KENNY DECLARES WAR!
Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Kenny Anthony (pictured) has launched an all out attack on guess who?
Iwould not be at all surprised to discover most Saint Lucians under eighteen have not the slightest idea who was George F. L. Charles, let alone that Henry Giraudy was chairman of the United Workers Party for most of his adult life and had vacated his chair only when he departed this world. There are several reasons why both men should be remembered and just as many for why they are not. But that, as I say, is for another inquiry.
The last mentioned, the upper half of the nation’s most highly regarded law firm, was especially famous in his time for his undeniable arrogance, his pungent sarcasm, his biting wit and his unflinching determination never to suffer fools gladly. I once questioned him about preparations for an upcoming UWP convention, in particular about what his party leader and the nation’s premier John Compton planned to say on the occasion. I was then his personal assistant.
Typically, Giraudy was in no mood to address what he considered piffle. “Why are you intent on making so much of this?” he asked from behind his idiosyncratic sneer. “Party conventions are just rara. Their sole purpose is to excite the troops. Supporters come out to drink and have a good time. Nobody shows up to listen to serious speeches.”
Meanwhile the opposition party’s conventions were infamous for their drunken brawls that did not always involve over-heated floor members.
Last Sunday evening, as I took in the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s 64th Conference of Delegates from the best seat in the house; my house, that is, I thought about the long-deceased one-of-akind Giraudy—especially when party secretary Leo Clarke (conspicuously out of uniform), in his role as audience stimulator, was at the microphone directing the seated audience to demonstrate its appreciation for the dedicated young men whom he said had toiled through Saturday night and most of Sunday morning to transform a section of the normally blah Castries Comprehensive School, so that it resembled an over-rouged miniature version of the room from which multi-millionaire televangelist Joel Osteen reaches out to his countless faithful followers the world over.
By all I saw on Sunday, local political conventions still are rara. Yes, admittedly slicker and glitzier than in the relatively primitive time of Giraudy, but a pig is a pig is a pig—whether plastered with red lipstick. The one significant difference is that today’s party raras are presented in real time on TV. No longer are they exclusively for the bibulous “troops.”
These days without borders everyone—including potential foreign investors such as Robert De Niro—is exposed to the irrational exuberance, the mindless threats, the transparent perfidy, the fragile hyperbolic pledges of love and brotherhood and unity that in the heyday of Compton and Giraudy were not only relatively private, but were seen and heard by mostly forgetful eyes and alcoholic ears.
On Sunday the first speaker of special note was introduced by an absolutely sober and red-to-da-bone Senate president Claudius Francis, who was himself introduced by the newly knighted party chairman Julian Robert Hunte (still classy after all these years) at the behest of party secretary Leo Clarke whose almost cherubic face and enigmatic smile reflected neither fatigue nor the stress of the times.
The off-duty, neatly suited-up Senate president was professionally comfortable. After all, he was hardly a barracuda out of water in front of microphones and fellow residents of the Red Zone. He informed his audience at the reimaged school, as well as other home-based citizens interested enough, for whatever reasons, to stay in touch via HTS, that the afternoon’s imported special guest had been a leader of men for more years than many of our politicians can count to; that when he was a practicing physician he had often ministered to his patients without charge.
In short, that the diminutive Denzil Douglas was an all-round righteous kinda guy, quite likely without sin. (Trust HTS’ Lovely St. Aimee Joseph to stick a pin in that particular hot-air balloon with her off-stage question about two troublesome Vote of No Confidence propositions hanging over his head!)
He spent most of his time at the lectern burnishing the brass that already Francis had calculatedly rendered blemishfree. After all, Douglas too had elections on his mind. He prated on about the unyielding patience of the 40,000 people of St. Kitts-Nevis, the vast majority of whom had stuck by him through thin and thin.
He implored fellow Labour apostles to follow his people’s example and stand by their man, come what may (as if already that were not the national idiosyncrasy, especially in the season of chicken-andrum).
Douglas bragged about how he had reduced his island’s debt-GDP ratio from 200 percent to 95, pledged further to reduce the figure to 80-something by next year. But for time restrictions, I mused, might the aptly named Ms. Lovely have asked the Caribbean’s “longestserving prime minister” who was responsible for the St. Kitts-Nevis economy when the debt-GDP ratio stood at 200 percent?
Might this information-starved nation have learned the vital difference between debt-GDP ratios of 200 and 95 percent, and, for that matter, 80-something percent? By IMF measure a country with a debt-GDP ratio of more than 50 percent is well on its way to the Hades of failed states!
