STAR PER­SON OF THE YEAR

Lord Mans­field would be proud of the

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

Choos­ing a STAR Per­son of the Year re­cip­i­ent was never a walk in the park. It has al­ways been dif­fi­cult de­ter­min­ing who among our cit­i­zens is most de­serv­ing of the ac­co­lade. It had been as dif­fi­cult set­tling for Dr. King (twice!), John Comp­ton and Dun­stan St. Omer as it was de­cid­ing on two or three rogues cho­sen largely be­cause they had dom­i­nated the me­dia year round, not nec­es­sar­ily for self­less deeds.

As I say, the dif­fi­culty we con­front to­day is dif­fer­ent. While in times past we of­ten had the lux­ury of too many ex­em­plary can­di­dates to choose from, to­day the sit­u­a­tion is the ex­act re­verse. Time has stripped naked too many po­ten­tial win­ners, ex­pos­ing them for what they had al­ways been: masked sell-outs-in-wait­ing— dogs itch­ing for their turn to root for fa­vors at the pub­lic trough.

It says some­thing of our des­per­a­tion this time around that we ac­tu­ally went look­ing among the dead, per­chance to hap­pen upon the bones of some­one who had been in­terred with­out due recog­ni­tion of his or her unique con­tri­bu­tions to our so­ci­ety. There was Brother Ge­orge, for one . . . but then much had al­ready been writ­ten about him and his ex­ploits, even about his “Were You There?” eu­logy at the fu­neral of his close friend and fel­low war­rior Tim Hec­tor of An­tigua. Sad that low-rent pol­i­tics and my­opic lead­ers con­tinue to deny our young full knowl­edge about the tal­ented enigma that was Ge­orge Od­lum, ed­u­ca­tor, rad­i­cal ac­tivist, tell-it-like-it-is ob­server of life as lived in Saint Lu­cia, and other things too nu­mer­ous to men­tion.

We thought for a time that Suzie d’Au­vergne might fit the bill. She had spent all of her adult life in the ser­vice of her peo­ple, the de­prived es­pe­cially. As a court pros­e­cu­tor she was the rapist’s worst night­mare. To the abusers of girls not yet reached the age of con­sent, she was Judge Dread. She it was who, as Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions, had con­vinced a lo­cal court to send a per­vert in po­lice uni­form up the river for mis­us­ing his gun and his pe­nis on a men­tally chal­lenged child en­trusted in the care of his wife—the un­for­tu­nate girl’s “Aun­tie.” It emerged the STAR had twice ac­knowl­eged Suzie’s con­tri­bu­tions to Saint Lu­cian so­ci­ety when she still walked among the liv­ing.

Suzie died with her boots on, so to speak. In ail­ing re­tire­ment, she had shoul­dered the bur­den of dis­cov­er­ing how Saint Lu­cians feel about our Con­sti­tu­tion, whether they were happy with it as is. Un­der-funded though they were, Suzie and her team of com­mit­ted com­mis­sion­ers tra­versed the length and breadth of the coun­try, par­tic­i­pated in count­less TV and ra­dio pro­grams, en­gaged con­cerned Saint Lu­cians in Europe and the United States, be­fore fi­nally set­tling down to the enor­mous task of putting on pa­per the all-im­por­tant she had un­cov­ered. Nearly five years af­ter ac­cept­ing her as­sign­ment, Suzie went to her fi­nal rest­ing place.

She was not present to hear what turned out to be ful­some praise posthu­mously show­ered on her mem­ory by Janus-faced govern­ment and op­po­si­tion politi­cians. The same mouths that had rhap­sodized about her “job well done” soon were dis­miss­ing the pro­pos­als con­tained in what is now re­ferred to as “The Suzie d’Au­vergne Re­port.” Among the peo­ple’s wishes that bit the dust that un­for­get­table day in 2015 were: more pub­lic in­volve­ment in state de­ci­sions; a re­duc­tion of the prime min­is­ter’s power and the peo­ple’s right to re­call un­car­ing and in­com­pe­tent par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Fol­low­ing a rel­a­tively short de­bate, the prime min­is­ter de­clared Suzie’s her­culean ac­com­plish­ment “not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the will of the peo­ple . . . ob­sessed with the power of the prime min­is­ter” and con­signed it to one of the over­loaded dusty shelves in the na­tional cat­a­comb, vis­i­tors de­nied.

