The televised image was at once slapstick-silly and shocking: Harold Dalson in close-up so extreme that his protruding nose hairs reminded the disoriented viewer of porcupine quills. His ill-fitting pale blue denim shirt appeared a tad too large, the left side of its collar protruding over the lapel of his dark jacket like a lopsided hand-painted country-road sign, perhaps so rendered by the monster knot of his red tie that bobbed this way and that with every movement of his hyperactive Adams apple.
Directly behind the Soufriere MP, over his right shoulder, another discombobulating presence: stiff-necked, head held permanently to a side, his apparently frozen cross-eyed gaze focused on some unseen distraction. It would be perfectly understandable if indeed the mind of Ubaldus Raymond were preoccupied with, say, Bordelais, and not with the day’s main event—yet another orchestrated personal attack on Tom Chou, as usual specially choreographed by the other man in the excruciating TV close-up. After all these years you would think Kenny Anthony had learned to be wary of camera lenses with their near-demonic capacity for capturing a man’s soul and magnifying his worst characteristics.
On Wednesday the camera was especially wicked to the named three talking heads, only more so to the last mentioned. As featured in the news that evening, his every cynical smile, every unctuous, over-dramatized demonstration of concern, every eye-rolling clown reaction to typical Dalson hyperbole appeared exaggerated and false and melodramatic and, yes, comical—especially on the several occasions during the televised press conference when the Labour Party’s fidgety leader for life sought to rescue his normally garrulous Soufriere colleague from a sudden monster attack of lethologica!
But then Allen Chastanet, whose rally in Soufriere the previous evening had inspired the televised political Rocky Horror show, had only himself to blame for the most recent unwarranted assault on Mr. Chou’s reputation. In an election season particularly bereft of issues, Chastanet should have been especially careful not to leave room for further distracting criticism of the egregiously abused ambassador—if only in Chastanet’s own best interests. Inviting the ambassador to turn on the newly installed Taiwan-funded lights at the Soufriere playing field, the same venue as the UWP’s rally that evening, was like a red rag in the collective nervous face of the SLP’s wildest bulls. Oh, but never before was a reaction so pitifully hypocritical.
To hear the programed Dalson, Kenny Anthony too, as they came over the news, what an insult to the people of Saint Lucia that the ceremony had been turned into a party event. But was there ever a government-related activity in Saint Lucia that was not made into a partisan event, if only by the predictable reaction of Kenny & Company? Have representatives of the opposition party ever attended a local function involving the Taiwanese government? Has the party ever spoken of the ambassador in terms other than blatantly undiplomatic and demeaning? Over and over, opposition party front-liners have directed their followers to be less than cordial toward Tom Chou, on the mindless premise that he had made himself an outlaw by refusing to place in the government’s Consolidated Fund monies donated to local town and village councils for so-called grassroots projects—as if it were up to Tom Chou, not the day’s government, to do that. No amount of explaining the true situation by the King administration and the ambassador has brought about a change of attitude on the part of the conveniently deaf, holier-than-thou opposition leader for life.
Harold Dalson had in his own turn issued the following threat during a TV interview: “I will make it as uncomfortable as possible for Tom Chou, should he ever set foot in Soufriere.” As an afterthought, he added that he would use every legal means at his disposal to achieve his ambition—as if indeed there were a law on our statute books that permitted him to interfere with constitution-protected free movement in the town he represents in parliament, whether of a native or a foreign ambassador.
Only last week Dalson was at it again, this time inciting supporters at a boozy Choiseul rally to assault the constituency’s MP in retaliation for the way he had spent Taiwanese funds allocated to him in the name of the people. All of that when Tom Chou has repeatedly announced his government’s readiness to finance—through an established process involving the government of Saint Lucia—projects in constituencies represented by opposition politicians who have stubbornly refused to apply for such assistance, for reasons that sound more and more self-serving and risable.
The undeniable truth is that Kenny Anthony had by example been teaching his followers to hate Tom Chou and the government he represents even before the ambassador set foot in Saint Lucia. Yes, long before the ambassador issued his government’s first check to a local council, Kenny Anthony had treated him with hateful contempt and may consequently have turned Tom Chou into an unbending secret ally of the ruling party. Certainly there can be no doubt in the mind of the ambassador that his presence here, despite the millions invested locally by his government, will end the minute a Labour government is elected. At any rate, a Labour government under Kenny Anthony. After all, he had set a precedent in 1996 when in favor of China he sent the day’s Taiwanese ambassador packing.
Understandably, the opposition party fears—without any supportive evidence—Tom Chou may surreptitiously be funding UWP campaigns despite that the ambassador has several times personally denied such allegations. But let us not pretend to be so naïve as to deny the possibility that the opposition’s Chinese friends may be paying the SLP’s campaign bills. Who knows where the multi-millions came from in 2006 that had financed the most ostentatious political campaign in this island’s history—albeit to no avail? Has there ever been an accounting by the Labour Party? Has that party ever campaigned for related reforms that would certainly make it difficult for foreigners to influence local elections? Do you suppose, dear reader, we are about to see any moves in that direction? Don’t hold your breath!
On a more personal note: Claudius Francis recalled on radio this week that I had once taken a Venezuelan ambassador to task after he attended a Labour Party rally or some such activity and hopefully would treat Tom Chou’s Soufriere appearance in like manner. Claudius got that one wrong. To the best of my recollection, I have never had cause to chide any ambassador, save the unforgettable one before the last from Cuba. I criticized this particular gentleman, who was ritually invited with other locally based foreign ambassadors to an annual Labour convention, but not for his mere attendance. Rather, my criticism was based on his use of the convention microphones to launch a lengthy diatribe against the United States, ostensibly a cherished friend of Saint Lucia.
Besides, the gentleman had by then made an embarrassing habit of taking every TV opportunity to politic in behalf of a press-controlling Cuba. As I say, the Soufriere Town Council should have chosen a different time to have Tom Chou turn on their playing field’s lights. It certainly would not have affected a follow-up rally but might’ve spared the ambassador the especially salacious tongue lashing for which Kenny Anthony and his friend Ralph Gonsalves have become regionally notorious!