The More Things Change The More We Remain Our Own Worst Enemies!
It seems there is some doubt as to who first said it and in what circumstances. Was it Franklin D. Roosevelt referencing the dictator of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza? Or was the U.S. president referring to Spain’s equally brutal Francisco Franco? Some claim it was Secretary of State Cordell Hull referencing Rafael Trujillo, longtime dictator of the Dominican Republic. Whoever it was that spoke it, the line remains constant: “Sure, he’s a son of a bitch—but he’s our son of a bitch.”
Way back in the late 80s I published in this newspaper some revealing features about a libidinous prime minister and a young student below the age of consent that featured behavior then so outrageous it rendered a seasoned member of the local clergy so silent he could’ve been mistaken for a pillar of black salt. Asked to comment on a pile of love letters to the 15-year-old, all bearing the nation’s coat of arms and the prime minister’s unmistakable signature, God’s sweating agent famously babbled: “If John the Baptist had been more careful he might’ve saved his head.” Even in the best of us a little devil squats.
The then leader of the St. Lucia Christian Council was not alone in his cowardly attempt to make the problem go away. A fellow clergyman, instead of addressing before his Sunday-mass congregation the countless consequences of prime ministers gone awry, especially in countries small as ours, griped: “This is political. This whole thing happened three years ago. Why bring it up now?” Other respected citizens of a certain political persuasion sought slyly to bless what obviously was egregiously unethical, corrupt, and downright illegal. Arrogantly echoing the Son of God, they pointedly challenged those without sin to cast the first stone. Not long after the sordid story exploded like a stink bomb in our Christian atmosphere the people rewarded the prime minister with the election mandate of his political career. Yes, we sowed what we sowed back in the day and boy are we reaping fruits forbidden even in the Kardashian era!
Over the years I’ve produced numerous other articles that underscored betrayal of the public trust by political as well as church leaders, errant police commissioners and other corrupt officials. Once or twice commissions of inquiry had ensued: the UN Scandal, for one, Frenwell for another. Depending on which political organization was in the hot seat, their supporters took to their soap boxes to condone or condemn my efforts at encouraging public accountability. The issue itself seldom mattered. And so while Rochamel, the UN Funds Affair, Helenair, Frenwell, Grynberg and IMPACS may here and there ring a rusty bell, few among us know nearly as much about these home-grown scandals as we do about, say, ISIS or the proclivities of a certain presidential nominee with an uncontrollable caveman’s urge “to grab ‘em by the pussy!”
In his report following a commission of inquiry into a trio of public administration matters, Commissioner Sir Louis Blom-Cooper announced he had encountered here “a studied indifference to the practice, even the concept, of public accountability . . . a cultural climate in which administration torpor is often the consequence, and malpractices in government including corruption can thrive, unhampered by detection or, if and when uncovered, by disciplinary action.”
Sir Blom-Cooper wrote about his disturbing encounter in 1998. Alas, the local atmosphere is today no less mephitic. With House TV cameras transmitting live, MPs habitually describe one another during debates as criminals, money launderers and pathological liars. Our lawmakers appear unconcerned that they are widely considered the nation’s leading lawbreakers. Official nepotism is rampant. Turning a blind eye more than ever commonplace. Then again, Blom-Cooper had also advised that if there were to be an attitudinal adjustment toward official corruption the prevailing mindset in the various government departments would first have to undergo a radical change.
Referencing the 1998 enquiry, he stated: “If government has at least put Saint Lucia on the road to good governance by encouraging the exposure of past failures the future demands a permanent searchlight. Saint Lucian sunlight on government too often has been clouded over by an unwillingness of those in authority to expose to public scrutiny the public activities of either themselves or of others. Saint Lucians should be assured that failures and malpractices in government, once identified, will not go public unnoticed.”
He recommended the establishment by statute of an independent Standing Commission for Standards in Public Life. No such commission has been discussed in parliament, let alone established. In the meantime there has been the earlier cited Grynberg scandal with its roots in a March 2000 behind-closed-doors agreement between a highly controversial oil speculator from Denver, Colorado and the day’s prime minister. Thirteen years after the signing, the governor general, Dame Pearlette Louisy, revealed she still had no official knowledge of the transaction, despite that she alone was authorized under the Minerals (Vesting) Act to grant exploration licenses in Saint Lucia. Dame Pearlette remains today as blissfully ignorant about Grynberg as when she had penned her June 2013 letter to the leader of the House opposition.
“On this matter,” she wrote, “I can only say I have no personal or first-hand knowledge of any contract, arrangement or agreement made by anyone or entity in or outside government with Mr. Jack Grynberg or his Corporation. No such contract, agreement or arrangement was ever brought to my attention in my capacity as governor general. The subject was never discussed with me. My advice was never sought and I played no part whatsoever in anything that may have transpired then or at any time subsequently.” (Section 65 of the Constitution dictates:
The prime minister shall keep the governor general fully informed concerning the general conduct of the government of Saint Lucia and shall furnish the governor general with such information as he may request with respect to any particular matter relating to the government of Saint Lucia.)
In an April 20, 2012 press release the government (after this newspaper had broken the story) acknowledged it had been sued by Jack Grynberg for breach of contract, on the basis of the government’s claim that its agreement with the oilman’s company RSM Corporation had expired. Grynberg’s suit demanded damages totaling some US$500 million. The release offered no details of the allegedly breached arrangement. The matter came before the ICSID in 2014 only to be dismissed unheard a year later. Grynberg had stubbornly ignored the tribunal’s order that he deposit US$750,000 in a special account as guarantee of payment to the respondents should his claim prove unsuccessful. The nation awaits further information pertaining to the case. Meanwhile, not a word not a word not a word on the Grynberg contract itself; or about the governor general’s shocking assertions.
We need not at this time go again into the IMPACS fiasco and its continuing crippling consequences, mainly economic. While the government addresses the issue in terms mostly arcane, inadvertent widespread publicity on Facebook by largely uninformed warring hacks of the incumbent and opposition parties keeps the issue alive, further muddying Saint Lucia’s international reputation as a major violator of human rights!
Sir Louis Blom-Cooper: Almost 20 years ago he warned that endorsed corruption was rampant in Saint Lucia and that citizens “should be assured that identified malpractices in government will not go unnoticed.” The more things change . . .