Permit me to reconfirm: I never cared much about what was transparently propagated about the economic assistance the Stephenson King government received from their Taiwanese counterpart when Tom Chou was its beleaguered representative on this Rock of Sages. Indeed it was never all that difficult to discern the generated commotion had little to do with public trust in the government’s Consolidated Fund. The unvarnished truth is that desperation resided at the root of the concerted effort to depict the then Taiwanese ambassador as something akin to a drug baron, a Mafia don or even a clean-shaven lightweight Santa Claus with sacksful of gifts only for the day’s government. Besides, this beloved nation of ours had never been blessed with a blemish-free administration!
Indisputably, the King government could’ve done a lot more to give the people less cause for concern while at the same time furthering their party’s agenda. But then I am reminded of the several public ceremonies, not one featuring the presence of Her Majesty’s Opposition, when Mr. Chou had presented one official or another with a mock monster check for varying millions to pay for specified projects. I seem also to remember the then leader of the House opposition uncharacteristically lauding one particular government MP—after she had read aloud from her handwritten notes (it never was made a document of the House)—how she’d disposed of a million or so dollars donated by the trusting citizens of Taiwan in the best interests of total strangers. Why King’s men never followed the lady’s lead, I’ll never know. It wasn’t as if the opposition had even bothered to request that she validate her claims.
Then again it would appear Saint Lucian men follow women for prurient purpose only—often illegally! On the occasion of the recalled ad hoc accounting one thing stood out: the MP in question never suggested the Taiwanese had delivered the money to her directly. Neither had they deposited it in her private bank account. She had received the money from, of all sources, the Micoud village council.
Now whether, as some have persistently suggested, other government parliamentarians had received untold millions to pay for their so-called grassroots constituency projects directly from a Taiwanese official remains conjectural, an urgent matter on the prime minister’s agenda soon to be settled as promised.
Nevertheless, I had personally witnessed on TV several instances when Mr. Chou proudly boasted both about his government’s generosity and the projects that would benefit from it. Mr. Chou and his staff had also videotaped the projects from start to finish, conceivably as much for the purposes of their superiors at home as for their local hosts—should they have need to dispel opposition rumors. Alas, in that last regard the Taiwanese wasted both their time and money! But all of that, as they say, were hot buttons of yesteryear.
Last week our prime minister was at his congenial best. Evidently having abruptly discovered that Taiwanese generosity depended not on the color of a man’s shirt but on the content of the Taiwanese character, he happily accepted on behalf of our VAT-battered nation another cool couple million from Tom Chou’s ever-generous fellow countrymen. (To think our prime minister had earlier poo-pooed promised Taiwanese aid as “a mere $32 million!”) Doubtless fully aware that more Saint Lucians were concerned with where he planned to stash the Taiwanese cash than with what he planned actually to do with it, the prime minister with much fanfare let it be known the US$2 million or so recently received would be kept in a special account at his ministry. Conceivably, he will determine how and when withdrawals are made, and for what projects.
Oh, and he solemnly promised to keep the good people of Taiwan appropriately apprised—conceivably far better informed than had been Saint Lucians with respect to multi-million-dollars over the years paid out from the local Treasury. The one thing nobody mentioned during last week’s ritual handover was the (a?) consolidated fund. Now, incurably curious creature that by nature I am, I can’t help wondering what fail-safe mechanisms have been put in place to prevent another embarrassing repetition of all the evils historically associated with The Consolidated Fund.
Oh, I know someone will have discovered by this time that it does not necessarily mean a donor of funds to Saint Lucia, simply because he did not personally deposit such funds in the Consolidated Fund, should be declared a habitual breaker of our laws and consequently deserving of deportation on a slow boat to the People’s Republic of China. Conceivably this abruptly enlightened individual will be eager to inform Newsspin listeners that Taiwanese red letters, in whatever form can legally be held in accounts set up at the finance minister’s convenience.
Pity no one, including the day’s government, was in a position so to say prior to November 2011 and poor Mr. Chou’s doubtless mourned departure. In any event, what a comfort to the cockles of the Saint Lucian heart to know that since the arrival and departure of our new government and Mr. Chou, the smell of dirty money has been laundered out of Taiwanese aid. Nevermore will it be equated with payment to whores and pimps and sundry pestilence? Hopefully the Saint Lucian ear will never again suffer such air pollution as was experienced when this government was in opposition.
Alas, one is forced to acknowledge that if there is anything in this part of the world that can be relied upon it is the opposition by opposition parties—even if it means opposing the very policies they had set up while in government! As the man said: “That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be!”