Timothy Poleon’s reaction to my suggestion—that we could do worse in our current circumstances than consider replacing the present with an interim government—took me off guard.
“An interim government?” he echoed. “Are you saying things are that bad?” He sounded absolutely kerfuffled.
I had not intended to expand on the idea; it was only an off-the-cuff reaction to several earlier calls to Newsspin. As I listened online from Florida the thought had occurred to me that after some 13 years of administering this state’s affairs, its prime minister could well be suffering a political strain of writer’s block—precisely when we most needed a leader with (to give the vision thing a short rest) imagination.
Yes, having tickled Tim with my line about a temporary replacement government I had intended quickly to move on. But his questions blocked my way.
“Well,” I replied, “it would not be the first time a Labour administration was forced to step aside in the short-term interest of the country.”
Tim was hooked. He persisted: “Are you saying things are as bad today as back in 1982?”
“I’m not about to start arguing about degrees of bad,” I said, suddenly serious. “Back then the trouble arose out of a quarrel between the day’s prime minister and his deputy.”
Popular contrary notions notwithstanding, the recalled disaster had little to do with who was better equipped to serve Saint Lucia as prime minister. Politicians don’t think like that.
The Louisy-Odlum fracas was rooted in selfishness. It emerged that some nine months before the 1979 general elections the radical troublemaker George Odlum and the perceived conservative God-fearing ex-judge Allan Louisy had entered into their own secret agreement: should their party win the elections, its leader would, as is usual, serve as prime minister then, after six months, hand over to his deputy.
By the time the closely guarded personal arrangement became common knowledge, several man-made disasters had occurred, all of them most hazardous to the nation’s health, long- and short-term, among them the unforgettable blow-up that overnight had landed William Peter Boulevard a new moniker: Plywood City.
Finally, following a House sitting that would forever change the people’s perception of local parliamentary behavior, strikes and threats of more strikes, ridiculous nightly novenas for peace and marches to nowhere, the warring factions of the SLP concurred with John Compton and other representatives of the opposition UWP (they included high priests and lesser agents of God) that the country could not survive more of the acid rain from the Odlum-Louisy brouhaha.
When at last it was agreed that the Allan Louisy government would be replaced by an interim one that would determine a date for fresh elections, the gathered politicians and their respective henchmen got down on their knees and prayed with the attendant monsigneur. Mel Gibson could not have better scripted this show!
Back to Tim’s unexpected interruption: “Are things today as bad as back then?” Before moving on to the real purpose of my call I should’ve told Tim that didn’t really matter, if we could all agree that bad things must never be permitted to grow worse.
Which is not to say by “bad things” I referred to another leadership struggle. That is something not likely to be experienced any time soon. The current boss has seen to that, thankfully, though not necessarily in the best interest of the plantation. As earlier observed, Caribbean politicians, the majority unemployable outside politics, don’t think like that.
With Mario Michel having flown the coop in managed disgust rather than risk a recurrence of sordid SLP history, and with the easily satisfied Philip J. Pierre quite content every couple months or so to pretend he is Kenny Anthony, the real captain has every reason to believe none of his crew would dare rock a boat under his control—regardless of concerns about his competence!
Which is what makes things every bit as bad today as in 1979-82. Hell bent as they are in their personal interest to maintain the status quo, not a single government minister, not one government senator or “so-called consultant”—as the prime minister himself labeled them in his last televised address—will make the slightest sound that might in the wrong ears ring well for Saint Lucia, but not for their thin-skinned party chief.
So to return yet again to Tim. The programmed crew is ready to go down with the ship of state, so long as they can take their last breath on a bloated gut.
But what of the passengers? Do we also permit the acknowledged visionless captain his directionless way while we invest more blind faith in more empty promises?
Actually, it seems lately that a lack of useful ideas is not our leader’s only problem. His Santa Claus sack also appears empty. Perhaps lofty ideas and ersatz promises occur to him only in the heat of general elections.
These days all we hear from him are threats, some veiled, some naked: retrenchment; under-the-gun agreements powered by his House majority; non-traditional relationships with his ex-wife and other characters thrice tested and found wanting; not to mention the great white shark known as the IMF.
And what if it should turn out our captain has lost not only his noodles and his compass but also all sense of direction? What if his recently discovered love affair with commissions—vision commissions, oversight commissions, all kinds of commissions save commissions of inquiry!—should turn out to be his appel a l’aide? (Help me!) Yes, what if?
OK, so maybe I’m way off my own rocker. But before you take refuge in that remote possibility, please consider—for the sake of the children—the consequences if perchance I should turn out to be right.
I tell you, dear reader, more and more the idea of a meticulously chosen and specially assigned interim government seems our only shelter from the fast approaching shit storm!