Are St. Lu­cia House par­ties just reg­u­lar house par­ties?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

At Tues­day’s House sit­ting the usual pre­dictable de­bate fol­lowed yet another res­o­lu­tion de­signed to le­gal­ize what sev­eral times in the last sev­eral weeks the prime min­is­ter had de­clared wrong, il­le­gal, not ac­cord­ing to the law. This week, how­ever, his one con­cern was “do­ing what is right, cor­rect­ing mis­takes of the past.”

The prime min­is­ter can­not con­trol the sleep­ing school prin­ci­pal in his belly; not after he has heard the unique sound of the MP for Castries South­east. The voice of Guy Joseph sim­i­larly af­fects the nor­mally pa­cific MP for Castries East. But per­haps be­cause he has never been a lec­turer, only the ded­i­cated rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a de­mand­ing and es­pe­cially de­pressed con­stituency, Philip J. Pierre nearly al­ways sounds like a man burn­ing with con­tained hot air.

This time around he seemed close to tears as he de­fended his right­eous­ness against at­trib­uted false mo­tives, when all he had ever sought to do was make pub­lic such ir­re­proach­able ev­i­dence as had been sup­plied him by ir­re­proach­able ex­perts at his ir­re­proach­able re­con­struc­tion min­istry.

That he had never once dared to ex­pose such ev­i­dence in an en­vi­ron­ment un­pro­tected by House priv­i­leges was hardly the point. That much of it im­plied, at the very least, mis­fea­sance on the part of Guy Joseph when he con­trolled port­fo­lios for which Pierre now holds re­spon­si­bil­ity, was ob­vi­ously no fault of the MP for Castries East. That all-im­por­tant truth, to Pierre’s ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment, the press had cho­sen not to re­port!

It is no mere co­in­ci­dence his House de­liv­er­ies are Os­car wor­thy. As he un­der­scored sev­eral times on Tues­day, he was a fourth-term MP, there­fore had had am­ple time to fi­nesse the fine art of per­sua­sion, to be the most ef­fec­tive role player in the House—whether as prime min­is­ter of this un­holy Rock of Sages or as a self­less dis­sem­i­na­tor of hope to the hope­less.

On Tues­day Pierre avoided the deep end of the po­lit­i­cal cesspool. Just in case some doubted his sin­cer­ity he re­minded col­leagues, red and yel­low, that fourth-term par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are above in­dulging in “back-and-forth.” At his stage in the game, he said with the small­est cry in his voice, all he was con­cerned with was pub­lic ac­count­abil­ity.

Mean­while I couldn’t help won­der­ing about poor Han­nah De­foe and whether it was true, as be­liev­ers main­tain, that un­til un­nat­u­ral deaths have been re­solved the vic­tims’ souls can find no peace. On count­less oc­ca­sions the de­ceased’s rel­a­tives had told the whole world via the in­ter­net how their own lives sud­denly had been turned topsy turvy by what hap­pened to the va­ca­tion­ing 21-year-old that un­for­get­table day more than two years ago when she stepped into an invit­ing and pre­sumed safe swimming pool at a Vieux Fort re­sort con­ceiv­ably li­censed by the gov­ern­ment. For more than a year the re­sult of a Pierre-ini­ti­ated one-man in­quiry has re­mained clas­si­fied—which is not to say its damn­ing de­tails are ac­tu­ally the gov­ern­ment’s best-kept se­cret, a dis­tinc­tion that in­dis­putably be­longs to Gryn­berg.

On Tues­day the heavy can­nons pro­ceeded from the mouth of the prime min­is­ter. His de­meanor be­fore ev­ery shot re­flected the con­fi­dence of a shooter of fish in a bar­rel. But first there was his now oblig­a­tory nod in the di­rec­tion of the for­mer “worst prospect con­fronting Saint Lu­cia.”

In almost unc­tu­ous fash­ion the prime min­is­ter con­curred with the Castries Cen­tral MP who ear­lier had sug­gested fi­nance min­is­ters be less se­cre­tive about pub­lic business, gov­ern­ment loans in par­tic­u­lar. The MP had also gone to great lengths to ex­plain in the sim­plest English that prom­ises given at Bud­get time de­pended not on the promisor’s in­tegrity but on what there was in the gov­ern­ment’s kitty and what the gov­ern­ment hoped to re­ceive from friends, tra­di­tional and oth­er­wise. Gov­ern­ment prom­ises, the MP em­pha­sized, were never writ­ten in stone.

