How sad that a politician elected to our highest office on the promise of transparency and accountability should today be widely perceived as one of the region’s most secretive figures, accountable only to himself. How ironic, not to say counterproductive, that this individual so many had counted on to epitomize the countless virtues of good governance is perhaps best known for his contributions to international controversies involving some of the most despised characters on the internet, some notorious enemies of democracy as we know and appreciate it, others with hard-to-pronounce Middle Eastern sounding names.
Our current leader of government initially took office at a time when our country had for several years been reeling from the retarding consequences of official arrogance; when public officers considered themselves several cuts above both their electors and the law—and cabinet colleagues dared not express views contrary to their prime minister’s. In 1996 I happily joined others similarly fed up as I was with the status quo. We had decided, regardless of personal cost, to bring about positive lasting change. Our dream consensus was that it wouldn’t be enough merely to clean out and fumigate the stables. To guarantee what we sought would demand new thinking and respect for the people’s constitutional rights—especially self-determination.
The throne speech that the newly installed prime minister placed in the shaky hands of the governor general in 1997 offered hope for the future we had envisaged when we placed at Kenny Anthony’s disposal sixteen of our parliament’s seventeen seats. With the sole opposition member hospitalized with a terminal disease, the prime minister effectively was monarch of all he surveyed, precisely what the vast majority had voted for. Reality found us early, only to be denied.
Too late we would painfully acknowledge what George Mallet had dutifully served us shortly after the May 1997 general elections, what most of us had mindlessly gobbled up—yes, let this also be recorded—was actually the first dose of a honey-coated mix of self-importance, vindictiveness, nepotism and hypocrisy prepared by the newly elected chief cook—a poisonous potpourri that guaranteed the slow death of our nation’s battered soul. At any rate, that rendered it numb.
We started to die at the time of the Helen Air disaster. But even as that episode was shockingly unfolding, other monsters were being hatched, albeit unknown to all save their creator. Rochamel begat Frenwell, to say nothing of the “lapses and infelicities” associated with the NCA controversy, the Helenites fiasco in New York, the curious embracing of Gilbert Chagoury—not necessarily in that sequence. Our once revered institutions, the collective church and its ecumenical Christian Council, our justice system, our police, all seemed to withdraw into some self-protective cocoon, seldom seen or heard.
Nevertheless, to nearly everyone’s surprise the nation woke up one 2005 morning to the nakedness of its emperor and removed him from office. Alas, it seemed his replacement wished for nothing more than the emperor’s return following his declared stint in “purgatory.” For his own part the purified emperor, now evidently attired in humility and remorse, announced he was ready once again to lead. And the people took him at his word. His first move on regaining office was to provide the answer to all their problems: a vat full of what earlier he had declared a killer of the poor and altogether anti-worker. During his purgatorial sojourn, he said, he had many visions, among them “a hit list” that spoke of fatal police shootings of “twelve individuals deemed to be criminals.” How the U.S. State Department got wind of this remains unclear. But no sooner had the prime minister resumed office in 2011 than the American authorities started demanding legal action against the officers who had committed such a “gross violation of human rights”—or else.
As only too well we know, the earlier cited purgatorial visions had resulted in IMPACS. Which begat a whole new maze of police-related problems, the alienation of the DPP’s office, and a largely unemployed country overwhelmed by homicides, suicides, rapes and rampant child abuse, some of the little victims not yet eight years old. Meanwhile, the Americans had cut off the funds that once had kept the police force afloat. The US government also denied local police officers further training opportunities, even when held in Saint Lucia. Some officers were banned from setting foot on US soil.
Eight months after IMPACS, with the island’s police commissioner pressured under an unbearable burden of allegations to retire prematurely, and his officers accusing one another of ratting on their colleagues in return for promotions, the DPP announced publicly that she had seen nothing in the report presented her by the government that could be considered evidence supportive of the prime minister’s public statements in relation to the investigation he had initiated, following regular inquests that did not deliver what the US had anticipated. Meanwhile the prime minister continued to pretend he was judge, jury and executioner—and accuser, some said. Shortly before Christmas, by which time the EU had joined the US government’s persistent demands for “due process in keeping with the laws of Saint Lucia,” the prime minister yet again publicly declared the police “in denial” and unwilling to acknowledge the wrongs they had committed.
And now comes more bad news: the UK government has written to the office of the Saint Lucia High Commission in London requesting it grant a waiver of the diplomatic immunity that protects the Saudi multi-billionaire Walid Juffali—Saint Lucia’s diplomatic representative at the International Marine Organization (until recently a state secret)—from any court action by his former wife. (See full story by Simon Cable, on page 9, that appeared in the Mail on Sunday.) Following recent revelations at home and abroad, the prime minister publicly announced his refusal to waive Juffali’s immunity, on the basis that to do otherwise would be interfering in the Saudi’s personal affairs.
He also claimed that before Juffali was appointed our representative at the IMO he was subjected to meticulous investigation by respected bodies including the UK government. Moreover, that the billionaire Saudi had a year ago promised to build a diabetes research center here, quite possibly in Vieux Fort. Recently the UK authorities denied all claims they had conducted any special due diligence with respect to Juffali and his appointment as this island’s IMO representative. It remains to be seen whether the super rich Walid Juffali is worth more to our prime minister than the United States, the EU and the UK combined are to Saint Lucia.
Kenny Anthony has until his 65th birthday on 8 January 2016 to decide!