An­other painful blow …

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie

“Doesn’t the idea of non-retroac­tive leg­is­la­tion mean that rogues in of­fice who have tram­pled the fi­nan­cial rules and or­ders, and who went so far as to give a prime min­is­ter carte blanche to do as he pleases, in fi­nan­cial ar­range­ments and other ne­go­ti­ated mat­ters, go scot-free af­ter they are booted out of of­fice?”

I’ve been warned by those with my best in­ter­est at heart that I should never speak or write when I am an­gry. “It does no good to your blood pres­sure Peter, and you are likely to miss the mark if you are not cool and col­lected.” I there­fore al­low time to pass by as I fo­cus on other mat­ters, be­fore set­tling down to write about the things that im­pact this country, and which should make ev­ery cit­i­zen and res­i­dent an­grier and an­grier.

Like many per­sons, I was pleased to wit­ness the friendly ges­ture by the US Am­bas­sador to Bar­ba­dos and the Eastern Caribbean upon de­liv­er­ing much-needed equip­ment to the of­fices of the DPP, the High Court and the Supreme Court of the East Caribbean in Saint Lu­cia. It is a ges­ture which may have sur­prised many since the US govern­ment has con­sis­tently made clear its dis­ap­point­ment that the IMPACS re­port has not been pros­e­cuted, to the full ex­tent of the law. It is a sen­ti­ment with which many fair-minded per­sons agree. It seems clear to ob­servers that the US do­na­tion is meant to as­sist in bring­ing the case load of these in­sti­tu­tions un­der some con­trol. It is the im­plied hope that the crude han­dling of the en­tire IMPACS af­fair by the for­mer govern­ment will be brought into reg­u­lar process be­fore the courts. The lat­ter was, to my mind, the un­spo­ken words of the US Am­bas­sador who had trav­elled from her Bar­ba­dos of­fice to Saint Lu­cia to per­son­ally de­liver the US gifts.

Not­with­stand­ing the dire need for the of­fice sup­plies and the demon­strated show of con­fi­dence in the Allen Chas­tanet ad­min­is­tra­tion that the gift im­plied, I could not help re­flect­ing on the rea­son this is­land has fallen so low that it has to beg for, and ac­cept, gifts amount­ing to less than a mil­lion dol­lars EC from its rich­est neigh­bour. Sure, the gifts were timely and tar­geted a most cru­cial el­e­ment of the demo­cratic process, namely, the rule of law.

Frankly, I was an­noyed that this is­land has had to stoop so low, all be­cause our na­tional econ­omy had been so poorly and reck­lessly man­aged by the for­mer Labour ad­min­is­tra­tion.

To add in­sult to in­jury, it seemed an abuse of its priv­i­leges that the for­mer govern­ment should have drawn so much at­ten­tion to it­self by its sense­less walk-out from the House of As­sem­bly last week. It turned out a bless­ing in some ways as it gave the govern­ment all the am­mu­ni­tion it needed to take the op­po­si­tion to task on its han­dling of the Rochamel and Fren­well is­sue. The walk-out al­lowed Min­is­ter Guy Joseph, the most out­spo­ken Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment in my books, full flight in the House on ac­cu­sa­tions of the lav­ish and un­wise ex­pen­di­tures by the for­mer regime. Those who thought that Rochamel and Fren­well had died were en­cour­aged to think again.

To my ut­ter dis­may and grow­ing anger over the ex­trav­a­gance of the for­mer regime, Min­is­ter Joseph, as the guest of Rick Wayne on

TALK tele­vi­sion, dis­closed more un­be­liev­able abuses of the NICE pro­gramme started by the for­mer govern­ment. To make mat­ters worse Joseph dis­closed that some $14 mil­lion was paid to Fren­well which no rea­son­able MP can ex­plain.

All this was tak­ing place at the time of the op­po­si­tion walk-out-show in par­lia­ment, and the pre­sen­ta­tion of of­fice sup­plies by the US Am­bas­sador to the govern­ment. As I sat dumb­founded watch­ing TALK, I won­dered how many Saint Lu­cians felt as fu­ri­ous as I did at the very ex­pen­sive mess that was per­pe­trated in the name of this country by the for­mer govern­ment. Surely, such abuse can’t be put down to lack of ex­pe­ri­ence, can it?

