime minister said the existing slander and libel laws were inadequate and that 361 had been designed specifically to protect politicians—precisely the opposite of what Mario Michel had claimed when first he presented the bill before parliament!
Bearing in mind the still unfolding story of the largely secret Grynberg arrangement, had pressure on the framers of Section 361 not forced them to repeal the obviously unconstitutional law, reporters might today be too scared to write what they know, or to speculate about Grynberg when most of the related documents even now remain in the hands of uncooperative hand-picked party loyalists.
It was no surprise, with the 2006 elections fast approaching, the government set out to confuse the electorate by dismissing several instances of egregious governance as mere “lapses and infelicities.” They included the infamous NCA affair that was first made public by a disgusted former party vice-chairman whose revelations the government sought to discourage with threats against whistle blowers. The “disloyal” party honcho announced on TV that he had actually received death threats from over-zealous party activists. Two commissions of inquiry reported that the National Conservation Authority had for some five years received an annual five million dollars from the government, with no accounting for how the money was spent. Both the unforgettable Eustace Monrose investigation, undertaken under duress during the last months of Kenny Anthony’s second term as prime minister, and the Ramsahoye inquiry, suggest the STEP program was little more than a slush fund for the then incumbent party.
And now, with elections again imminent, the Labour Party and its heavily burdened leader are resorting to old failed tricks, attempting to make disappear the latest pachydermatous political scandal. His televised “explanation” having proved full of holes, the SLP’s great white hope now arrogantly pretends “there is nothing more to say on the Grynberg matter,” despite that the current prime minister has on more than one occasion publicly appealed to him to furnish relevant information in the best interests of “bringing this regrettable matter to a satisfactory conclusion.” But while uncharacteristically the opposition leader is silent on Grynberg, the issue obviously cannot be ignored.         At last weekend’s launching of Lorne Theophillus as the SLP’s candidate for Choiseul, the day’s star turn said, in condescending creole: “When they bring up Grynberg, your answer must be ‘Sorti la! Sorti la! When the say Kenny this, Kenny that, tell them sorti la-sorti la!’’ (Dear reader, would the SLP’s intellectuals speak in such condescending terms before an audience of their peers? And what if the incumbents should answer every Kenny Anthony demand in such manner? Sorti la indeed!)
Forget about the 1997 accountability-and-transparency mantra. It’s now water under the bridge. With the nation’s marine borders effectively controlled for the last eleven years by a Colorado oilman, the SLP reaction to related questions is a contemptuous sorti la! sorti la! Not even a shaky silly-season promise that the new government will somehow extricate the seabed from the relentless grip of Jack Grynberg if its on-going campaign should prove successful. But then that would be attaching importance to our sovereignty and to the idea of official accountability. Why sweat over potentially embarrassing questions when followers can so easily be duped with election-time whitewash?
Better instead to demand accountability from the presumed vulnerable, perennial targets Rufus Bousquet and his Cabinet colleagues—all of them except Jeannine Compton!—with regard to their use of funds provided by the Taiwanese government for projects undertaken up and down the country by the town and village councils. Yes, stale fish freshly wrapped. Which is not to say related questions shouldn’t be asked. Indeed, they have been asked over and over and over, as if indeed the opposition leader and chairman of the House finance committee anticipates new responses. But then, he has always considered the Taiwanese ambassador Tom Chou his party’s number-one enemy. While Beijing has openly embraced breakaway Taipei as “brothers,” Kenny Anthony continues to threaten the Taiwanese presence here and to fire personal insults at the ambassador—a preoccupation that began the moment John Compton announced in parliament that his government had chosen to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The latest attempt at killing two birds with one powder puff centers on as yet unsubstantiated allegations that Bousquet took a bribe from an unnamed local contractor in relation to a Taiwanese project. From his boozy launching pad in Choiseul last Sunday, the opposition leader reportedly held aloft a document he claimed was “an affidavit” and evidence of Bousquet’s corrupt management of Taiwanese funds. Obviously, the MP owes the country a response and the sooner the better. Then again, it will easily be recalled that on the eve of the 2006 general elections, from the steps of the Castries market, Kenny Anthony read from a letter that purportedly proved Rufus Bousquet had sought to defect to the SLP, “but we want no part of him.” The letter turned out to be the then opposition MP’s acceptance of the prime minister’s invitation to sit on a bi-partisan CARICOM committee!
Let me repeat: If only to underscore yet again the SLP leader’s best known talent, Rufus Bousquet must take on the latest Kenny Anthony broadside, even though the opposition leader has so far not supplied details supportive of his latest allegation.
As for his promise to demand from the Integrity Commission “an investigation into how government minister’s spend Taiwanese funds,” was that more banja soufflé,  totally bereft of beef? After all, Kenny Anthony should know, without my reminder, precisely what the commission was set up to do. As yesterday its chairman confirmed for me, what Kenny Anthony seems to want “extends beyond the commission’s mandate.” So, was the opposition leader merely bluffing, blowing smoke he hopes will obfuscate the Grynberg scandal?
It was near comical to hear him demanding accountability from government ministers when he has steadfastly refused to account for the Grynberg mess now confronting the nation—or for Frenwell, notwithstanding the Ramsahoye commission.
More transparent politics: The leader of the opposition went out of his way on Wednesday to remove Jeannine Compton from his list of suspect receivers of Taiwanese aid. His reason? “She has given a faithful and full account of what she did with the money.” How does Kenny Anthony know that? All the MP did was to en-passant read some related unofficial notes—hardly an audited account—during her 2009 Budget presentation, on the same occasion that she spat on the government’s announcement of its plan to honor her deceased father Sir John’s contributions with a life-size statue. Clearly, the churning ocean of bad blood between the deceased prime minister’s family and the present government has not abated . . . a sorry situation that the opposition leader has sought to bleed, so far without much success . . . but that’s for another show. Obviously, Bousquet & Company could easily have done as Ms Compton did on the remembered occasion.
They alone know why they have not. However, at Budget time and every other opportunity the government has ritualistically listed the numerous projects funded by the Taiwanese—in living color! Ironically, the opposition party has often complained about the funded projects that make SLP representatives appear useless in the eyes of constituents.
Meanwhile, some advice to the leader of the opposition, offered in the best interests of the nation: Why play irresponsible politics with evidence of governmental corruption? Why not present it to Mr Vernon Francois? Better yet, why not take Bousquet to your second home and have a local judge determine his fate? And if anyone should ask why only now, you simply have to tell them there is no better time for showing slate than the season of elections.
Of course, there exists the slim chance that someone might say: Sorti la! Sorti La!

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