The pressure of daily living often leaves little room for those focussed on desired ends, to do much else. In the hustle and bustle of life, parents who make time to nurture their children and teach love, kindness and respect are likely to produce model citizens. Such citizens may evolve into God-fearing parents sharing love, charity and kindness to all. In this regard scriptural writings remind us that ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink’.
During my active political life I burnt with the desire for revolutionary change even as a little voice kept reminding me that real change is masterminded from above. That mastermind had never placed me in a situation in which I had to feed my enemies or quench their thirst. We kept our respective distances, as prize fighters tend to do.
My opponents (I no longer called them enemies) were the politicians and their hacks that were willing to use politics to enrich themselves at the expense of the country. At my initiation into politics in the early 1970s I was apt to treat the Special Security Unit (SSU) within the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force as trigger-happy opponents itching to prove a point, over my spilt blood. Gerald Cyril and Martin Carasco were the no-nonsense faces of the SSU. We confronted each other in several protest marches and street demonstrations.
I can’t speak for any other but my intentions were always honourable. I was aware that the SSU was doing its job, obeying orders from politicians in office, who used laws to keep the peace – even outdated colonial laws. I have never believed, and still don’t, that any policeman or politician loves this land more than I do. I readily concede that I might have stretched my adjectives and adverbs too thinly in describing certain worthless public personas as I perceived them at the time. I think that I would have still fed and given drink to them, had the need arisen.
Over time I became fully appreciative of the connections between all living things on planet earth; I look around today at local political imitators and smile quietly to myself. Still, we are all connected to nature through the six senses . . . and more. That fact was driven home more forcefully when I first listened to the sound of my blood gushing through the valves in my veins as it circulated within my body. That sound was similar to that of water being pumped through a pipe or gushing forcefully through narrow rock formations in a swift-flowing river. That interconnectedness was recently acknowledged again as I listened to the moving accolade heaped upon Gerald Cyril – former police officer – as he received, at the hands of Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy, a well-deserved Medal of Membership of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for long and meritorious service to Saint Lucia.
It was our third chance encounter over the past forty years or so. Cyril resigned from the police service some thirty-odd years ago and I hung up my political boots a little later, finally passing the baton to God to do as he pleases with this strange and mysterious island. That third chance encounter at Government House on Thursday November 9, 2017 was a pleasant one. I had been invited to receive an MBE award for services to agriculture. Not for the first time, I volunteered to remind those interested that Cyril’s wife and my mom were relatives from the village of Laborie, from where many of my mom’s maternal family hail.
The days we stared each other down with clenched teeth during a heated demonstration in Castries, could count as our first encounter. On the demonstrator’s side, wet rags and towels were at the ready, whilst the SSU was armed with tear gas canisters they often used quite liberally.
The second chance encounter was when my firearm was stolen and I reported the loss to Cyril. Yes, we still faced off when the opportunity arose as we both knew the different roles we were to play in our country’s development. I gave Cyril a full description of the stolen weapon and the circumstances under which it disappeared. Lo and behold, it was returned to me within 48 hours, just as I last saw it; no questions were asked.
Around that time our political group held a public meeting at Ciceron and we delayed disconnecting the speakers and packing the equipment away. By the time we were ready to leave, tweeters were missing from the speakers. We immediately reported the matter to Cyril. The following day (a Sunday) there was a dance at Piaye in the quarter of Choiseul. Cyril drove down with two other officers and, without as much as a ‘good afternoon’, he and his men proceeded to disconnect the tweeters which were the same ones stolen from us.
By now, dear reader, you have concluded that political events on the streets were not about personalities but about principles and just causes. Those with a clear vision of their own worth and the contribution which they could make to the development of the island would never stoop to call the Mace – symbol of power and authority in parliament – the devil’s dildo, or question its design.
Years later Cyril explained to Odlum and me how he was trained to operate as a police officer and why he was so successful at his work in the CID and elsewhere in the police service.
When I became Minister of Agriculture in 1979 I appointed a professional team of Economists and Agricultural experts, headed by Professor George Beckford of Jamaica, to study and make recommendations for the reform of the land tenure system in Saint Lucia. The Land Reform Commission arose out of that report. Legislation guiding the reform process was undertaken by Professor Liverpool from UWI, later Governor General of Dominica. He was ably assisted by Saint Lucia’s very own Kenneth Monplaisir, QC. The Land Registration and Titling Programme (LRTP) currently in use in Saint Lucia is therefore a creature of one of my many efforts as Minister. Sir John Compton and others who followed, supported the LRTP.
I thank God that I experienced this third chance encounter with Gerald Cyril as we both received an honour that some believe was richly deserved. God is good!