When is a phenomenon an accident?

 

With no evidence whatsoever a local insurance company has declared the incident at Morne Sion an "accident."

With no evidence whatsoever a local insurance company has declared the incident at Morne Sion an “accident.”

A famous millionaire superstar televangelist came to mind on Monday evening as enraptured I listened to the closing lines of the prime minister’s televised storm warning. In February 1988, days after he had been photographed flagrante delicto sharing his body fluids with a New Orleans prostitute, a blubbering Reverend Jimmy Swaggart had delivered the seven words for which he is now best remembered: “I have sinned against you, my Lord!”

Not even my notoriously perfervid imagination might’ve conjured an image so gross as our nation’s prime minister (nothing in our Constitution refers to him as our leader) in the nude, save for his tad-too-tight Jimmy Swaggart boxers. But then what a surprise on Monday evening to see him making like Brother Swaggart as he invoked the Lord to be more merciful to Saint Lucia in his time than the Lord had been in the time of Stephenson King and Tomas—irrefutable proof that our prime minister truly believes the Lord alone causes disasters and conceivably must take blame for their consequences.

Otherwise, our prime minister might’ve taken time on Monday evening to reassure the nation he and his STEP battalions had done everything possible to protect us from the usual fall-out after a few hours of rain, especially in Castries: debris-free roadside drains, for example.

But then what would be the point in taking such hurricane-season measures if you believe, as that other nefarious Reverend Pat Roberts believes, that bad things happen only to bad people; that there can be no ducking God’s wrath?  Chances are you’d forget about the mud-clogged drains and water pipes choked up by KFC containers. It would make a whole lot more sense simply to pray for no rain.

By all the Rev. Roberts has said (enough to easily fill ten thousand copies of the Good Book), 911 and its continuing fall-out was the Lord’s practiced way of punishing America for its general licentiousness (remember Sodom and Gomorrah?). By the Reverend’s doubtless inspired measure, the feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about “a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children [he means abortion, folks], practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” As for his favorite bêtes noir: “Many of those people involved in Adolph Hitler were Satanists. Many were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together.”

And then there was his revelatory take on our prime minister’s and Fidel’s recently departed best comrade Hugo Chavez (yes, yes, you had imagined it was Brother George!): “You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, then I think we really ought to go ahead and do it.” So said America’s leading agent of God!

Some might be interested to know the Reverend Pat Robertson is convinced that when Haiti was, as he put it,  “under the heel of Napoleon the Third or whatever,” the Haitians got together and swore a pact with the devil. By Robertson’s word, they said: “We will serve you if you will set us free from the prince. And so the devil said, ‘Okay, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked out the French. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing or another.”

Cursed by whom, you ask? Why is me uh?

But we were talking about storms and other allegedly God-driven disasters. This is what the Reverend Pat, referring to the tornadoes that in 2012 had ravaged the Midwest: “If enough people were praying, God would’ve intervened. You could pray. Jesus stilled the storm. You can still storms.”

I wondered why our prime minister and chairman of NEMAC (rhymes with hack but what the hell is it?) had not simply issued the usual press bulletin via his gap-toothed, lip-glossed mouthpiece personally, or via her notorious Facebook account, and left it to director Dawn French and her scores of NEMO little helpers to do the weather forecasting. (It seems to me the majority of Saint Lucians, with their various Internet connections and instant access to the sources that keep our Met office advised, are often better informed than NEMO comprising public servants whose word, as our prime minister advised his predecessor during his 2012 budget presentation, “should not be trusted.” Which is not to say NEMO should be shut down in the best interests of government expenditure.  After all there are to be considered our illiterates and others too poor to own Internet contraptions such as are available to the prime minister’s press secretary!

I, for one, was eager to hear from the prime minister, regardless of imminent stormy weather, his immediate plan for the number of nowhere-to-turn unemployed and homeless individuals for whom his stay-at-home official directive may have carried a mocking ring—keeping in mind his two-years-old undelivered promises.

