Shortly after presenting his latest billion-dollar budget, in the process demonstrating palpable contempt for the Constitution, the prime minister announced his campaign to influence red hearts and minds away from the public sector unions, some of whose members had been threatened with a 5 percent pay cut. (Section 84 of the Constitution demands the Director of Audit shall “at least once in every year, audit and report on the Public Accounts of Saint Lucia . . .” but unlike the annual budget presentations, the last submission from the audit department was eleven years ago, in March 2003!)
For the last several weeks, at any rate when not scarfing high-calorie gourmet goodies at gala dinners in London and Germany—paid for by VAT-drained Saint Lucian taxpayers—our super-heavyweight prime minister has been convening so-called town hall meetings island-wide, reminiscent of the silly season, the stated purpose being to achieve “consensus.”
Consensus on what? Subterfuge and self-delusion cloud the answer. Judging only by what is featured without question or analysis on the evening news, it would appear the soi-disant seekers of general accord are undecided about what will follow after the predictable ayes have had it.
The dominant figure at the choreographed get-togethers is our pyknic prime minister—signature sweat-soaked red rag perched like an ancient pirate’s parrot on his shoulder. What he and his supporting cast (most of them role-playing activists for a particular party) serve one another is unwrapped stale fish: MPs shamelessly mouthing lines they quite obviously do not fully comprehend or believe; MPs and their surrogates berating their predecessors and the House opposition in ways as demeaning of their own offices and personal stature as of their intended targets.
Seldom are the mounting threats to the nation’s survival addressed. On the rare occasions when remedies are casually suggested, the prescriptions serve only to remind TV viewers of Einstein’s definition of insanity. Or of that special breed of politician whose attitude to news cameras is as a moth’s to an open flame.
Pointless denying our country is finally up against the wall; up the creek, as they say, thanks to elected geeks with two characteristics in common: no track record to speak of and an incorrigible devilish attachment to buck-passing—oh, and the mindless support of an electorate largely made up of suckers for punishment!
Ironically, even as it professes to be prospecting for a national consensus that appears to exclude the opinions of public-sector unions and their membership, the government appears hell-bent on doing the precise reverse: further polarizing our people, notoriously disunited as already we are—as if indeed its sole purpose were to discover how long before a nation so divided suffers its final fall.
A meeting at the Castries Comprehensive School on Tuesday reportedly attracted some 600 beneficiaries of the government’s National Incentive for Creating Employment program. Also in conspicuous attendance: the minister in charge of reconstruction (does that mean he imagines himself capable of accomplishing for our badly broken countrymen what had proved a mission impossible for all the King’s horses and all the King’s men?); his colleague the education minister, whose main preoccupation these days is related to spreading the good word on free computers for school kids and five-hundred-dollar handouts to their desperate progenitors, whether or not NICE.
Heading the bill was the nation’s prime minister, recently returned from lecturing the weekend’s winners of the 2014 Football World Cup on how “a people used to hardship” cope with poverty!
No surprise that Jadia has been keeping her FB friends up to speed on Tuesday’s emotional demonstrations of love and loyalty and gratitude to their “prime minister for life.” But as with much of what she serves her adoring fans these days, Tuesday’s feast should not be consumed without at least a fistful of Vat-rated salt. Not that I have invested much unshakable faith in my source, a recently wavering apostle of the red cloth fraternity. But if even only half of what he passed on to me about Tuesday’s Oscar performance is true, still it provides cause for pause.
He claims he showed up with 599 or so fellow NICE folks, by royal command. They were directed on arrival to place their names on a register, for reasons undisclosed. Suffice it to say, his speculations were altogether frightening.
He set the scene this way: “Around 2 pm the deputy prime minister strides in, bodyguard at his side, settles down in a chair at the head table, paying scant regard to all the chatter and rumbling. Jaded hardly describes his attitude; been there, done that.
“Meanwhile project coordinator Perry Thomas is earning his NICE money impersonating a chicken with an egg to deposit, making certain all present have signed the register. Then Kenny Anthony arrives with his own stone-faced bodyguard and Calixte George Jr., one of his several image-makeover artists. They stand aside, purposefully monitoring the proceedings.
“After a time Perry calls the meeting to order, leads attendants in prayer, before inviting the shepherd to address his flock. But before he can say five words, the prime minister breaks down. He moves away from the microphone to recompose himself, then returns to the mic, only to start slobbering all over again. Once more he must retreat.
“Meanwhile, his deputy, head bowed and evidently not feeling the feeling, is preoccupied with his mobile device. If I could read minds I would’ve guessed he wasn’t all that impressed with massa as thespian acting. Then Kenny returns for the third time to the mic. This time he explains his weird behavior. He tells the gathering he was so moved by the look on their faces, their obvious concern about the threatened future of NICE, on which they and their families depended for their survival, and well, he just lost it.
“But soon he is himself again, attacking the UWP, attacking the CSA, obviously hell-bent on setting the NICE dogs of war on the greedy public servants. He said his battle with the unions was aimed at keeping the NICE dependents independent. He said the CSA wanted to shut the government down and deny 2000 NICE people their entitlements, with no regard for their needy nice children. His advice: NICE soldiers must take to the streets and byways to declare publicly their support for the program; they should inundate the media, the call-in shows, Street Vibes, Inside Government, in particular the shows put on for people who can’t understand English.
“A woman stood up as if entranced. ‘Take the five percent from our pay,’ she screamed. ‘Take it from us, if the unions don’t agree.’
“When another woman dared to ask about the government’s plan to deal with the deficit and to salvage the economy, Kenny shot her down. He said he was quite shocked by the question. He had several times already answered it.
“Another woman, quite obviously high on all the hype and the theatrics, said that for her N-I-C-E stood for Now I Can Eat Again!
“Meanwhile Jadia was sending out her BB dispatches, taking pictures and videotaping the NICE people as they reached out and touch the prime minister. Emma, Pierre and Robert Lewis lauded the program. It was like an election rally on the steps of the Castries market . . .”
As for the public sector unions and their membership, they have in recent days maintained an uncharacteristic, unsettling sepulchral silence as their next payday approaches.
Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .