It’s been no Sunday walk in the park deciding who should be declared the STAR’s 2012 Person of the Year. And not because of the multitude of candidates submitted. Au contraire, never before have our readers demonstrated less interest, despite what we considered our irresistible invitation full of Saint Lucia’s most exciting personalities: winning athletes, politicians, police officers and others well known.
It turns out the submission most often offered couldn’t have been more predictable. Which in normal circumstances would’ve indicated either the candidate’s popularity—or his notoriety. After all, our main criterion has from the very start coincided with that of Time magazine: the Person of the Year accolade is awarded to whoever in any particular year, for better or worse, had the greatest impact on the media and on the people’s lives. (Time’s Person of the Year title has been bestowed on such as Hitler, Stalin and the Ayatollah Khomeni, as well as on former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani and President Barack Obama!)
This time around it was especially difficult to read the signals. Was the atypical poor reaction our readers’ way of saying the suggested candidates had lost what once had made them extraordinary? One could not help recalling the famous line about what you get when you compare mediocrity with mediocrity: least mediocre will forever remain mediocre to those who refuse to settle for less than greatness. A determined lesser evil can never be indicative of goodness.
Of course Darren Sammy had never represented other than persistence, perseverance, hard work and an unshakable determination to surmount all obstacles. For these particular qualities the STAR had more than once prominently featured him front and center pages, and at least once declared him Person of the Year. But are the mentioned admirable qualities enough to earn him yet another Person of the Year title? At least five of the dozen or so who submitted his name neglected to say why the West Indies captain should once more be so honored. Only one voter stated his reasons.
Wrote George Benson (rest assured he is not the famous guitarist): “As captain of the victorious West Indies cricket team in the World T20 championship tournament he accomplished what no other citizen has for years: Darren gave us a tremendous sense of national pride in 2012. He bridged the divides of politics, income, and class and delivered unity. He invited all Caribbean citizens together for a meal of cricket perfection and served up a delicious dish of long forgotten regionalism.
“As a gentleman and outstanding sports hero, Darren emerged as a much-needed model for our Saint Lucian youth. He upstaged bitterness, negativity and hopelessness with laughter, modesty and optimism. Darren Sammy’s smile was contagious in 2012 as we all smiled with him. Maybe it’s time our Beausejour stadium be named after our new local and international hero.”
It remains conjectural how much of the above remains true. In any case, others before Darren Sammy have managed to unite Saint Lucians for a day, among them the Mighty Sparrow and Shabba Ranks (remember him?).
To my somewhat biased mind the unique accomplishment would’ve been to keep us a little longer united.
Then again perhaps Mr. Benson meant to say that any Saint Lucian capable of uniting fellow Saint Lucians even for a day must be a worker of miracles deserving of special recognition. And he could well be right. But while Darren deserves a special place in our hearts, these questions must be asked: Did he pull off his successes all by himself? Or did his accomplishments rely on the performance of others? Should he share a Person of the Year accolade with his teammates? Would Sammy be more appropriately honored with a Team Leader of the Year award?
I can just hear Mr. Benson pointedly asking whether the decorated army generals dating back to Alexander the Great would’ve pulled off their historic victories without their respective back-up teams. But that’s for another show. Already Mr. Benson has reminded me in a private missive that Darren Sammy’s achievements are comparable with those of U.S. presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower, who in their own turns had been honored more than once as Time’s Person of the Year.
“They would’ve been happy to be in Darren’s company,” wrote Mr. Benson, seriously I suspect.
On the other hand there is my own choice. It was not initially wildly popular at our editorial offices, Sammy being their man without question, for the identical reasons proffered by Mr. Benson. (I continue to argue that you can honor a guy only so many times for the same achievements before you begin to appear sycophantic and he a one-trick pony!)
The man I chose, unlike Darren Sammy, had in 2012 gone solo where no other Saint Lucian had gone before. His tour de force had not included noted cricket grounds, it’s true, (even though as a youngster he had dabbled usefully with bats and balls) and he’d be the last to suggest he was blessed with Sammy’s special gifts—which places him among 99 percent of the population, if not of the region. But my choice for our special award had established a precedent that, though largely unrecognized at this time, will not for much longer be ignored. I dare to say that when finally Saint Lucians learn the true meaning of nationalism and self-respect, and independence—and sacrifice!—then will they begin to appreciate the example set by my choice for 2012 Person of the Year.
Like Darren Sammy, he came up the hard way: his stepfather was a stevedore, his mother a stay-at-home housewife. His education began at the Anglican Infant and Primary. He was just eleven years old when he took his first job at J. Q. Charles hardware, where he was responsible for securing shoppers’ bags. He kept his job for five years, while also attending regular school classes. In the evening he sold icicles and other goodies outside Clarke’s and the Gaiety cinemas.
He also attended Corinth Junior Secondary and the Castries Comprehensive. He later undertook the study of agriculture in Jamaica, his school fees paid by his parents who had little choice but to mortgage their home a second time when in 1992 he transferred to the Alabama A&M University, where he earned his Masters in agriculture.
He received a full scholarship from Howard University to pursue a PhD in Development Economics, completed in 2004. In the meantime he lectured on economics and statistics at the university, while also holding down at job with the Public Utilities Commission. Finally he relocated to take up an appointment at Florida A&M. Throughout his stay overseas his wife had accompanied him.
