For out-of-the-closet followers of local politics, whose numbers appear rapidly to be diminishing as life in Saint Lucia becomes increasingly challenging, not to say dire, last week will be remembered for its delivery of still more proof that our politicians cannot be trusted to keep their promises and tell the truth any more than they can be counted on to provide a respite from our present predicament. We might as well acknowledge reality: we’ve been lumbered with an every-man-for-himself disaster that shows no sign of abeyance any time soon.
Desperation has exposed our leaders as talentless, straight-faced twisters of undeniable fact, absolutely unworthy of public confidence, unconscionable prostitutes ready to sell to the first bidder what they had sworn to protect and defend and keep out of the clutches of would-be enslavers.
Our lawmakers have become our main lawbreakers, tin replicas of the world’s most despised leaders, with no respect whatsoever for the people’s rights, hell-bent as they are on holding on to office by any means necessary.
As I say, last week provided more reminders of how far we have traveled in relatively recent times—always backward, not forward. Caught up in a UWP-generated storm in a thimble over, of all things, the venue for a meeting that promised to analyze and parse the day’s more pressing concerns, the SLP’s general secretary offered the defense that there was nothing novel about his party’s decision. The steps at the front of the Castries market had long been recognized as “the people’s university,” he said, “and continues to be.”
Leo Clarke was right, if only up to a point. As the putative leader of the Lucia Forum that long before the majority of today’s younger voters were conceived had committed fratricide, George Odlum—armed with his political science degree from Manchester University—had created for himself a reputation as our brightest native son. Remember, folks, we’re talking about Saint Lucia almost a half century ago!
Odlum it was who had dubbed the market steps “the people’s university,” with himself as its only visiting professor. What did he teach? Well, the answer depends on whom you ask. Certainly, some of our least admirable inclinations were learned from his self-serving encouragement of the day’s near mindless to participate in a form of political opposition totally alien to our then irenic environment.
If with his flowery flattery Odlum had empowered our most deprived citizens; if he had taught them to recognize the power of their united vote; if he, more than anyone else, had destigmatized Saint Lucian Creole, still he must also take responsibility for some of our worst afflictions, among them our ever increasing lack of respect for once revered institutions—religious and otherwise.
In his name were some the worst attacks on free speech carried out (the burglar bars in William Peter Boulevard and the rest of the city’s commercial sector are stark reminders of that irreducible truth)—to say nothing of what must certainly be among the most shameful House performances on record.
Decked out in full party regalia last Thursday evening, the current SLP leader summoned up the ghost of Odlum, as if he were Castro recalling revolutionary adventures with Che Guevara and not the prime minister who, shortly before Odlum was called to Valhalla, had booted him from his Cabinet having renamed him “the Great Satan.”
And speaking of the devil: also last week, the government had jumped way ahead of the Chastanet-King tribe to put down in words how wonderful had been the dearly departed prime minister Sir John Compton—the same John Compton upon whom the dispensers of posthumous honor and glory had on the evening of 17 July 1979 showered sacks of human excrement and dealt vicious blows to the head.
It had taken almost a month to restore the city center’s normal ambience. Alas, the soul of Saint Lucia was not so easily cleansed. We have since 1979 been inexorably sliding, if at various speeds depending on the driver at the wheel, toward the sewers!
It now occurs to me that the man assigned the task of saying something decent about Sir John on the sixth anniversary of his passing was not, as you might’ve expected, the day’s prime minister; not even his customary stand-in, and certainly not a Labour stalwart of long standing.
The man so burdened was Winston Springer, whose family had for generations been among the most faithful of Compton apostles. Back in the late 70s Winston Springer had worked assiduously with Compton at establishing in the public consciousness the image of Labour as an egregious bunch of violators of everything good and decent and Christian; as shameless perpetrators of every conceivable evil. Unforgettable is Compton’s en kweyol assessment of the red-shirted party faithful: Toutes Labar say voleur, toutes Labar say envioleur!
For the record—and notwithstanding his obvious vicious and divisive hyperbole— the founder and lifetime leader of the United Workers Party had himself once been a front-line member of the party of “thieves and rapists.” His various exploits in the sugar-cane valleys, his historic confrontations with a gun-slinging plantation owner and close relative of our current prime minister, had all occurred under the light of the star, not by the light of the torch.
But we were recalling the more recent past, the events of last week, the highlight of which was the earlier cited market-steps performance. Aided and abetted by wall-to-wall ignorance, much of it colored yellow, the rally’s organizers had sought to convince the nation that the government had epiphanically lit upon a way to lift us out of the morass that is the consequence of mindless policies going back decades.
Undeniably, we have only ourselves to blame if local politicians treat this nation as if indeed it were a ship of fools. (A point of possible interest: the allegory depicts a vessel populated by human inhabitants who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious passengers aboard a ship without a pilot and seemingly ignorant of their own direction. In Bosch’s famous Ship of Fools painting, an entire fleet at first sets off from Basel to the paradise of fools!)
