At a special sitting of parliament on 19 August 1983, newly returned to office John Compton recalled that since Saint Lucia became an independent nation barely four years earlier—“in particular, since the military coup d’état in Grenada . . . certain countries with imperialistic designs” had been showing considerable interest in the Eastern Caribbean. These countries found “aid and encouragement from sources in Saint Lucia and in other parts of the region whose insatiable desire for power has been consistently frustrated by the electorate.” As early as October 1982, he said, the ambitions of “these sinister individuals had grown more subversive and dangerous.” The prime minister had learned from the secret services of a friendly country [CIA] about an unusual gathering in the Republic of Libya that included the leaders of certain radical groups in the Eastern Caribbean. “The heightened frequency of violent political agitation since the 1982 elections, the naked threats to seize power by means other than the ballot box,” said Compton, “were all associated with visits to Libya by the leader of Saint Lucia’s Progressive Labour Party.”
In May 1983, Compton’s Secret Service informants had notified him that Libya was making available—“for political activity in the Eastern Caribbean”—huge sums of money, part of which was funneled through its surrogate in Saint Lucia, the PLP. In an effort to alert the group’s leaders their clandestine movements were being monitored, perchance they might abandon their relationship with Libya rather than risk the consequences, the prime minister had made public some of what he had learned from his sources in Washington. To his expressed shock and dismay, he said, there was no reaction from the PLP. It was as if the prime minister had never spoken.
One month later the Secret Service informed the prime minister of planned covert activity in Saint Lucia and other parts of the Caribbean. In Libya, they said, special camps were being set up to train recruits in “terrorism and sabotage.” In mid-July the Secret Service confirmed that the Libyan Embassy in Mexico had been instructed to issue airline tickets for travel to Libya in the names of a hundred or so young men from the Caribbean, twenty-eight of whom were Saint Lucian. The true purpose of their visit was revealed by fifteen disgruntled recruits who had returned home to the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica upon completion of their training in Libya.
By Compton’s account, the trusting young Dominicans were lured to Libya with student scholarships and promises they would be taught legitimate skills normally associated with lucrative private sector careers. They realized they had been duped by their recruiters in Dominica, but only after they had been transported and confined to terrorist training camps. On July 19, Prime Minister Compton revealed, eighteen young Saint Lucians were issued Eastern Airline tickets to travel in six days via Martinique, en-route to Libya via France.
“The cover for this operation was a cultural performance to be held in Paris,” said the prime minister, “an event unknown to anyone else, neither in Saint Lucia nor in the host country.” The House maintained a stony silence even after the prime minister revealed that of the eighteen alleged cultural performers, seven were known hardcore criminals who had done time for a variety of offences ranging from threats with deadly weapons to causing innocent citizens serious bodily harm.
Said the prime minister: “The operation was aborted when, acting on special instructions, the income tax department denied the listed eighteen individuals exit permits. Their passports were also confiscated by the immigration authorities.” He reminded the House that on July 22, he had addressed the nation on the matter. “On July 24, however, no doubt in an attempt to test the government’s resolve,” the prime minister concluded, “a solitary female recruit attempted to leave the island via Leeward Islands Air Transport, only to have her passport withdrawn. Income tax clearances having been denied, certain individuals now turned to fraud and forgery. Some time during the July 24 weekend, the office of the income tax department was broken into. The only items missing on Monday morning were a departmental stamp and one receipt book.”
By Compton’s riveting account, several attempts were made to charter an aircraft for travel to Martinique. The first was by the local manager of Eastern Airlines, Mr. Newman Monrose. He was turned down. Finally, with Victor Fadelin—the former government’s public relations man and close ally of George Odlum—Monrose chartered two Saint Lucia Airways carriers at a discount rate.
“Fourteen of the special travelers to Libya turned up at Vigie Airport. They were accompanied by well known officials of the Progressive Labour Party,” said the prime minister. “But the police were waiting for them. On instructions from the foreign affairs ministry, their passports were impounded. Later that evening Mr. George Odlum, who on occasions like this usually prefers to remain in the background, showed up with Victor Fadelin at Port Police Station to protest and remonstrate with officers of the law. The police forcibly ejected them from their compound. The involvement of the Eastern Airlines agent Newman Monrose was duly reported to his employers. The prime minister reminded them that, as an airline employee, Monrose had access to Hewanorra Airport, a restricted area, therefore posed “a serious threat to the nation’s security.”
