It is good to be on the platform again. It is truly good . . . I know that in the last few months you were mystified; I have been silent. But you will know by now that silence is golden. And I had every reason to give the people of Saint Lucia the opportunity to come face to face with the realities of their decision. But now the time is here and I am at the service of my political leader and the St Lucia Labour Party.”
Different words, maybe. But the message they conveyed was similar to the one he had delivered back in 2009, when the party he’d led since 1996 was in opposition and he and the more reckless of his platform orators were hell-bent on firing-up disgruntled CSA members to demonstrate their generated anger at the recession-rattled Stephenson King government. On the recalled occasion, having deserted his battered troops when they most needed him—and not for the first time—Kenny seemed to lay the blame on God. He said he had spent the last several months in Purgatory, that fabled clearing house between heaven and hell where souls not quite past salvation are purged of all that had rendered them wicked in this life. From the steps of the Castries market he had assured the over-excited hordes he was now a better human by far than he had been during his two terms in office; that he was ready to lead the nation one more time. The whooping and yelling and jumping around like monster crickets reminded of Hollywood’s worst horror movies.
Unforgettably, the normally level-headed Moses JnBaptiste, in the so-called vernacular of the people, fulminated at full throttle: “The UWP hates workers . . . Give de people dere moneee . . . Some will say what we are doing here tonight is just politics. Well, so be it.” He all but said it mattered not a damn that the government was broke; that in consequence the country was down on its knees; that Stephenson King (elevated to prime minister at John Compton’s passing shortly after winning the 2006 general elections) had been pleading with the CSA for a little wriggle room, a little more time to deliver fully on his under-duress promise of a 14 percent pay rise; that days before the market-steps meeting he had confessed to the nation that the government kitty was empty!
At his party’s rally last Sunday in Vieux Fort, this was how Kenny Anthony justified his MIA status that began on the evening of the June 6 surprise: “I wanted to give the people of Saint Lucia the opportunity to come face to face with the realities of their decision.” Translation: After all he had done for them—STEP, NICE, several other tax-funded insatiable siblings—Saint Lucians had dumped him in favor of Allen Chastanet. In consequence he had taken away from them the special privilege of seeing him in the flesh. It seemed not to matter that enough had stood by him to spare him personal disgrace; Peter would pay for Paul!
It certainly was not lost on his home audience, neither his Facebook followers, that although it was held in his constituency Kenny Anthony was not present to witness the launch of his come-back vehicle. Of course, nothing new. So it had been throughout his uninterrupted several years as party leader: he had always materialized onstage after the opening acts had presented their largely boring several-times-refried beans. That the party was now under new management was no reason to change the established ritual. The ever-faithful Philip J. Pierre had never been a rocker of boats. At the start of the rally, when it was time to reintroduce such as the two-times election loser Stanley Felix, former sports minister Shawn Edward, the ever quotable “president of the Republic of Laborie” Alva Baptiste and bouncy-bouncy Alvina Reynolds, the noise from the audience at the front of the stage threatened the emcee Moses JnBaptiste’s amplified announcements. Not even when he came to the new party leader did the interruptions subside: Say Kenny nous vlay, they chanted. Ko Kenny? [It’s Kenny we want . . . where’s Kenny?] The Fakebookers, too, were irretrievably hooked on Kenny, judging by their worshipful one-liners, all followed by wingless flying hearts of various colors.
And then it was time to hear the man himself. Already he had been treated upon late arrival to the evening’s loudest ovation and a carnival-style jump-up that lasted several minutes. Heaven only knows the thoughts that must’ve traversed the scarred corridors of the mind of Philip Pierre, who could well be Saint Lucia’s next prime minister, give or take a dead body or two. Speaking of which: am I alone in my thinking that Philip Pierre and the President of the aforementioned Republic of Laborie are not nearly as naïve (stupid? . . . spineless?) as they sometimes appear? When he thrice denied at a recent press meeting that the now infamous letter to one Robert Ainsworth, dated 9 February 2016 and signed by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, had anything to do with the government of the Saint Lucia Labour Party, was he prevaricating in public? Was he being over-protective at his own expense? Did he not know the content of the cited letter, replete with government pledges and ostensible Cabinet decisions? Or was Pierre simply laying down crab traps?
