Where would we be today without dirty Taiwanese money? Dirty according to the MP Moses JnBaptiste when he was in opposition. Where would we be, had the good Taiwanese people not recognized the stupidity that had led MP Harold Dalson in 2010 to say he would do all in his power to prevent the Taiwanese people’s ambassador from setting foot in Soufriere?
Dirty money, persona non grata, all because the day’s opposition had decided, but never proved, Tom Chou had been passing millions under the table to members of Stephenson King’s Cabinet. Three years later, there has been no action to justify the outrageous allegations. But hardly a week goes by without the prime minister gratefully accepting presumably laundered multi-millions from Taiwan.
Ah, we say, that’s politics for you. Does that mean we actually expect our politicians to lie, mislead, confuse, and refuse to be accountable—all in the name of getting elected or holding on to office? If that’s the popular expectation, it is also proof that politicians are concerned only with self- interest, regardless of the impact on the nation.
By the way, by expecting our politicians to behave like criminals (oh, yes, let’s not mince words here) we unwittingly turn ourselves into aiders and abettors of criminality—the mirror reflections of corrupt political leaders.
At a time when the governing Saint Lucia Labour Party is about to celebrate some one thousand and ninety-five better days in office, I am reminded of its convention before the party’s 2006 defeat, when the main speaker was Hilary Beckles–especially famous for his contributions to academic research into transatlantic slavery, popular culture and sport, not to mention his 2013 publication Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Slavery in the Caribbean.
Consider these excerpts: “I wish to speak about the institutions in society. I wish to speak about the process of government. I wish to speak about what is the responsibility and the identity of the Caribbean citizen in refashioning our civilization for the future . . . The world we now live in will be ruthless and merciless with respect to societies that are inflexible and unresponsive. We need to understand this to feel this and therefore come up with some understanding of how we are going to proceed . . . We are speaking about immediate action.
“What will be the responsibility of our governments in preparing societies to live in a world which has become one unified and very small space? The global culture is now about the rights of the citizen. Gone are the days when the government was seen as the most important force in development. Government must now be the enabler and facilitator; the engine of growth and development in any society is the citizen. The role of government is to empower the citizen.
“There is a deep desire within our societies for a new, relevant, effective system of democracy committed to the empowerment of people from bottom up . . . I believe the people are also looking for a new system of social relationships, a new way of managing the society that will not be divisive and will ensure cohesion and coherence. I believe the people of the Caribbean are turning their backs against division, turmoil, irrelevant conflict, and nonsensical opposition.”
The following underscored the speaker’s vision: “No political party in the Caribbean can afford to alienate a section of the community. No political party can see itself as responsible for all the solutions and all of the answers to a country’s problems. Any political party that promotes internal conflict, generates unnecessary division among the citizens is a party that turns its energies against the society—and it should be banished from the society. We are looking for leaders who are not vindictive, who are not partisan, who will stand above those issues and mobilize every good for social development.”
Long before Beckles, George Odlum had warned the Kenny Anthony administration, in which he held the foreign affairs portfolio, that it had in just three years accomplished what had taken the UWP thirty years: “Wall-to-wall alienation.” His advice was that the government should listen more closely to the voice of the man in the street. (In a much earlier time he had bellowed from his political platform outside then Columbus Square: “Politicians have fooled the people too many times. The next batch of politicians to fool the people will be hanged in Columbus Square!”)
Then there is this from John Compton’s 1987 Budget address: “Mr. Speaker, since 1979 the governments of both parties have been attempting to buy industrial peace by borrowing to meet demands that their revenues are unable to meet. But we cannot continue to buy industrial peace by borrowing ourselves into bankruptcy, the consequences of which all will suffer.”
Did Kenny Anthony heed the advice of Hilary Beckles? We know how he reacted to George Odlum’s famous admonition. We know, too, why our economy is where it is today, and why a law that this prime minister earlier had determined “oppressive, anti-poor and anti-worker” became the country’s only hope for survival. We are paying through our noses for the “inevitable” VAT, brought about largely by mindless borrowing by successive reckless governments.
And now it seems we are about to be landed with another “inevitable.” Doubtless we will hear at this weekend’s SLP celebration of better days the gains to be made from selling Saint Lucian passports to foreigners with the ability to appear as sheep when in fact they are wolves with money to burn. Doubtless we’ll be hearing from the St. Kitts-Nevis prime minister how happy and prosperous are his 40,000 people, thanks to Economic Citizenship. It is unlikely we’ll hear about the several deadly risks attached—including ISIS infiltration. Certainly, the United States, Europe and Canada are concerned.
Then again, there is no reason to believe our prime minister will pay Douglas much heed. That he may have invited Douglas to help him flog the dangerous idea to Saint Lucians concerned and otherwise does not necessarily mean he will take the Kittitian’s advice. After all, he did not when the nation stood to gain from the advice of Compton, Odlum and Beckles—with no bombs attached!