By the way, didn’t the IMF have St. Kitts-Nevis in its castrating iron grip until quite recently when the government resorted to selling out Kittitian citizenship to folks with Middle East names and irresistible billions of dollars in their suitcases? Remarkably, Douglas was on Sunday mute on the controversial matter of Economic Citizenship. Could recent international repercussions be the reason?
No surprise that VAT (an IMF-inspired initiative) came in for some serious shilling by Douglas. (The problem for the functioning mind was that it could not easily shake off the history of the Value Added Tax in Saint Lucia, in particular its miraculous metamorphosis from “an oppressive law, anti-poor and anti-worker” to rectifier of all disasters great and small!)
And so we came to our own miracleman: Kenny Anthony was never more telegenic. Never more dramatic. Never more confident in his ability to mesmerize “the masses.” The lectern and the TV cameras were in obvious confederacy to conceal his considerable avoirdupois from the critical eyes among his audience, seen and unseen. So at ease was he that he actually teased Shawn Edwards—one of his more impressively put together Cabinet colleagues— about his own recent weight gains.
Not once did he stumble over a malaprop. His smoothas-chilled-Grey Goose delivery of every monosyllable, every simplistic notion, every herniated justification for madness, hinted at countless
hours of intense rehearsal in front of his kindest shaving mirror—to the extent that all that reached his audience was the seductive sound of spontaneity. And while with the rest of the choir he had pledged to keep the red flag flying high, for once he waved no soppy red rag.
After the first few minutes the fact that he was reading from a prepared script no longer registered on the viewer’s mind. This was Kenny Anthony at his most beguiling, by which I mean to say he had been more dangerous. (A gaga Jimmy Fletcher would further disturb the more discerning among their audience with his lispy confession that he felt singularly fortunate to have been afforded the daily opportunity to study his gifted boss up close and, well, he had good reason to warn the less lucky that we had more Kenny surprises coming!)
We need not spend much time analysing the party leader’s introductory remarks, actually a short eulogy at the recent passing of Hilford Deterville QC, a “lost teacher, mentor and friend,” not to say an SLP “champion, a loyal soldier . . .”
Let us instead consider the vital question that, by his own account, the party leader had put to his officers: “What does it mean to be Labour?” Among their alleged responses: “To shape the destiny of the poor and marginalized; to protect and promote the welfare of those unable to do so for themselves; to improve the quality of life for the less fortunate.” Not much different from what you might hear coming from any other political group here and elsewhere; as innocuous as it was predictable.
There was also this line that set off my built-in alarm bells: “To close the gap between the haves and the have-nots.” He continued generously to share with the world (who can say for certain the US State Department reps in Barbados and further afield were not among them?) his officers’ solicited sentiments: “Being Labour means having a social conscience.”
I wondered at this juncture how many citizens had imagined themselves members and supporters of a party strongly opposed to Labour policy, but were—by virtue of having a social conscience—unwitting staunch supporters of Kenny Anthony, Philip J. Pierre, Alva Baptiste and other declared flyers of the red flag!
This one had me, screwed-up back and all, rolling on my living room floor. By Kenny Anthony’s arresting account, a party honcho had actually reassured him that he considered it his “duty to guard determinably the image of my party, its leaders, its policies, its achievements; to be honest with my party but to be careful with my criticisms of my beloved party.”
What was so funny about that? On reflection it’s not all that hilarious. In 1998, at a La Pansee get-together shortly after he assumed office, the new prime minister had excoriated at least one long-time stalwart for publicly discussing SLP policy sans permission. The prime minister had later demonstrated the consequences for not towing the party line without question: he fired three senators who had dared, in the best interest of the people, not to support a government resolution to guarantee a $4 million loan for a bankrupt airline operated by well known SLP hacks.
I could go on in this vein but then who knows better than the SLP rank and file what their leader meant on Sunday when, through a parrot’s beak, he repeated his barely disguised threat to members reckless enough to criticize their “beloved party,” whether at a Senate meeting or in a newspaper article.
The SLP leader and prime minister recalled a visiting Jamaican finance minister telling his party “no yawning gap between those who have too much and those who do not have enough to survive.”
The local leader and prime minister neglected to mention who would be responsible for determining which Saint Lucians had too much and which had too little. Exactly how much was too much? Might the answer be among the Kenny surprises earlier hinted at by Jimmy Fletcher?