What would discourse in Saint Lucia be without Richard Peterkin? The problem is he seems seldom to have something to say that the average Saint Lucian had not already figured out all by himself. Too often at panel discussions he reminds of a flowerpot, his sole purpose being decorative.
On Thursday evening, at what was supposed to be an exchange of ideas for remedying the near-dead economy, Peterkin was joined by Claudius Preville and Ernest Hilaire, both, by all I heard, doctors. I never caught what precisely were their specialities.
Oh, also on hand was a barely audible representative of that see-no-evil, speak-no-evil fraternity of local industrialists whose chief claim to fame appears linked to their having handed “the prestigious Prime Minister Award” to an American who turned out to be a most innovative con artist!
The moderator was media guru Jerry George, conceivably another doctor. Throughout what passed for a panel discussion the word that kept ringing inexplicably in my head was “malpractice, malpractice, malpractice.” At one point I even imagined Saint Lucia a moribund patient not likely to make it through the night.
Not that the night was totally without nuggets. Nobody, the moderator included, wanted to know what had brought us to our sorry state. Imagine a physician with no questions for his barely-breathing obese patient about his diet; his allergies; did he do dope; how often did he exercise; his last check-up; had he ever suffered a heart attack—the last time he bivouacked in Ebola territory.That the patient was sick was all his physicians wanted to know. Bring on the gwen enbas feuille. Hilaire was especially uninterested in the subject of governance in Saint Lucia. He was far more concerned with Obama’s problems, brought on, as he put it, by the Republicans—not by the US President’s own demonstrated inability to deliver on his promises to the American people.
When Preville underscored the killer poisons to Saint Lucia’s vulnerable system that Rochamel and Grynberg represent, Dr. Hilaire pompously countered with his own unproven allegations about ministers of the previous administration who demanded millions just to sit with potential foreign investors.
He prescribed for his fellow doctor some new reading that would reveal how far diplomacy had come since his own elevation to ambassador status. At any moment I expected to hear Hilaire reference “lubricants of diplomatic intercourse.”
Did Preville know the owners of Harrods? he asked. The owners of particular English football teams? Clearly our London-based ambassador did. And doubtless he planned soon to turn such information into big bucks at some televised trivia show!Question time was tightly controlled by the moderator. When former government minister Calixte George asked for permission to engage in a short preamble to his question, he was adamantly turned away. And sadly none of the panelists intervened. To be altogether fair, Jerry George offered the former minister the opportunity to make his little speech, but only off-air. In that case, said Calixte groaned sleepily, “forget it!”
Something tells me the next opportunity to vent, scheduled for Vieux Fort, will be as successful a time waster as was Thursday evening’s!
He offered a self-serving explanation for the sparse audience: “If this were an entertainment event,” said the good doctor, “this place would be packed.”
Hilaire had been too long out of Saint Lucia. Otherwise he’d have known the natives are a whole lot more discerning than he imagines. They can smell a bomb a mile off, which is why they have stayed away from several local productions that their organizers believed were guaranteed crowd pullers.
Which is not to say Hilaire was totally ignorant about showbiz matters. His recent smoked salmon-and- dasheen shindig in Lornedon was reportedly a hot ticket, if only among the Paddington-Stratford glitterati. Even our prime minister and his missus had shown up on the occasion, perchance to bag one or two fellow Saint Lucians at the event with a billion or two to invest in the land that gave them birth, now considered a disaster zone, thanks to information placed on the Internet. Evidently it had never occurred to the spitters at the sky that what you throw up in the air can fall back and hit you in the teeth!
In any event, contributing to the ridiculously poor City Hall audience were the prime minister and other government personnel who obviously had more productive things to do with their time.