Where have the olive branches gone?

Opposition Leader Stephenson King (L) has responded to Senate president Claudius Francis’ declaration that the Public Service Commission is illegally constituted.

There was method to Claudius Francis’ ostensible madness last week when, via his radio show, he invited the Public Service Commission to throw in their towels en-masse. Bearing in mind all that has since been said—not to mention the political culture—it would not be altogether far-fetched to infer the recently appointed Senate president’s secret purpose was to secure a PSC guaranteed to be partial to the policies (machinations?) of the incumbent Saint Lucia Labour Party. In short, a Red Zone PSC.
But Claudius had been savvy enough to keep his brass knuckles concealed in a padded velvet glove: the reason he proffered for demanding the PSC hand in its resignation to the governor general centered on an illegality. At any rate, an illegality as determined by Claudius. It remained for others to refute or—as is the custom—to ignore his contention that the appointment allegedly made without the mandated consultation with the leader of the opposition was contrary to Clause 85 of the Constitution of Saint Lucia.
Since Claudius’ contentious public denunciation of the PSC it has emerged that by letter dated 23 February 2010 then prime minister Stephenson King had invited the leader of the opposition to comment on the composition of a proposed Public Service Commission.
On March 10, the leader of the opposition had acknowledged the prime minister’s letter “advising me of your proposed recommendations for appointment to the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission.” Note the lawyer’s doubtless
calculated use of the word “advising!”  He had “no objection to the persons recommended for appointment to the Teaching Service Commission.”
On the other hand, the leader of the opposition was against the appointment of two particular ladies. In the first instance, because she was “allegedly close” to the prime minister’s office . . . “an employee of the Government of Saint Lucia.” As for the other, she was “a known supporter and political operative of the United Workers Party.”
Observed the leader of the opposition finally: “The courts have repeatedly emphasized that Public Service Commissions have been created in Commonwealth Caribbean Constitutions to insulate and protect public officers from political influence whether exercised by the executive or otherwise . . .”
Plastic olive branches be damned, here it was yet again, naked as can be: Kenny Anthony’s famous iron fist of vindictiveness. And it came down with crushing impact on the unprotected heads of two citizens whom the day’s prime minister had recommended to serve on the PSC. Now, I am not about to spend much time going into the merits of the first objections relating to a citizen “allegedly” close to the prime minister’s office, except to say the Constitution offers protection against prejudiced PSC decisions, whether in the form of a Public Service Appeals Board or the courts—a fact of which Kenny Anthony, not to say Ausbert Regis and certain Bordelais personnel, is well aware!
As for his angry objection to the second candidate, well, that’s the one that hits me squarely between the eyes with dizzying impact: “I cannot support the recommendation to appoint Ms (name withheld) to the Public Service Commission. She is a well known supporter and political operative of the United Workers Party.”
I ask you, dear reader, how many citizens of this little island of ours are not “known” supporters of one party or another? Does that automatically mean the nation is to be denied their special services whenever a particular party is in office? Must impediments to making an honest living be put in their way, depending on who is the day’s prime minister? If indeed this has been the culture, must it be perpetuated at all cost?
I believe Claudius, like myself, is partial to the view that governments ought not to be lumbered with the same public service personnel they had declared incompetent during their campaigns for office. For instance, a new government should not be forced to retain the services of a police commissioner in whom it has no confidence, for whatever reasons. By now our Constitution should have been readjusted to accommodate automatic resignations. In the absence of such law, removals from or denials of public service jobs should not be based solely on their closeness to a particular party, whether or not “alleged.”
Egregious is the practice—by both parties, let it be noted—of victimizing particular citizens on the paranoiac suspicion that if hired they will spend their time at their public service desks sabotaging government projects at every opportunity, in the assumed best interests of their favorite political organization. In any event, there are remedies for public servants who do not perform according to law or according to instructions.
I am also for the idea of nominating candidates for key public service positions, to be openly interrogated by a panel comprising members from both sides of the House, with perhaps a sprinkling of credible private citizens. The last time I suggested this idea was during a conversation with the former attorney general Parry Husbands (alas, now deceased) at the time of the Clarence Thomas hearings: “What!” said
Parry, clearly shocked.
“Then you would have no candidates to fill the vacant positions. Who would want to subject himself or herself to such rigorous questioning?” (As if Cicero couldn’t have been wrong more when he said the unexamined life is not worth living!)
My response to Parry was that as a result of such probing we might well discover a caliber of public official more representative of our national ideals.
I can think of no better way to end this piece than with a reminder to our seasonally magnanimous prime minister of his own wise words while waving an olive branch at Stephenson King, a month or so
following the last general elections: “My government believes the time has come to make peace with our past. We must look to the future to correct the aberrations in our political system. It is time to end some of the unnecessary rancor, pettiness and divisiveness that has characterized our political culture.”
While underscoring the vital importance of working together as a nation—especially in the current unprecedented economic climate—the prime minister had also cited Einstein’s observation that “the problems facing us cannot be solved by the same thinking that created them.”
In the best interests of our nation’s health, I dare to suggest the prime minister demonstrate some faith in his own prescriptions!

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