I may have done Dr. Jimmy Fletcher a disservice by neglecting to write in full the title of his latest work in progress that I’ve been these past two weeks reviewing. The correct title is: How To Run A Government In A Small Island State. Last weekend we were with the author when his imagined party emerged victorious at the end of an election campaign. This was how the writer in his assumed role as triumphant party leader savored the moment: “The general election results became obvious a few hours after the polls. The long days and endless nights of campaigning in every constituency; countless meetings of your strategy committee, constituency chairpersons and teams, the meticulous training of your agents; the continual deployment of canvassers; the diligent coding and recoding of voters’ lists; the adroit and sometimes frustrating management of tensions of payments of campaign expenses; the relentless pursuit of and by the media to ensure your campaign messaging was on point and no item of opposing propaganda left unaddressed were not in vain. The electorate has restored your faith in the people—and in the righteousness of your positions. Your party has won!”
You’ve also addressed the nation . . . accepted the hundreds of congratulations, some from the most unexpected quarters . . . Hopefully you and your closest advisors have agreed on who will be your government’s attorney general, ideally someone with a good understanding of public law and an enviable track record as a court lawyer.
“You are looking for someone who is firm, is not afraid of speaking truth to power and has an even disposition. The attorney general will sit in your Cabinet and has to manage the attorney general’s chambers. Depending on how you configure your ministries, your AG may also have to supervise the department of legislative drafting.”
Conceivably it will be difficult for any Saint Lucian reading the above to resist reconsidering the author’s credentials, purposefully set out in our first installment of this series. Though long, the list of positions Fletcher held over the years is as worthy of repetition as it is impressive: Public Officer; Permanent Secretary; Cabinet Secretary; Head of the Public Service; Senior official at the OECS Secretariat; Senator and Government Minister. The especially well clued might add that Fletcher was arguably Kenny Anthony’s most trusted best brain—ahead of the multi-faceted Didacus Jules, Adrian Augier and even Tennyson Joseph!
How then can the knowing Saint Lucian avoid the most obvious of questions: Did Fletcher influence Prime Minister Kenny Anthony’s appointments of Petrus Compton and Kim St Rose as attorneys general? Did Fletcher contribute to the meanest throne speech ever delivered in Saint Lucia’s parliament? What about At the Rainbow’s Edge? With a keen eye on the future did Jimmy advise against its publication and was—despite his seat above the salt— rebuffed?
What about the prime minister’s casual decision to sideline Suzie d’Auvergne’s report on Constitutional Reform? A particular biblical line comes to mind about the future of things whispered in the dark!
The author of How To Run A Government In A Small Island State advises that the new prime minister’s swearing-in speech be short but inspiring. It must underscore his successful transition from party first to country first.
Referencing the all-important matter of the prime minister’s Cabinet, the experienced author advises: “Your first Cabinet should demonstrate you are serious about putting country first. It cannot be about rewarding candidates for their loyalty during the campaign.” He reveals he has always been a proponent of fixed ministerial portfolios. The practice of chopping and changing portfolios with every new administration is, he adds, “counterproductive, disruptive and inimical to the smooth functioning of government,” never mind it may not be popular advice because “most prime ministers see the loss of ability to rearrange portfolios as a restriction of their powers.” However, if a prime minister is serious about governing, he or she will place “a higher premium on stability and what’s best for the country before what’s best for you.”
More advice to the new or aspiring PM: “Ignore those who advise you to reduce your ministries to some magical figure below ten.” Personal experience had taught Fletcher that it is “difficult to give some portfolios the attention they demand if they are lumped together with other unrelated agencies.” He also warns against creating “small portfolios and populating them with ministers just so every Cabinet ambition might be satisfied.”
Although very late, the following appears to address the St. Jude Hospital fiasco and several others before and after 2009: “In deciding the choice of individual to fill ministerial positions you need to find people who have the capacity to understand the sectors for which they have been assigned responsibility. Running a ministry is a difficult and complex undertaking. The minister must be able to motivate; inspire confidence internally and externally; communicate effectively; solicit advice from and listen to his or her technical officers; be willing to make decisions on a timely basis, some of which may not be popular; have a vision and a passion for his or her areas of responsibility; and most importantly be of sound mind and unimpeachable integrity. If those qualities are not present this person should not be given responsibility to head a ministry or to head your Cabinet.”
The paragraph immediately above brings to the front of my mind several questions, among them: Is there among the current and immediate past administrations anyone possessed of the dream qualities hinted at by the author of How To Run A Government In A Small Island State; someone sufficiently caring about we the people to set rolling an honest accounting for the disasters respectively named for a renowned doctor now deceased and for the “Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases?”