Then there was the non-national David England. By the prime minister’s unverified account, his name had attracted special attention from the very first time it showed up in the “dragnet of information” supplied by the CIA. In early August, the prime minister said, solicitors acting for England wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to say that while their client had publicly declared his innocence via paid newspaper advertisements, they had themselves considered the gravity of the allegations against him and now wished to know what action government planned to take in the circumstances.
England’s lawyers were officially notified that since he had been a resident of Saint Lucia for some sixteen years, and had several business interests on the island, the government would adopt “a compassionate attitude by permitting him to leave voluntarily.” In that case, England would be free to revisit “from time to time, to supervise the winding up of his several businesses.” If he refused to leave of his own accord, appropriate steps would be taken: England would be declared a prohibited immigrant, in which case “he would never be permitted to set foot on Saint Lucian soil.”
By all the prime minister reported to parliament on 19 August 1983 David England, instead of grabbing the proffered lifeline, allowed himself to be used by the organizers of the Libyan escapade in their attempts to mobilize public opinion against the government and distract from the main issue—by Compton’s account “the introduction of terrorism into Saint Lucian politics.” Compton cited several bomb scares and public rallies that advocated violence and civil disobedience, and promised that “no threat, personal or otherwise, no number of petitions or bombs will divert the government from its resolve to perform its prime function of ensuring the security of the state and all who live within its borders.”
The prime minister vowed that all necessary steps would be taken to protect Saint Lucia’s way of life, both legislative and executive. There would also be “popular mobilization to establish the awareness of the enormity of the threat to undermine and endanger the very foundations of our democratic nation and peaceful state.” While Saint Lucia had for many decades been the home of many people of different races and places of origin, of different political and religious persuasions, and while their contributions to the country’s development had been much appreciated, no one, said the prime minister, no one would be permitted to place Saint Lucia’s security at risk.
“When terrorist activities involve a non-national,” he added pointedly, “this constitutes a flagrant abuse of this country’s hospitality and the presence of such persons in our midst cannot be tolerated.” In order to ensure the quickest dispatch of unwanted individuals, he said, he was introducing a bill that because of its urgent nature required immediate passage. In the best interests of sea- and airports security, the new law would keep “persons who are considered threats to the national security away from restricted areas.”
Before taking his seat again, the prime minister issued a final warning: “Honorable members, I am sure you realize the dangerous times in which we live. We have sought to conduct our affairs in peace, seeking no foreign entanglements or alliances, but endeavoring only to
improve the well-being of our people and the economic advancement of our country. But the insatiable desires of some politicians, some extremist elements in our society, prevents them from accepting the judgment of the people as expressed through the ballot box.
“To satisfy their ambitions, they seek to introduce into our midst international terrorism with all its bloody and painful implications. Their sponsor, Libya, is now considered an international outlaw and its leader’s support of terrorist activity has brought death and destruction around the world—from Montenegro to Ireland, where they support the IRA. The hand of Libya can be found in nearly every act of terrorism, regardless of where it occurs.”
He put away his notes and was evidently at the end of his delivery when it seemed a new idea, not quite fully developed, occurred to him: “It is the ugly head of international terrorism that the vigilance of our people will support this government in any action it takes. We are determined to crush it.”
Was that a declaration of war on Libya—albeit incoherent? What followed was more on target. “The fact that someone purchases handicraft from the village of Choiseul does not give him the right to assist in the training of terrorists to kill our children,” said the prime minister. “The people of Choiseul, from whose labors he has profited for so long, will continue to live long after he has gone. The gap he leaves behind will promptly be filled by loyal Saint Lucians who love the land that gave them birth and will do nothing to destroy it.”
