Who will ex­pose the one or two se­rial be­tray­ers in our midst?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

Doubt­less friends and fren­e­mies alike must’ve con­jec­tured about the ab­sence of this col­umn from last Satur­day’s STAR. At any rate, I hope so. How dev­as­tat­ing to a certain fa­mously frag­ile ego sys­tem if it should turn out the con­tent of our last pub­li­ca­tion was so ir­re­sistibly riv­et­ing as to have ren­dered my MIA sta­tus al­to­gether in­con­se­quen­tial. On the other hand, that I can­not eas­ily re­call the last time I had failed to pro­duce at least one piece for an edi­tion of this pa­per is in­dis­putable proof I am prone to the oc­ca­sional lapse; that—sur­prise! sur­prise!—I am hu­man af­ter all.

Be­sides, there re­ally was noth­ing I might’ve writ­ten last week­end that would’ve been with­out the sound of déjà vu. It seemed to me I had served read­ers and TALK view­ers more than enough food for thought in the days lead­ing up to The Great Fall; now they needed a lit­tle alone time, so to speak, ei­ther to sa­vor or to di­gest re­cent oc­cur­rences. I de­cided fi­nally to leave to Toni Ni­cholas and his trusty as­sis­tants such thirsts for knowl­edge as might still re­quire quench­ing. Mean­while I would sur­ren­der my stressed-out psy­che to the pre­sumed joys of sus­pended an­i­ma­tion.

Alas, I might as well not have both­ered. My brain re­mained sleep re­sis­tant, thanks to a re­cur­ring phrase that echoed in my head . . . a phrase I had imag­ined was scrip­tural until re­cent re­search re­vealed its true source as an English­man named John Hey­wood: “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” (To be fair, deeper in­ves­ti­ga­tion has since re­vealed the phrase at­trib­uted to Hey­wood sprang from Jer. 5:21, King James ver­sion: “Hear now this, O fool­ish peo­ple, and with­out un­der­stand­ing; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.”

It was some time be­fore my be­fud­dled brain al­lowed me to fig­ure out why it could not elude the “none so blind” men­tal horse­fly. The prob­lem had every­thing to do with last Mon­day’s po­lit­i­cal mud­slide, of course. In par­tic­u­lar, with Kenny An­thony who, to judge by so­cial me­dia re­ac­tions and by word on the ground, must be the day’s most de­spised cit­i­zen. Shortly be­fore he had lost for his party the 2006 gen­eral elections and hosted his own RSL pro­gram mis­named

Con­ver­sa­tions with the Nation (it might’ve been bet­ter la­beled Talk­ing to My­self!), he had fa­mously re­called an ex­pe­ri­ence out­side the Cas­tries mar­ket. A woman—a to­tal stranger was

how he de­fined her— had spat out at him a mouth­ful of venom:

Mwen hair nom sa la (I hate this man)! His fa­mously sen­si­tive na­ture devastated by the depth to which his rat­ings had sunk since that 1997 De­cem­ber day when he had led the re­cently res­ur­rected Saint Lucia Labour Party to a land­slide 16-1 elec­tion vic­tory over a United Work­ers Party cap­tained by a hap­less Vaughan Lewis, the 2005 prime min­is­ter had sought an ex­pla­na­tion from his lis­ten­ers: “What have I done? Why is there so much ha­tred to­ward me?”

He was handed his be­lated shock­ing an­swer at the 2006 polls, when John Comp­ton—just months be­fore he ex­pired—booted him out of the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice. He had taken refuge in pur­ga­tory, he later re­vealed from the steps of the Cas­tries mar­ket, while cam­paign­ing for the pre­ma­ture re­moval of Comp­ton’s suc­ces­sor Stephenson King.

As fate would have it King and his Cabi­net that in­cluded the in­fa­mous Su­per 8, seemed de­ter­mined to feed them­selves to an en­tity that had bivouacked in pur­ga­tory then re­turned to tell about it from the steps of the Cas­tries mar­ket. In 2011 Kenny An­thony was re­turned to of­fice on his prom­ise of “jobs, jobs, jobs” and an in­jec­tion into the pri­vate sec­tor of “a hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars im­me­di­ately upon tak­ing of­fice”—yes, smack dab in the mid­dle of a world re­ces­sion that al­ready had be­gun to bite deep shortly be­fore the 2006 elections. Suf­fice it to say what he de­liv­ered was any­thing but “bet­ter days.” No sur­prise that dis­ap­pointed Saint Lu­cians, led by Allen Chas­tanet, roughly ejected from the House the nation’s pre­mier prom­ise breaker.

