For all I know, Paulinus Simon may well be a figment proceeding from the smoke-oppressed brain of Earl Bousquet, former official mouthpiece of recently deposed prime minister Kenny Anthony, since December 11, like a Digicel phone preprogrammed to roam. Although I have come across more than one newspaper column by Simon, I have yet to meet the man, not even accidentally, at the various venues patronized by full- and part-time journalists, weekend scribblers and sundry masquerading party hacks prospecting for free booze.
Much the same may be said of Thomas Payne and Maryana Whatshername, conceivably both Bousquet associates, if nothing else, by virtue of their connections with the once proud Crusader, now doing egregious disservice to the hard-earned literary reputation of its deceased publisher George Odlum.
The fact that their photographs have never decorated the columns by Payne, Maryana and Simon makes me all the more suspicious. No matter— and never mind the tell-tale idiosyncrasies—for the purposes of this feature I can pretend to believe the mentioned columnists are not merely Bousquet pseudonyms. In the public interest, I now resurrect an item by Simon that appeared in the April 29, 2000 issue of the Voice, entitled It is the People, Not the One-Man Media That Maketh The Government.
Clearly, Simon’s thinking is uncommon. For in this particular age when, especially for politicians, public perception is everything, it’s a strange notion that the columnist clings to. Whether in the United States, Britain or Saint Lucia, voters to a large extent react to what they read about election candidates or see nightly on TV. Yes, the people ultimately elect or dispose of governments, c’est vrai. But only a fool would stubbornly deny the impact of the media on public perceptions.
Then again, the cited Simon article was published nearly seven years ago, when his acolytes still believed Kenny Anthony capable of miracles, among them walking on duck ponds; when the prime minister was still self-convinced of his own infallibility, to say nothing of his ability to color the sky to suit his chameleonic moods.
Of course, the one thing Kenny Anthony has never been able to do is convince himself that Kenny Anthony is Kenny Anthony’s worst enemy. Reality for him has always been what he says is reality.
A more realistic George Odlum, who had been to political hell and back, had in the year 2000 put himself at obvious risk by warning his prime minister that his administration was in grave danger of achieving in three short years what the United Workers Party had taken 30 years to accomplish: alienation of the church, alienation of the private sector, alienation of the press.
Odlum did not go so far as to say Anthony’s private club government, as it had become, would not for long be tolerated by his electors. But the inference was clear, whether or not Kenny Anthony permitted himself seriously to consider it. Of course, he was not without supporters of his delusions, chief among them the previously mentioned Mr Simon who added his convenient voice to that of Vaughan Lewis, who had himself earlier described Odlum as the scorpion whose nature insisted on his stinging friends and enemies alike.
As for the local journalists who tried to tell it like it is, Timothy Poleon and Juk Bois among them, Simon dismissed them as hyper ventilators. (Now here’s a word that obviously heats up Simon. In the cited Voice piece, he employs it no less than six times in reference to Kennycritics!)
“For the Rick Waynes,” he writes, “Kenny Anthony was never real. If all of Rick’s accounts are to be believed, Kenny Anthony was a media creation. He was just the handsome, honest-looking icing on the cake that Rick baked and the people bought.”
Then there were the long-time supporters, with good reason beginning to complain about Kenny Anthony. Simon referred to them as “old Labour,” whom he said were taking credit for their party’s 1997 election victory.
“None of them believe [sic] it was Kenny Anthony’s personal capacity to revive hope, resuscitate the Labour Party to believe again in itself, and his promise of a new and different politics” that clinched the 16-1 miracle.
Simon is entitled to his own conclusions, including that following his prophetic warning during the recalled 2000 Budget debate George Odlum had “with his characteristic opportunism appropriated the moral high ground, pontificating to his colleagues on all that they have done wrong, with no element of self-criticism and not an iota of shared responsibility.”
To his credit, Simon offered his own personal assessment of the prime minister: “I am no party hack but I am a believer in Kenny Anthony because I saw in him a young, honest and earnest prime minister committed to creating something new and different.”
Tellingly, Simon goes on: “I supported him because the Kenny Anthony I know is a man with a proven record of excellence and commitment. His academic performance attests to that; his stint at Cave Hill and at Caricom spoke no less.”
He offered this advice—and let’s not forget Simon was writing a year or so before the 2001 general elections: “It is time for the prime minister to require that all ministers behave according to the same rules. It is time for Kenny Anthony to recommit to the transparency that Odlum called for, but let it be for all, and hold all accountable, including those who seek to pontificate.”
“In the season of hyperventilating [here we go again!], every attempt is being made to consistently, even unreasonably, criticize the government. Rick Wayne’s hyperventilating [see what I mean?] is classical: much self-opinionated sound and fury, little fact.”
“The prime minister must not be drawn into these futile debates. Let him focus instead on the task of governing and delivering and let the work of his government speak for itself. That way, the designers of dissonance will be taught their most instructive lesson: that it is the people, not the one-man media . . . that maketh the government.”
I cannot recall reading what Simon had to say about Rochamel, NCA, HelenAir, Helenites and other scandals, not forgetting Kenny Anthony’s irreversible attitude toward the Walter Francois, Matthew Roberts and Henry Charles fiascos. Neither do I remember anything he had written about the prime minister’s penchant for bawling out critics of his policies with a dismissive “take me to court!”
Nor about the ominous Section 361 that threatened to put an end to all dreams of transparency and accountability in government. Suffice it to say that if Paulinus Simon couldn’t himself find the time to comment on the cited important national issues, other writers did, in the best interests of good governance as promised but never truly delivered by the Kenny Anthony administration. I need only repeat that the local media have never claimed the power to make or break governments. No journalist—including your not so humble scribe— has ever claimed credit for removing any administration, for good reason: only the people have the power to change governments. However, we may rightly take pride in the fact that in the last elections no candidate was a stranger, not for too long anyway, to the electorate, thanks to media coverage. At which point comes to mind a related observation by President Roosevelt: “The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government!”
The preceding was first published on 13 January 2007