The DSH proposals first entered public debate following the welcome change of government last June. My reaction to the initial DSH-related press release was similar to that of the majority of Saint Lucians: Why hadn’t we heard about this from government just replaced? Like so many, I had grown used to the disquieting silence surrounding important State business conducted by a government that upon entering office for the first time in 1997 had always promised transparency and accountability. Meanwhile what it practised was something else: obfuscation and cloak-and-dagger. Such secrecy was obviously meant to stupefy, bewilder and confuse even the most alert and experienced observers.
My mind turned to possible reasons for the deeply secretive and perhaps offensive reasons for the official silence on the DSH affair. I wondered: Was there something wrong with the proposed project? If so, why not share the truth with the people? I became more troubled by the former government’s political tactic of creating diversion via the destabilizing noise of election-time public meetings. Public pronouncements by the former regime seemed geared to hiding something. That much one had learnt after sixteen years of close observation.
It was not long before the new Prime Minister Allen Chastanet discovered what seemed to hint at an answer to my DSH question. It appears from a signed letter that some 1,000 acres of land was offered to a British citizen ostensibly to mine and develop all manner of schemes on the island, from as far north as L’Ouvert to Vieux Fort in the south. Calling upon many years of study and observation, I became convinced that the former government was not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in the DSH matter. In fact the new discovery suggested to me that the DSH affair was set aside in favour of the new investor on the block.
It seemed the former regime had learned one valuable political lesson: they were all in it together, whatever it might mean. Sworn to secrecy, as professional plotters are prone to do, not a word, not a word, not a word was heard from the island’s former government. No talks, no talks, no talks. Politicians, who had sworn to serve the people faithfully, had seemingly lost their tongues. Does certifying such an agreement and not mentioning it in an election campaign strike you, dear reader, as very strange? Is the deception sufficient to rouse the public to demand that these politicians vacate their seats and fresh elections be called in their constituencies?
It bears repeating that secrecy was meant to keep the people in the dark regarding investments in their name. When would the cabinet secret be disclosed and who, besides the grand master and Wizard of Saltibus, would disclose it? Who spoke to the English investor and when?
A full understanding of the extent to which some people will go in order to deceive, also leaves one smiling at the possibilities that politics offers men to be the worst they can be. The revelation by Prime Minister Chastanet of an apparent promise to give away one thousand acres of prime land for mining and other activities, and at what cost, is yet to be fully disclosed. Will such a disclosure stop the SLP hacks from trying to divert the people’s attention from their misguided governance? Who will hold the former government to the fire and force them to speak the truth?
Clearly some persons had lost their tongues and their pens during the economic and financial mess the former government created. These hypocrites seemed to have suddenly recovered from self-imposed amnesia. Still not a word, not a word, not a word from these hacks on the giveaway deal involving 1,000 acres of land. Instead these same hypocrites would have us look elsewhere, trying to divert our attention while they pretend to question the new government on the DSH deal. Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . .
Only now, in opposition, are certain names being thrown up as patriots of Vieux Fort, representatives of the voiceless. Where were these people when the former government was selecting its senators or giving away choice jobs and huge salaries to non-Vieux Fortians and SLP supporters with questionable histories? Where were they when Hewanorra Airport was neglected for fifteen years allowing others in the Caribbean to forge ahead of Saint Lucia?
More importantly, when the former Prime Minister informed his Vieux Fort public meeting that he was invited to China by DSH and refused to go, choosing instead to visit London, did he say why? Did he meet with an English investor in London in preference to DSH? How much more land was involved in the new deal than the DSH deal?
During the recent independence celebrations many prayed for God’s intervention to protect the country from escalating crime. I’m putting it to you, dear reader, that we need prayers more for the miscreants yet to be nailed than for the few misguided and emotionally unstable behind bars. Among those not yet caught, I suspect there may be a politician or two.
I pray Prime Minister Chastanet forgets the naysayers and presses full steam ahead with his government’s development agenda. Prime Minister Chastanet has been performing beyond expectations. Hopefully he’ll stay on course. It is vital that he sets a new standard and demands the accountability so often promised but never delivered!
—The author is a former minister of government who served both UWP and SLP administrations.