But back to my ear­lier­men­tioned none-so-blind men­tal horse­fly. Some­thing about Kenny An­thony had al­ways proved both­er­some to me, go­ing back to the late 1970s when an over-op­ti­mistic Ge­orge Od­lum had pack­aged and suc­cess­fully sold him to sup­port­ers of the Al­lan Louisy Labour Party as one of the lead­ing minds of the re­gion, if not the world. Af­ter the SLP had proved vic­to­ri­ous in the 1979 gen­eral elections, Od­lum leaned heav­ily on Al­lan Louisy to make his de­clared ge­nius ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter by way of the se­nate. Alas, our laws at the time re­quired se­nate hope­fuls to be at least 30 years old. So Od­lum pleaded with his pro­cras­ti­nat­ing PM to make the nec­es­sary le­gal ad­just­ment that would ac­com­mo­date his pro­tégé. In the mean­time An­thony would serve as “spe­cial ad­vi­sor” to the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry.

Of course it wasn’t long be­fore he landed Od­lum his first sucker punch, bang on the nose. An­thony re­signed his po­si­tion at the min­istry in the mid­dle of a Louisy-Od­lum power strug­gle that ap­peared un­avoid­ably headed for dis­as­ter. Many thought him a be­trayer, a rat that had de­serted the sink­ing Ship of State.

An­thony of­fered a dif­fer­ent perspective: “I had a fam­ily to sup­port. I was fully aware of the con­se­quences should the Labour Party be forced into an elec­tion that it had no chance of win­ning, among them that I would be out of work, with­out a salary. And in our po­lit­i­cal cir­cum­stances ef­fec­tively un­em­ploy­able. I was never crazy about be­ing a lawyer but there were few other choices open to me.”

Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger once asked me if I could for­give a friend’s be­trayal. My shaky re­sponse: “Well, it de­pends.”

“On what?” Arnold prod­ded. Be­fore I could of­fer an an­swer that made sense, he fired off an­other round: “What if you knew be­fore you be­came friends that the in­di­vid­ual was ca­pa­ble of be­trayal? Would you still have be­friended him?”

I shifted un­easily in my chair, into at­tack mode: “How about you? Do you for­give friends who sold you out?”

He chuck­led. “To the be­trayer I would say not only that I for­give him but I would also bid him good-bye—for­ever. Bet­ter to be safe than risk an­other be­trayal that could leave me in no po­si­tion to feel any­thing!”

Long be­fore he dumped three se­na­tors who had dared in the peo­ple’s in­ter­est to chal­lenge his de­ter­mi­na­tion to guar­an­tee a $4 mil­lion bank loan for a bank­rupt com­pany, I knew Kenny An­thony was ca­pa­ble of be­trayal. It had mat­tered not a bit that the se­na­tors had cam­paigned as­sid­u­ously with him against nepotism and for trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity in gov­ern­ment mat­ters.

Then there was the time of the so-called OECS Unity Ini­tia­tive, a Comp­ton-James Mitchell propo­si­tion that the then Ju­lian Hunte-led Labour Party had ve­he­mently op­posed. At the pub­lic in­vi­ta­tion of the prime min­is­ter some con­cerned cit­i­zens had taken the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress vis­it­ing OECS lead­ers on their pro­posal at a meet­ing con­vened at a lo­cal ho­tel. Comp­ton had cho­sen not to at­tend.

Granted, my con­tri­bu­tion on the oc­ca­sion was not de­signed to win friends but I cer­tainly hoped pos­i­tively to in­flu­ence some of the at­ten­dant muck­a­mucks, among them Gre­nada’s Derek Knight, Ge­orge Od­lum and Kenny An­thony. I re­minded the room­ful of fat­ted dig­ni­taries that when in­di­vid­u­als es­pe­cially fa­mous for their dis­re­gard for ba­sic hu­man rights in their re­spec­tive ter­ri­to­ries gather to­gether un­der one roof, they do not nor­mally turn into choir­boys.