It didn’t take much for his friend Robert Lewis (now education minister) to persuade him to return to Saint Lucia in 2010 and prepare to contest the Castries North seat for the Saint Lucia Labour Party. He does not even now consider his move a mistake. After all, his fields of study had been undertaken to equip to usefully contribute to local agriculture. Alas, by the time of his return bananas had long been declared “no longer king.” However, he admits to some naiveté in not realizing some of his party colleagues considered him little more than a sacrificial lamb: they never gave him a chance against the longtime MP for Castries North.
“Money was always a problem,” he told me during an interview at Christmas. “It had cost me quite a lot moving myself and family back home. I was near broke and in no position to finance the kind of campaign that might’ve unseated King.” But then, as would later occur to him, in his colleagues’ minds winning the Castries North seat had never been even remotely possible, so why waste scarce money on a lost cause? He believes his party’s honchos were interested only in his credentials. The party leadership seemed to take special pride rattling them off to the press for the purposes of image, while at the same time declaring the UWP team largely unschooled.
He recalled the Sunday the election date was announced. His party had been holding a public meeting in Anse-la-Raye. No sooner had the all-important words fallen out of the prime minister’s mouth than Kenny Anthony issued his order: “I want to see your posters all over the island by Friday. Any questions?”
There weren’t any, he recalled. “So I stood up and asked about money.” He claims his question was altogether ignored while the party leader turned his attention to other matters. It would not be the last time the candidate inquired about campaign funds. Alas the party leader’s reaction remained unchanged.
Nevertheless, he made do as best he could. Then close to Polling Day he was handed a thousand dollars by the party leader, who coldly advised: “You’ll have to learn to chill!”
It came as no surprise when King easily retained his seat. From that point on it was impossible for him to reach his leader on the phone, not that it had ever been easy. He did not know until quite late on the evening before the reopening of parliament what was his immediate future.
“I was made parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Commerce,” he went on, “placed in charge of consumer affairs.” When I asked about his duties, he shrugged, then said: “I guess something to do with the price of sugar and flour. I was doing nothing but still being paid by the taxpayer.” He said he felt “like a medical doctor heading to work in a mechanic shop five days a week.” He suffered “great pain and intellectual torture.”
Finally he did what no other politician had done before: he resigned. “At my farewell party I informed my minister and staff of my road to Damascus and that my decision had nothing to do with my minister. In fact I encouraged the government to provide her with support, because she is one of the few who are serious about the development of our country.”
Throughout his travails, he told me, his greatest support came from his wife who also had to carry his daily burdens. “My faith in God sustained me through that extremely difficult period. I also believe no one can interrupt God’s plans. I believe the rejected stone will soon become the chief cornerstone.”
Over and over during our talk he insisted that he held no bad feelings toward his party leader. However, he acknowledges the hurt he felt at not being told until the last moment about his senate appointment. “When I called Kenny around 6.30 on the morning of the swearing-in ceremony,” he recalled, “all he said was ‘why are you so nervous?’ ”
Did the prime minister try to talk him out of resigning? “When we met,” he said, “I did not go into details but I let him know I was used to a life of progression and my circumstances made that impossible. There was no need to further discuss what clearly he had personally designed.”
By now it is clear I’ve been discussing the shock resignation of Dr. Ubaldus Raymond from the Kenny Anthony administration last August. His credentials have little to do with how I feel about him. Neither his party troubles that are not all that different from the indignities other incumbents suffer quietly in the name of party unity. Indeed, there is very little I could add about his talents and his potential, had he been given the opportunity to perform. Bearing in mind that all the spokespersons for his party, when approached by the press for comment on his resignation, had nothing but the highest praise for their former colleague, whatever I might say would be both superfluous and, in any event, without proof.
Certainly nothing I might offer could possibly supersede the televised statement by foreign minister Alva Baptiste: “It all goes to prove the Labour Party has an abundance of talent. So much that we can export to needy territories!” It was difficult to tell whether the minister was yet again bragging about himself or experimenting with sarcasm.
By Dr. Raymond’s account, considering his work record and his qualifications, he had expected to be given the opportunity—in the nation’s best interests—to contribute to discussions relating to the Budget and VAT. His publicized negative pronouncements about STEP and other government programs suggest why he was left out in the cold. By his own admission, he had always considered the SLP’s plans for the nation “an expenditure-driven manifesto” that will take Saint Lucia down the abyss with no way out.
The “rejected stone” and former ignored parliamentary secretary is now a “chief cornerstone” in the Turks & Caicos government: Chief economist, head of the Strategic Policy and Planning Unit, Advisor to the governor and government on economic matters!”
In the last analysis, it seems, Darren Sammy and Dr. Ubaldus Raymond have both clearly demonstrated that adversity is no match for courage and the conviction that only with his own permission can a man be denied his dreams. The difference is that Darren Sammy was afforded further opportunities to shine, even when his performances had been lackluster, with a small army to back him up.
Ubaldus Raymond was, by his account, denied every opportunity to do what he does best in his country’s best interests. Those he had counted on for support deserted when most needed. He was left to stand alone.
No problem. Principle was on his side, as always. As he quietly pointed out during our interview at the beginning of the year, to accept taxpayers’ money every month simply for showing up at a government department five days a week and nothing more would be nothing short of traitorous. And if there’s anything Ubaldus Raymond despises more than opportunists it’s traitors!
Who better, then, to be declared the 2012 STAR Person of the Year!