His contributions to the Senate are usually worthy of news-bites and further comment and last week was no different. The following was Senator, Dr. Stephen King’s contribution to last Thursday’s Senate debate on whether or not to belatedly guarantee loans not approved by parliament. The motion was voted 5-4 in favour of the loan guarantee by government. Senator King however had voted “no” and expressed his reasons why before the Senate president Claudius Francis and other members.
I think as legislators we must abide by principles and Mr. President I think the last debate we had was very interesting; I think every senator added value made by these principles. I see that senator Joseph and what he raised in terms of oversight of a project, because that’s part of accountability, that part of good governance, this is what we are about. So I said, “Well, where does my personal responsibility lie on this particular matter?” and I am going to tell you, I am going to vote no this resolution and I’ll tell you why I am going to vote no. My reading, and I need to be disabused if am wrong, my reading of the Financial Administration Act chapter 15 – 1 says – I think it’s under part 8 public debt 39- 1, loans and authority to sign thereof – the minister may by resolution of parliament borrow from any bank or financial institution for any of the followings. So I understand by that, BOLT or anything once you going to borrow you must have a resolution of parliament; that’s my understanding of the Finance Act. And that the Appropriation act is an appropriate act for that, you must come with a resolution when you are going to take a loan as the minister of finance, that’s my understanding . . . you can correct me if I am wrong. And then 42 -1, says there shall be charged upon and paid out from public funds all the debt charges for which the government is liable which is quoted in the particular resolution. And then under the Financial Regulations part 14 expenditure from loans 102, expenditure for loans prohibited 1, expenditure for loans shall not be incurred against funds deriving from loans unless such loans have been authorized by parliament, which means by a resolution as far as my understanding goes, in the main act. So it would appear to me that we are being asked to endorse what is essentially in violation of the Finance Administration Act.
I cannot in my sincere conscience do that. However I appreciate that this in itself raises another can of worms because monies have already been disbursed, monies have already been borrowed. That’s my understanding. So somebody is carrying the bag at this point in time and we, the people of Saint Lucia, have benefited from that money. So there is an ethical issue there, but surely we have to resolve it. So whereas in my view we are now being asked to endorse something that is essentially, not to mince around the words too much … it is illegal, it is illegal if I understand the law. So therefore I have to be convinced that we do the proper processes so that we can then be in compliance with the Finance Act and in fact satisfy the fact that this money is already being disbursed and we are benefittng from the works. So that’s a bit of a conundrum. That’s why I said there is agony that I am feeling. And you know it makes we wonder . . . we are living In a country and I think Senator Montoute alluded to it, where things are happening and it seems to be ad hoc, haphazard, out of control; it is a pas melay ting, you know and I find we are degenerating and I am not saying this government alone. I am saying this has happened over the last 20-30 years, it is the slow creep that happened, the slow dissolving of discipline. But we are the heads, we have a responsibility, we are leaders like it or not. The Governor General did not appoint me to stand here or sit here and just say yes, that’s not what she told me. And I will not do that. Because as she said I think it’s my personal responsibility to say what’s on my mind, that even if it’s wrong then I will be corrected. And I will take that correction quite well as I’ve done in recent times.
This may look like a little thing, a relatively small thing, but it is a window into a much bigger problem. But when you look through that window and you see where we are, we begin to understand what Senator Montoute might have been, where we are going, the darkness ahead, the further decline, the role of leadership. We must exercise proper leadership, we must show people that first and foremost that we abide by the rule of law, there is nothing personal. The law says this: we abide. If we are asking the little man on the street to abide by the rule of law, who are we to sit in parliament and not abide by the rule of law? We must. So our debate must be: Where does the rule of law fit in what we are being asked to do? And as I’ve said, I believe the rule of law according to the Finance Act is telling me to vote no, because this should have come prior to any disbursement. That is what I think. That is what I believe.
It is said that nations perish for lack of vision but I think nations perish for lack of leadership, lack of these principles of good governance. We perish because we don’t have good governance, we decline, because we don’t have good governance. I want us in the Senate to commit to the principles of good governance. We have an opportunity here to exercise, as our Governor General said, ‘personal responsibility.’ Not partisan responsibility but personal responsibility. Where do you stand as a Saint Lucian? Where do you stand? So when history is written and history is told by our children and their children and they pull up Hansard they can say my grand daddy said, my grand daddy stood or my grand mommy stood for what is right. Martin Luther King said it well . . . now is the right time to do the right thing and it has always been so. Throughout history now is always the right time to do the right thing . . . to me that is what we are being asked to do. To me that is what the young people are looking to us to model, mentor; we talk about mentorship, how do we mentor? We don’t mentor by words, we mentor by actions by decisions . . . we show.
One of my favorite movies is Forest Gump. Sometimes, I think I am Forest, damn. Planning is what planning does, it is what you do. A plan on a piece of paper, like the national health strategic plan which I was so proud of back in 2006, is a piece of paper. Until there’s concrete action on the ground that benefits people, it’s just a piece of paper worth nothing, apart from maybe five cents a sheet. So planning is what planning does, we are what we do. If we want our country to be great, if we want to be the producers of greatness . . . our Governor General gave us a challenge at the throne speech. Will we abide by the rule of law? So what are we going to do? What do we do? We have to exercise leadership. The turning point in our country is, you may disagree with me, but the turning point in our country has declined. So you know my anxiety says don’t touch it, leave that but no, no we have to be a model for our people; don’t worry If you feel afraid; courage says feel afraid and do the right thing, it doesn’t matter what happens. The consequences of doing the right things are always right; just do it, do the right thing.