Last April the then recently re-elected President of the United States paid a state visit to Colombia. But it was not Barrack Obama’s weekend tête-à-têtes with his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos that made headlines. What had caught the attention of the world’s press was a rumor.
In the telling of the press, one of the eleven Secret Service agents who were in Cartagena preparing for the President’s arrival had been implicated in an altercation with a local woman over money.
The incident became public on April 12 after it came to light that the woman overheard haggling with an agent in the Caribe Hotel’s hallway was a whore.
The US authorities wasted no time separating fact from hooker pillow talk. Before a week had passed the White House had launched what the President himself described as a “rigorous” investigation, led by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan. A leading senator informed reporters she had been told “as many as 21 women had been involved.”
“Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons or in other ways jeopardized security of the President of our country?” asked Maine’s Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
While the investigation was underway the agents’ security clearances were pulled. As for the President, he referred to them as “knuckleheads.”
Most of them later either resigned from the Secret Service or were subjected to disciplinary action.
Meanwhile the Colombian ambassador Gabriel Silva had demanded from the White House “a clear expression of remorse” for the damage to his country’s reputation. He claimed “the Secret Service sex scandal” had brought “shame on Cartagena”—where prostitution is legal.
Scandals involving ostensibly unimpeachable high-ranking government officials are nothing new. Some fifty years after the so-called Profumo Affair, Secretary of State John Profumo being its central figure, the UK continues to have its own fair share of political brouhahas, whether or not also libidinal, as have France and Italy—particularly in the heyday of Silvio Berlusconi.
Italy had once boasted among its MPs an over-endowed hooker named Mara Garafanga who, to judge by the countless photographs for which she had posed topless, was proud of the assets that had made her world famous. Not even the Vatican has been free of sexual scandal, despite all efforts at cover-up.
What is arguably Saint Lucia’s best-known scandal exploded in 1994. The particular bombshell centered on the holder of the highest office in the land and a female not yet arrived at the age of consent.
When details first appeared in this newspaper, even the religious community’s high muckamucks sought to deny the story’s validity.
Confronted with indisputable evidence bearing the politician’s unmistakable signature, one church leader was struck dumb. At any rate, so it had seemed until, pressured by a front-line supporter of the opposition party, the devil in the deacon suddenly recovered his voice. Running a manicured forefinger slowly over the embossment on the prime minister’s official note paper, as if to establish its authenticity, he said: “If John the Baptist had been more careful, he might have saved his head.”
As for the reporter who had broken the story replete with risible letters full of misquoted Shakespearean sonnets and pathetic photographs, every attempt was made to silence him, including the deportation of his American business partner and then fiancée. Meanwhile, the rest of the local media carried on as if what had been exposed were an occurrence most commonplace, therefore undeserving of their attention. But for just one newspaper, the story would’ve gone locally unreported.
It had taken a BBC reporter named Hugh Crossghill (deceased) to finally expose the fingered leader of government to the rest of the world. Not many months afterward, our notoriously pious nation had not only absolved but also rewarded the lubricious politician with an election mandate greater than he’d ever had. Oh, yes!
The Antiguan Birds may have made stomach-turning headlines elsewhere but in their nesting grounds they were considered rarae aves to be cherished and at all cost protected. Over and over, despite the best efforts of newspaper Tim Hector, they were re-elected to office.
It would appear that in our region not even accusations of rape are enough to shake, let alone unseat, officials with near unlimited power over their police departments, to say nothing of their ever-so-subtle influence over the judiciary.
Charges of official impropriety have more often than not been met with arrogant demands for evidence, the involved officials knowing only too well they hold all the cards, at any rate, most of the time.
For several months in 2011 secret arrangements between the government of Saint Lucia and an American oilman named Jack Grynberg had featured in this newspaper, with supportive documents. But that had not been nearly enough to pry a comment past the sealed lips of the nation’s prime minister. Just as he had always known they would, his automatic supporters simply refused to believe there might possibly be some truth to the newspaper accounts—especially with one of the leading lawyers of the OECS and a well-known campaigner for the prime minister taking every opportunity to muddy the waters with his own fantastical counter claims.
Even now, when the American oilman has sued the government for breach of contract, few Saint Lucians, including MPs and lawyers, can speak from an informed position on what could well turn out to be the Caribbean’s worst political scandal in a long time, possibly involving Government House!
The latest outrageous allegations started almost comically. During last week’s session of parliament, while the opposition MP for Central Castries Richard Frederick was on his feet addressing a bill to guarantee over $3 million dollars in behalf of students studying overseas, the prime minister referred, either to the MP or to his comments, as “gross.”
Frederick peered over his glasses to glare at his nemesis. Earlier, the prime minister had bemoaned the fact that too many students never repaid their loans. Having graduated, he said, some had not even bothered to return home. The opposition MP had sought in vain to learn from the prime minister details relating to the latest batch of lucky students about to benefit from yet another high-risk loan; how they had been chosen; their scholastic history; the relevance of the subjects they planned to study, and so on.
Truth be told, the Central Castries MP left no doubt about his suspicions. For all he knew, he said, the chosen students might be undeserving offspring of well-known party hacks.
Frederick’s immediate reaction to the prime minster’s comment sounded in my ear like yet another House non sequitur: “You calling me gross? At least I was at my home on Good Friday. I was not aboard a boat on the sea.” To which the prime minster had replied: “So now you’re interfering in my private life? Now I’ll have to double my security.”
