HANGED IN COLUM­BUS SQUARE!

Politi­cians Who Fool the Peo­ple should be

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

Re­mem­ber Wil­lie? James, that is. If you’re un­der forty, chances are you don’t. Un­til frus­tra­tion and bump­ing his head against stonewalls of in­tol­er­ance and ig­no­rance took their toll, Wil­lie served Premier John Comp­ton (re­mem­ber him?) as his public re­la­tions of­fi­cer— some­thing like what to­day the Jade does for Kenny Dee, although ad­mit­tedly Wil­lie was never nearly as at­trac­tive or as multi-faceted—or nim­ble-fin­gered. In the same way some peo­ple can be hi­lar­i­ous by ac­ci­dent, so Wil­lie tended to de­posit his gems at times most in­ap­pro­pri­ate. Which of course made them un­for­get­table.

Dur­ing one of his pre­re­corded weekly pro­pa­ganda pro­grams over RSL, var­i­ously called “This Is Where the Ac­tion Is” and “St. Lu­cia Gov­ern­ment on the Move,” Wil­lie took it into his head to wish the se­rial rapists, the killers, the re­peat bur­glars, petty thieves and oth­ers long in­car­cer­ated at Her Majesty’s Prison “a very merry Christ­mas on be­half of the gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of St. Lu­cia!”

Mirabile dictu, the par­tic­u­lar bar­rel of good cheer was never de­liv­ered, thanks to the sta­tion’s no-non­sense man­ager Win­ston Hink­son who di­rected that Wil­lie’s tape be ap­pro­pri­ately doc­tored be­fore re­lease. Comp­ton’s PR ge­nius did not take lightly the in­ter­fer­ence. He com­plained bit­terly to the premier, who promised to have a word with Hink­son—alas, another politi­cian’s prom­ise doomed never to ma­te­ri­al­ize.

What Wil­lie is by the likes of me best re­mem­bered for, how­ever, is un­re­lated to Christ­mas. At a time when things were par­tic­u­larly bad so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally, when Ge­orge Od­lum, Peter Josie and Tom Wal­cott had hi­jacked the pre­vi­ously co­matose St. Lu­cia Labour Party and turned it into a fear­some fire­breath­ing mon­ster, this was how Wil­lie un­for­get­tably took to in­tro­duc­ing his weekly pro­gram: “This is St. Lu­cia Where We are Happy!” Suf­fice it to say his “Gov­ern­ment on the Move” was soon re­moved from of­fice, put out of ac­tion, so to speak, al­beit not for long. But that’s for another show.

Wil­lie came to mind this week as I lis­tened to Ti­mothy Poleon rum­bling with the usual weapons of mass dis­trac­tion, well-known de­ter­mined in­di­vid­u­als hell-bent on con­vinc­ing Newsspin lis­ten­ers that while things were not yet quite as won­der­ful as had been the case prior to the 2006 gen­eral elec­tions, Saint Lu­cians nev­er­the­less had much to be thank­ful for—and to no one more than the mir­a­cle worker Kenny An­thony.

For what must’ve been the mil­lionth time I heard on Wed­nes­day cer­tain fa­mil­iar voices re­peat­ing the mostly un­chal­lenged ob­ser­va­tion that with­out STEP and NICE and the other “gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tions” the na­tion would be far worse off. Some­one ac­tu­ally fired at Poleon the fol­low­ing bar­rage: “Tim, why are you al­ways sug­gest­ing things are so bad? Are our peo­ple dy­ing of star­va­tion? Why can’t you give praise to the gov­ern­ment for what it’s do­ing for the poor? Why can’t you ad­mit there are places worse off than Saint Lu­cia?”

As I say, a fa­mil­iar re­frain. Ob­vi­ously it had not oc­curred to Poleon’s call­ers (or to the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion) that STEP and the other men­tioned “in­ter­ven­tions” only proved how badly off we are, with some 73 per­cent of our work force—by the prime min­is­ter’s ac­count— “un­able to ac­cess avail­able jobs.” In other words, over half our work force is un­em­ployed. There­fore, if Muham­mad can­not get to the moun­tain, then the moun­tain would have to be brought to Muham­mad. Only in this case we’re talk­ing about a moun­tain of debt.

