BE­LATED GUAR­AN­TEES! WILL DPP DE­TER­MINE WHO ARE THE REAL OUT­LAWS?

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Words! Where would we be with­out them? Lost, I sus­pect. Words are as much vi­tal to our men­tal well be­ing as is food to our phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Let it also be said that just as our ap­pear­ance speaks vol­umes about what we put daily into our stom­achs, so too words ex­pose the way we think. We are in­deed what we con­sume, whether or not off a plat­ter.

My own men­tal nu­tri­tion is de­rived from the im­mor­tal words of such as Ho­race, James Bald­win, Nor­man Mailer, Gore Vi­dal, Derek Wal­cott and sev­eral revered other gold mines, not least of them (sur­prise! sur­prise!) the Bi­ble.

I take this op­por­tu­nity also to ac­knowl­edge my weak­ness for dark choco­late and desserts, first among them be­ing Big Chef’s bread pud­ding.

I also read a fair amount of junk and lis­ten too of­ten to too many speeches by in­di­vid­u­als ob­vi­ously bereft of shame. Yes, jour­nal­ism makes killer de­mands on the hu­man spirit. But, as they say, some­one’s gotta check the sew­ers.

At the House this week, as was the case last week and the week be­fore (as has

al­ways been the case, it oc­curs to me) words took cen­ter stage. Words like “guar­an­tee” and “prior” and “li­a­bil­ity,” and “ap­proval.” Some­times used in com­bi­na­tion.

Count­less times dur­ing Mon­day’s ses­sion words were mis­pro­nounced; a House com­mon­place. Via NTN, the more im­pres­sion­able among us heard dev­as­tate com­ing out of cer­tain mouths as dee-vah

state. Euro­pean also took a bat­ter­ing, with at least one MP plac­ing the ac­cent on the sec­ond, not the third syl­la­ble: U- ro- pean!

Some­times the words were mis­used; another com­mon­place. And de­spite that the In­ter­pre­ta­tion Act in­sists on the or­di­nary mean­ing of words, whether in court or in par­lia­ment, it seems our MPs are con­stantly bend­ing over back­wards to im­bue the sim­plest words with ar­cane def­i­ni­tions. Re­mem­ber when “as soon as con­ve­nient” pro­voked in par­lia­ment be­hav­ior that would make a drunken sailor wince?

Three or four weeks ago, the prime min­is­ter (a for­mer ed­u­ca­tor) in­tro­duced to the House a new phrase: “Be­lated guar­an­tees,” the or­di­nary mean­ing of which, I dare to sug­gest, would be guar­an­tees given too late.

But that’s my own prof­fered mean­ing. The dic­tio­nary says “be­lated” means “com­ing or hap­pen­ing later than should have been the case.” More­over, “be­lated” is syn­ony­mous with late, over­due, be­hind­hand, be­hind time, be­hind sched­ule, de­layed.

As for guar­an­tee: “An agree­ment by which one per­son as­sumes re­spon­si­bil­ity for pay­ing another per­son’s debts or ful­fill­ing another per­son’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

So what did the prime min­is­ter have in mind when he sought House per­mis­sion yet again on Mon­day to “be­lat­edly guar­an­tee” loans se­cured by the pre­vi­ous UWP ad­min­is­tra­tion with­out par­lia­men­tary ap­proval? Con­trary to nor­mal pro­ce­dure, the prime min­is­ter failed to state the au­thor­ity by which he sought to guar­an­tee loans taken three years ear­lier with­out House ap­proval.

Even if Stephen­son King was cor­rect, that the cited cir­cum­stances had not re­quired par­lia­men­tary ap­proval, that was hardly the point.

The day’s res­o­lu­tion had lit­tle to do with how the par­tic­u­lar loans were spent. Its sole pur­pose was to se­cure for the prime min­is­ter the le­gal au­thor­ity to do what he said his im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor had failed to do three years ear­lier—thereby con­tra­ven­ing Sec­tion 41 of the Fi­nance Act. Noth­ing more, noth­ing less.

As if to make mat­ters worse, more than one gov­ern­ment MP, in­clud­ing the prime min­is­ter, ex­pressed the view that the il­le­gally ac­quired funds had ben­e­fit­ted an un­named MP and his rel­a­tives.

For the umpteenth time, I present Sec­tion 41 of the Fi­nance (Ad­min­is­tra­tion) (Amend­ment) Act: “A guar­an­tee in­volv­ing any fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity is not bind­ing upon the gov­ern­ment un­less the min­is­ter grants the guar­an­tee in ac­cor­dance with an en­act­ment or with the prior ap­proval of par­lia­ment by a res­o­lu­tion of par­lia­ment.”

The gov­ern­ment claimed the King ad­min­is­tra­tion had con­tra­vened the law and now the new prime min­is­ter, while un­der­scor­ing the il­le­gal­ity, was seek­ing House per­mis­sion to con­done it.