A few well-chosen words of condolence from his unusually versatile gang of speechwriters dropped en passant would hardly have caused a digression too far from the prime minister’s agenda, and might’ve done much by way of relief for the televised grief-stricken mother and other relatives of the 20-year-old male whose decapitated and decomposed torso was on Monday discovered by a search party of friends at, of all places, a playground.

In all events, the prime minister’s Almighty hook-up had returned me to the scene of our so-called “worst-ever vehicular accident,” an unaccounted for devilish disaster that in a flash had taken the lives of a busload of mainly young people from Micoud and Bexon on their way home from a funeral in Choiseul.

To date no one has attempted to explain how the fated transit left the main road and plunged over a cliff several yards away into the sea without a single witness to offer possible clarification. Predictably, there were rivers of crocodile tears, yellow and red, solemn church services, and pre-election promises by the sleigh load. Also undertaken was the erection of in memoriam monuments. Alas, they all died the predictable death of election pledges.

Oh, but as they say, the prime minister daddy’s “didn’t make no fool.” Before he ended his special weather forecast on Monday evening he laudably decreed that all schools be shut down until further notice and business houses (at any rate, such as had already shut down months earlier for other climatic reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with sun or rain) not open their doors until officially notified. To be absolutely fair, what the prime minister actually ordered was that business houses shut their doors until midday Tuesday—doubtless a welcome directive for carnival types currently behind schedule with their various preparations.

Contrary to what others have said on the matter, I congratulate the prime minister’s perspicacity that had led him to interrupt the education of our young people in their own best interests. I also hope he saw to it that the kids all arrived safely to their homes and stayed there. Not that this carried any guarantee: many who had suffered the worst of Tomas had imagined themselves weatherproof in their abodes. And I’m talking here of grownups!

Here’s what especially bothers me. Does our prime minister consider private sector operators so edacious, so money-hungry, so slave-plantation-oriented and dumb as to set out in deadly weather from their safe and insured homes to brave wet and slippery, collapsible and otherwise unpredictable roads perchance to make a few VAT-devalued dollars?

Is there a law on our statute books that authorizes the prime minister to dictate whenever he pleases the opening and closing times of business houses, even when no emergency has been declared? Nor even a hurricane? Does NEMO have the authority? Does NEMAC—whatever that is? And what if some business owners should decide to ignore official shutdown directives, are they likely to face a fine or jail time?

Does the prime minister, particularly since the most recent CSA upheaval, now believe there is in all of Saint Lucia a worker, in the private or public sector, so in love with his or her job that they would risk life and limb just to see their boss smile? Delayed better days notwithstanding, does the prime minister actually believe the majority of business owners anticipate monster sales during a raging storm? How many Saint Lucians actually go to work when it rains, anyway? Are there any statistics to be consulted by NEMO and NEMAC before the prime minister is advised on the effects of rain on our workforce?

Might it not have been far more impressive had our caring prime minister—having confirmed for the thousands of weather-savvy Saint Lucian BB owners at home and in Brooklyn, Jadia’s hundreds of Looshan Facebook friends wherever they may be, and other weather-channel addicts, what they already knew about Chantal—and left it to the discretion of barely-in-business operators to open or not to open? When did open-for-business in bad weather automatically translate into worker attendance and monster sales?

As the prime minister knows from quite recent experience, ordering Saint Lucians to show up for duty has always been an exercise in futility, regardless of weather, let alone when heavy rains have been forecast—at any rate, not without, say, the inducement of at least a 4 percent pay increase and other similarly insane bait?

Surely, the vast majority of us adults are capable of deciding on our own when it may be in our best interests to stay in bed. (BTW: Does the prime minister’s no-work, no-pay policy, repeatedly articulated during the most recent public sector-government dispute, apply to private sector employees?)

Of course I may have missed the heart of the prime minister’s Monday evening address, fogged up as was my mind with grotesque images of Pat Robertson and a half-naked Jimmy Swaggart prancing around some cheap motel room.

