KENNY DE­CLARES WAR!

Saint Lu­cia’s Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony (pic­tured) has launched an all out at­tack on guess who?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

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?

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