As I say, the prime min­is­ter pub­licly con­grat­u­lated the op­po­si­tion MP on his re­cently-ac­quired per­spi­cac­ity (a tele­vised en­dorse­ment that must have short-cir­cuited the at­ten­dant UWP leader’s ner­vous sys­tem) and fa­vor­ably com­pared him with a lo­cal bank owner who, when he was a per­ma­nent sec­re­tary in a 70s John Comp­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, was widely ex­co­ri­ated by the Labour op­po­si­tion for truth­fully ac­knowl­edg­ing what fi­nance min­is­ters say dur­ing their Bud­get pre­sen­ta­tions is flim flam.

Pity the starv­ing in­no­cents who con­tinue to treat as gospel what­ever falls out of the phar­i­saic mouths of politi­cians, in­clud­ing their elec­tion prom­ises of $100 mil­lion for pri­vate-sec­tor in­vest­ing and jobs-jobs-jobs. The prime min­is­ter cer­tainly knew whence he came when in 2011 he had ad­mon­ished his docile im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor for in­vest­ing trust in the ad­vice of pub­lic ser­vants!

Turn­ing to the MP left of the Castries Cen­tral rep­re­sen­ta­tive, the prime min­is­ter, seem­ingly all aglow, ac­knowl­edged the ar­cane highs he ex­pe­ri­ences from “re­spond­ing to the MP for Castries South­east.” He then pro­ceeded to shower a seem­ingly re­cep­tive Guy Joseph with faint praise: he said he was elated beyond mea­sure that after some ten years (eleven, ac­tu­ally) the Castries South­east MP had fi­nally un­der­stood what was at the heart of the in­fa­mous Mart­i­nus Fran­cois and The At­tor­ney Gen­eral, also known as “the Rochamel case.”

Chan­nel­ing the Pro­fes­sor Hig­gins (or was it Lit­tle Richard?) in his DNA, the prime min­is­ter raved: “He’s got it! He’s got it! He’s fi­nally got it. It took him ten years to un­der­stand Rochamel.” Which did not mean he planned to

leave well enough alone; not with his in­ter­nal­ized in­sa­tiable school prin­ci­pal side scream­ing for more at­ten­tion. In­vok­ing the Fi­nance Act, the prime min­is­ter in­sisted he was fully au­tho­rized to en­ter into con­tracts with­out House ap­proval. How­ever, like one of San­tayana’s peo­ple “who can­not re­mem­ber the past” he added: “What the gov­ern­ment can­not do is pay un­til it has re­ceived par­lia­men­tary ap­proval.” The prime min­is­ter spoke care­lessly. Con­ceiv­ably what he had meant to say was the gov­ern­ment can­not legally pay . . .

He of­fered still another les­son: even though at­tor­neys gen­eral were fal­li­ble, “gov­ern­ments must re­spect their opin­ion.” Ref­er­enc­ing the Castries South­east MP di­rectly—and in the process flout­ing with im­punity the House rules that in­sist on mem­bers ad­dress­ing only the Speaker di­rectly—the prime min­is­ter said: “If you had stayed silent you would not be at­tacked.”

At­tacked? In any event, is that any way for an MP to rep­re­sent his peo­ple? In si­lence? And any­way, how had the MP in­vited the “at­tacks?” Ear­lier Guy Joseph had cited sec­tions of the judg­ment handed down by ap­peal court jus­tices Al­bert Red­head, Adrian Saun­ders and Hugh Rawl­ins in Fe­bru­ary 2004, re­lat­ing to the so-called Rochamel case. Ev­i­dently Guy Joseph was count­ing on rep­e­ti­tion to per­suade the gov­ern­ment side of the House that his han­dling of con­tracts when he was the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and works min­is­ter had been ac­cord­ing to law—con­trary to all they had placed on the In­ter­net.

Hav­ing applauded the MP for fi­nally get­ting it in­so­far as the fi­nance min­is­ter’s au­thor­ity to bor­row was con­cerned, the prime min­is­ter then im­plied that Rochamel-re­lated with­drawals from the Con­sol­i­dated Fund had been in ac­cor­dance with the law. Alas the MP Guy Joseph had failed to com­plete his home­work. Oth­er­wise, he might’ve dis­cov­ered that much of what had tran­spired be­tween 1998 and 2004—in­clud­ing the Rochamel court cases—had by 2009 been blown away by new dis­cov­er­ies. I say that mind­ful of the pos­si­bil­ity, how­ever re­mote, that the MP knew well the full story.

For in­stance, that the guar­an­tees in the de­vel­op­ment and con­ces­sion agree­ment, the deed of guar­an­tee and in­dem­nity and the put op­tion agree­ments as they re­lated to Rochamel “were never put be­fore par­lia­ment.”

