‘Symbol of Faith’ or Monument to Mediocrity?

Scene from the Morne Sion tragedy last November.

It would seem the government has finally discovered in Saint Lucia something of outstanding significance, enough to warrant such national recognition as until now had been accorded only the deceased Labour Party leader George Charles.
Earlier this month, the government’s press secretary let it be known “the office of the prime minister” (as opposed to the big man himself?) would be ready soon be to release to the general public the chosen design for a monument “to memorialize the nineteen lives” tragically lost at Morne Sion on the evening of November 10, 2011. It appears several submissions had earlier been reviewed by a special committee comprising such as Kennedy ‘Boots’ Samuels and Adrian Augier, both renowned contributors to our more “revered cultural showcases”—to borrow from Timothy Poleon.
As on several occasions I’ve had reason to restate, the prime minister’s press secretary has shown herself to be no great panderer to mediocrity. Conceivably she is in equal measure as meticulous about her
choice of words when composing her official dispatches as she is when excoriating over the airwaves MPs who habitually trip over their forked opposition tongues, especially when disseminating information critical of her employer.
An astute criminal defense lawyer might well have dictated the press
secretary’s November 8 press release intriguingly headed “Morne Sion Tragedy Monument, a Symbol
of Faith.” While it had suggested a link between last November’s disaster and the proposed monument, the communiqué had carefully avoided jumping to unvalidated conclusions.
At this point those who cannot resist understanding me too quickly will doubtless be sharpening their weapons of war. It’s not difficult to imagine them deliriousy repeating over and over to themselves: “Why is he expecting her to state the obvious? What would be the point of further detail when already everybody knows exactly what happened at Morne Sion?”
I can also imagine the habitual shedders of crocodile tears rehearsing their deep concern for the mourning relatives of the dearly departed: “Why remind these unfortunate people of the tragedy? What’s done is done, you can’t bring back the dead. God alone knows why shit happens!”
But then isn’t the proposed monument to be a daily reminder of that awful event? In any case, why would relatives be mourning in the first place if already they had forgotten their deceased sons. Instead of encouraging them to forget, it seems to me the truly concerned would wish to bring these grieving individuals some comfort by letting them know what had caused the Morne Sion catastrophe.
But back to the prime minister’s press secretary: how clever of her not to suggest, as have reckless others at every opportunity, that what transpired at Morne Sion on the evening of November 8, 2011 was an unavoidable “horrible accident?” How absolutely responsible of her to refer only to the lost lives while resisting every temptation to speculate on how those lives were lost!
As well intentioned as might be the politicians behind the proposition, the planned monument to the Morne Sion dead will regrettably also serve as a stark reminder of how we value life.
A full year after the particular horror it remains a mystery how and why the death mobile left the hardly dangerous Choiseul-Laborie road in the first place and continued, evidently unchecked and unnoticed even by the area’s residents, for several yards on its way over the cliff into the sea . . . as much an unsolved mystery as the cases of Giselle Georges, Verlinda Joseph and, as the obituary readers like to say, “others too numerous to mention.”
Some important questions: Has the number of passengers on that Morne Sion bus been officially established? How do we know for certain the precise number that boarded the van mere minutes before it tumbled off the Morne Sion cliff? Is it true, as widely reported, that two bodies remain unaccounted for? Does anyone know why? Was the driver’s blood ever tested for drugs and alcohol? What was his condition, mentally and physically, when he got
behind the wheel of that doomed bus? Was he a licensed driver? Was he facing particular problems at the time of the incident? Was he suicidal? What do we know about the condition of the vehicle that he drove off that cliff? When was it last examined by the authorities responsible for public safety? Has there been a related inquest?
In what ways will this particular monument serve as “a symbol of faith?” Faith in what? Our fellow Saint Lucians? Faith in our transit drivers? In our police and traffic officers? In rumor? Faith in our government’s proven determination to keep safe those of us who daily board public transport? Faith in voodoo?
Or are we here talking yet again of faith as in “evidence of things not seen?”
I can well imagine the Morne Sion Tragedy Monument developing into a major tourist attraction, like, say, the Sulphur Springs or the Anse la Raye fish fry.
Certainly it is destined to be a conversation starter. I, for one, would be most interested to hear our notoriously imaginative transit drivers relating to transfixed visitors their versions of the story behind this particular symbol of faith—including that belly-busting part about a payment-in-advance election-time arrangement between campaigning politicians and the devil!

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