Recently the Prime Minister of St Lucia traveled to Mauritius where he delivered a keynote address to delegates from the British Commonwealth. Thereafter Dr Anthony continued on to South Africa where, according to a press release from his office, he was also scheduled to give the keynote address to the XXIV Congress of Socialist International. It is at this point that the movements of the Caribbean nation’s leader become a little harder to follow. While reviewing the Commonwealth Conference in Mauritius, I was struck by the number of delegates from places I had never heard of.
Dr Anthony leads the government of St Lucia, a tiny island with a population smaller than that of my hometown of Carletonville. It seemed a long way to come just to deliver an address. I wondered what else had been the attraction. Perhaps some special benefit to his countrymen? According to a website called “St Lucia News & Press Releases,” hosted by an organization called “1000 Words Media,” which is endorsed by the St Lucia Labour Party, “Dr. Anthony was invited in his capacity as Prime Minister of Saint Lucia to address the Congress as a keynote speaker.” This information was confirmed by a similar release “from the office of the prime minister.”
In the official list of participants to the XXIV Congress of Socialist International, Dr Anthony and his companion Calixte George Jr are listed as representing the St Lucia Labour Party. Not as the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and his personal assistant and speechwriter. This anomaly seemed worth investigating. For the sake of clarity, Dr Anthony and Calixte George Jr were not listed as participants at the Congress; their names appeared in the subsection “observer member parties.”
At the time of writing it has been impossible to ascertain whether the two participants from St Lucia were at the Congress to represent the SLP or the people of St Lucia. Helen Television System (HTS), a local station in St Lucia, carried the same story. Interestingly enough, all sources indicated that “while the Commonwealth Secretariat will be meeting the expenses of his travel to Mauritius, Dr Anthony will be meeting the cost of his stay in South Africa from his personal funds.”
The question arises, quite naturally: Why, if Dr Anthony was representing the SLP, did the party not pay for his trip? Equally so, if Dr Anthony was representing St Lucia, why did the Government of St Lucia not foot the bill? And if it is true that the XXIV Congress of Socialist International invited Dr Anthony to “to address the Congress as a keynote speaker,” why did the organizers of the conference not pick up the tab? Perhaps the most intriguing question of all is: Why did Dr Anthony suddenly become so conscious of the apparently dire state of his country’s economy that he decided to pay for the trip—airfare, hotels, food and everything else included—“from his personal funds”? St Lucia’s Minister of Education, who was also in Mauritius, seems not to have tagged along on the trip to South Africa. But speaking of “tagging along,” it seems that Dr Anthony was also accompanied by his wife, which is perfectly legitimate and appropriate.
It is perhaps a little surprising though that her presence was never mentioned, but one assumes that her expenses were covered by their family’s “personal funds.” And then there is the tricky situation concerning Dr Anthony’s companion Calixte George Jr, who is the personal assistant to the prime minister, and who, apparently, came to South Africa for the Congress. Who paid for Calixte George Jr’s trip? Was it the SLP? He is listed as their representative on the official list of participants. Was it the Congress that paid for his trip and participation? Did Dr Anthony, in his generosity, pay to give his young protégé a chance to see the world class Socialists in action? Did Calixte pay for the trip himself? Did the government of St Lucia pay for his trip?
The prime minister was an invited, honored guest, according to the stories put out by the TV station HTS and St Lucia News & Press Releases by 1000 Words Media, which is endorsed by the SLP, who was invited by the XXIV Congress of Socialist International “to address the Congress as a keynote speaker,” and Calixte George Jr is Dr Anthony’s speech writer. What could be more natural for the prime minister than to have his trusted aid and speechwriter by his side in case he needed to change a comma, a full stop, or the content of his speech? Unconfirmed reports indicate that Dr Anthony and his wife continued on to Durban after Cape Town; whether or not Mr George accompanied them is unknown. With so many unanswered questions, our enquiries began to take on a more urgent tone.
The African National Congress (ANC) hosted The XXIV Congress of Socialist International, a grouping that comprises social democratic, labour and socialist political parties in over 150 countries. Although several other Caribbean political parties such as the People’s National Party of Jamaica, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the Unity Labour Party (ULP) of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are included in the Socialist International, none of these sent speakers, participants, observers, or guests to the Congress, as far as we have been able to discover. (I’ve picked that the SVG government did send a representative after all . . . which leads to several questions considering who they say he is . . . ) As Alice said in Wonderland, things are getting “curiouser and curiouser.” The agenda for the Congress included four key themes: 1) For an economy with jobs, growth and social protection: the social democratic response to the financial crisis. 2) The struggle for rights and freedoms: strengthening representative democracy and gaining new democracies in the world. 3) For a common road to peace, sustainability and cooperation: the need to secure multilateralism. 4) For a new internationalism and a new culture of solidarity among people and between nations. Socialist International President George Papandreou opened the Congress.
