Will MPs Soon Be Toss­ing Shoes At One Another?

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

It’s a good thing House ses­sions are tele­vised live, pro­nounced the prime min­is­ter this week, at the con­clu­sion of yet another tax­payer-funded Game of Drones that fur­ther guar­an­teed the na­tion’s death by drown­ing in a sea of red ink. Ob­vi­ously trapped in the re­lent­less grip of self-de­cep­tion and am­ne­sia, the prime min­is­ter imag­ined re­gret­ful and em­bar­rassed Castries South­east vot­ers curs­ing them­selves for hav­ing elected Guy Joseph as their MP, not just once but twice!

By all the prime min­is­ter im­plied, Joseph had, by his demon­strated con­tempt for the House, and es­pe­cially for the Speaker, proved him­self ab­so­lutely un­wor­thy of the honor be­stowed on him by the trust­ing peo­ple of his con­stituency.

To hear the prime min­is­ter, the way MP Guy Joseph be­haved dur­ing Tues­day’s House ses­sion was al­to­gether with­out prece­dent. Did it slip the prime min­is­ter’s be­lea­guered mind that those who can­not re­mem­ber the past are con­demned to re­peat it?

Ob­vi­ously he did not at the most re­cent House meet­ing re­call his own last per­for­mance as Leader of the Op­po­si­tion shortly be­fore the 2011 gen­eral elec­tions, on which oc­ca­sion he had sought, like Humpty Dumpty, to give his own mean­ing to the fol­low­ing words: “If the of­fice of Deputy Speaker falls va­cant at any time be­fore the dis­so­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment, the House shall, as soon as con­ve­nient, elect another mem­ber of the House to that of­fice.”

When the Speaker prop­erly de­ter­mined she would stick to the or­di­nary mean­ing of the above-quoted words, “as soon as con­ve­nient” in par­tic­u­lar, the op­po­si­tion leader had nois­ily jumped to his feet to protest. More­over, he had ar­ro­gantly re­fused to take his seat, de­spite the Speaker’s count­less ap­peals. Fi­nally, he grabbed his brief­case and an arm­ful of loose pa­pers and stormed out of the cham­ber with his jeer­ing op­po­si­tion col­leagues. But not be­fore he had loudly de­nounced the gov­ern­ment MPs as morally cor­rupt “crim­i­nals and rene­gades.”

Of course, that was hardly the first time op­po­si­tion MPs had re­ferred to the House as a den of thieves. Dur­ing an un­for­get­table ses­sion in 1982, one Labour par­lia­men­tar­ian had threat­ened to “shoot from the hip and make shit come out of your mouth.” Speaker Don­ald Al­cee fi­nally was forced to take refuge in his pri­vate cham­bers, even as ri­otous MPs played catch with the Mace.

So much for the pot call­ing the ket­tle black. Of course none of the above is re­called for the pur­pose of prov­ing there’s some­thing to be gained from tit-for-tat wrong­do­ing. I’ve re­vis­ited the past only to in­di­cate how we ar­rived at our present sorry sit­u­a­tion—and why we con­tinue to plum­met into medi­ocrity. (I’ve lost count of the num­ber of oc­ca­sions when the MP for Castries East, Philip J. Pierre, de­fen­sively cited par­lia­men­tary punch-ups and low-rent name-call­ing in such far-flung zones as Korea and Is­rael as his ex­cuse for what at home was con­sid­ered dé­classé, if not al­to­gether un­seemly, be­hav­ior on the part of an MP).

My con­cern about what tran­spired in the House on Tues­day has lit­tle to do with who said what to whom in what tone. It is by now com­mon knowl­edge that right and wrong de­pend on which side of our pre­dictable par­lia­ment forms the ma­jor­ity. Point­less ar­gu­ing that one plus one equals two when the side with the big­ger bat­tal­ion has de­ter­mined the sum to­tal of one plus one is eight. To para­phrase Humpty Dumpty, the all-im­por­tant ques­tion is “which is to be master—that’s all.”

What con­tin­ues to con­cern me is our unceas­ing en­cour­age­ment of all that is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive and medi­ocre, whether with our si­lence or with com­ments that make sense only to those hell-bent on sui­ci­dal mass-dis­trac­tion.