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, while his fellow Saint Lucians were taking the prime minister’s word seriously, possibly for the first time since November 2011, the O.K Supermarket in the center of Castries was open and doing a roaring trade, without the slightest police intervention, I dare to add. Obviously our local Chinese population has always known best how to treat our prime minister, even if we don’t. Not for nothing is Beijing in a position to loan Uncle Sam trillions and trillions of dollars!

Besides, the apostles of Confucius are quite familiar with the proclivities of Caribbean politicians. Indeed, they seem to know far more about Caribbean politicians than Caribbean politicians know about themselves and, I suspect, about the people they presume to lead. Now that’s something else to think about while putting the finishing touches to your customized carnival costumes cut from made-in-China Spandex.

Finally this: Do you suppose a prime minister would cancel journen kweyol or some such other “cultural showcase,” a calypso monarch contest, perhaps, based on weather conditions? It rained elephants and buffalos the other night but that didn’t stop our good people from setting an attendance record for the Marchand jazz opening. Now, did it? But I hear you saying that on the occasion only heavy rain was forecast. True, but as NEMO always reminds us, heavy rain can in the bat of an eye turn into a tropical storm or a full-fledged hurricane. Or even a tsunami. You just never know—and it always pays to be careful!

And now a remarkable coincidence: I was just about to email this piece to the STAR offices when I received the following press release that turned out to be related to that evidently inexplicable mishap earlier cited:

“Dear All: I am sure you will recall the horrible accident two years ago which claimed the lives of 19 individuals at Morne Sion. As you may be aware, the Guyana & Trinidad Mutual Group of Insurance Companies Ltd was the insurer of the minibus involved in the accident. Though there was never any proven evidence of negligence, the company, without hesitation, took the decision to compensate for the loss of life after thorough investigations. The stage is now set for the compensation to be paid and the company humbly requests your presence at the ceremony. This is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, 13 July 2013 at the Kimatri Hotel in Vieux Fort. Government officials will be in attendance.”

Dear all? Are we talking “all,” as in all of Saint Lucia? Or just all relatives of the deceased, distant and close? Signed by the company’s branch manager, the release neglected to mention the level of compensation, or who precisely would benefit from whatever had caused the havoc at Morne Sion—for undeclared reasons referred to from the start as an “accident,” even by politicians who customarily disagreed on everything, by echoing church leaders, too, though there has never been an iota of evidence supportive of such consensus. (Then again, what do I know? In insurance circles “accident” could well be just another word for “inexplicable.” Remember how difficult it was a couple years ago to agree on the meaning of “as soon as convenient?”

From time to time, all over the world, buses fly over cliffs. Or they run into utility poles. But usually there are reasons for such accidents, including negligence or engine failure. In one or two instances drivers have kidnapped their school-kid passengers until their parents or the state paid out handsome ransoms. Then there are the cases of twisted parents who drove their safety-belted kids into deep waters or simply drowned their babies in their bathtubs, on the basis that God had so directed. But always there’s a reason for such horrors—and when there are none, the cases remain open.

What did the insurance investigators discover about the mental condition of the Morne Sion driver? At the time he drove that bus over the cliff, what was the alcohol level in his blood? Could one or two of his passengers have tried to rob him, forcing him to lose control of his vehicle? Presumably the insurance company’s investigators checked every possibility yet came up empty-handed. Or did they?

Might the company have been required to pay more in respect of victims of a deliberate act as opposed to casualties of an imagined accident?

But all of that for another show. What we do have here, in any event, is what appears to be a remarkable demonstration of unprecedented generosity by an institution that has never been famous for handing out money it didn’t have to. And while I’ve been assured insurance companies once in a blue moon pay for acts of God (if you have the appropriate policy) I doubt very much similar arrangements apply to suspected but unspoken devilish activities.

The insurance payout suggests boloms were not at play at Morne Sion—so far as insurance investigators were able to tell. The company generously chose to determine what happened was an accident. And since the bus owner-driver was a client, it did not hesitate to compensate relatives of the casualties. Nice.

One thing for certain, with Chantal still in the news, the insurance company’s timing couldn’t have been more on the button!

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