Guy Joseph’s million-dollar smile never faded on Tuesday as he entered the Parliamentary chamber. It was as though he’d neither seen nor heard the hecklers outside, most of whom had targeted him for their worst epithets.
At one point the Speaker left the House to remind officers in the courtyard that demonstrators were required by law to be on the other side of the street, not mere yards from the building where a session was about to begin. It was not the first time Speaker Leonne Theodore-John seemed at her wit’s end, and things only worsened as the day progressed. There were still matters to be debated around 10 p.m. when the House Speaker fell ill and had to be hospitalized.
Onlookers imagined she might have suffered a heart attack, but such fears were quickly dispelled. Her sudden ailment also brought to mind American TV host Wendy Williams who fainted on-camera, as it turned out, from over-heating. She was at the time wearing a heavy Hallowe’en costume. That incident inspired meme-worthy headlines. Here, government detractors wasted no time blaming the Speaker for her predicament: having to work long hours without a deputy to ease her burden.
On Wednesday, the Speaker explained to reporters what had transpired. She blamed the previous day’s collapse on mental and physical fatigue. “I felt chest pain and had difficulty breathing,” she added. “I don’t know what it was, but it was very painful, and I was taken to hospital where I was treated.”
Cardiologists had run several tests, including an ECG, and other heart-related scans, she said. “All my valves were normal so all of that was ruled out. I did a stress test. My blood pressure was very high. I was given medication, and released.”
While the House Speaker recuperated at home, both sides of the House wished her a speedy recovery.
Minister Guy Joseph had hit the ground running as early as Monday, one day before the interrupted House session, responding to opposition allegations of bribery and corruption, particularly in relation to the Hewanorra Airport Redevelopment Project, and his alleged connection to Miami-based businessman Antonia Assenza, owner of the local company Asphalt & Mining (St Lucia) Company Limited.
When confronted about the “unusual nature and frequency of correspondence” with the company that would eventually win the redevelopment bid, Joseph was dismissive.
“A phone call is not a problem,” he said. “What may be a problem is the content of the phone call. That is what they need to bring. The emails are there also . . . but I can tell you, there are a lot more people mentioned in the report than Guy Joseph, so when in time it’s revealed, we will know who made what arrangements. I’m not worried.”
Joseph suggested the phone records of all MPs be made public. “Let’s see how many ministers have been speaking to what people and how often,” he said. “There should not be one yardstick for Guy Joseph, and another for everyone else.”
At the remembered press conference, Joseph had claimed to be unaware that the government was conducting investigations involving any member of the current administration. “If there is an investigation, or whether there is an investigation, that will be revealed in time, because the information that must come out, will come out. I’m not worried. If there’s an investigation, I welcome it, because I know what the outcome is going to be.”
Meanwhile he cited other cases of suspected governmental corruption that remained unresolved after several years, among them Rochamel and Grynberg.
“When the former prime minster went into an agreement for Grynberg that he alone and Earl Huntley knew about, to whom did he talk? How often? What did he talk about? You want me to pull up the agreement on Frenwell? The Ramsahoye inquiry into this matter indicated the then PM had taken upon himself the roles of senior public servants.”
He recalled a 2011 statement by the former prime minister that he would do “whatever it takes to see to it Guy Joseph is not in the parliament of Saint Lucia”. He also referred to an investigation of his activities ordered by the previous administration that had cost taxpayers in excess of $3 million.
“I have asked for the findings of that report, and I am still asking,” Joseph pointed out.