Was he merely blowing in the wind when the man who invented “lubricants for diplomatic intercourse”—referring to Allen Chastanet’s handling of the DSH proposals—declared at last Sunday’s rally, to the beat of George Odlum’s Were You There?, that the laws should be amended “so that no prime minister is allowed to sign a deal of such magnitude without first coming to parliament?” I mean, seriously?
Shifting uneasily on his metal perch but two feet from Alva Baptiste as he fired off his loaded blanks was the only individual onstage with all the secrets of Grynberg, the clandestine appointment of Walid Juffali as Saint Lucia’s diplomatic representative at the IMO, Frenwell and Chagoury’s Saint Lucia Cross. But he would not be addressing such matters. Not on this night; perhaps not ever—unless ordered to do so by the appropriate tribunal. After the new party leader had been invited to address the crowd, indeed, after everyone else had said his and her piece and the off-stage impatience seemed palpable, a beaming Moses JnBaptise approached the lectern, his demeanor like Sally Fields receiving her Oscar for Places In the Heart. (“You like me, you really like me!”) His introduction of the man who needed no introduction whatsoever seemed to go on forever, even as Pierre contemplated his shoe laces.
When at last the raving audience had climaxed, the man who evidently was created always to have the last SLP word regardless, stretched out his arms in the fashion of Christ crucified, returning to memory the time shortly before the June 6 disaster, when he declared himself “God’s blessed child” and immune to “Guy Joseph’s voodoo.”
“I want to share my thoughts on DSH,” he said on Sunday. “I want to explain to the people of Vieux Fort what it means to them, and I want to end my contribution tonight by giving them some practical advice on what they need to do. The first thing I have to tell you is that the SLP has always said in its manifesto over the years that one of its fundamental commitments to the people of Vieux Fort is to establish a horse racing track. Those of you who are from Vieux Fort will remember that every year, except for last year, Kenny Anthony was the one who held an annual horse racing activity in Vieux Fort for the last 19 years. Every year I have raised funds to finance horse racing in Vieux Fort. And I say this to the young men of Vieux Fort: there has never been anyone more committed to horse racing than Kenny Anthony and the SLP.”
Which presumably was why “when we had the opportunity to seek investment to construct a horse racing facility, we grabbed the opportunity to do so.” Of course there had to be a back story: “The person who encouraged this investment in Saint Lucia was [Winston] Trim. All of you know Trim. He used to come to Vieux Fort, race his horses, then go back to Castries.” He recalled Trim had called on him (the lawyer in his soul neglected for the umpteenth to say an exact date) “with a jockey from England and he said to me there was a group that wanted to establish a facility. I had discussions with Trim and he put me in touch with the developers. They invited me to go to China; I declined. I said I’m not going to China, you come to St Lucia. In time they came down to commence discussions. Along the way Trim gradually faded and Trim himself started to complain that although he was the man who brought them here they were now bypassing him. I said: ‘Mr. Trim I’m not getting involved in your business with the Chinese. That is a matter for the two of you.’ ”
By his recollection there were “many meetings with the developers.” He traveled several times to the U.K. For what purposes? “Well,” he explained, “when you are a country’s prime minister you have to measure the interest of the people who are interested in investing and developing in your country.” Evidently their millions was no reliable measure.
Enter Ernest Hilaire. Anthony revealed for the very first time the involvement of Saint Lucia’s high commissioner to the UK in the DSH saga. Listeners were left to guess whether Hilaire had already resigned his position. Anthony recalled that with Hilaire and several officials he had attempted to negotiate with that developer, who was “a clever man. Very clever.” Never had he met anyone “so uncompromising.” He had to have his way or nothing. “When we tried to explain to him that we were a small country with many sensitivities, he would have none of it. It was his way or nothing.” Nevertheless, for nearly two years negotiations with the cleverer than clever uncompromising bully continued.
Suddenly a segue. “There is something you must learn about your Labour Party,” the former prime minister proffered, “something about the way it handles things. Why was Kenny Anthony so stupid? Why did he not call elections and announce the project? Why?”
Why indeed? The answer was simple, said the questioner. “I don’t believe in bluffing people. I don’t believe in misleading people. I don’t believe in getting your vote falsely. I prefer to do the right thing and lose the election than do the wrong thing and win an election. That is who I am—and that will not change. I will not destroy Vieux Fort for a few votes by doing what is wrong. No matter what you say or think about me I have always believed in doing the right thing.”
