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

In en­vi­ron­ments more open, not to say re­spect­ful of the peo­ple’s in­tel­li­gence and their con­sti­tu­tional right to know, an in­ci­dent such as the re­cent ar­rest of Dr. Iftekar Shams on charges in­clud­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing, money laun­der­ing and fraud would’ve war­ranted the im­me­di­ate con­ven­ing of a press con­fer­ence by the li­cens­ing author­ity.

But this is Saint Lu­cia— the Rock of Sages, where in­ves­ti­ga­tions are for­ever un­der­way, never con­cluded. Here elected of­fi­cials daily demon­strate as lit­tle con­cern for cit­i­zens’ opin­ions as for the na­tion’s dev­as­tat­ing fis­cal deficit.

This is also the coun­try that handed re­spon­si­bil­ity for its dy­ing pri­vate sec­tor’s sal­va­tion to Emma Hip­polyte, as fa­mous for her ad­ver­tised re­li­gios­ity as for her chameleonic at­ti­tudes to­ward those im­ported madein-hell chil­dren’s toys known as VLTs (Video Lot­tery Ter­mi­nals.)

In­stead of the press con­fer­ence that right-think­ing Saint Lu­cians had an­tic­i­pated in the wake of the prece­den­tial Shams ar­rest, what they got was a ful­mi­nat­ing for­mer saint tak­ing the po­lice to task for dar­ing to a serve a court or­der on her min­istry when staffers re­fused to hand over Sham­sre­lated ev­i­dence.

Hip­polyte had also taken the op­por­tu­nity, while mak­ing a most ob­vi­ous state­ment be­fore par­lia­ment that left no room for touchy ques­tions, to say no one was to blame for the royal cock-up now known as “Lam­birds­gate.”

By Hip­polyte’s ac­count be­fore par­lia­ment, on March 30 “the Cabi­net of Min­is­ters took a de­ci­sion to con­duct an in­de­pen­dent en­quiry on the mat­ter—in due course.” An “in­de­pen­dent en­quiry” in­volv­ing Cabi­net of­fi­cials, at least one of whom played a ma­jor role in what had led to the Lam­birds Academy scan­dal and charges of hu­man traf­fick­ing.

The MP also ac­knowl­edged that at least one of­fi­cer at In­vest Saint Lu­cia had been in­ter­viewed by po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors. And while Hip­polyte told par­lia­ment her state­ment was “in­tended only to bring clar­ity and not to prej­u­dice or com­pro­mise po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions and court cases,” she claimed to have acted “within the author­ity of the law, and at all times on the ad­vice of the tech­ni­cal staff and public of­fi­cials.”

Equally with­out guilt, she im­plied, were “of­fi­cials from In­vest Staint Lu­cia and the var­i­ous min­istries” who could only “make rec­om­men­da­tions based on the in­for­ma­tion at hand, none of which at any time gave any valid and com­pelling legal rea­son for deny­ing Lam­birds Academy the li­censes it re­quired to op­er­ate in Saint Lu­cia.”

The torch of time has cast new light on Hip­polyte’s some­what shad­owy House state­ment and ex­posed much of what the MP had said as con­ve­nient, at best. And now, per­haps tak­ing his cue from his boss, McHale An­drew peeped out this week from his In­vest Saint Lu­cia hide­away. At any rate, the public heard from him via a lengthy press re­lease that ob­vi­ously was de­signed to clear away left­over dis­fig­ur­ing shad­ows hang­ing over his of­fice.

It started this way: “Over the last few weeks In­vest Saint Lu­cia has lis­tened with con­cern to the plethora of com­men­tary and con­jec­ture per­tain­ing to the Lam­birds Academy af­fair. Mind­ful of the po­ten­tial dam­age to the in­vestor per­cep­tion of our is­land, In­vest Saint Lu­cia wishes to clar­ify its role in this rather un­for­tu­nate is­sue.”

The re­lease pro­ceeds to re­lease stale news con­cern­ing the ar­rests of cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als on charges in­clud­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing and then ad­vises read­ers “not to be too quick to draw in­valid ref­er­ences and to ac­cept, with­out more, base­less ac­cu­sa­tions and false con­clu­sions.”

As if his were the of­fice of the DPP, the In­vest Saint Lu­cia CEO re­minded the na­tion that “the charges against the agents of Lam­birds Academy are still al­le­ga­tions to be de­cided by a jury” blah, blah, blah. He seems to have forgotten his of­fice may have to give ev­i­dence in court re­gard­ing those charged with hu­man traf­fick­ing and other crimes.

He might’ve told Saint Lu­cians what his due dili­gence un­cov­ered about the ac­cused who, by of­fi­cial ac­count, re­ceived pref­er­en­tial treat­ment by the com­merce min­istry.

He noted in­stead that his of­fice had not specif­i­cally in­vited Lam­birds Academy to Saint Lu­cia but that the academy had “ac­cepted a gen­eral in­vi­ta­tion to at­tend the in­au­gu­ral Saint Lu­cia In­vest­ment Fo­rum in May 2014.”

A spe­cious state­ment, to say the least, that will be closely ex­am­ined in our next is­sue, along with other as­pects of McHale An­drew’s very late in the day dis­turb­ing public dec­la­ra­tions!

ISL’s McHale An­drew comes out of the cold!

In­vest Saint Lu­cia CEO McHale An­drew warns against rush­ing

to judg­ment in hu­man traf­fick­ing case.

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