I don’t get much time to pay attention to talk shows and the news, as much as I wish I did. What with two children under 10 years old who keep this old goat pretty much occupied full-time, and attempting to get on with business, there’s not a whole lot of free time left in my day. But every now and then I manage to catch a snippet from an item via Facebook. Or when I demand some peace and quiet while I take in the evening news. To say I’m often left flummoxed and flabbergasted at what passes for news and official comment would be to understate the truth.
One such item this week revolved around the Mary Isaac/Dr Ernest Hilaire commotion about who received back-to-school bursaries and who was snubbed. While I have yet to hear a comprehensive report on this, Ms Isaac’s comment to reporters on the issue left me doing a double take. Here is what she said, according to the news clip: “Hilaire is the rep of the constituency and there is a mechanism in place to give the rep of each of the constituencies what is coming to them. There is a $30,000 amount that automatically goes to Dr Hilaire to run his constituency and to run things in his constituency, and I think people should be aware of that. I am not the rep. I do not get anything from government to run my [emphasis mine] constituency that Dr Hilaire does not get.
“He is more entitled than I am and as a matter of fact this is what I am saying: he gets $30,000 to run his constituency and that is what all parliamentarians who won their seat get. I did not win my seat; I do not get that. It does not include bursaries. I got 15 bursaries and as far as I know parliamentarians who won their constituency are entitled to 30; so Dr Hilare should go and look for what he is entitled to because I know what I am getting is a sort of a hand-out because I did not win my constituency.”
Forget about the Saint Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF) school assistance programme for now. I leave it to the full-time journalists to discover exactly how funds are disbursed from the SSDF that left Dr Hilaire feeling disadvantaged. What perplexes me is Ms Isaac’s discourse.
First of all, as far as I know Ms Isaac does not represent any constituency in parliament. She is not a parliamentarian. She is a senator and government minister. Her statement that she does “not get anything from government to run my constituency” is either disingenuous, leaving a listener to infer that she has a constituency and is entitled to government funds, or it could be that she simply doesn’t understand what she is mouthing, even though she asserts, “I am not the rep.”
What Ms Isaac is at this time is the UWP caretaker of the constituency and the UWP is free to keep its office open and offer assistance to residents in that constituency. I do not believe Dr Hilaire, with the $30,000 a year allocation that must also be used to run his constituency office, can assist everyone and support every project, even if he sources outside funds. Also, as far as I am aware, there is no one who sits in parliament at this time who lost his or her seat in the June 6, 2016 election. So, to my mind, “parliamentarians who won their seat” is a resounding redundancy.
It may seem as an insignificant face plant, but enough already. With every move and every word being broadcast over the web and social media, government ministers especially, and others in authority, should endeavour to get it right, at least most of the time. Additionally, the $30,000 to which Ms Isaac referred should never have been brought into the discussion since it has nothing at all to do with the SSDF bursary issue. From her comments, I am left to infer that Ms Isaac was seeking to make a case for her receiving bursaries for the constituency she hoped to represent, based on the fact that parliamentarians get funds that she does not. In short, she is not entitled to government funds.
The questions that must now be asked, as I see it, are whether her receipt and disbursement of those funds was illegal or unethical and whether she can account for proper use. But seriously, enough of this nit-picking. If Ms Isaac was somehow able to source funds to assist some families and Dr Hilaire was also able to secure still more to assist other families, then what’s the problem? Seems to me everyone wins. What could be wrong with that?
And please, enough with the face plants!