The record contradicts the personal assessment: there are the matters of Rochamel and Frenwell, featured in detail in the report of the Ramsahoye Enquiry. There are the State Department cables hacked by Wikileaks, wherein the U.S. Ambassador Kramer recalls with regret the times Prime Minister Kenny Anthony had not been true to his word. We need not go back to the time he bullied a malleable House Speaker to force an apology from an opposition MP he insisted had maliciously misquoted him begging criminals in his constituency to “give the people a break for Christmas.” The videotaped proof truth surfaced a short time later.
He had more questions. Answers to which at least one man on his platform was last Sunday in a position to answer but did not. “How could I, who could not agree with the terms presented to me when I was in office, turn around and support an agreement Chastanet has signed when the agreement goes even further than what we had been discussing with the developer?
“How could I conceivably support such an agreement? When we discussed DSH, there was no Sandy Beach involved, no discussion over taking the lands on which the stadium is constructed. There was no discussion on the lands below the Baccadere. None of those things were there. And today you do this and you expect me and the Labour Party to support such an agreement?”
Permit me another peek at the rear-view mirror. How could he be expected to support in opposition that which he had not supported while in office? For once a question can be appropriately answered with another question: Who was “vehemently against the Citizenship by Investment Program” in opposition and then was its staunchest advocate upon his return to office? Who described the Value Added Tax as “anti-poor, anti-worker and oppressive” when out of office, then upon re-election described the nightmare as “inevitable,” a cure for all that was wrong with Saint Lucia?
Almost with a tone of regret in his voice, Kenny Anthony told his audience last Sunday that things might’ve been different had Allen Chastanet been a tad humble. “PMs are required to extend courtesy,” said Anthony, behind an unreadable visage. “He could’ve called me. Or Ernest Hilaire. He could have said: ‘I want to find out why you are
not supporting this development.’ ” He offered advice, perchance Philip Pierre was listening. Or was it Hilaire he had in mind? “PMs in office must establish a relationship with the person who was there before, in case they need some advice.”
As if long-distance reading one Castries mind, Kenny Anthony said: “I will surprise you tonight. When I became PM in 1997, John Compton came to see me. He asked to see me. We sat down and had a conversation for two hours.” Meanwhile I was thinking: Was it not in 1997 that the newly-elected prime minister had written a throne speech to be read by the governor general George Mallet? George Mallet who had been the Compton administration’s deputy prime minister for more than 30 years? Had the new prime minister not required the governor general to announce a commission of inquiry into alleged acts of corruption by members of John Compton’s government; into the way Compton had conducted himself in office? And when Commissioner Louis Blom-Cooper had finally cleared Compton of any wrongdoing, did the new prime minister apologize for unnecessarily dragging Compton’s official reputation through the community sewer—as recommended?
I considered it highly unlikely that the 1997 John Compton would have requested a meeting with the newly elected prime minister—for any reason. “To this date,” said Kenny Anthony last Sunday, “I will never forget that John Compton said to me, ‘I wish you well with your program. I hope the civil servants support what you are trying to do for Saint Lucia.’ I never forgot him because he turned out to be right.”
Turned out to be right? Right about what?
“If Chastanet had called and asked for a meeting about DSH,” said a Kenny I did not recognize, “I would have given him the courtesy of such a meeting.” The Toni mask did not for long stay in place. “But it’s too late now,” said the more familiar Kenny. “There must be no talks, no talks, no talks. This is not how you govern a country. You respect your predecessor. Your predecessor happens to be the parliament representative for the development taking place. Not a single person has ever approached me from the government and said to me ‘You are parliamentary representative, what are your views about what we are trying to do?’ It is too late now. I have no interest in any discussion with Allen Chastanet. No talks!” For one, Vaughan Lewis was the 1997 prime minister’s predecessor. Not Compton, who had stepped aside to accommodate Lewis in 1995.
As for his “no talks” position? Again, nothing new. When Stephenson King was prime minister it was “no talks” when in an address to the nation he appealed to opposition leader Kenny Anthony for assistance in dealing with Jack Grynberg’s demands. It remains even today “no talks” on the matter. It was also “no talks” when Sir Ramsohoye appealed to Kenny Anthony via his lawyer for clarification of certain unclear matters during the Frenwell inquiry.
Tune in next issue for the untold story of the birth of the DSH controversy. It’ll shock and amaze you to discover who suggested otherwise when Winston Trim and two sets of developers sought to construct race courses and nothing else in Saint Lucia—and who made them the offer they could not refuse!
Don’t miss next Saturday’s STAR.