They had never been bosom buddies. On the morning of 28 March 2006, in the aftermath of a by-election that had resulted from the highly controversial resignation of former Labour MP Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, the new Castries Central representative had attended his first House session since his victory over his Labour opposition, the sitting attorney general.
Shortly after the House adjourned, STAR reporter Nicole McDonald encountered the prime minister and the freshman MP outside the NIC Conference room that had accommodated the recalled House session. The regular venue was at the time undergoing renovations.
“Hey, Richard,” the reporter called out, “now that the campaign is over, why don’t you and the prime minister shake hands so I can I take a picture?”
Richard Frederick chuckled. In his circumstances he had good reason to demonstrate his magnanimity, whether or not genuine.
“Sure,” he said, hand outstretched as he approached the unsmiling prime minister. “Let bygones be bygones.”
His face seemingly set in stone, the prime minister said: “I might shake your hand, Richard, but I will never forgive you for calling me corrupt.”
“And neither will I,” Frederick countered, “for referring to me as ‘a most frightening prospect.’ “
“But you are a frightening development!” the prime minister insisted.
“And you know what I know that you know that I know!” said Frederick, ignoring McDonald’s digital recorder and camera.
The two finally did shake hands for the reporter’s purposes. When the prime minister moved on and was well out of earshot, McDonald tried to pry out of the recently elected MP what was behind their somewhat puerile exchange.
“All you need to know,” a no longer chuckling Frederick replied, “is this.” He held up a bejeweled and manicured forefinger. “I have ways of dealing with whatever Kenny Anthony might throw at me!”
Of course, time may have proved him not altogether correct. But this was still early 2006. John Compton was still breathing. The year’s general election campaign was several months away. Frederick had not yet dealt Labour its second whipping in less than a year. As for his US visa problems, well, who could’ve known then about that?
Not that some people had not already started the groundwork. Certainly there were the hints and allegations and writings on the wall, if only regular eyes could’ve read them. For instance, there had been the matter of Frederick’s cars, imported from Miami and, according to the day’s head of customs, under-invoiced. The office of the attorney general and other local government agencies had triggered a related DEA investigation into the matter, based on suspicions that it involved money laundering.
Indeed, during the campaigns that preceded the 2006 by- and general elections much was made, albeit very carefully, by the Labour Party’s lawyer-politicians of the ostensibly ongoing DEA investigation. The attorney general, with Labour hopes for Central Castries riding on him, had questioned from his platform, and when talking
with the press, why it was that his opponent had never broached the subject of money laundering and drug-trafficking.
Taking their cue from the candidate, others (all of whom were also lawyers) leveled their scabrous allegations in question form. A not so clever, transparent example came from the president of the senate in war uniform, while introducing to a prematurely jubilant crowd outside the Castries market his party’s hope in the Castries Central horse race:
“I can stand here and tell you when he was born. I can tell you where he went to school and who were his parents. But when it comes to voting for Phillip La Corbiniere, I want you to ask him: ‘Do you sell drugs? As a lawyer, have you advertised yourself in a way your profession does not allow? Have you been clean with your family? Have you treated your women well?’ “
As for the party leader, he said Frederick was worth over $45 million, while implying most of the candidate’s wealth had been derived from selling chunks of prime Saint Lucian property and only to foreigners. Frederick’s response was quick: He could not have sold the related prime properties to non-nationals without alien landholding licenses issued by the prime minister’s office. Besides, Frederick went on, he had recently sold land at Marigot to the prime minister’s former wife and her new boyfriend Dennis Springer, both nationals!
As for his “you know what I know” statement, which the prime minister had explained as nothing ominous, and something the press had blown up, Frederick told a story on TV that had many viewers anticipating a slander suit, to say the very least. There was no response from the prime minister, only an unkept promise by Frederick’s TV host to “invite the prime minister on this show to tell his side of the story!”
We need not revisit Frederick’s arrest in relation to the earlier mentioned under-invoicing, without charges. Let us fast forward to the 2011 elections and his visa revocation, as had been predicted by leading Labour Party honchos. While in opposition the current prime minister had repeatedly instructed the nation that the US embassy would not have revoked an MP’s visa without explanation to his prime minister. But two years later the current PM still has not done what his predecessor had failed to do.
A high-ranking police officer also had his US visa revoked, with no official explanation. As if that were not bad enough, the police commissioner was recently prevented from attending a police meeting in Philadelphia. This time the prime minister blamed human rights violations, “suspected extra judicial killings” is how he explained it, committed during the previous administration’s Operation Restore Confidence.
Later, at a meeting on the steps of the Castries market, the prime minister repeated an earlier denied, then acknowledged, suspension of US funds that for several years had financed special police operations here.
Never before had he sang so lustily for his American supper. He underscored in straight talk that without American green backs it would be more than ever open season in Saint Lucia for traffickers in drugs and sex, to say nothing of local law enforcement problems. Did the prime minister know he was being monitored, even as he spoke, by personnel in his audience connected to the US State Department?
Many were taken aback when the prime minister added that his justice minister had recently visited the US embassy in Barbados. Moreover, that new arrangements for US funds had been made. What the prime minister said was true but only in part. What he did not say was that the US promises were based on what his government does about those earlier cited human rights violations, and importantly, how quickly.
Actually, the justice minister was given a deadline by which to move certain personnel from their present extra-sensitive positions. My information from impeccable off-island sources is that at least three more police visas were recently revoked following polygraph tests conducted here last week, during which some candidates sang like canaries on Chairman’s Reserve.
Believe it or not, on the line is the US visa of the justice minister himself, whose deadline for action, not more talk, is only a couple days away. So what does the prime minister know that his Cabinet (surprise, surprise!) does not know, let alone the House opposition?
What does the police commissioner know that the public needs to know?
And then there’s this other highly combustible matter about to bust wide open, involving the Financial Investigating Unit of the Financial Investigating Authority. Its director is local lawyer Paul Thompson. The rest of the unit comprises representatives of customs and the police force.
For the time being, I need only ask, again: What does the prime minister know about this ticking FIA bomb that Richard Frederick may or may not know, about which Philip J. Pierre and fellow Cabinet members have not a clue?
What does the State Department know? What are the Americans demanding? Especially vital: What do Paul Thompson and his team of investigators know that they may well be wishing they did not know?
And this time around who will be the sacrificial lambs?