Dear Rick: I watched your first show of the year last night. Good one, as usual. Your theme that “we don’t care a damn” is so, so true. Good that you were able to say it like it is when talking about the contributions of both Tim [Poleon] and Juk Bois to Saint Lucia media and social/folk history. Yes, a lot of people underestimate Tim’s knowledge of Saint Lucian political life. Good of you to give him his props in this regard.
You were most kind in not letting a caller go into Philip J. Pierre’s statement that he would “make a better prime minister than Compton”. You saved his bacon on that one. In the current climate of the defeat of the opposition’s No Confidence vote, which is strongly identified more with PJP than with the Labour Party, the public is not in a tolerant mood.
Not even Kenny, who has been a prime minister, would disrespect the office and person of Prime Minister Compton in this manner. The Saint Lucian public—UWP or SLP—would not accept such a statement. Sorry, sorry . . . sorry. That one will come back to haunt my dear friend PJP. People forget that Compton provided equal chances to our best, regardless of party affiliation. George Odlum to the United Nations, comes to mind.
When Michael Bartlette was sacked by his bosses at the government printery, he went on the run. Even some of his relatives kept their distance. He was unemployed and not able to take care of his family. Then he bumped into Compton, while he was still trying to kick him out of office, and Compton offered him his job back. Incidentally Rick, when the UWP returned in 2006, he had several meetings in New York and Saint Lucia in relation to the Helenites building. You may or may not know Michael and Kenny were the best of buddies, until the Labour Party threw Michael under the bus.
I would like to move on to the No Confidence vote. To be fair to both sides, I watched the entire debate, thanks to NTN, YouTube and Facebook, in intervals. Last night I watched Guy Joseph’s contribution; twice, back to back. It’s on YouTube under ‘Guy Joseph destroys . . .’ Why did I watch it twice? There have been many memorable contributions in the House over the years. This last one was top of the pile. If anyone wants to point me in the direction of a better demolition job, please please go ahead. I am ever keen to learn.
That construct may have been put together by people beyond Guy himself, but boy did he ever deliver. When people can look beyond the notion that politicians with degrees and PhDs after their names are the most effective, they will discover that the former taxi driver has lots more to offer as a parliamentarian. He skillfully demonstrated he is more talented by far than his educated-on-paper-only fellow MPs.
Why do I rate his contribution so highly? His first salvo: that the leader of the opposition had brought a motion citing bad governance/mismanagement in office, yet he, Philip J. Pierre, in his capacity of Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, had not called one single meeting. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! PJP’s credibility was in tatters even before Guy Joseph got into his stride.
Poor Philip, who is so easily distracted, who should have dropped his shovel right there, instead picked it up and dug himself into a hole so deep one wondered if he would ever emerge again. His reply that his position as chair of the Public Accounts Committee had nothing to do with the running of the country had me holding my head and shouting no, no, no at my computer.
This was not just kicking the ball into his own goal; here was a man conceding a penalty, and a kick is taken while there is no one between goal posts. Painful to watch, for friends of PJP like myself. He made it so easy for Guy. When Guy’s measured delay ended, with a daggered smile he told PJP there existed in the Public Accounts all the information about what was going on with the government’s finance. So, far from the PAC being a time-wasting forum, it was actually the best source, and PJP should have been cognizant of that.
The cameras focused on a very uncomfortable opposition leader sliding down in his chair. His fellow SLP MPs knew this was not a good start for their leader and, to a man, they buried their heads in the documents in front of them. Look anywhere but at the camera! In their contributions, opposition members spoke about wasteful spending by the current regime. Guy, with the skill of a London Barrister, gave the names and original cost of projects undertaken by the Labour Party, and what they ended up costing. He cited cost over-runs of $80 million, $25 million, on and on and on. For the open-minded, Labour was now in the dock. Guy reminded all that the term “cost-overruns” was introduced to the Saint Lucian populace in the time of Kenny Anthony.
So obviously wounded was the Labour Party that the Member for Castries South (who must have been quietly enjoying the fact that he was occupied elsewhere when cost overruns was king, be it in West Indies cricket or in London appointing a terminally ill Saudi to the IMO) tried to place a Band-Aid on the bullet-riddled opposition corpse.
“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “can these be made a document of the House?” Every listener, with a nod to red, be they in Brooklyn, Canaries, Vieux Fort North and South, was praying that the offending material would go away. But no, the former cricket administrator wanted the document, with its damaging figures against his party, set on record by asking for it to be a document of the House. The lesson: Be careful what you pray for!
The Labour Party had, with the forensic accounting guideline of the local mouth of the people, Richard Frederick, arrived at the figure of $1.7 billion borrowed by the current administration. That figure was delivered by the opposition members time and time again. So when Guy ‘Perry Mason’ Joseph brought it up, I wondered where he was headed. I didn’t have to wonder too long. Reading from a letter signed by Kenny Anthony only three months before the June 2016 elections, Guy revealed the Labour leader agreeing to engage in a manufacturing project—in the south, in his own constituency area—that would require some $500 million to be spent on machinery alone; 1,000 acres allocated, etc.
Yes, the tidy sum of $2 billion that Kenny Anthony had signed his name to was declared a letter of comfort by the opposition side. This had to be the most comforting letter ever written to a potential foreign investor. Definitely a record of sorts. When the Labour Party had accused the government of handing 1,000 acres to Desert Star Holdings, Guy ‘Perry Mason’ Joseph pointed out that Kenny Anthony’s comfort letter signalled the handing over of a total of 4,000 acres. Yes four times more land would have been given away by Kenny & Company. This is, of course, my Saint Lucia where the unexpected is always expected.
Especially effective was the way Guy Joseph, Rick Wayne-style, broke down every phrase, every sentence, every word. Only the deaf may have missed the message Guy delivered: the Labour motion was ill-conceived, badly worded, full of stale fish and rotten potato. The killer punch: “If after 25 years in this House this is what they can produce . . . I would produce a far better motion after just one year in parliament!” That was in response to Philip J. Pierre’s reminder that he was a five-term parliamentarian. As I studied the body language of Kenny Anthony and Ernest Hilaire I wondered what these two talk about when there’s no one else around. What they said about PJP’s leadership in their private exchanges.
In truth it was a not only a bad day at the office for the Labour Party, but both KDA and PJP were deeply wounded. Their records in office were almost word for word similar. To cap it all, when Guy reminded the House that Allen Chastanet was elected by one of the largest margins in local political history, the ego that would not rest put up his hand, and the mischievous Guy acknowledged that the Member for Castries East had indeed been the MP with the largest majority. But of course, Guy already knew that and may have been testing whether the opposition was too beat up to realize what he had said. Interesting that it was Ernest, not Pierre, who stood up to set the record straight. I really felt sorry for my friend PJP.
Editor’s Note: The author requested his real name not be used if the STAR decided to publish the preceding.