What fol­lowed this week was a re­peat of last week’s pa­thetic per­for­mance: ac­cused over and over of im­pro­pri­eties, bla­tant nepo­tism and the mis­use of pub­lic funds il­le­gally ac­quired, the op­po­si­tion MPs sought to ex­plain their ac­tions, as if to a jury that al­ready had handed down its guilty ver­dict! The real ar­gu­ment should have cen­tered on the gov­ern­ment’s au­thor­ity to not only over­look the al­leged mis­use of pub­lic mil­lions but also to guar­an­tee the al­ready spent funds. Con­fused? Dear reader, you’re not alone.

Some­where along the line the prime min­is­ter re­minded the op­po­si­tion that “the au­thor of ‘Lapses & In­fe­lic­i­ties’ had writ­ten sev­eral news­pa­per ar­ti­cles about Clause 3 of the amended fi­nance act.”

Shock­ingly, this is what Clause 3 ren­ders le­gal: “The min­is­ter may grant a guar­an­tee on such terms and con­di­tions as he or she may think fit.” Not a word there about par­lia­men­tary ap­proval.

Con­ceiv­ably a fi­nance min­is­ter is, ac­cord­ing to the amended fi­nance act, legally free to guar­an­tee mil­lion-dol­lar loans for him­self—as the prime had stated two weeks ago— “with­out par­lia­ment know­ing any­thing about the trans­ac­tion!” (You know, some­thing like Rochamel and Fren­well!)

At Tues­day’s ses­sion, the prime min­is­ter might also have added that I also had brought to the at­ten­tion of the 24 Fe­bru­ary 2011 se­nate the pal­pa­ble stu­pid­ity, or reck­less dis­re­gard, that Clause 3 rep­re­sents. In their own in­ter­ests, they ig­nored my ap­peals that the Clause be re­vis­ited.

This the prime min­is­ter also said this week: he had been “de­lib­er­ately silent” when the amend­ment first came be­fore the House in 2011 and that he knew well the changes were be­ing made with Rochamel in mind.

“But all they did was make things worse,” he said—be­lat­edly! So much for “look­ing out for the peo­ple.” Fol­low­ing the lunch break on Mon­day, the prime min­is­ter lec­tured the House about the dif­fi­cul­ties as­so­ci­ated with mak­ing speeches on a full belly—as if there were a sin­gle MP not al­to­gether fa­mil­iar with the con­di­tion lo­cally known as “nig­gari­tis.” Doubt­less some­one will in the years ahead dis­cover a word more po­lit­i­cally cor­rect. For cer­tain, it will not be a made-in- Saint Lu­cia in­ven­tion! The prime min­is­ter also re­called a point dur­ing the pre-lunch ses­sion, when the MP for Castries South­east had re­ferred caus­ti­cally to “retroac­tive guar­an­tees.” Not both­er­ing to rise from his chair, the prime min­is­ter and for­mer con­sti­tu­tional-law lec­turer had re­torted with undis­guised con­tempt: “Are you say­ing the House does not have the power to make ret­ro­spec­tive laws?”

Ev­i­dently that flew over the heads of both the House Speaker Q.C. and the Castries South­east MP. At any rate, they did not re­act. Yes, so hav­ing de­liv­ered his piece on the haz­ards of glut­ti­nous post­pran­dial lec­tures, the prime min­is­ter read from the Con­sti­tu­tion of Saint Lu­cia, at Sec­tion 74 (4): “No law made by par­lia­ment shall come into op­er­a­tion un­til it has been pub­lished in the of­fi­cial Gazette but par­lia­ment may post­pone the com­ing into op­er­a­tion of any such law and may make laws with ret­ro­spec­tive ef­fect.”

The Speaker saw no good rea­son to in­ter­rupt his client, as he had ear­lier in the day when he in­quired whether the prime min­is­ter was about to “cros­sex­am­ine” another MP.

As for the Castries South­east MP, he merely smiled his usual Cheshire cat smile. Mean­while the hun­gry-bel­lied rest of the na­tion must’ve been won­der­ing what the hell was go­ing on.

How did “ret­ro­spec­tive leg­is­la­tion” re­late to any­thing be­fore the House on Mon­day af­ter­noon? What did “ret­ro­spec­tive leg­is­la­tion” have to do with whether the House should bless the prime min­is­ter’s res­o­lu­tion, by which he sought to “be­lat­edly guar­an­tee” sus­pect loans un­ap­proved by par­lia­ment?

As a Castries mar­ket-steps sa­vant once said of George Od­lum in full flight: “Messieurs, words! Sa say words.” If you can’t con­vince them with facts, then daz­zle them with such fancy phrases as “be­lated guar­an­tees” and “ret­ro­spec­tive leg­is­la­tion.” Phrases in­audi­ble to Speak­ers, poo­dles and other House pets!

Oh, did I men­tion that once again the peo­ple lost—even as the politi­cians had their usual prof­itable way?

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony: In­cred­i­bly, on Tues­day af­ter­noon the for­mer law lec­turer de­liv­ered in the House a speech cen­tered on the con­se­quences of

“nig­gari­tis!”

For­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen­son King: Was his decision to be “de­lib­er­ately silent” through­out the fi­nance act de­bate based on his

suc­ces­sor’s be­lated con­fes­sion?

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