FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - The au­thor is a for­mer min­is­ter of gov­ern­ment in the ad­min­is­tra­tions headed by Allen Louisy and Sir John Comp­ton. By Peter Josie

On thought­ful ex­am­i­na­tion, it will be re­vealed that the rel­a­tively brand new gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia elected June 2016 faces greater chal­lenges than any other since this is­land achieved in­ter­nal self-gov­ern­ment in 1967. So much is ex­pected of the new, that com­par­isons are dif­fi­cult. High ex­pec­ta­tions of the bright, star-filled debu­tantes of the Louisy Labour gov­ern­ment of 1979 come close. To this day, peo­ple have not stopped spec­u­lat­ing about why that Labour gov­ern­ment, with its two-thirds ma­jor­ity, ran aground in its first term.

The 2016 United Work­ers Party ad­min­is­tra­tion, led by Allen Chas­tanet, a first-time elected MP, seems set to nav­i­gate more suc­cess­fully than Louisy’s Labour. But Chas­tanet has his work cut out for him. He must find the con­vic­tion to bring be­fore the courts in­di­vid­u­als who have over­stepped the limit of their pow­ers (in­clud­ing cer­tain min­is­ters of the gov­ern­ment), and which led to the IMPACS de­ba­cle. The na­tional trea­sury is empty; no monies were bud­geted for the com­ple­tion of St. Jude Hos­pi­tal and a new He­wanorra Air­port is years away. From my per­spec­tive the re­duc­tion of VAT, although cru­cial, is small pota­toes com­pared to the ad­min­is­tra­tive clean-up work with which this gov­ern­ment is sad­dled.

Ap­point­ing a new Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions, is again an­other step in the right di­rec­tion, but small. As with any work worth do­ing, it takes plan­ning, men­tal ap­pli­ca­tion and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to ex­e­cute a su­pe­rior job, no mat­ter the con­di­tions. This new ap­point­ment must bring keen new ap­pli­ca­tion and new or­der to crim­i­nal cases that have gripped the coun­try’s at­ten­tion and left unat­tended for far too long.

The new DPP must lay the foun­da­tion for the re-vamp­ing of that of­fice and re­turn­ing it to the ca­pa­ble hands of ca­reer civil ser­vants. The re­turn to a pro­fes­sional, ca­reer-ori­ented civil ser­vice ought to be a fo­cus of this gov­ern­ment. It must stop the im­por­ta­tion of yes men and women, at juicy con­tracts and ex­or­bi­tant salaries. In­stead, it must pro­mote wor­thy ca­reer civil ser­vants. For my part, one year seems suf­fi­cient time to get this process started.

Still, the gov­ern­ment ought to take its time to metic­u­lously com­pile ev­i­dence be­fore bring­ing charges. How­ever long it takes, it must bring crim­i­nals to jus­tice. The ex­pen­di­ture of Tai­wanese funds from a so­called ‘spe­cial ac­count’ must be ex­plained by Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet or a del­e­gated Min­is­ter, dis­clos­ing where these monies were spent and when. This takes me to the ap­point­ment of a new At­tor­ney Gen­eral. How could the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter, know­ing how he felt and be­haved when his party was re­turned to of­fice in 2011, have re­newed the con­tracts of per­sons such as the at­tor­ney gen­eral? The AG, Min­is­ter of Fi­nance and the Prime Min­is­ter com­prise the lynch pin of demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ments. How could an AG (a part of the tri­umvi­rate) con­tinue in of­fice when the gov­ern­ment changes? Will a new Prime Min­is­ter trust an AG ap­pointed by his pre­de­ces­sor? Shouldn’t the spank­ing new man­date the gov­ern­ment was given by the elec­torate be al­lowed to func­tion, as it should? [A new AG was ap­pointed ear­lier this week!]

The peo­ple want an end to cor­rup­tion! They want the guilty to pay. That, to my mind, can­not and will not be done with an AG ap­pointed by a for­mer gov­ern­ment. Min­is­ters of the for­mer gov­ern­ment and their con­trac­tor friends, in­clud­ing non-ac­cred­ited quan­tity sur­vey­ors and en­gine­fars, (not en­gi­neers), must be in­ves­ti­gated. I chal­lenge Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet to make an ex­am­ple of those who have de­frauded the is­land’s scarce re­sources to en­rich them­selves and their friends. But how can the new UWP gov­ern­ment act if the en­ablers of the for­mer regime are still in key po­si­tions within the civil ser­vice es­tab­lish­ment? I strongly ad­vise the Prime Min­is­ter to act and let the axe fall where it must. The peo­ple ex­pect to hear a clear plan in the PM’s ad­dress to the na­tion on Oc­to­ber 31, as promised. Enough is enough! Frankly, I ex­pect the ap­point­ment of an AG to break the bot­tle­necks in the sys­tem and ex­pose past cor­rup­tion for all to see—and some to feel. I saw Min­is­ter Guy Joseph last Sun­day evening on the TV show ‘Open Mike.’ My ques­tion to Mr. Joseph is: What next, af­ter dis­cov­ery of the shenani­gans in the St. Jude hos­pi­tal project? Will jus­tice take its course? Enough is enough! It’s time to make an ex­am­ple so the peo­ple can see a se­ri­ous gov­ern­ment at work. This is­land needs a new dis­pen­sa­tion of up-front, hon­est and in­cor­rupt­ible men and women, in gov­ern­ment and in so­ci­ety gen­er­ally. When the Prime Min­is­ter ad­dresses the na­tion I wish to hear him to say in clear sim­ple mono-syl­la­bles what his gov­ern­ment is go­ing to do about the per­son or per­sons who ap­proved gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­tures on projects where there were no plans, no com­ple­tion date and seem­ingly no one in charge. That has never hap­pened be­fore in the his­tory of gov­ern­ment on this is­land.

Let both Allen Chas­tanet and his gov­ern­ment be warned; the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia are not fool­ish, they are watch­ing. That much is known. The even­tual re­moval of VAT and its sub­sti­tu­tion by a suit­able tax must pro­ceed hand in hand with the ar­rest and charg­ing of those who may have de­frauded or helped to de­fraud the na­tional trea­sury. Enough is enough!

Fi­nally, when politi­cians prom­ise jobs-jobs-jobs dur­ing an elec­tion cam­paign, what should they of­fer per­sons who al­ready have a job? I sug­gest the fol­low­ing: po­lice pres­ence on the streets and roads with back-up tech­nol­ogy; ef­fi­cient garbage col­lec­tion and dis­posal; trim­ming of over­hang­ing trees and branches; clear­ing of drains to al­low free flow of wa­ter; im­proved roads. Act now so that five years from now there’ll be no need to ask for whom the bell tolls!

Peter Josie to Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet (pic­tured) and his ad­min­is­tra­tion: “The peo­ple have been fooled too many times . . .”

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