RE­MEM­BER GLASS IN YOUR ASS?

How many re­ports can one Prime Min­is­ter sit on at the same time?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE -

If you have Betty Davis eyes, by which I mean to say won­der­ful to be­hold eyes that see naught that is not su­per­fi­cial, chances are you per­ceived Tues­day’s tele­vised House meet­ing as just an­other brazen in­sult to the in­tel­li­gence of a na­tion—72 per­cent of whose work­force are too dumb to ac­cess avail­able jobs. At any rate, by our eru­dite prime min­is­ter’s mea­sure.

On Mon­day, via Face­book, he had posted the fol­low­ing no­tice: “To­mor­row, Tues­day, Fe­bru­ary 10, 2015, the Con­stituency Bound­aries Com­mis­sion Re­port will be laid in par­lia­ment. It was a joint re­port of the Gov­ern­ment and the Op­po­si­tion. The Gov­ern­ment was rep­re­sented by its gen­eral sec­re­tary [sic] Leo Clarke and city mayor and at­tor­ney-at-law Mrs. Shirley Lewis.

“The Op­po­si­tion was rep­re­sented by for­mer High Com­mis­sioner to Lon­don Mr. Eldridge Stephens and at­tor­ney-at-law Mrs. Leone Theodore-John. The Speaker of the House Peter Foster QC served as chair­man, as man­dated by our Con­sti­tu­tion. The re­port, duly ap­proved and signed by all its mem­bers, rec­om­mends that the num­ber of con­stituen­cies be in­creased from 17 to 21.”

In his FB post the prime min­is­ter un­der­took, “as re­quired by our Con­sti­tu­tion,” to give “the rea­sons for the mod­i­fi­ca­tions pro­posed by the com­mis­sion.” [?]

Ad­di­tion­ally: “We can of course go down in his­tory as a ma­ture democ­racy or al­ter­na­tively dis­in­te­grate into a frac­tious par­ti­san de­bate. We shall see. But I bet that de­spite the fact that there was con­sen­sus by both po­lit­i­cal par­ties on the num­ber of seats and their bound­aries, there will be those who will shout ‘ger­ry­man­der­ing.’ And you want to bet that those who know bet­ter, who know their rep­re­sen­ta­tives sub­scribed too, will en­cour­age it?”

Fol­low­ing a long and wind­ing state­ment on the re­port, on Tues­day morn­ing the prime min­is­ter low­ered him­self into his up­hol­stered leather seat doubt­less in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the usual Game of Drones.

The first MP to hit his red light was the Cas­tries Cen­tral rep­re­sen­ta­tive, in an­other time de­scribed by the prime min­is­ter and his echo-lytes in terms nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with drunk and dis­or­derly sailors and street-cor­ner hook­ers.

Of course, since the fall­outs from the Chas­tanet takeover of the UWP, Fred­er­ick’s pre­sen­ta­tions in par­lia­ment and his mode of de­liv­ery have been marked by jaw-drop­ping eru­di­tion.

Ev­ery word from his gilded mouth has been greeted by the for­mer enemies with en­dors­ing ear-to-there smiles, rau­cous belly laughs, over-acted af­fir­ma­tive nods and gen­eral ir­ra­tional ex­u­ber­ance, as if in­deed he were Cicero re­turned.

As I say, on Tues­day Richard Fred­er­ick was smooth. He was concise. Most of the time he made sense. He sounded car­ing. But best of all he proved him­self of our time— not a fig-leafed throw­back.

He un­der­scored the fact that we are all caught up in the mother of all night­mares (although he was kind— care­ful?—enough to him­self and to his House col­leagues not to hint at how we found our­selves ma­rooned on Dis­as­ter Is­land!), forced as we are to bor­row to pay the in­ter­est on our de­bil­i­tat­ing debts—un­able any­more even to con­tem­plate, as John Comp­ton had put it in the late 80s, “pay­ing for peace with the public ser­vice.”

Fred­er­ick hinted at re­cent self-serv­ing con­fes­sions by the prime min­is­ter that in­ces­sant mind­less bor­row­ing had taken us down, so that our camel’s back could eas­ily break un­der the weight of a vul­ture’s feather.

Fred­er­ick read the sec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion that de­mands pe­ri­odic as­sess­ments of the con­stituency bound­aries, un­der­scor­ing en-route that noth­ing in what he had read dic­tated an in­crease in the present num­ber of con­stituen­cies.