My fi­nal words: “Peo­ple unite for good as well as for evil. I have no rea­son to imag­ine your com­ing to­gether here is for the com­mon good.”

I ex­ited the venue right af­ter I had dropped my short speech that was re­ceived in re­sound­ing si­lence. Lit­tle did I know, until the next morn­ing, that Saint Lucia’s prime min­is­ter had been mon­i­tor­ing the re­gion­ally tele­vised his­to­ry­mak­ing event from his of­fi­cial res­i­dence at Vigie (some later claimed he had en­sconced him­self in a suite at the ho­tel). I learned that he had ad­dressed his fel­low HOGs in my ab­sence and—cov­ered by at least three TV cam­eras—de­scribed the STAR as “a cancer on the body politic that needed to be hur­riedly ex­cised.” As for the pa­per’s pub­lisher, the prime min­is­ter said he did not rep­re­sent right think­ing Saint Lu­cians. More­over the prime min­is­ter apol­o­gized to the re­gion for my demon­strated crass­ness that he swore was not char­ac­ter­is­tic of reg­u­lar sons and daugh­ters of Saint Lucia, nei­ther in­dica­tive of their at­ti­tude to OECS Unity. (To date, the project re­mains an elu­sive dream!)

My first ques­tion to my car­rier of bad news: “What did Kenny An­thony say about Comp­ton’s ad­dress?” To which he replied: “He said noth­ing at all.” Much later it would emerge that the pro­fessed Labour stal­wart had at­tended the La Toc meet­ing as John Comp­ton’s paid ad­vi­sor, there­fore was in no po­si­tion to bite any of the as­sem­bled dirty hands, let alone those that fed him.

Oh, I felt so be­trayed. So did SCOPE’s Ju­lian Hunte, although chances are he does not re­call the La Toc meet­ing from which he, too, had ab­sented him­self. We were both young then, and naïve be­yond mea­sure.

We, Kenny An­thony and I that is, in the best in­ter­ests of Saint Lucia, would in due course put the past be­hind us. I gave him ev­ery sup­port—in­clud­ing plat­form ap­pear­ances—dur­ing the 1997 cam­paign that yielded to the SLP 16 of the 17 seats in con­tention. (Hunte was among the ca­su­al­ties, hav­ing quit the SLP in ad­vance of Kenny’s take-over to con­test the Gros Islet seat as an in­de­pen­dent). In the re­sul­tant eu­pho­ria I was numb to the ef­fects of the first throne speech, rit­u­ally pre­pared by the day’s prime min­is­ter. Like other un­think­ing Kenny apos­tles I gig­gled and chuck­led mis­chie­vously as the gover­nor gen­eral, Sir Ge­orge Mal­let, read aloud that the ad­min­is­tra­tion that had served Saint Lucia for over three decades, and in which he had been deputy prime min­is­ter un­der Comp­ton be­fore gen­er­ously step­ping down so Vaughan Lewis might rise, had en­gaged in all kinds of ne­far­i­ous prac­tices that de­manded noth­ing less than full in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Here was the great­est cut of all, if only I had seen it as such back in the day—and protested. Per­haps we might’ve been spared many of the recorded cur­rent em­bar­rass­ments.

Last week Kenny and his ac­com­plices were de­ra­ci­nated from of­fice, largely by the nation’s younger vot­ers. But not be­fore the prime min­is­ter had be­trayed sev­eral hand-on-heart pledges and di­vided the peo­ple so that it is nigh im­pos­si­ble now to agree on any­thing, in­clud­ing the ur­gent need to re­form our con­sti­tu­tion. Ah, but oh what fun to learn Kenny An­thony had known for months be­fore the last elections that with him at the rud­der the good ship “REDyyyy” was headed for the rocks of obliv­ion. In­stead of act­ing for the com­mon good, the be­trayer in our midst chose to re­main true to his na­ture, re­gard­less of the cost to his crew!

Ge­orge Od­lum: Was the de­ceased former Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter a prophet and didn’t know it?

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