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

Es­pe­cially be­cause we are deep into the Sea­son of Silli­ness—so called be­cause that is when the mad get par­tic­u­larly madding—I avoid ar­gu­ments with Claudius Fran­cis on mat­ters per­tain­ing to his leg­endary com­mit­ment to Silly Lit­tle Peo­ple. From as way back as the mid-eight­ies Claudius and I have been spe­cial friends—re­gard­less of the cli­mate. Which is not to say ev­ery word be­tween us would pass any am­i­ca­bil­ity test. Some­times we’ve re­fused to com­mu­ni­cate with each other for as long as three months. I’ve lost count of the times we’ve grudg­ingly agreed to dis­agree. I has­ten to add that our some­times seis­mic ex­changes have nearly al­ways erupted well away from the eyes of mind­less plebes.

Oh, but I know only too well many peo­ple on both sides of the political di­vide (ac­tu­ally there is in Saint Lu­cia no such thing; un­der the mi­cro­scope noth­ing sep­a­rates one from the other) would rel­ish noth­ing more than to see Claudius and me en­gaged in a pub­lic dog­fight, re­gard­less of who ends up on the floor. In­deed, just to hear us yelp­ing at each other would ren­der some or­gas­mic, even though they un­der­stood not a word, not a word, not a word.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, the host of Straight Up— that is to say, the chair­man of de party of Silly Lit­tle Peo­ple and Pres­i­dent of the Se­nate of the Apes—by the sound of him not in a mood to take pris­on­ers, de­clared to his ra­dio au­di­ence that An­dre Paul and Rus­sell Lake had shared with apos­tles of the god squad some­thing they said I’d said about the un­re­ported ar­rival at Ge­orge F. L. Charles Air­port last Satur­day of Gil­bert Chagoury and other for­eign in­di­vid­u­als armed with Saint Lu­cian pass­ports with ex­piry dates in 2018.

“Not true!” Claudius as­sured his own sheep. “Only one of the ar­rivals car­ried a Saint Lu­cian pass­port.” And I thought, should I break our un­writ­ten rule and set the record straight on air? Af­ter all, I had the doc­u­ments to prove who was the mis­leader. But there he was invit­ing me to call. Well, I ac­com­mo­dated my friend the Se­nate Pres­i­dent. It wasn’t easy, but I man­aged to get across the pass­port num­bers that had been al­lot­ted to three of the four Arab vis­i­tors pre­sum­ably back in 2013.

Lis­ten­ers would’ve heard me as I sup­plied Claudius with de­tails per­ti­nent to Chagoury’s pri­vate jet and its pas­sen­gers. Of course I was not sur­prised when the ar­gu­ment sud­denly took a new turn. Claudius wanted to know if all of the vis­i­tors had Saint Lu­cian pass­ports. I said one did not. And he asked: “Do you know when they were is­sued? Do you know who was in of­fice at the time? Do you know if they were sim­ply re­newed?”

I said it mat­tered not to me. I cared only for the fact that they were is­sued in 2013, more than two years be­fore we of­fi­cially started sell­ing Looshan cit­i­zen­ship to those we imag­ine have money to burn, re­gard­less of how ob­tained. Claudius neatly went into an Ali shuf­fle. Now he wanted to know whether I thought Chagoury de­served the spe­cial treat­ment ac­corded him by our govern­ment.

“Do you know how much good Chagoury has done for Saint Lu­cia?” he asked. And I con­sid­ered echo­ing Clarke Gable in Gone With the Wind; that is, I was tempted to say to Claudius: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” But I re­sisted. In­stead, I said I had al­ways been con­cerned, as had been Ge­orge Od­lum in his time, about Saint Lu­cia’s as­so­ci­a­tion with Gil­bert Chagoury.

For now, I’ll spare read­ers the rel­e­vant de­tails. In all events, and with un­der­stand­able pur­pose, Claudius sug­gested my “at­tacks” on Chagoury had less to do with the Arab holder of the Saint Lu­cia Cross than with my re­la­tion­ship with the leader of the Silly Lit­tle Peo­ple. Ah, well, dear reader, fol­low­ing is proof that I have never felt at ease about our largely se­cret as­so­ci­a­tion with this man whose his­tory is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble on the In­ter­net. The piece is taken from Lapses & In­fe­lic­i­ties!

Back­ground checks were very much in is­sue when the govern­ment an­nounced in early Jan­uary 2003 that a Mr. Gil­bert Chagoury had ar­ranged a visit to Saint Lu­cia by the for­mer United States Pres­i­dent, Bill Clin­ton. If too much was known about the lat­ter, few in Saint Lu­cia had heard of Chagoury. It was left to the STAR to fill in the blanks, a not at all dif­fi­cult task, as it turned out. Over the years the gen­tle­man had at­tracted much at­ten­tion to him­self, as much for his busi­ness prac­tices as for his im­mense wealth. Ac­cord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post, Gil­bert Chagoury was “an in­ter­na­tional busi­ness­man whose Le­banese par­ents and fam­ily lived in Nige­ria for decades.” A friend of Bill and Hi­lary Clin­ton, on 21 De­cem­ber 1996 he at­tended a White House din­ner “af­ter con­tribut­ing US$46 mil­lion to a voter reg­is­tra­tion group sup­ported by the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee even though he is not a party con­trib­u­tor.” Then there were his al­leged links to at least one cor­rupt Nige­rian regime.