In­deed, Fred­er­ick sug­gested the prime min­is­ter would do bet­ter to re­duce by nine the num­ber of gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and re­turn to the peo­ple the right to elect com­mu­nity res­i­dents to serve as lo­cal-gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

It oc­curred to me as Fred­er­ick mas­ter­fully de­liv­ered his piece (and also dur­ing the prime min­is­ter’s blus­tery pre­sen­ta­tion) that in 1979 the horse-and-buggy framers of our re­vised Con­sti­tu­tion could not pos­si­bly have an­tic­i­pated our present-day in­ter­net-dom­i­nated lives.

While the prime min­is­ter had on Tues­day sug­gested, re­gard­less of cost, that “in­cred­i­ble chal­lenges” awaited if the num­ber of con­stituen­cies re­mained at seven­teen, the Cen­tral Cas­tries MP dis­agreed, on the sound ba­sis that so­cial me­dia had changed the way we live, to the ex­tent that MPs in their of­fices or even when off­is­land could eas­ily stay in touch with con­stituents.

Less than twenty-four hours ear­lier, on Newsspin, the prime min­is­ter’s sec­re­tary for all sea­sons was singing a sim­i­lar tune: that in our brave new world it was eas­ily pos­si­ble to ac­cess mil­lions via Face­book, What­sapp, BB, Twit­ter etcetera—to say noth­ing of TVs and the ra­dios in ev­ery man­sion, shack and cranny.

Alas, the par­lia­men­tar­ian I had once de­scribed in a fit of eu­pho­ria as “the most in­formed mem­ber of the House” yes­ter­day struck me as a voice that de­served to be ban­ished to the wilder­ness. He spoke seem­ingly for an eter­nity about the li­ons and the lambs that had bed­ded down to­gether in the good name of bi-par­ti­san­ship.

What the MP for Cas­tries Southeast boldly sug­gested, with­out prof­fer­ing the small­est bit of ev­i­dence, was star­tling: that the two in­di­vid­u­als who had been metic­u­lously cho­sen by the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion to speak for its be­liefs and poli­cies may have failed in their pur­pose for lack of re­sources; nev­er­the­less they had, with­out com­plaint, signed the re­port. That and other re­lated inani­ties would soon re­sult in a del­uge of pi­geon poop all over the MP’s face.

The deputy prime min­is­ter, Philip J. Pierre re­ally ought to give se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to a com­edy act also star­ring his leader. Then again, there are those who say Pierre had al­ready gone fur­ther than just think­ing about such a propo­si­tion.

He talked yet again of the lev­els to which politi­cians of the other party had stooped to score cheap points; he ex­pressed great sur­prise at trans­par­ent at­tempts by the op­po­si­tion to mis­lead the peo­ple—all of that in char­ac­ter­is­tic falsetto, most of the time prompted by the prime min­is­ter.

“Mr. Speaker,” he went on, “we must stop th­ese flash­ing mir­rors in this coun­try.” Ap­par­ently the MP saw flash­ing mir­rors un­der ev­ery op­po­si­tion bed, to judge by the num­ber of times he has made public use of Ge­orge Od­lum’s bor­rowed phrase.

Pierre as­sured the House and the na­tion via TV that the last thing on his mind as he con­sid­ered the bound­ary changes was par­ti­san pol­i­tics. And yes, he said that with a face as straight as was Bill Clin­ton’s when he fa­mously de­nied he’d ever had sex­ual re­la­tions “with that woman . . .”

By the MP’s ac­count he

could hardly be­lieve his ears when the Cas­tries Southeast rep­re­sen­ta­tive is­sued his dis­parag­ing com­ments about the two up­stand­ing cit­i­zens spe­cially cho­sen by the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion to sit on the bound­aries com­mis­sion.

This writer was re­minded of Lloyd Ben­son’s fa­mous up­per­cut to his fel­low vi­cepres­i­den­tial can­di­date Dan Quayle’s ego: “Jack Kennedy was my friend . . . Se­na­tor, you are no Jack Kennedy!”

The Cas­tries East MP said he knew in­ti­mately both Leone Theodore-John and Eldridge Stevens and, well, they de­served bet­ter from their party col­leagues.

Con­ceiv­ably with the sound of vi­o­lins in his ears, Pierre re­called the first men­tioned, a lawyer, had in 2011 served as Pres­i­dent of the hon­or­able Saint Lu­cia Se­nate. As for Stevens, he had been an am­bas­sador in the UK!