But that was not all! I re­called sit­ting in the visi­tors’ gallery with Ge­orge Od­lum that morn­ing when the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance tabled a mo­tion to bor­row EC$41 mil­lion to pay the debts that the for­mer Labour govern­ment had in­curred in the Rochamel/Fren­well deal. As I sat there fu­ri­ous at the sleight of hand, I tried to at­tract the at­ten­tion of a uni­formed of­fi­cer to de­liver a note to the leader of the op­po­si­tion, Arsene James. Un­for­tu­nately, there were no of­fi­cers around. I wished I was an elected mem­ber on the op­po­si­tion side of the House that day.

As I con­tin­ued to watch and lis­ten to Guy Joseph and Rick Wayne, I got an­grier and an­grier as I re­al­ized that $14 mil­lion of the bor­rowed sum was paid to Fren­well with­out the govern­ment and peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia re­ceiv­ing any­thing of value in re­turn. That money could have built new of­fices for the law courts and fur­nished them with com­put­ers, prin­ters and scan­ners, to the sat­is­fac­tion of those who work there.

As so of­ten hap­pens, the loose and ex­trav­a­gant ex­pen­di­ture by the for­mer Labour regime was painstak­ingly saved by the for­mer Comp­ton/UWP govern­ment for cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture and emer­gen­cies. The process is re­peat­ing it­self as I write. The UWP/Chas­tanet govern­ment is de­ter­mined to put the na­tion’s fis­cal house in or­der by tak­ing con­trol of ex­pen­di­ture and by cre­at­ing a sav­ings re­serve ac­count for wet days. It is from such sav­ings that new govern­ment of­fices and af­ter-school train­ing of young peo­ple for the work force ought to come.

How can any cit­i­zens or res­i­dents, know­ing the his­tory of reck­less spend­ing and mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion by the for­mer SLP regime, and the cover-up and bare faced lies, sit qui­etly and say noth­ing? Some­times I feel that only Rick, Guy and a hand­ful of oth­ers bring any pas­sion and sense of na­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity to bear on the af­fairs of this state. It hurts even more to wit­ness the op­po­si­tion Labour party be­hav­ing as if it is un­aware of the dis­gust peo­ple feel to­wards it. To be sure, there are many who sup­ported and voted for Labour that are as dis­gusted as the rest of us by the shenani­gans of the op­po­si­tion.

The House of As­sem­bly meet­ing also re­minded me that there are two as­pects of the English Le­gal System I have al­ways ques­tioned. Up­per­most in my mind is the pre­sump­tion that all men are equal be­fore the law. How can a per­son who has read the law and is highly qual­i­fied in all its as­pects be con­sid­ered equal be­fore the court as an­other who never had the ben­e­fit of school­ing? How can peo­ple who are able to pay lawyers and wit­nesses be con­sid­ered equal be­fore the courts of law as one who can hardly af­ford a full and bal­anced meal?

The other as­pect that con­cerns me is that laws ought not to be en­acted with retroac­tive ef­fect or retroac­tively. Doesn’t the idea of non­retroac­tive leg­is­la­tion mean that rogues in of­fice who have tram­pled the fi­nan­cial rules and or­ders, and who went so far as to give a prime min­is­ter carte blanche to do as he pleases, in fi­nan­cial ar­range­ments and other ne­go­ti­ated mat­ters, go scot­free af­ter they are booted out of of­fice? Again, why there is of­ten left an es­cape hole, a la­cuna, in the fram­ing of the laws? Don’t an­swer! But rest as­sured that these ex­cesses, and the fact that the statute of lim­i­ta­tions acts as a pro­tec­tive bar­rier for some po­lit­i­cal rogues, amount to noth­ing short of a mod­ern day cru­ci­fix­ion of the peo­ple of this in­no­cent is­land. But as the say­ing goes, ev­ery pig has its Satur­day!

By the way, did Min­is­ter Guy Joseph say on Rick’s show that cer­tain NICE work­ers were paid to help a hard­ware store in Vieux Fort as well as to as­sist a prom­i­nent law firm on the is­land? Where, oh where, will it end and who among us has the go­nads to end it? Over to you civil so­ci­ety groups, re­li­gious lead­ers, busi­ness cham­ber, am­a­teur po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists and other as­sorted hyp­ocrites who love to lay blame at Chas­tanet’s feet.

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