A hundred years ago it seems, having somehow acquired the dubious distinction of being “the scourge of the John Compton administration,” at any rate, “the scourge of John Compton,” (in the 70s you couldn’t write a word critical of “the messiah” without automatically rendering yourself a target for his murderous minions . . . how sobering to note forty-something years later that in this regard little has changed!) I reluctantly quit as editor of Sir Garnet Gordon’s Voice to become the premier’s press secretary, hatchet man, right hand man and all things in between. Or so ran the tale.
Inescapable was the irony in the publisher’s decision to replace me with one of the premier’s former flak catchers, Willie James. An inadvertent comedian who had imagined himself the premier’s voice until cruel reality knocked the scales from his eyes, he had invented, doubtless for the edification and reassurance of lost lambs: “This is Saint Lucia where we are happy!”
Actually, my new contract declared me the premier’s personal assistant. I cannot be certain after all these years but I seem to recall it included such details as could safely be placed on record. Only three people knew, or thought they knew, my true function: to undo the damage to the premier’s public image—for which I was largely responsible (or so my previous employer insisted) in readiness for the 1974 general elections. Unforgettably stated in my contract was that I was answerable only to the premier. Indeed I was free to do whatever I imagined would guarantee his reelection.
I had my own air-conditioned premises on the plush top floor of the recently constructed Monplaisir Building on Brazil Street, well away from decrepit Government Buildings that housed garden-variety civil servants. I drove at public expense my own Datsun hatch-back that I had brought with me from California a couple years earlier. My salary was paid out of the Consolidated Fund, despite that the Public Service Commission was as blissfully ignorant of my employment as was Compton’s Cabinet—save for Allan Bousquet, the only member with whom the premier shared particularly sensitive information. (Does Earl Huntley come to mind? Does Jack Grynberg?)
For purposes of the record, let me admit I had given little thought to the rules of the public service when with perverse glee I accepted the job that had been created just for me, notwithstanding my reputation as Compton basher extraordinaire. If my publisher imagined my weekly criticism of government policy was poison, it seemed the policy maker had little trouble embracing the poison dispenser. Not once during our two-day negotiations did the premier refer to my work at the Voice. For more on this intriguing episode, check It’ll Be Alright in the Morning, available at Amazon.com and from STAR Publishing.
As I say, I knew nothing of the operations of the PSC and even less about the restrictions on public service employees. I would learn soon enough, however, and with equal measures of amusement and dismay, when I sought to collect my first month’s salary at the Treasury, only to be cynically informed by the accountant general himself that he was not authorized to hand me a red cent. When I confidently handed him my contract with the premier’s signature a contemptuous Frecks Ferdinand laughed in my face. Nevertheless, I would be paid—if a little late.
As for my replacement at the Voice, his first publication on assuming office took the form of a poll that invited his readership to comment on “the issue of Mr. Rick Wayne as the Premier’s Personal Assistant.” Following, some choice reactions that appeared in the 9 July 1973 issue of the Voice.
Bank Clerk: “The government wanted to shut the man up for good.”
Insurance Executive: “I am unable to assess it competently, yet it might have dual purpose with merits and demerits. It is a provoking affair.”
School Teacher: “If the job is permanent and should apply to every premier that’s fine. I am bothered because I can see that Rick’s function will conflict with that of the public relations officers.”
Doctor: “I am shocked rather than surprised, knowing his views and how he has bitterly opposed the premier. It is almost unbelievable that he could now become Compton’s lieutenant. The longer you live, the longer [sic] you learn.”
Hotel Executive: “I feel the premier is damned clever because he nor I can believe that one man can change so rapidly. I believe Compton thinks that if you can’t beat a man, make him join you!”
Mechanic: “I have one word for it: pappyshow!”
It had never occurred to Willie that I was best placed to explain my controversial volte-face. The truth would emerge, nevertheless, thanks again to It’ll Be Alright in the Morning.
The above is offered as further proof that the more things change, the more they remain the same. On this Rock of Sages, anyway. On Monday morning, somewhat late in the day (word had been in the air at least two weeks earlier), Jadia JnPierre-Emmanuel issued the following public statement: “By now you should be aware I no longer serve as press secretary to the prime minister. Instead, I will be assuming duties as Communications Director for the Saint Lucia Labour Party, effective today. I wish to thank you for your unwavering support over the last four years. I look forward to our continuing relationship, even in my new role.” In the circumstances, a curious statement.
I was especially drawn to the last two sentences; in the first instance, to the words “your unwavering support over the last four years.” The undeniable reality is that the “unwavering support”—for which Da Jade was so thankful on Monday morning—had always been predictably partial to whatever emanates from a well-oiled red mouth. Throw in pearly whites spaced to remind of Sparrow’s irresistible Bag Ah Sugar and voila, unwavering support on tap.
As for the other arresting second sentence with its contradicting reference to “our continuing relationship even in my new role,” it begs the question: Can continuing and new in the same sentence make sense? What will Da Jade henceforth be doing as the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s communications director different from what she had done—I dare to say not without useful effect, if only on some of the people all of the time—during her four years as the prime minister’s contracted press secretary, when she was compensated, with additional famous juicy perks, by taxpayers red, yellow and green? Alphonse Karr’s the more things change . . . here comes to mind.