I formed the im­pres­sion that Pierre be­lieved an in­di­vid­ual’s in­tegrity was wholly de­pen­dent on the jobs handed him, not nec­es­sar­ily on how they had per­formed dur­ing their stints in of­fice.

I, too, have known Leone Theodore-John a long time, long enough to know in­fal­li­bil­ity was never among her gifts. In­deed, it was while she was se­nate pres­i­dent that Sec­tion 41 of the Fi­nance Act was amended to read like gib­ber­ish—as the present prime min­is­ter had be­lat­edly ad­mit­ted dur­ing last year’s “be­lated guar­an­tees” episode. We need not place Eldridge Stevens un­der the mi­cro­scope. He is hu­man, there­fore as vul­ner­a­ble as the rest of us to lapses and in­fe­lic­i­ties.

The holi­est man in the House openly con­fessed that he was not al­to­gether deliri­ous about what had been pro­posed for his Cas­tries South con­stituency, then quickly pointed out the pro­posal was not with­out merit.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Emma Hip­polyte gave her bless­ing to the bound­ary changes pro­posed for Gros Iset. She re­called what the Cas­tries Cen­tral MP had said con­cern­ing so­cial me­dia but clearly she re­mains unim­pressed by smart phones and the like. Strictly old school was Emma Hip­polyte.

“I know in the lo­cal con­text what con­stituents want is not just to see you on TV. What they want,” she said, “is to meet and feel you!”

Feel you? Was Emma se­ri­ous?

Then came her own forty lashes for the Cas­tries South horse, al­ready flogged to death. Ad­dress­ing Guy Joseph di­rectly (con­trary to House rules), the Gros Islet MP said: “We need to raise the bar. Com­mit your­self to make a change.”

She re­vealed with touch­ing sin­cer­ity that she had prayed for a Road to Da­m­as­cus change to come over Guy Joseph, ev­i­dently to no avail. The writer couldn’t help won­der­ing how hard she had prayed for a change in the gam­bling habits of Saint Lu­cians, the young

es­pe­cially, many of whom ap­pear ad­dicted to VLTs.

The for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen­son King ex­plained what con­ceiv­ably Emma had tried to con­vey when she said her con­stituents were not sat­is­fied with just see­ing her on TV.

By all King said, split­ting up the con­stituen­cies would bring re­lief to MPs such as him­self who lacked the re­sources to pay for and per­son­ally de­liver to the con­stituents such items as re­frig­er­a­tors, bar­rels of liquor, TVs, lap­tops, mort­gages, school fees and school books.

It came as no sur­prise when our prime min­is­ter con­de­scend­ingly en­dorsed all Emma and King had said about “proper rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

Of course, those of us still able to think for our­selves knew full well the true pur­pose for cut­ting up con­stituency bound­aries at this time. It had noth­ing to do with any great need on the part of par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives to per­mit con­stituents to “feel” them. (As I write, the Privy Coun­cil has di­rected that the St. Kitts-Nevis gov­ern­ment hold im­mi­nent elec­tions with the bound­aries un­changed!)

The prime min­is­ter let the cat out of the bag, per­haps, when he said par­lia­men­tary reps were of­ten con­fronted by rep­ri­mand­ing con­stituents who said in Cre­ole: “Nous paka wer zot en­core!” (“We don’t see you any­more!”) This was the dis­grun­tled con­stituent’s way of ex­press­ing how he or she felt about be­ing used at elec­tion time and then dis­carded un­til the next poll.

What­ever the Con­sti­tu­tion might say about con­stituency bound­aries, it also of­fers the means by which im­bal­ances might fairly and use­fully be ad­dressed.

In any event, to say that twenty MPs would guar­an­tee bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion than, say, half that num­ber, all things con­sid­ered, is worse than spe­cious. Proper par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion has lit­tle to do with num­bers. It has ev­ery­thing to do with car­ing.

What Saint Lu­cians first and fore­most want and need—and I don’t just re­fer to par­tic­u­lar con­stituen­cies—is that the Con­sti­tu­tion, yes, the Con­sti­tu­tion, be re­spected.

