IMPACS Still on US- EU front burner!
On June 17, 1997 this was how governorgeneral Sir William George Mallet formally opened the first session of the seventh parliament of Saint Lucia: “On May 23, 1997 an unprecedented wind of change swept Saint Lucia, creating political history as the people voted decisively for a new government representing a new vision for the new millennium. This overwhelming verdict represented an affirmation of a more inclusive, more people-centered and more technocratically competent governance.”
The campaign that had delivered 16 of 17 constituencies into the untried hands of Prime Minister Kenny Anthony was, according to Sir George, “the most intensely contested electoral struggle ever waged in Saint Lucia since adult suffrage”—to say the least, something of a stretch. But the governor-general was not to blame for the calculated hyperbole. The words he parroted had come out of the minds of individuals who in due course would be lauded by Kenny Anthony as “the nation’s best brains.” As hectic as had been the 1997 electoral campaign, the truth is it never came close to the unforgettable debacle that had laid waste William Peter Boulevard on the evening of July 3, 1979. That year’s campaign had claimed at least two lives; several participants in a UWP rally—one of them an MP, blood gushing from his stoned head—were hospitalized; there was rampant looting. John Compton barely escaped a group of young men armed with rocks and only evil on their minds. It took almost two weeks before the stench of human feces was finally removed from the boulevard atmosphere. Estimated damage to the city’s center of commerce was over two million dollars!
In the course of his Throne Speech delivered on the morning of June 17, 1997 the governor-general reassured Saint Lucians that with the elections now behind them the new government would exercise its duties “without fear or favor and with compassion for all.” The time had come to move away from “the fractured partisanship” of the last few months. We were one nation, one people and our survival depended on our acceptance of this simple truth: “It is necessary now to look beyond the things that divide us to the necessities that bind us; to look beyond the differences that separate us to the ties that unite us.”
The packed House had not anticipated what followed. His eyes focused on the script handed him as he entered the chamber, the governor-general read: “Corruption has been identified as the numberone issue in the minds of Saint Lucians. The extent of public sentiment has found expression in the popular culture, in calypsos such as Jaunty’s ‘Bobol List,’ which expressed in no uncertain terms the revulsion that the ordinary Saint Lucian felt at the abuse of public office for private gain. The commission of inquiry established by the former administration to investigate the so-called UN Scandal exposed to public view the sordid dimension of this phenomenon. Although the work of the commission was never followed to its logical conclusion it showed Saint Lucians how the levers of power could be manipulated, and punctuated the need for tighter accountability.”
More hyperbole; more contradictions. How could an inquiry abandoned long before vital questions had been asked the main witness, let alone answered, have delivered any useful conclusions? The governor-general announced that the new government would, in conformity with its campaign promises, establish a commission to investigate all cases of alleged corruption and to establish which cases warranted further legal action and prosecution. “We are resolute to pursue this course of action because the people have cried for justice. And once a blind eye is turned to corruption the institutional environment is created for its unchecked proliferation.”
Bear in mind, dear reader, the following: The 1997 Throne Speech was delivered by the governor-general Sir George Mallet. Until a year or so earlier he had been deputy prime minister in the United Workers Party government of John Compton. And now it had fallen to him to announce publicly that he and his former government colleagues—including their prime minister—would be subjected to a commission of inquiry based on the new government’s suspicion that for close to 40 years they had operated a corrupt administration. While the pokerfaced George Mallet performed as duty demanded, surely his stomach must’ve been cooking in bile.
“We need to recognize, however, that a commission of inquiry is not enough; the passage of new laws is not enough. It is not enough simply to examine and seek to punish those guilty of past misdeeds. We must develop a culture of outrage against corruption. We must cultivate an intolerance for venality and to prevent any possibility of future recurrence.”
The promised inquiry got underway in September 1997, with Sir John finally facing just one charge: “That you, knowing Nicholas Glace had been dismissed from the Public Service of Saint Lucia, ought not to have recommended Nicholas Glace to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning as Project Supervisor to the Shanty Town Road Project having regard to Staff Order 2.3 of the Public Service of Saint Lucia.”