We could le­git­i­mately have posthu­mously de­clared Suzie STAR Per­son of the Year 2015, if only to keep hope alive. But then we were re­minded of an­other won­der woman who is still very much alive and em­bod­ies nearly all of Suzie’s best qual­i­ties. An un­com­monly in­tel­li­gent, ballsy, out-of-the­box thinker, she has served her coun­try as a tal­ented lawyer with a so­cial con­science (the rarest of birds!) as well as in the post of at­tor­ney gen­eral and as a mag­is­trate. A com­mit­ted de­fender of women’s rights, she is a sin­gle mother with a son to be proud of. She also served with dis­tinc­tion and un­wa­ver­ing ded­i­ca­tion in Ottawa (as High Com­mis­sioner of the OECS) and in Rome (as As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the United Na­tion’s FAO). But what made her— keep­ing in mind our per­ilous times—the per­fect can­di­date for Per­son of the Year 2015 was not so much her un­de­ni­able con­tri­bu­tions on home ground, nor even her en­vi­able over­seas ser­vice record.

Wit­ness: In late 2013, at the end of her stint over­seas, she had re­turned home, a lit­tle un­cer­tain where her im­me­di­ate fu­ture might lie. Should she con­sider the oh-so-sub­tle in­vi­ta­tions to en­ter the political arena in earnest? Should she re­open her law of­fice? She de­cided to take a short break from all pro­fes­sional pur­suits. Which is not to say she pro­tected her­self from the Saint Lu­cian at­mos­phere, pol­luted as it is by in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent crime; ar­ro­gant pub­lic of­fi­cials; egre­gious abuses of cit­i­zens not in a po­si­tion to fight for their de­nied con­sti­tu­tional rights.

She didn’t have to wait long for the of­fer she could not refuse. In early 2014 she had good rea­son to pack her bags once more, this time to take up a new po­si­tion in St. KittsNe­vis as a judge of the East­ern Caribbean Supreme Court. Within months she was back in the head­lines, and for the best of rea­sons.

Through­out the re­gion it had long been the com­mon per­cep­tion that lawyers lived above the law—at great ex­pense to jus­tice gen­er­ally and to their trust­ing clients in par­tic­u­lar. That was about to change—abruptly. All thanks to a long-es­tab­lished St. Kitts-based Trinida­dian lawyer: Ge­of­frey Ro­many who stood be­fore her charged with money laun­der­ing and fraud­u­lent con­ver­sion. The last-men­tioned charge in­volved mil­lions of dol­lars en­trusted to Ro­many by clients con­nected with the Cit­i­zen­ship In­vest­ment Pro­gram in St. Kitts. The first charge hav­ing been with­drawn, the ac­cused had pleaded guilty to the se­cond. Still, that did not mean ev­ery­one at the day’s As­sizes an­tic­i­pated he would re­ceive more than the usual slap on the wrist. And his­tory was on the side of the skep­tics.

Lit­tle did they know that his­tory was about to be turned on its head. Eyes locked on her law col­league, the judge pro­nounced as fol­lows: “Your con­duct has been dis­grace­ful and rep­re­hen­si­ble. It has fur­ther eroded pub­lic con­fi­dence in the le­gal pro­fes­sion, es­pe­cially in the at­tor­neys who prac­tice law with the ut­most com­mit­ment and in­tegrity.” More­over, that while the dis­graced lawyer had made no resti­tu­tion to the vic­tims of his “heinous crime,” she would not only serve them jus­tice but also “send a strong mes­sage to other at­tor­neys that those who breach their fidu­ciary du­ties to their clients and abuse their pa­trons’ trust” would feel the full weight of the law.

Ro­many was given the full sen­tence al­lowed by St. KittsNe­vis law: seven years. A first for the Caribbean. Ad­di­tion­ally, the judge openly in­vited the leg­is­la­ture to re­con­sider and in­crease the penalty for fraud­u­lent con­ver­sion. Doubt­less, lawyers in Saint Lu­cia— many no­to­ri­ous for how they treated their clients—took note.

A short time ear­lier, count­less vic­tims of rape in Saint Lu­cia—where un­re­solved rape is com­mon­place and con­doned— had re­ceived the equiv­a­lent early Christ­mas gift cour­tesy the St. Kitts high court judge. She had sen­tenced to 30 years be­hind bars a re­morse­less rapist that a jury had de­clared guilty as charged, de­spite his con­trary plea. Yes, 30 years! Hope­fully the judge’s sen­tence af­forded some small com­fort to scores of her fel­low Saint Lu­cian women who con­tinue to be rav­aged in the worst way imag­in­able, with no price paid by their at­tack­ers.

Doubt­less, they will agree with us that for her con­sis­tent demon­stra­tions of courage in the line of duty Jus­tice Lor­raine Wil­liams is most de­serv­ing of the STAR Per­son of the Year 2015 award!

For most of her adult life Lor­raine Wil­liams has cam­paigned for the con­sti­tu­tional

and hu­man rights of her fel­low Saint Lu­cians, the more de­prived in par­tic­u­lar. Cur­rently based in St.Kitts-Nevis, the for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral and district court mag­is­trate has been since Jan­uary a judge of the East­ern Caribbean Supreme

Court, bet­ter placed that ever to guar­an­tee jus­tice is seen to be done!

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