I know I run the risk of my meaning being lost or misconstrued. And yes (to paraphrase Frank Sinatra) I hear the warning voice that yells and repeats in my ear: “Don’t you know little fool you never can win . . . wake up to reality . . .” There’s also the more persuasive adage that promises “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” So, here we go. Have you ever lost a love that was heaven and earth to you? I have. Her name was Frisky, given by me for obvious reason. On all fours she stood less than twelve inches; color black-and-white, devotion to me immeasurable. In her presence none dared speak out loud, even while sharing a joke. When I wrestled friends at the beach as we did every Sunday, they always made certain Frisky had been safely tethered. Together we’d jumped off the Laborie jetty into the sea, then paddle side by side back to shore; she followed as I biked around the then unencumbered village square and was always first to greet me every morning—since she spent her nights immediately outside my bedroom door.
One rainy afternoon Frisky decided to nap outdoors, a hundred yards or so from our family residence near the square, in the warmth under a parked six-wheeler truck. Meanwhile I lay in bed lost in a stack of newly acquired Batman & Robin comic books. Suddenly a sound, the like of which I hope never again to hear. It started like an eardrum-shattering, high-pitched fire-engine wail, then quickly grew weaker and weaker till I could no longer hear it. I remember sitting up startled, my heart pounding crazily as I wondered: Who the heck . . .? Yes, who—not what, as if already I didn’t know the horror answer.
Surviving fellow Laborians, most of them older than I at the time of the incident, will easily recall my agonized scream upon initially confronting my worst nightmare. Recalling the memory countless decades later, I can almost feel the throbbing pain in my chest, my belly a churning fumerole of unfamiliar hate and anger as I crawled under that truck, the noise from its idling engine like the devil mocking me. Surrounded by choking exhaust fumes I reached out and gently eased away from under the monster’s paired back wheels the limp and broken body of the best friend a boy ever had!
And so I come to Theo and Helen Gobat, still grieving for their son, whose scant remains were retrieved by local cops from his burned-out Range Rover in a secluded section of Cap Estate one horrible April night in 2014. Several days afterward, the police continued to insist (because of problems at their crime lab, they said) that the press not identify the remains as that of Oliver Gobat. Of course, the police could not prevent his parents from holding a memorial for their beloved dearly departed. Among attendants, none other than Saint Lucia’s prime minister with appropriate demeanor. Kenny Anthony’s presence served to confirm what almost everyone had known soon after the grisly discovery: that the murder victim was Oliver Gobat. The prime minister, despite the police reluctance to say the obvious, delivered what in the circumstances amounted to a comfort speech, albeit meaningless: he said the police were on top of things, to the extent that an arrest was imminent. Nothing was ever further from the truth. The STAR featured a related story soon afterward.
According to overseas news reports, Kenny Anthony said a whole lot more to the broken Theo and Helen Gobat. By one account, dated 21 November 2014: “St. Lucia’s prime has dismissed as ‘improper’ the British government’s demands that the death penalty be waived in the case of the murder of the British hotelier Ollie Gobat, creating a diplomatic stand-off between the Caribbean island and its former colonial ruler.”
Moreover: “Kenny Anthony says he supports a request from Mr. Gobat’s family for British officers to assist with the murder hunt but does not agree to Whitehall’s stipulation that it will send a squad only if St Lucia guarantees it will not seek capital punishment for his killers. [He said] the problem sometimes with the British government is that they have forgotten the constitutions that were fashioned for us. No government can get into the business of bargaining as to the outcome of a case.”
The same news source quoted Anthony as telling an interviewer: “Of course there’s corruption in our police force . . . On small islands like ours you are more vulnerable to corrupt influences.” For it’s part, the UK’s Daily Mail featured an interview with the Gobats, in which it claimed “the family is saying Kenny Anthony did tell them it was ‘inconceivable’ the killers of their son would ever face the death penalty.” Helen Gobat, according to the Daily Mail report, emphasized: “The word the prime minister used was ‘inconceivable.’ In our meetings with the prime minister he told us the death penalty has not been carried out since 1995. Due to changes in the law it is unlikely to ever take place again.”
To date there have been no arrests related to the death of Oliver Gobat. I can only imagine how his parents must’ve felt this week upon learning their son was once again in the headlines. Chances are they anticipated good news. If so, they must’ve been devastated upon discovering the truth, that once again insensitive politicians were doing what they do best. In effect driving a truck over their son’s body!
What had resurrected Oliver Gobat was a statement from Kenny Anthony, whose voice most Saint Lucians have not heard since his surprise announcement of the June 6, 2016 general elections: “My attention has been drawn to the following statement made by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet during a recent press conference and aired on Choice News in its news broadcast on or about January 17, 2017 in connection with the investigation into the murder of Oliver Gobat: ‘Unfortunately the former government had promised to send a letter to the British government saying we [sic] would not pursue the death penalty and we were told repeatedly that that letter had been sent. That was a lie.’ The former government in which I served as Prime Minister, never ever gave the British government any undertaking, whether expressly or impliedly, that it would not pursue the death penalty for anyone convicted of the murder of Oliver Gobat ”
Au contraire, Anthony confirmed overseas news reports that he had “advised the British government that the question of whether the death penalty was applicable was a matter for the Director of Public Prosecution.” Additionally, that “it was made patently clear that any such attempt to direct the Director of Public Prosecution and the court to forego the death penalty would be unconstitutional.”
It seems to me that Anthony, keeping in mind his hollow promise to Gobat’s devastated parents three years earlier, might more usefully have written privately to Prime Minister Chastanet underscoring his misstatement. Or he might’ve so informed the House at its next sitting. Still quoted from his public account: “It saddens me that Allen Chastanet has chosen to not only politicize this matter by his statements to Choice News but additionally, with untrue statements. I believe the Gobats can do without the undue and unwarranted politicization of the investigation into the murder of their son. They have suffered enough. Finally, Mr. Chastanet must know that unlike him, who tramples on our Constitution with impunity, I believe in honoring and respecting the Constitution of Saint Lucia to the best of my ability, in or out of government.”
The Gobats were not available for comment at time of writing. Neither was Dame Pearlette. It certainly would be instructive to hear the governor general on the former law professor’s judge-jury-executioner assessment of his unyielding loyalty to our supreme law!