While observing our nation’s prime minister being gingerly interviewed by a news reporter on Tuesday evening, three times in under two minutes was I tempted to switch channels. And not only because the last thing I needed at the end of just another day in paradise lost was more stress.
Like the majority of my fellow Saint Lucians, I have grown accustomed to our great leader’s chameleonic mood swings, more often than not triggered by the presence of TV cameras, the size and composition of his audience, his assessment of their collective IQ and the possible impact of his pearls on attendant swine.
Understandably, the more cautious among us have learned to keep contrary opinions to themselves. Others, perchance to profit from their demonstrated loyalty, have sycophantically dismissed my observations as prejudice. But that is not to say in their pumping red hearts they disagree with my all too easily validated observations.
Depending on his circumstances, our prime minister can be a River Dorée Greek offering olive branches. Or he can be a most generous dispenser of snake oil and fulsome praise. He has even been known to describe our more dangerous idiots as “the nation’s best brains.”
Like crocodiles that shed tears for the victims they are devouring, our more gifted politicians can turn on the waterworks at will—a talent that has served our prime minister well, whether addressing near illiterates or conveniently uninformed professional leeches too busy sucking up the country’s lifeblood to engage even in a Creole examination of their emperor’s new clothes.
No one knows better than politicians that hungry bellies have no ears! On Tuesday evening our thrice-elected, usually up-beat prime minister appeared unusually beat-up in a jacket almost as disheveled as his televised demeanor.
He had recently visited his hairdresser. Alas, rather than enhancing his regular mixed-race looks, on the recalled Tuesday evening his obviously fresh haircut brought to mind images from the mid-fifties of NAACP marchers for justice: as courageous as undeniably they were, still there could be no denying their fear of the known reflected in their dilated eyes.
They knew they were destined to be dog meat.
This was hardly the man who just two years ago, in the face of an inexorable economic tsunami that already had swallowed up some of the world’s more robust economies, had arrogantly predicted “better days” premised on his imminent return to office.
Strutting as only the lone cock in a hen House can strut, he had earlier resurrected memories of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the then opposition leader’s telling, VAT was hardly the kind of law a compassionate monarch would impose on his already over-burdened subjects. VAT was not only “oppressive” and “anti-worker.” VAT was also “anti-poor.” Not a law to benefit a nation with most of its population existing below the breadline.
The proposed law would definitely not have received the endorsement of Dr. Martin Luther King, in his whose honor our prime minister had marched at public expense with reverential millions in Washington!
In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” the civil rights icon had observed: “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code not in harmony with the moral law.”
King had agreed with Saint Augustine, who held that “an unjust law is no law at all” and had called on all Americans, actively but peacefully, to “oppose laws that are morally wrong!” (Reminiscent of someone else who not long ago had encouraged the nation to rise up and aggressively oppose what he described as an egregious law. Alas, he forgot to identify the prime minister who had placed it on Saint Lucia’s statute books!)
Throughout his 2011 election campaign our current prime minister had promised to invest in private sector job creation no less than $100 million, as soon as he had been returned to office. Then there was his prediction—delivered without fear of contradiction or argument—that “better days” would accompany his re-election.
Oh, but on Tuesday evening you could almost smell the fear coming off his televised
countenance—as if something numinous had abruptly deserted his self-confidence.
Palpable now was his desperation—the putative mother of his inventions past and recent. Doubtless he was on Tuesday evening in a mood to count yet again on the popular gullibility. If over and over he had without the slightest resistance pulled the wool over the nation’s red-and-yellow, see-no-evil eyes, who then would stop him now? Who would dare try?
Nothing in his political life had given this prime minister reason to believe he could not get away with murder, if only of the nation’s morale.
So, rather than inventing a new arrival date for the promised better days, he said the worst was yet to come. Eyes puffed up either from crying in his sleep or from too many flights to destinations eager to hear him on the subject of other “Caribbean leaders in denial,” his topique du jour, Saint Lucia’s prime minister reiterated the declaration that since his re-election had become his mantra: “We can no longer count on our traditional friends.” By which he referred to the United States, the UK and Canada.
What we could now rely on, promised our famous for not delivering on his promises prime minister, was the kindness of ALBA; Venezuela, too, with its offer of oil-for-next-to-nothing; Taiwan and China.
He carefully neglected to name Iran, perhaps in anticipation of good news regarding the ongoing negotiations between that country and the U.S. At any rate, between Tehran and Obama. (In the meantime, some reliable sources are saying Iran’s most powerful have threatened war if the negotiations don’t deliver the expected!)
Our prime minister had nevertheless promised on Tuesday evening that perhaps “as early as this week” he would be in a position to say he had received from his newly established friends millions of US dollars for the relief of impatient victims of 2011’s Hurricane Tomas and for building bridges, hopefully to somewhere.
Meanwhile, the prime minister had by his own account decided to guarantee for LIAT a US$3 million loan.
Speaking of which: after almost a decade of campaigning for appropriate adjustments to the Finance (Administration) Act that had permitted one finance minister, without prior House approval, to guarantee a bank loan to a certain hotel development company (unless you happen to be a recent visitor from Pluto, you may be familiar with the published shocking details!), with disastrous consequences, I was pleased to note the law had been amended in February 2011.
Consequently, Section 41 of the act, under the heading Restrictions on Guarantees, now reads: “A guarantee involving any financial liability is not binding upon government unless the minister grants the guarantee in accordance with an enactment or with the prior approval of parliament by a resolution of parliament.”
The amended law also dictates: “A resolution of parliament pursuant to subsection one must give the full details of the amount guaranteed, the terms and conditions of the guarantee, the person or legal entity in whose name the guarantee is intended, and the object and reasons for the giving of the guarantee.”
Now, since no bill seeking to guarantee a loan for LIAT has come before the Saint Lucia parliament, dear interested reader, you may well ask: By what law was the prime minister authorized to make Tuesday’s multi-million-dollar announcement?
Well, for one there’s the final clause of the Finance Act’s Section 41. And it’s a doozey that exposes our leaders, elected or selected, for what they are: “The minister may grant a guarantee on such terms and conditions as he or she may think fit.”
And Bob’s your uncle, as say the English! For those who may wish to quibble, please re-read the section’s final clause that leaves the finance minister free to guarantee loans for whomsoever he may choose and “on such terms and conditions as he or she may think fit!”
Talk about the new normal!