Con­se­quently, there was “no di­rect au­thor­ity for money payable un­der the guar­an­tees, which were all ex­e­cuted by Dr. Kenny An­thony on be­half of the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia, to be taken out of the Con­sol­i­dated Fund as is con­tem­plated by sec­tions 41 and 42 of the Fi­nance Ad­min­is­tra­tion Act.”

The im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing is from the Ram­sa­hoye Re­port, as is the fol­low­ing: “In De­cem­ber 2002 the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia, in­vok­ing Sec­tion 39 of the fi­nance act, wanted to bor­row US$41 mil­lion from the Royal Mer­chant Bank to meet ex­pen­di­ture on cap­i­tal works which the gov­ern­ment had un­der­taken but it was also stated that the other part should be used to re­fi­nance gov­ern­ment’s obli­ga­tions in re­spect of the for­mer Hy­att Ho­tel.

“The truth was that the [un­spec­i­fied] obli­ga­tions which the gov­ern­ment in­tended to meet were the loan monies which Fren­well had bor­rowed and the in­ter­est which the gov­ern­ment was obliged to pay to the Royal Mer­chant Bank un­der the deed of guar­an­tee and in­dem­nity and the put op­tion pay­ments . . .”

The com­mis­sion con­cluded that “the na­ture of the pro­ceed­ings by virtue of which the res­o­lu­tion was passed were ir­reg­u­lar . . . but not un­law­ful.”

The fi­nan­cial con­se­quence to the peo­ple was mas­sive. But the Castries South­east op­po­si­tion MP did not go there; nei­ther did the prime min­is­ter. In­stead, the last men­tioned con­grat­u­lated his ac­com­mo­dat­ing col­league on his late un­der­stand­ing of Rochamel, be­fore he quickly switched to “at­tack” mode.

He said Guy Joseph had at last “un­der­stood the act but not what ac­tu­ally hap­pened.”

The prime min­is­ter gen­er­ously al­lowed that all MPs, as well as or­di­nary mor­tals, were prone to mis­takes. He had him­self com­mit­ted an un­spec­i­fied num­ber, for which his deputy had pri­vately chas­tised him. (Hence­forth, let his back-and-forth de­trac­tors never ut­ter their blas­phe­mous “Pip’s a pussy” mantra!)

What was a gov­ern­ment with its own bag­gage to do upon fall­ing upon another gov­ern­ment’s mis­takes (ear­lier deemed il­le­gal­i­ties!)? The prime min­is­ter sug­gested the only op­tion was to keep in mind the na­tion’s on-go­ing lu­cra­tive re­la­tion­ship with in­vestors—a re­la­tion­ship that had to be pro­tected at all cost—re­gard­less of what the law, the courts or com­mis­sions of in­quiry might say to the con­trary.

With­out a sin­gle con­trary word, the prime min­is­ter im­plied that even when a gov­ern­ment trans­ac­tion turns out to be not in ac­cor­dance with the law the gov­ern­ment had no other op­tion but to pay up and move on. At which point I am again re­minded of Sow­ell’s: “It’s hard to imag­ine a more stupid or more dan­ger­ous way of mak­ing de­ci­sions than by putting those de­ci­sions in the hands of peo­ple who pay no price for be­ing wrong!”

The prime min­is­ter talked (but at no great length) about the Con­sti­tu­tion and its pro­vi­sion for retroac­tive leg­is­la­tion. But not one word did he ut­ter about the par­tic­u­lar retroac­tive law his gov­ern­ment had en­acted with re­spect to “be­lated guar­an­tees.”

He also avoided any ref­er­ence to the F-word. Fren­well, that is. As for his re­spect-your-AG cam­paign, ev­i­dently the prime min­is­ter had long put out of his mind his now fa­mous treat­ment of Petrus Comp­ton’s opin­ion of Jack Gryn­berg and the se­cret ar­range­ment in­volv­ing some 83 mil­lion acres of os­ten­si­bly oil-laden Saint Lu­cian seabed, des­tined col­lec­tively to be known as the Kenny G-spot .

Saint Lu­cians in the field with only their ra­dios may well have formed the im­pres­sion on Tues­day that the silent LOO and the rest of her pre­oc­cu­pied op­po­si­tion crew were them­selves sur­rep­ti­tiously in­volved in another spe­cial ar­range­ment with the prime min­is­ter.

Co­in­ci­dence?

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony: When he ad­dresses op­po­si­tion state­ments is he

se­cretly laugh­ing his lec­turer’s head off?

Leader of the Op­po­si­tion Gale Rigob­ert: Are her House de­liv­er­ies prod­ucts of a

here-to­day-gone-to­mor­row state of mind?

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