By his own ac­count, Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter John Comp­ton had not heard of Gil­bert Chagoury un­til 1995 when a lo­cal church leader in­tro­duced them. The Le­banese wanted to be in­stalled as Saint Lu­cia’s am­bas­sador to UNESCO. If Comp­ton con­sented, Chagoury would “at his own ex­pense do all that was nec­es­sary to gain the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s as­sis­tance for Saint Lu­cia’s education pro­grams.” The prime min­is­ter ac­qui­esced, but only on con­di­tion Chagoury also fi­nanced the ap­point­ment of a na­tive Saint Lu­cian as his as­sis­tant in Geneva. The lucky in­di­vid­ual the prime min­is­ter had in mind was Petrus Comp­ton, at the time at­tached to the govern­ment’s le­gal depart­ment. Alas, by the time all ar­range­ments were in place Saint Lu­cia’s political land­scape had changed. Sig­nif­i­cantly, Kenny An­thony was the new prime min­is­ter.

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances am­bas­sadors change with new ad­min­is­tra­tions. Given his ori­gins, and bear­ing in mind the Labour Party’s of­ten­re­peated “Saint Lu­cians first” pol­icy, Chagoury wor­ried his sta­tus might be re­voked, with a con­se­quent loss of his pre­cious diplo­matic pass­port that was his open sesame to doors pre­vi­ously closed to him. Be­sides, he had his eyes on big­ger fish.

While on an un­pub­li­cized visit to Saint Lu­cia, when he was se­cretly feted at pub­lic ex­pense at one of the is­land’s swanki­est re­sorts, the UNESCO am­bas­sador took the op­por­tu­nity to in­vite the prime min­is­ter and his deputy Mario Michel to his son’s wed­ding in Monaco, all ex­penses paid. In the mean­time the ex­ter­nal affairs min­is­ter was check­ing into the am­bas­sador’s back­ground. What Ge­orge Od­lum dis­cov­ered gave him much cause for pause. Alas, to no avail. Al­ready, Chagoury had landed his mon­ster catch. Not only had his wed­ding guests from Saint Lu­cia con­firmed his po­si­tion with re­gard to UNESCO, they had also made him the is­land’s am­bas­sador to the Holy See, much to the pri­vate em­bar­rass­ment of lo­cal Catholic Church lead­ers who claimed that they were never con­sulted about the ap­point­ment.

At Michel’s press con­fer­ence con­vened to an­nounce Bill Clin­ton’s im­pend­ing three-day visit, re­porters wanted to know who would pick up the tab. The min­is­ter dis­missed them in cus­tom­ary fash­ion: “That’s an ir­rel­e­vant de­tail.” Only af­ter the pres­i­dent had left the is­land with his friend from his White House days did the govern­ment fi­nally ad­mit Gil­bert Chagoury had paid.

As for the visit it­self, most Saint Lu­cians, at any rate, res­i­dents in the north of the is­land, were happy to see Bubba in the flesh. He vis­ited the Cas­tries mar­ket and was a hit with ven­dors and shop­pers alike. De­spite the des­per­ate pleas of at­ten­dant Se­cret Ser­vice per­son­nel, he mixed eas­ily with the fawn­ing crowd.

Bill Clin­ton also took the op­por­tu­nity to hit some balls at Cap Es­tate’s renowned golf course. Oh, but eas­ily the hottest ticket dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial visit was the spe­cial five-course din­ner, af­ter which the guest of honor posed for pic­tures with al­most ev­ery­one who asked. You may rest as­sured the crowd in­cluded the prime min­is­ter and his wife Rose­mary, his Cab­i­net with their wives and spe­cial friends, to say noth­ing of the prime min­is­ter’s press sec­re­taries past and cur­rent: Claudius Fran­cis and his re­place­ment Earl Bous­quet.

Be­fore call­ing it a night, Clin­ton de­liv­ered a short ad­dress dur­ing which he promised to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to as­sist the AIDS ef­fort in the Caribbean. No one men­tioned the is­land’s ba­nana prob­lems and their con­nec­tion with the es­teemed vis­i­tor. It is un­likely he read the day’s STAR ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled, A Late Memo to Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, wherein the for­mer prime min­is­ter Vaughan Lewis re­called their 1995 meet­ing in Bar­ba­dos, when he fa­mously in­formed the pres­i­dent that “ba­nanas are to th­ese Caribbean is­lands as are cars to Detroit.” It was the UWP leader’s ex­pressed hope that at some time dur­ing Clin­ton’s visit to Saint Lu­cia “our political lead­er­ship might im­press upon you that the dif­fi­cul­ties I spoke of in Bar­ba­dos are now upon us with full force.” Of course, noth­ing that Bubba en­coun­tered on his fi­nal night with the crème de la crème of Saint Lu­cian high so­ci­ety even hinted at Lewis’ con­cerns. In truth, the spe­cially ac­cou­tered Sandals Grande ball­room that would later be named in the pres­i­dent’s honor might eas­ily have been at the Wal­dorf-As­to­ria!

Se­nate Pres­i­dent and SLP chair­man Claudius Fran­cis: When it comes to de­fend­ing the Red Zone even Ja­dia Jn Pier­reEm­manuel takes a back seat to him!

Rick Wayne: ‘When bad gov­er­nance is con­sid­ered re­spon­si­ble be­hav­ior, color me ir­re­spon­si­ble!’

Gil­bert Chagoury: He en­tered lo­cal affairs with help

from a lo­cal arch­bishop and now bears the Saint Lu­cia Cross and a 100% Looshan pass­port!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.