In any event, how sad that the best our gov­ern­ment can do about our largely idle work force is to em­ploy an in­signif­i­cant num­ber as grass cut­ters, at public ex­pense, ev­ery three or four months, for two weeks. One can safely as­sume STEP work­ers also have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties: chil­dren who must be fed, clothed and schooled; un­em­ployed part­ners who must be cared for; child main­te­nance; rent and so on. STEP work­ers also must feed and clothe them­selves. Small won­der many in­vest their measly earn­ings in the drug trade—in the process cre­at­ing more headaches for them­selves and for the na­tion. Or they take their chances at our ubiq­ui­tous VLTs.

Yes, a de­press­ing re­al­ity. But as ear­lier stated, not the view from party head­quar­ters where the most press­ing con­cern is to con­vince the pre­sumed gullible pop­u­lace, as Wil­lie had tried to do back in the 70s, that their own eyes can­not be trusted, nei­ther their grum­bling bel­lies; that if thou­sands were not dy­ing in the street from star­va­tion it was all be­cause of our com­pas­sion­ate gov­ern­ment’s “in­ter­ven­tions.” That a coun­try whose an­swer to mass un­em­ploy­ment and all of its con­se­quences is STEP ef­fec­tively is a coun­try drown­ing in its own doo-doo is hardly the point; at any rate as far as our politi­cians are con­cerned. All of which again proves how right was the ECCB’s gover­nor Sir Dwight Ven­ner when re­cently he re­vealed our main prob­lem was not eco­nomic, that what we should be most con­cerned about is our lead­er­ship.

I took a phone call this week from a stranger. He wanted me to know that ev­ery time Don­ald Trump ap­peared on his TV, I came to mind. “Don’t mis­un­der­stand me, Rick,” he said, cau­tiously. “Let me ex­plain.” “OK,” I said, “go ahead, ex­plain.” “Well,” he went on, “Trump pub­licly in­sults a highly rated TV jour­nal­ist; he says she must’ve been men­stru­at­ing when she ques­tioned him about his well-chron­i­cled neg­a­tive dis­po­si­tion to­ward women, to the ex­tent he had la­beled some of them ‘ugly pigs.’ Af­ter such an un­prece­dented out­burst ev­ery­one pre­dicted that was it for Trump’s cam­paign. In­stead, he con­tin­ues to wipe out es­tab­lished Repub­li­can

giants like Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Rick Scott and so on.”

And I said, “I don’t get the rel­e­vance. What’s that got to do with me?”

And my caller said: “Bear with me. See what’s also hap­pen­ing with the Demo­crat Bernie San­ders? He’s draw­ing the big­gest crowds. More and more peo­ple are say­ing he’s a prob­lem for Hil­lary Clin­ton. You know why?”

I said I did not. “Well,” my caller went on, “what you, Trump and San­ders have in com­mon is this: you’ve all un­der­scored the fact that politi­cians have brought the world to its cur­rent sorry state. That few of them are tal­ented, while the ma­jor­ity come across as snake-oil sales­men and crooks. Ready to be bought. And fi­nally the peo­ple are de­mon­strat­ing their con­cur­rence. They are mak­ing it clear in the worst way that they don’t give a damn about what the es­tab­lished Repub­li­cans and Democrats have to say about the busi­ness­man Trump and San­ders.”

“In other words,” I said, wickedly, “you’re say­ing the peo­ple have been fooled by the politi­cians too many times? That the next batch of politi­cians to fool the peo­ple should be hanged . . .”

My caller cut me short: “Right, but not nec­es­sar­ily in the square re­named af­ter the il­lus­tri­ous Derek Wal­cott!”

Don­ald Trump: The fa­mous busi­ness ty­coon and pres­i­den­tial hope­ful de­scribes politi­cians as largely tal­ent­less, easily bought, liars and pur­vey­ors

of snake oil!

Ge­orge Od­lum: As far back as the early 70s, the now de­ceased for­mer for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter had ad­vo­cated that politi­cians who fool the peo­ple should be

“hanged in Colum­bus Square!”

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