Dear fellow time traveler, if you should listen carefully as you peruse her final statement as the prime minister’s press secretary, you just might hear what sounded in my ear like Da Jade’s inimitable knowing giggle . . . Oh, but now I must pause. Irresistibly, I am drawn to Newsspin, with “special guest—the prime minister’s former press secretary.” Like Arnold as The Terminator, I promise “ah’ll be back.”
And now, here I am again. Not unexpectedly, my distraction turned out to be an interesting 30 minutes or so. Undeniable are Da Jade’s natural abilities. She has an uncanny way of knowing which buttons to press, and when. This being the silly season, she took full advantage of the proffered opportunity for self-advertisement, secure in the knowledge that the usual tunnel-visioned endorsers of en rouge politricks had her back. Which is not to suggest she wasn’t careful to avoid such cards as might bring down the whole pack at the slightest touch of a painted acrylic fingernail.
When her interviewer suggested her new assignment represented something of a demotion, Da Jade quickly switched to defensive hedgehog mode. Upon becoming his press secretary, she cooed, she had informed the prime minister—reminiscent of Robert Lewis—that three years service was all she had to give. Her love for her work and her loyalty to the SLP had nevertheless interfered with her pledge. She had overstayed for four years.
Of course, the more discerning will realize Da Jade has come full circle: from untitled director of SLP communications (party propaganda?) to the prime minister’s chief disseminator of government information (more propaganda?) to the SLP’s director of communications (still more party propaganda?). A rose by any other name is still a rose . . . in the same way that a rouged-up porkie is still a porkie!
Da Jade took the opportunity to confirm her relationship with mainstream media personnel had always been cordial, never mind her public statements had sometimes been suitably paraphrased for consumption by FB-natics and other social-media vermin. Then of course there were the unmentionable reporters and others with (ahem!) personal agendas.
“People are always asking me what is it between Rick Wayne and me,” she chuckled. Her Newsspin response was that she got along just fine with local press representatives, even some who are most critical of the government. As for her employer the prime minister, he remained, by Da Jade’s account, as always, accessible to interviewers.
With palpable self-confidence she reminded her interlocutor that press secretaries before her had resigned without any of the fuss that has accompanied her retirement, much of the criticism coming from Facebook mosquitoes.
RCI’s Cherry Ann had barely opened the lines when Da Jade took her first call, from a woman ever so grateful for Da Jade’s marvelous efforts at educating Saint Lucians, especially for always having at hand “a paper” to validate her public pronouncements. Another caller, conceivably from her party’s amen corner, seemed to get carried away, to the extent he declared himself a dedicated follower of the red star.
I was her fourth caller. An unabashed appreciator of Da Jade’s more obvious attributes, I repeated earlier encomiums in relation to her sense of duty and her undeniable loyalty to her employer. I also wondered aloud how she managed not to be visibly embarrassed by some of her regular on-air promoters, nearly all of whom sounded like bad readers of lousy
On a more serious note, I reminded her of my Thursday evening habit of openly inviting the prime minister to be my guest on TALK, to no avail. Da Jade laughed that off, as only Da Jade can laugh off missions impossible. When I jokingly challenged her assertion that press secretaries before her had resigned with little public comment, she quickly recalled Geoff Fedee.
“He left on completion of his contract,” I pretended to counter. And Da Jade added: “You mean his contract was not renewed. You forgot about Fedee, just like most people, because he never made a mark.” I was tempted to cite two other names, both close to home, who had deserted their prime minister, but I decided to save that for another show.
Instead I asked Da Jade whether she had ever divulged to the particularly curious what lay between her and a certain journalistic horsefly. Again she laughed that inimitable laugh, then tossed the ball into my court. “Why don’t you tell them, Rick?” And I said: “The answer is obvious. Everyone knows what lies between you and Rick Wayne is your boss!”
Earlier there had been a to and fro about her successor who, as coincidence would have it, is named Jade; Jade Brown. Until she relocated to the prime minister’s side, she had been a reporter and news presenter at Helen Television System. Reportedly the move had inspired much social-media buzz. Many contributors to the somewhat salacious debate seemed to share the view that Ms Brown had never been a straight-shooter journalist anyway; that she had merely confirmed the popular suspicion.
Should I now say, bin there dun that? Then again, as earlier indicated, in my case the reverse applied. I had moved (in the public mind) from the severest of Compton critics to the premier’s behind-the-scenes advisor. The unproven case against Jade Brown was that finally she had come out of the closet!
I doubt we’ve heard the last of this latest brouhaha. Media Association president Clinton Reynolds has apparently fueled the fire with his public statement that seemed to question whether Ms Brown is equipped to occupy Da Jade’s vacated seat—a shocker that prompted the lady to remind Reynolds it was for the prime minister alone to decide whether or not she was appropriately equipped.
Mischief dancing in her eyes, Ms Brown added, on-camera: “Obviously, the prime minister is satisfied I have what he wants.” In all events the rest of us had better stay in touch, if only to determine how good a judge is the prime minister. It remains to be seen, too, whether Jade Brown turns out to be Jadia Lite!