Keep­ing poor Saint Lu­cians locked up at Borde­lais for years with­out trial is con­trary to the dic­tates of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Se­cret deals be­tween gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and for­eign busi­ness­men speak not for proper rep­re­sen­ta­tion; only cor­rup­tion. Nei­ther does of­fi­cial nepo­tism. Per­mit­ting our jus­tice sys­tem to mock the Con­sti­tu­tion is a crime against proper rep­re­sen­ta­tion. I could go on.

Fix­ing what clearly is bro­ken and con­tribut­ing to al­ready in­tol­er­a­ble crime fig­ures does not re­quire ad­di­tional min­is­ters. It re­quires that those we al­ready have demon­strate some in­ter­est in the peo­ple’s wel­fare.

The ar­gu­ments about cost so far prof­fered are suf­fi­ciently trans­par­ent as not to merit space in this al­ready lengthy ar­ti­cle. Fi­nally this: on Tues­day the prime min­is­ter and his echo-lytes ranted on and on about the last at­tempt to bal­ance the con­stituency num­bers. It had been count­less years since the bound­aries com­mis­sion got to­gether.

Ac­tu­ally, I re­mem­ber quite well the last meet­ing of the bound­aries com­mis­sion—bet­ter de­scribed as a car­ni­val— con­vened at the House un­der the chair­man­ship of Speaker St. Clair Daniel. At some up­roar­i­ous point Mario Michel, one of the SLP’s two rep­re­sen­ta­tives, raised eye­brows is­land-wide.

This was how he ex­plained his be­hav­ior to re­porters: When he re­al­ized the UWP side, in­clud­ing the once dis­fran­chised Daniel, were determined, re­gard­less of op­po­si­tion views, to vote in fa­vor of the pro­posed bound­ary ad­just­ments, he did what he had to do, and would do “no less in the fu­ture to stop the rape of the Con­sti­tu­tion by per­sons bent on hav­ing their own way.”

He ad­mit­ted he had turned over a ta­ble while a meet­ing was in progress, at which point, he said, chair­man Daniel quickly shoved his hand in his pocket and gripped “some­thing dis­tinctly shaped like a firearm.” Michel said Daniel had moved to­ward him “in a man­ner most threat­en­ing.”

As for Tom Wal­cott, re­call­ing the mo­ment in a let­ter to the gover­nor-gen­eral, the SLP chair­man ad­mit­ted that in all his “years of pri­vate and public busi­ness never had he been put in such fear for his life.”

Later, at a rally in Wil­liam Peter Boule­vard, the prime min­is­ter John Comp­ton said: “While we build, they break glass.” He was re­fer­ring to re­ports that at a cru­cial point dur­ing the last meet­ing of the bound­aries com­mis­sion an an­gry Ju­lian Hunte had barged into the room and smashed a glass win­dow.

Still later, and with just two or three days be­fore Polling Day, the prime min­is­ter again re­ferred to the glass-break­ing in­ci­dent at a public meet­ing in Gros Islet. He de­scribed Hunte, the dis­trict rep­re­sen­ta­tive and SLP leader, as “a public nui­sance.” Hunte was in the au­di­ence, barely three feet from Comp­ton’s mi­cro­phone.

His re­ac­tion as it came over the speak­ers was loud and clear: “The next time I break glass it’ll be in your ass!”

Suf­fice it to say charges were later laid against Hunte for “dam­age to public prop­erty.” Lor­raine Wil­liams, now a judge in St. Kitts-Nevis, presided over the cir­cus that passed for a court hear­ing. Talk about frac­tious de­bates. Oh yes, the Labour Party knew a whole lot about that.

Of course, no one re­mem­bered the episode that might’ve ex­plained why so many years had passed since last a bound­aries com­mis­sion con­vened in Saint Lu­cia. But then, what’s new?

At the most re­cent meet­ing of the bound­aries com­mis­sion the UWP never both­ered even to put up pro­pos­als of their own. What­ever their se­cret mis­giv­ings, their two hand­picked com­mis­sion­ers af­fixed their ap­prov­ing signatures to the com­mis­sion’s re­port. Is it any won­der they sounded on Tues­day like a flock of lost sheep in search of a Lit­tle Bo Peep?

The writer ad­dress­ing pro­test­ers sought in vain to make ad­just­men day’s op­po­si­tion Labour Party com

in Con­sti­tu­tion Park back in 1992, when the then gov­ern­ment nts to ex­ist­ing con­stituency bound­aries. The chair­man of the mplained to the gover­nor gen­eral that never be­fore had he so

feared for his life!

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