It’s no easy matter figuring what’s in our prime minister’s head just by listening to his words—whether he’s delivering one of his advertised English-Creole addresses to the nation or mooching for more one-time Taiwanese “dirty money,” or faking exuberance for the arcane purposes of “non-traditional friends.”
Every other bon mot out of his mouth seems to recall Humpty Dumpty’s famous line about the meaning of words.
Then there’s his legendary penchant for ambiguity. It’s almost as if our bilingual prime minister, a former school principal and a professional lecturer, dare not trust himself to issue a sentence that cannot be interpreted five different ways.
Then again, he is a career politician. Speaking in tongues is as natural to the breed as are forked tongues to creepy-crawly reptiles.
Consider his recent address before a specially invited group that included a retired Bridgeport, Connecticut police commissioner and a New York City police department chief. (Was their stated purpose here really to lecture—irony of ironies—on “Crime Reduction Strategies and Democratic Policing: Respect For Community and Human Rights?” I mean, really?)
Also at the Bay Gardens commingling were U.S. representatives of the event’s co-sponsors, Monroe College and the King Graduate School of New York.
Just in case there were in his audience some who considered his presence at the Caribbean Leadership Forum somewhat anachronistic, if not downright embarrassing, the prime minister sought from the get-go to dispel such counterproductive notions. He had accepted from Monroe College the invitation to address the gathering “because the question of leadership remains one of the enigmatic solutions and challenges in our region.”
Dear reader, feel free to read into that what you will. I’ve returned to it three or four times and still it makes no sense to me. Doubtless the holders of the prime minister’s prestigious Best Brains Award will have little difficulty appreciating the hidden power in each of the quoted nuggets, and may well have devoted several tax-funded hours prospecting for them.
Nevertheless, at the risk of sounding like the untutored little boy in Hans Christian Anderson’s legendary tale about a certain flasher-emperor, I continue to be at a loss what the prime minister meant when he told his Bay Gardens audience “the leadership question” remains among our region’s “enigmatic solutions and challenges.”
I need ask, if only for my own edification, what was the leadership question our prime minister referred to? Is there a leadership question unanswered? Isn’t the indisputable proof all around us, that our chief problem, at any rate in Saint Lucia, is not so much economic as it is visionless leadership?
Hasn’t our prime minister acknowledged this by his recent establishment of a tax-funded vision commission? And before him, the venerable Venner?
Did the prime minister really mean to say we are plagued by solutions that are “enigmatic?” How do you tell regular solutions from “enigmatic” ones? Undeniably, we face seemingly insuperable challenges. For all I know, some may indeed be “enigmatic.”
But how and when did “the question of leadership” in the region become a challenge at once “mysterious, puzzling, difficult to understand?”
So now, let’s move from gibberish to, well, more gibberish: “We have very scarce resources, little land mass, no natural resource except our land, the sea and our sun, and this places special burdens and responsibility on small islands as well. And when
you add to this the fact that we are extremely vulnerable, then the options to leadership becomes even more challenging.”
I dare the Best Brains Award holders and the UWI-decorated word mechanics who put this puppy together to unravel a message from the above-quoted potpourri.
Perhaps a close-up examination might be useful: “We have very scarce resources . . .”
Does that mean the resources we have are limited? Or that we have resources so rare they may be found—as Superman alone knew when he needed the rarest of gifts for Lois Lane—only at the summit of Gros Piton?
Despite the shaky opening, the prime minister did acknowledge the indisputable: we are a nation confronted by crises that require strong, purposeful and courageous leadership. “But,” added the prime minister in need of a national vision, “the mistake is to assume that the leadership solution is simply about politicians and those elected to the top.”
Moreover: We are a people “famous for passing the buck. Perhaps, if we might play less the prevailing Caribbean tradition of passing blame to the next level or to the next functionary, we might make a major shift in attitudes to leadership. The question is this: how do we alter the inherited culture of governance?”
How indeed, without confirming our alleged reputation for buck passing? Well, first we might turn to our vision commission and the other declared nation’s best brains. Alas, shockingly the prime minister had himself earlier identified the following “fascinating irony: The more degreed persons in our midst, the greater the cry for leadership. Why?”
Here was “a conundrum” he teased his audience to speculate on “because I think about it all the time, and I ask myself what is missing.”
Might the answer be sincerity? Consistency? For several years the prime minister dumped on Richard Frederick layer upon lay of dirt, labeled him in such fashion that few were surprised to learn the U.S. Embassy had finally determined the Castries MP and lawyer unfit to set foot on American soil.
Indeed, the prime minister had declared Frederick “a most frightening prospect” and “the worst thing to happen to politics in Saint Lucia.” In fact, as I write, there is a long-pending lawsuit in the prime minister’s name against Frederick.
Then there was Vaughan Lewis whom the prime minister described in his seminal book At the Rainbow’s Edge as mendacious, untrustworthy, talentless, vindictive, profligate, wasteful of public funds inter alia. Ironical, the prime minister had also successfully sued Lewis for libel, not the other way around.
His party, during its most recent election campaign, referred to the day’s sitting prime minister as “de lyin’ King,” uneducated, unfit for office, a self-serving disseminator of flawed statistics, and an endorser of criminality.
All of which most of the nation evidently believed to be true, judging by the result of the 2011 general elections. How confusing then, that the above-mentioned have since either been handed top jobs in their former tormentor’s administration, or been imbued with new respect, or declared oracular and altogether worthy of applause whatever they might say in parliament.
As if further to confuse things, at the Bay Gardens get-together the prime minister, who has yet to come clean before the nation on everything he alone knows about Grynberg and Frenwell, acknowledged: “We know that leadership cannot be truly effective without accountability. Leaders cannot know their true worth without knowing how well they perform!”
There’s more: “This is a real challenge for Caribbean societies. In many, or perhaps even in most institutions, the lines or modes of accountability are blurred. In some, accountability may not exist at all. It simply is not part of the culture of governance.”
Did his new wisdom come to him gift-wrapped courtesy his vision commission, a conspicuous member of which is his former wife?
Say no more!