At the cen­ter of Tues­day’s House rum­ble was a res­o­lu­tion that be­lat­edly sought par­lia­men­tary ap­proval of a loan guar­an­tee in the name of a road con­struc­tion com­pany con­tracted by the gov­ern­ment in Novem­ber 2014. Keep in mind, dear reader, the law that says: A guar­an­tee in­volv­ing any fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity is not bind­ing upon the gov­ern­ment un­less the min­is­ter grants the guar­an­tee in ac­cor­dance with an en­act­ment, or with the prior ap­proval of par­lia­ment by a res­o­lu­tion of par­lia­ment, and must give full de­tails of the amount guar­an­teed, the per­son or le­gal en­tity in whose name the guar­an­tee is in­tended and the ob­ject and rea­sons for giv­ing the


That the gov­ern­ment was seek­ing par­lia­ment’s ap­proval for a loan guar­an­tee nearly a year af­ter con­tract­ing the road con­struc­tion com­pany seems, on the face of it, to be in dis­so­nance with the law that gov­erns loan guar­an­tees for pri­vate en­ti­ties. It is hardly sur­pris­ing that there is no law that pro­vides for so­called “be­lated guar­an­tees.”

Of course some have ar­gued that the gov­ern­ment is on safe ground since no monies have yet been paid the con­tracted com­pany. I dis­agree. The law gov­ern­ing loan guar­an­tees is clear: be­fore the gov­ern­ment en­ters into an agree­ment based on loan guar­an­tees, de­tails of such agree­ment must first be de­bated and ap­proved by par­lia­ment. By all ac­counts what came be­fore MPs on Tues­day was a deal un­der­taken with­out par­lia­men­tary ap­proval—in the same way that Gryn­berg, and Rochamel be­fore it, were un­der­taken by law­mak­ers in brazen de­fi­ance of the laws of Saint Lu­cia.

And speak­ing of Rochamel. I could hardly be­lieve my ears when on Tues­day the prime min­is­ter sought to jus­tify his piv­otal role in this dis­as­trous af­fair that had cost lo­cal taxpayers over $40 mil­lion dol­lars—by say­ing the for­mer gov­ern­ment’s in­vest­ing of Black Bay lands in a ho­tel de­vel­op­ment pro­ject that went bank­rupt had re­sulted in a greater bur­den on taxpayers. All the prime min­is­ter proved yet again was how reck­less with the public purse have been our wrong-and-strong po­lit­i­cal lead­ers!

To re­turn to Tues­day: The le­gal­ity of the ear­lier cited road-build­ing con­tract was af­forded scant con­sid­er­a­tion, thanks to the lengthy over­heated ex­changes be­tween the frus­trated MP for Castries South­east and the ob­vi­ously af­fronted House Speaker. As for the prime min­is­ter, in his re­but­tal he claimed there was a whole lot more to Guy Joseph’s “dis­re­spect­ful” con­tri­bu­tion than the Speaker had dis­cerned be­fore he or­dered the sole op­po­si­tion MP at Tues­day’s meet­ing to take his seat and STFU.

And of course the prime min­is­ter pro­ceeded to say what Guy Joseph did not say: in ef­fect, that the prime min­is­ter was a share­holder in the ear­lier men­tioned road-con­struc­tion com­pany, when noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. That when the Castries South­east MP was com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter the com­pany’s CEO had been vic­tim­ized to such an ex­tent that he was forced to seek re­lief from the for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen­son King. Alas, he did not say the source of that par­tic­u­lar tid­bit!

I ex­pected at any mo­ment the Speaker would in­ter­rupt and in­quire about the rel­e­vance of the prime min­is­ter’s wholly un­sup­ported rev­e­la­tions that sounded like noth­ing more than rum-shop dis­course by uniden­ti­fied bibu­lous in­di­vid­u­als. Alas, I waited in vain. Ev­i­dently, rel­e­vance mat­tered only when the South­east Castries MP was on his feet seek­ing to score off what may or may not have been a harm­less co­in­ci­dence!

Castries South­east MP Guy Joseph was the sole rep­re­sen­ta­tive at Tues­day’s

ram­bunc­tious House ses­sion.

Was House Speaker Peter Foster QC un­com­monly tough

on the Castries South­east MP?

Be­tween Castries East MP Philip J. Pierre and the mem­ber for Castries South­east rep­re­sen­ta­tive there is no love lost.

By Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony’s mea­sure the House Speaker was on Tues­day over-tol­er­ant of

unparliamentary be­hav­ior.

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