The profiteering buyer of local handicraft referred to was not Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The prime minister’s closing remarks were clearly meant to rattle David England, who operated several lucrative handicraft outlets in the island’s main tourist centers, while also reassuring his suppliers in Choiseul. Thanks to England, a native Australian, Saint Lucia’s earlier comatose handicraft industry had flourished. If indeed he had profited from his investments, it was also true that the basket weavers, the makers of local pottery and other related items had never known better times. But then, as the prime minister himself had observed, that was not the issue. The issue was Libya-sponsored terrorism that according to the Central Intelligence Agency involved the leader of the Progressive Labour Party and his long-time friend and admirer David England, who had been unfortunate enough to be a non-national in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At the recalled House session on 19 August 1983, no one interrupted the prime minister. Perhaps the opposition was too chicken to challenge CIA reports. It was nevertheless true that if the Labour Party and the incumbents had anything in common it was that they considered George Odlum the root of all their problems. The last thing anyone expected was to see the Labour MPs Neville Cenac and Cecil Lay defending the PLP leader against charges that he and Ronald Reagan’s worst enemy were together engaged in terrorist activity. Besides, it wasn’t as if the mentioned two Labour MPs did not believe every word the prime minster had said about Odlum’s contributions to a Libya-sponsored plot to overthrow democratically elected governments of the Eastern Caribbean. It was no secret that Odlum envied Maurice Bishop his notoriety as a new-age Fidel Castro. Besides, in the run-up to the 1982 general elections once trusted friends had confirmed the widespread suspicion that not only had Odlum received weapons from Libya but that he had paid for his Marigot home, named Valhalla, with funds donated by Gaddafi for election purposes.
The island’s prime minister was true to his word. Less than twenty-four hours after his disturbing revelations, having amended Saint Lucia’s immigration laws to suit his intent, he ordered the police to escort David England to Vigie Airport and put him aboard an aircraft bound for Martinique. Left behind were the deportee’s tearful wife and their two school-age daughters.
Some 34 years later the so-called “David England law,” which the Labour Party under Kenny Anthony had promised to repeal if elected in 1997, is back in the news—locally and on the Internet. In a televised show last Sunday, while referencing the recent Bishop Rivas brouhaha, the current prime minister’s father Michael Chastanet reminded his audience, in particular a Vieux Fort-based Caucasian priest associated with protests against the government’s DSH project, that he risked getting deported back to the United States. Chastanet specifically cited the so-called David England law. On Monday the prime minister, via his senior communications officer Nicole McDonald, publicly dissociated himself from the previous day’s broadcast remarks (some conveniently called it a threat). Moreover, that this was a free country, with all who live here free to speak according to the laws of Saint Lucia.
McDonald was soon under attack by the invisible and more mindless of the SLP’s FAKEBOOK brigade. As was Michael Chastanet. References were also made to articles I’d written wherein I had claimed, according to the FAKEBOOK researchers, the Labour Party never delivered on its 1997 promise to repeal the law that had wrecked David England’s life. Over and over I was assured that the law had in fact been repealed, to the extent I began to doubt my near-unblemished memory. It got worse when someone posted pictures of the statutory instrument by which England’s “prohibited immigrant” status had been revoked. All of which sent me on my own mission to uncover the truth. In short, this is what happened: In 1983 the existing Immigration Ordinance was amended to empower Cabinet to declare individuals personae non grata and order their deportation by the chief immigration officer. By statutory instrument Number 81 of 1997, the Kenny Anthony Cabinet on October 31, 1997 declared the David England (Prohibited Immigrant) Order “revoked.” Thus was the ban on England and his wife Jean lifted after 14 years. But the law was never repealed as promised throughout the Labour Party’s 1997 election campaign. Did the SLP, then, advertently or otherwise, promise more than it could deliver?
The law that denies the accused threat to national security the right of appeal remains intact—and quite possibly unconstitutional. Under this law the Kenny Anthony government in 2006 began the strongly resisted process to deport Angus Ogilvy shortly after he had appeared on Richard Frederick’s election platform to criticize the day’s Labour Party administration. Ironically, it was the UWP’s attorney general who completed the job of kicking Ogilvy out for good. Ogilvy’s crime? The attorney general’s office under Mario Michel determined he had misrepresented himself as a qualified attorney. Ironically, fake lawyer that he may well have been, Ogilvy was sufficiently proficient to have won a case in court against the late Queen’s Counsel, Hilford Deterville!
Before Ogilvy, there was also the alleged—never proven—money launderer Shawn Murphy. He, too, fell victim to the David England law in 1998, shortly after Kenny Anthony became prime minister of Saint Lucia. His story, like that of David England, is told in full in my book Lapses & Infelicities. Yes, indeed, never mind the contrary stories by the historians of FAKEBOOK, the law remains exactly as it was when amended in 1983 for the purpose of removing David England and his wife Jean. Chastanet the Elder, was right after all.
As I was!
By the way, the campaigning Labour Party also promised to repeal major parts of the Public Order Act, created largely to keep in check the radicals George Odlum, Peter Josie and Tom Walcott. Suffice it to say the changes were never made. Indeed, several lawyers consider the POA also unconstitutional.