“As prime minister,” Frederick retorted, “you have no private life!” At which point the wise Speaker strategically intervened.
Considering their well-chronicled exchanges over the years, last week’s was hardly remarkable. At first, anyway. It had seemed to me, as I watched the latest televised episode in the long-running tragedy fast becoming a national bore, that Frederick and the prime minister alone had any clue what their most recent pawol jeter contest was about. Not until a day or so following the most recent meeting of parliament did the penny drop.
I suddenly recalled the incident in 2001, when the two parliamentarians, like children name-calling down by the schoolyard, had shouted at each other the following unforgettable line: “You know what I know that you know that I know!”
When the media pressed him for an explanation, the prime minister had laughingly dismissed the episode as not worth talking about, never mind that the “you know what I know” exchange had followed his solemn promise never to forgive Frederick for something he had said during the 2001 campaign.
With a reporter egging on the parliamentarians to make like buddies, if only for the purposes of her paper’s front page, the prime minister had said: “I may shake your hand, Richard, but I will never forgive you for calling me corrupt!”
Frederick would later appear on a Labour-sponsored TV show hosted by Christopher Hunte, now employed by the Kenny Anthony government as a “creative industries consultant,” at which time he took the opportunity to explain what was behind the “you know what I know” exchange. That the explanation did not earn him a slander suit continues to baffle me to this day—and, I suspect, the rest of the nation.
So now, back to the latest Anthony-Frederick brouhaha. By all the last mentioned said via his call to Newsspin, instead of doing what most Christians do on Good Friday, the prime minister had undertaken a joyride to Soufriere. There was also the not-so-subtle suggestion, as I recall, that some on board ship were professional dispensers of such pleasures as once were available only at particular off-the-main-drag addresses.
If Frederick planned to say more on the matter, Newsspin’s host had carefully denied him further accommodation, on the basis it was not his station’s policy to entertain unsubstantiated stories capable of doing damage to unimpeachable reputations.
Nevertheless, the next day Poleon permitted a well-known sybarite and pleasure-boat owner the clearly relished opportunity to denounce Frederick for making up stories about the prime minister. Taking care to identify himself, the caller assured Poleon his two boats had not been on Saint Lucian waters on the day in question, that Frederick had concocted the whole story for political purpose.
It turns out that Poleon’s last mentioned caller and the opposition MP (a fellow operator of pleasure vessels, I’ve been told!) may have been misinformed. That is, if what I have recently uncovered is true. Suffice it to say, I have it on the best authority that on the holiest day on the Christian calendar the prime minister had occupied himself with preparing his Budget, to be presented before parliament later this month.
It can be no piece of cake, what confronts him, bearing in mind the nation’s economic health and the evidently widely held belief—conceivably encouraged by the prime minister’s pronouncements on the campaign trail!—that he is, among other wondrous things, a worker of Grade-A miracles!
Then again, what’s the big deal if the prime minister did in fact take time off from his all-important budgetary preparations to cool out with the whales? Whatever else he may have been famous for, there was nothing John Compton liked better than having his sunburned face lashed by soothing sea breezes.
At every opportunity he would captain his own vessel to the Grenadines, accompanied by close friends equally crazy about sailing and fishing. No one ever complained about that. So what can possibly be wrong with another prime minister, if he prefers to have hired hands on his rudder while he relaxes with friends equally at home gabbing about sea urchins or the secret life of the indigenous hummingbird?
Why the great wall of silence surrounding a boat ride that he may or may not have taken on Good Friday or the day following? In a country where to have been invited to cocktails at the prime minister’s residence is the closest thing to coming home from the moon, why has no one come forward to blab about taking Good Friday lunch aboard ship with the prime minister?
Of course, I am here presuming the reported Samedi Gloria sightings in Soufriere are but a consequence of inhaling for too long the sulphurous odors for which the town was named. Or the effect of Pitons on the brain!
Then again, some have insisted that if indeed the prime minister was on Good Friday tempted off his cross to partake of some much needed r-and-r it would be nobody’s business but his own—precisely what others had said about another famous lover of the sea whose relationship with a schoolgirl had required him to misrepresent himself to officials at the U.S. and British embassies, in consequence landing himself in newspapers as far flung as London and Hong Kong.
“That’s the man’s private business,” they said back in the day. Come to that, similar words were spewed by holier-than-thou MPs when a certain local gentleman of high repute found himself accused by a relative of behavior unbecoming a House Speaker. In the particular instance the sentiment was: “What a man does in the privacy of his bedroom is his personal business.” Evidently, it made no difference if the other party in his private business happened to be his 13-year-old nephew!
When all is said and done, however, would the current prime minister not be doing the nation a service, especially in this dog-eat-dog time, if he should take a page from Barack Obama’s book and order an investigation of the Good Friday rumors? But then he would run the risk of being criticized for investigating himself. After all,
Obama’s investigation had centered on rumors concerning his Secret Service, not directly related to Obama himself!
But what if, pristine as we all know his reputation to be, the prime minister should proffer a defense of the doubtless fine ladies who had accompanied him aboard a pleasure craft on Good Friday, even at the risk of being publicly crucified by the PM’s detractors? Better love than this no man ever had that was not paid for, one way or another!
Lest we forget: on Easter Monday, four people were
shot at a Pointe Seraphine parking lot, one fatally. She was all of 23 years old. Minutes earlier she and her party had disembarked a pleasure boat following a day of fun and games on the smooth waters to and from Soufriere!