Was Mary still Hun­gry on the evening news?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By El­iza Vic­tor

Idon’t get much time to pay at­ten­tion to talk shows and the news, as much as I wish I did. What with two chil­dren un­der 10 years old who keep this old goat pretty much oc­cu­pied full-time, and at­tempt­ing to get on with busi­ness, there’s not a whole lot of free time left in my day. But ev­ery now and then I man­age to catch a snip­pet from an item via Face­book. Or when I de­mand some peace and quiet while I take in the evening news. To say I’m of­ten left flum­moxed and flab­ber­gasted at what passes for news and of­fi­cial com­ment would be to un­der­state the truth.

One such item this week re­volved around the Mary Isaac/Dr Ernest Hi­laire com­mo­tion about who re­ceived back-to-school bur­saries and who was snubbed. While I have yet to hear a com­pre­hen­sive re­port on this, Ms Isaac’s com­ment to re­porters on the is­sue left me do­ing a dou­ble take. Here is what she said, ac­cord­ing to the news clip: “Hi­laire is the rep of the con­stituency and there is a mech­a­nism in place to give the rep of each of the con­stituen­cies what is com­ing to them. There is a $30,000 amount that au­to­mat­i­cally goes to Dr Hi­laire to run his con­stituency and to run things in his con­stituency, and I think peo­ple should be aware of that. I am not the rep. I do not get any­thing from gov­ern­ment to run my [em­pha­sis mine] con­stituency that Dr Hi­laire does not get.

“He is more en­ti­tled than I am and as a mat­ter of fact this is what I am say­ing: he gets $30,000 to run his con­stituency and that is what all par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who won their seat get. I did not win my seat; I do not get that. It does not in­clude bur­saries. I got 15 bur­saries and as far as I know par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who won their con­stituency are en­ti­tled to 30; so Dr Hi­lare should go and look for what he is en­ti­tled to be­cause I know what I am get­ting is a sort of a hand­out be­cause I did not win my con­stituency.”

For­get about the Saint Lu­cia So­cial De­vel­op­ment Fund (SSDF) school as­sis­tance pro­gramme for now. I leave it to the full-time jour­nal­ists to dis­cover ex­actly how funds are dis­bursed from the SSDF that left Dr Hi­laire feel­ing dis­ad­van­taged. What per­plexes me is Ms Isaac’s dis­course.

First of all, as far as I know Ms Isaac does not rep­re­sent any con­stituency in par­lia­ment. She is not a par­lia­men­tar­ian. She is a sen­a­tor and gov­ern­ment min­is­ter. Her state­ment that she does “not get any­thing from gov­ern­ment to run my con­stituency” is ei­ther disin­gen­u­ous, leav­ing a lis­tener to in­fer that she has a con­stituency and is en­ti­tled to gov­ern­ment funds, or it could be that she sim­ply doesn’t un­der­stand what she is mouthing, even though she as­serts, “I am not the rep.”

What Ms Isaac is at this time is the UWP care­taker of the con­stituency and the UWP is free to keep its of­fice open and of­fer as­sis­tance to res­i­dents in that con­stituency. I do not be­lieve Dr Hi­laire, with the $30,000 a year al­lo­ca­tion that must also be used to run his con­stituency of­fice, can as­sist ev­ery­one and sup­port ev­ery pro­ject, even if he sources out­side funds. Also, as far as I am aware, there is no one who sits in par­lia­ment at this time who lost his or her seat in the June 6, 2016 elec­tion. So, to my mind, “par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who won their seat” is a re­sound­ing re­dun­dancy.

It may seem as an in­signif­i­cant face plant, but enough al­ready. With ev­ery move and ev­ery word be­ing broad­cast over the web and so­cial me­dia, gov­ern­ment min­is­ters es­pe­cially, and oth­ers in author­ity, should en­deav­our to get it right, at least most of the time. Ad­di­tion­ally, the $30,000 to which Ms Isaac re­ferred should never have been brought into the dis­cus­sion since it has noth­ing at all to do with the SSDF bur­sary is­sue. From her com­ments, I am left to in­fer that Ms Isaac was seek­ing to make a case for her re­ceiv­ing bur­saries for the con­stituency she hoped to rep­re­sent, based on the fact that par­lia­men­tar­i­ans get funds that she does not. In short, she is not en­ti­tled to gov­ern­ment funds.

The ques­tions that must now be asked, as I see it, are whether her re­ceipt and dis­burse­ment of those funds was il­le­gal or un­eth­i­cal and whether she can ac­count for proper use. But se­ri­ously, enough of this nit-pick­ing. If Ms Isaac was some­how able to source funds to as­sist some fam­i­lies and Dr Hi­laire was also able to se­cure still more to as­sist other fam­i­lies, then what’s the prob­lem? Seems to me ev­ery­one wins. What could be wrong with that?

And please, enough with the face plants!

The way health min­is­ter Mary Isaac made the news this week gave many cause to re­call other em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments in which she had fea­tured!

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