In Compton’s time it was “our friends in Europe [that] would never let us down,” insofar as preferential treatment of our banana farmers were concerned. We swallowed that particular sugar pill, as if all along we didn’t know what we were taking into our systems was honey-coated cyanide.
Predictably, and in their own political interests, our friends for all seasons did let us down—consistently threatened as they were by the same Latin Americans we now consider our potential saviors, and whose own survival depends to a large extent on Iranian generosity. I speak of Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.
Altogether uncharacteristically, our prime minister on Thursday evening repeatedly underscored our dependence on America for the protection of our borders, the maintenance of our police force, the means by which to challenge and dissuade money launderers and traffickers in human flesh and killer drugs.
At any rate from one side of his mouth. From the other, the prime minister said we had no other way out of the mess in which he and his equally effete predecessors had landed us, save to go cap in hand to some of the nations best known at this time for their inhumane treatment of their own people.
As if to soften their egregious reputations, the prime minister spoke glowingly of a once feared and despised Castro, who, it turned out had always been a generous neighbor, not the devil painted by American propaganda, and in whose prisons journalists and human rights activists were rotting like dead dogs on the Castries-Gros Islet highway.
The prime minister enthusiastically recalled how he and the departed George Odlum had embraced Fidel, regardless of U.S. protestations. What he didn’t say was that his departed frenemy had been among those not always enamored of the Cuban leader.
The indisputable truth is that George Odlum had turned to Cuba only after Muammar Gaddafi had turned off the honey tap, having discovered the millions of dollars he’d stolen from his own people to invest in the promotion of an anti-American attitude throughout the Caribbean, including Saint Lucia, had paid instead for beachside mansions and a lifestyle more synonymous with rock stars than with revolutionaries. But I risk being accused of speaking ill of dead men that tell no tales. Permit me then to advise readers that some dead men do leave behind footprints that speak volumes, proof of which is to be found in the 8 November 1986 Crusader editorial entitled “The Caribbean Left in a Lurch,” from which is taken the following:
“If through its association with Libya the Caribbean left risks becoming identified with terrorism, then what should be the response? Has the time come for some painful rethinking? As the Caribbean people become increasingly aware of the incompetence and inability of their governments to provide basic necessities of life, the tide is slowly turning in the left’s favor. There are hopeful signs everywhere.
“The hangers-on of reaction are still strong, immeasurably better financed and have at their disposal the instruments of state authority with which to harry the left. The left is, therefore, in no position to be generous to its enemies. It is for consideration, whether the Libya association is not indeed an act of generosity, a foolish forging by the left of an instrument of their own destruction.”
A foolish forging by the left of an instrument of their own destruction. Really?
The editorial ends on the equally revealing note: “The true Libya objective may be to continue the war with the United States, with Caribbean proxies as cannon fodder. There is the suspicion that when the Caribbean National Movement wanted nothing to do with terrorism, Libya turned the tap off.”
Oh, yeah? So what was all that about, the recruiting of several young Saint Lucians, some barely literate, ostensibly for purposes of education at universities in Tripoli? Leave it to the torch of time to light up the darkest corners. We know now from the mouths of the recruited “students,” who were arrested at Vigie airport and their passports confiscated, that they were to have undergone terrorist training at special camps in Libya. Yes!
In any event, when did it occur to Odlum and the abandoned CNM that Gaddafi planned to sacrifice citizens of the Caribbean in his own selfish interests? And if for a long time the milk-and-honey tap had remained open, why did it remain open?
As for the late embracing of Cuba, the Crusader editorial explains: “It is clear that the Caribbean left is paying a high price for its Libyan links, without securing a real return in terms of value to the struggle in the Caribbean. The Libyan link appears to be fraught with dangers for the left and it is not easy to argue convincingly for its continuance. In seeking help, the left may be better advised to look more to those countries that conscientiously support the establishment of real socialism in the Caribbean. Such as Cuba!”
Yeah, right. And now it is ALBA, comprising Venezuela and the poorest and least developed Latin American countries. Also on board four Caribbean territories, including Saint Lucia, all rendered stricken and desperate by the mindless policies of talentless leaders over the years. Incidentally, Saint Lucia became an ALBA member on 20 July 2013, doubtless seeking to fulfill the government’s insane promise of better days of jobs, jobs, jobs, and a $100 million investment in the private sector.
Enjoying “observer status” in ALBA are Syria and Iran. The last-mentioned is helping with the financing of a new international airport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. At what price to unsuspecting Vincentians? That, so far, remains a secret to which, presumably, only Ralph Gonsalves and ALBA’s other Caribbean leaders hold the key.
In the meantime, before the Congress of the United States, on which our prime minister admits our survival depends, is a bill entitled “The countering ALBA Act of 2013.” But about that, more later!