Deputy President of South Africa and the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe, spoke on the democratic movement in Africa and across the world. He recognized that poverty and inequality were terms no longer only associated with the developing world but also used to describe situations in the developed world. Papandreou then delivered a speech in which he stressed the continued need to work in solidarity in order to resolve the problems of the global market: the market either serves the powerful few or is remodeled to serve the common good and to the benefit and freedom of all the population. Papandreou was followed by keynote speakers on the first main theme: the Prime Minister of Belgium; the Chair of the US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission; Ségolène Royal, SI Vice-President (PS, France); Minister of Planning of South Africa; the leader of CHP, Turkey; and a party leader from SPÖ, Austria. But no mention of Dr Anthony. After lunch, SI President George Papandreou was re-elected unanimously by a show of hands, and graciously accepted the vote for his continued presidency. After the elections, the meeting returned to the first main theme. The Congress heard from Sergei Stanishev, Beatriz Paredes, Hannes Swoboda, Ouaffa Hajji, Carlos Eduardo Vieira da Cunha, Fatallah Oualalou, Manuel Laguarda, and Purificación Causapié. Just under 20 speakers on the first day, but no mention of Dr Anthony. On Friday there was an address from Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa and the ANC.
He spoke of the positive aspects of globalization, such as the shift in economic power and the emergence of new global players. However, globalization, he said, also brought negative ramifications, such as a rise in inequality, increasing job insecurity for women, and youth unemployment. Speeches were then heard on the second main theme of the Congress from Navinchandra Ramgoolan, Marian Lupu, Sukhbaataryn Batbold, Stefan Löfven, Yasmine Durate, Mian Raza Rabbani, Juan Moscoso del Prado, Mohamed Ghaleb Ahmed Alsaqladi, Ibrahima N’Diaye, Zharmakhan Tuyakbay, and Zita Gurmai. Over a dozen speakers before lunch, but no mention of Dr Anthony. In the afternoon session, the Congress turned to its third main theme with a keynote speech delivered by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Speaking on the importance of multilateralism, she said humanity could find solutions to common problems if they cooperated. She concluded that the time has never been better to push for reform, and that we must unite around issues, as we have done around the debt crisis and the isolation of apartheid. The Congress then heard speeches on this theme from Satyaurat Chaturvedi, Hermes Binner, Sergey Mironov, Nabeel Shath, Avshalom Vilan, Mustafa Bargouthi, and Hikmet Mohammed Kareem. Another eight speakers or so after lunch, but no mention of Dr Anthony. Congress returned to the second main theme, Democracy, and heard speeches from Marcelo Stubrin, Kofi Awooner, Omar Barboza, Kalla Ankourao, Gaoussou Touré, Denis MacShane, Bachir Sayed, Wenceslao Mansongo, Beatriz Talegón, Nouzha Chekrouni, and Ahmed Ould Daddah. And eleven more speakers, but no mention of Dr Anthony.
On Saturday 1 September 2012, SI members convened for the last day of the Congress to hear final speeches on the first and second themes and to address the fourth main theme: For a new internationalism and a new culture of solidarity among people and between nations. The Congress heard from Khalid Azizi, Martin Ziguélé, Umut Oran, Chantal Kambiwa, Gia Jorjoliani and Pia Locatelli. Half a dozen more, but no mention of Dr Anthony. Resuming the Congress’s first theme, the social democratic response to the financial crisis, contributions were heard from Ousmane Tanor Dieng, Christoph Zöpel, Liu Jieyi, Svetlina Yolcheva, Manuel Rosales, and Rafael Michelini. Another six, but no mention of Dr Anthony. On the fourth main theme, participants heard speeches from Ibrahima Boubacar Keita, João Ribeiro, Lise Christoffensen, Viviana Pineiro, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, Gültan Kisanak, Nicos Hadjistephanou, and Esther Mordoch. And another eight brings the number of speakers to over seventy, but no mention of Dr Anthony. George Papandreou, in closing the Congress, thanked all the members for their constructive and interesting contributions to the debate. So what is the truth? Was the TV station HTS misinformed about Dr Anthony’s trip to South Africa? Did the website relay a false press release? Did Dr Anthony’s own office misinform the St Lucian public? Was Dr Anthony invited to give the keynote address at the Socialist International? If so, did he actually give any address? His name is not to be found among the gaggle of speakers. Who paid for the trip? How did the trip benefit the people of St Lucia? Of course, there is a slight chance that Dr Anthony did deliver a speech that has not been noted in the official review of the happenings of the Congress, but we have been unable to find any mention of it, let alone as the “keynote address.”
Could it be that leaders of the world’s Lilliput nations are living high, wining and dining each other, staying at the best hotels, traveling first class, roaming from one conference to another, whilst watching their waistlines grow, at the public expense? Is this how a great percentage of allocated money for education, the fight against AIDS, poverty and famine relief is spent? How much do these tiny economies contribute to the global treasure chest of aid and assistance? And by how much is the aid granted to their countries diminished, perhaps indirectly, through the excessive costs incurred by their leaders on their traveling orgies? Someone has to bear the costs, and money once spent is gone forever. Would the leaders of small islands not be better off staying at home and fixing the problems in their own back yards? Or are they in politics just for the rides, lunches and “paid expenses?”
As Sherlock Holmes said, “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”