The More Things Change The More We Re­main Our Own Worst En­e­mies!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

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 . . .

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