Commissioner Sir Louis Blom-Cooper’s written judgment was short: “Not upheld.”
Allegations against Vaughan Lewis, who in 1995 had controversially replaced Compton as prime minister, were “withdrawn.” During his testimony before the one-man inquiry, Sir John claimed the Kenny Anthony administration had simply embarked on “a political witch hunt and a personal vendetta against me.” His head held high, he said: “As a taxpayer of this country I fail to understand why millions of dollars of the taxes of the people of this country should be employed in a commission of inquiry to determine whether it was contrary to staff orders to recommend the employment on a temporary basis, at a salary of EC$3,000 a month—a maximum expenditure of EC$9,000—of a Saint Lucian from the Vieux Fort area to supervise the construction of a road in the Vieux Fort area which was part of a project approved by the parliament of Saint Lucia. I consider this an abuse of the Commission of Inquiry Ordinance and a wanton and indefensible waste of the money of the taxpayers of Saint Lucia!”
One year following the Blom-Cooper inquiry, the new governor-general Dame Pearlette Louisy underscored in her Throne Speech the Kenny Anthony government’s “clear commitment to human rights.” The government intended “to give greater recognition to the Charter of Civil Society for the Caribbean Community,” she said. The government was also “anxious to endorse the enshrined principles of good governance and respect for the fundamental rights of all citizens.” The government would activate a national committee for monitoring and ensuring implementation of the provisions of the charter that sought “principally to establish a binding covenant by government to the promotion of human rights consistent with the UN Charter on Human Rights and to extend the safeguards of our constitutions in the protection of these fundamental rights and freedoms. Commitment to the provisions of the charter will be a reaffirmation of confidence in the process of accountability, morality in public affairs, the safeguarding of democracy, and securing the human rights of the individual as the basis for any modern society.”
Dame Pearlette’s Throne Speech ended on a promissory note: “In this country each and every one of us is important. Each of us has a unique contribution to make to the rest of us. The hotel workers, the taxi driver, the banana farmer are not foot soldiers; they are vanguard fighters in this collective battle for equality, for excellence, for survival. Our communities are diminished by the loss of one. Our standards and our reputation are lowered by the mediocrity of any. Whenever hope falters, possibility is weakened. Whenever resolve fades, capacity is diminished. Whenever vision weakens, direction is lost and the nation begins to perish . . .”
Following is how Kenny Anthony on the Sunday evening of 8 March, 2015 opened a much anticipated televised speech: “In all the years I have had the honor to serve you as prime minister the issues on which I am about to address you have been among the most challenging and difficult, for three reasons: they call for extremely tough, courageous but necessary decisions; the matters in question have tarnished the reputation of our country and brought considerable dishonor to our police force, at home and abroad; the issues touch a raw nerve, our battle against crime, violence and lawlessness in our midst.”
The prime minister retraced the steps that had taken him to the “most challenging and difficult” issue of his political career. He recalled that between 2008 and 2010 the country had experienced “an unprecedented wave of homicides and violent crimes” and on 30 May, 2010 then prime minister Stephenson King had launched Operation Restore Confidence—“ostensibly to restore confidence in the police force and to provide a safer environment for the citizens of Saint Lucia.” Kenny Anthony emphasized that King had threatened the island’s criminals that “there will be no refuge, no stone left unturned and no hiding place for anyone.”
King had also announced the formation of a Special Task Force, the prime minister recalled. Also a change in the command structure of the police force that “quickly became operational under the direct command of the deputy police commissioner Mr. Moses Charles.” Ministerial responsibility for the police was assigned to home affairs minister Guy Mayers “who briefed the public on the changes effected by his
During his campaign for office last year Prime Minister Allen Chastanet (left) promised the electorate he would do everything possible to bring the IMPACS Report to a satisfactory conclusion. Kenny Anthony (right) claimed in 2013 that he had seen a hit list of targeted individuals while campaigning in 2011.
Director of Public Prosecutions Daarsrean Greene: By offic receiving particular attention from the new administration, w question remains: Is he better placed to do what his predeces