SO WHAT’S RE­ALLY BE­HIND THE BIG SEARCH

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

To bor­row from movie star turned pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ron­ald Rea­gan while de­bat­ing Jimmy Carter: “Here we go again.” This week’s big story started with a talk­show host’s on-air com­ments last Thurs­day evening that quickly ex­ploded into a bon­fire of inani­ties that con­sumed a pop­u­la­tion ir­re­vo­ca­bly con­vinced that re­gard­less of what bee-keep­ers might say smoke is never un­re­lated to fire.

In no time at all John­nie Cochrans from Babon­neau to At­lanta, Ge­or­gia to the Bronx and back to Con­way in Cas­tries—red- and yel­low­blooded Saint Lu­cians were heat­edly spec­u­lat­ing about whether the grimy gloves that had ex­is­tence only in their per­fer­vid imag­in­ings be­longed to a cer­tain res­i­dent of Den­nery: Jimmy Henry, who had en­tered the 2016 gen­eral elec­tions just two weeks be­fore June 6—and lost to the op­pos­ing red stal­lion Shawn Ed­ward by just over a hun­dred votes. Henry was later ap­pointed a UWP sen­a­tor at­tached to the Min­istry for Agri­cul­ture.

As I say, on the evening of July 6 Richard Fred­er­ick, the host of Can I Help You?, had been his usual cau­tious self as he shared with his TV au­di­ence re­ceived rec­ol­lec­tions of an un­usual oc­cur­rence at Ge­orge F. L. Charles Air­port, Vigie. I can do no bet­ter than to re­pro­duce what he prof­fered, word for word: “I am sure you heard last week that a min­is­ter of gov­ern­ment was searched at the air­port. He was searched at the air­port but what pre­ceded the search was not in­for­ma­tion from any­one. Kernisha [the UWP’s pub­lic re­la­tions per­son] I hope you’re lis­ten­ing. The re­al­ity is, folks, Jimmy Henry had been un­der sur­veil­lance for a long time. Don’t ask why; I don’t know. But my in­struc­tions are there are sev­eral record­ings of con­ver­sa­tions that led to him be­ing un­der sur­veil­lance and led to him be­ing ques­tioned at the air­port as to how much money he was car­ry­ing. The re­al­ity is he had quite a large sum but it did not sur­pass the thresh­old, which I think is US$10,000. But when he was ques­tioned, who­ever ques­tioned him al­ready knew how much money he was car­ry­ing, by way of in­ter­cep­tion of con­ver­sa­tions. You get me? So he did not deny. He said he was car­ry­ing X amount of money. But they had al­ready known that. He did not know they had known, as a re­sult of which dis­cus­sions were held and he ei­ther re­signed this af­ter­noon or is slated to re­sign to­mor­row morn­ing.

“Now when I say things . . . y’all re­mem­ber when I spoke about Arsene James and Allen Chas­tanet? And re­mem­ber there was a lot of pro­cras­ti­na­tion but it came to fruition. I had even given you the logo of the slated by-elec­tion that was sup­posed to have been held con­tin­gent to Arsene’s res­ig­na­tion. But in any event he de­cided, whether pres­sure was placed on him or oth­er­wise, he [Jimmy Henry] de­cided that he will re­sign. The res­ig­na­tion was sup­posed to have taken place this af­ter­noon or to­mor­row morn­ing.

“Folks the guys knew ex­actly what Jimmy Henry was go­ing to do in Bar­ba­dos, they knew ex­actly and their source was no third party. You know, some­body, Kernisha, put on Face­book that Shawn Ed­ward called the po­lice and asked them to search Jimmy Henry. That is un­true. The in­tel­li­gence was gath­ered not by info from any third party but through the in­ter­cep­tion of con­ver­sa­tions. It is for you now to ask your­self what prompted the po­lice and what con­ver­sa­tions he could have had that war­ranted him to be searched, and what you think the po­lice knew he was go­ing to do in Bar­ba­dos. Cyah get the con­ver­sa­tions yet; that one in a bit. Those are not leaked eas­ily. Folks it’s a bit rough. It’s bad; it’s bad; it’s bad!”

Two days ear­lier, in the late af­ter­noon of July 4, the House op­po­si­tion had left par­lia­ment to at­tend to pre­sum­ably more im­por­tant busi­ness: a sched­uled meet­ing on the steps of the Cas­tries mar­ket. In his turn at

the mi­cro­phone, this is how Kenny An­thony ref­er­enced Jimmy Henry and the ear­lier re­called He­wanorra in­ci­dent. The for­mer prime min­is­ter and re­cently re­moved St. Lu­cia Labour Party leader, like his co­horts, has since the June 6 elec­tions taken to re­fer­ring to Henry as “Lament.” Re­port­edly Henry had mis­used the word dur­ing a TV in­ter­view. Yes, so this was Kenny An­thony on the evening of July 4, two evenings be­fore Richard Fred­er­ick’s tele­vised ver­sion of the big search: “Lament, you made a trip to Bar­ba­dos re­cently, Lament. There are some things about that trip that the pub­lic of Saint Lu­cia need to know, Lament. I will give you time for you and your prime min­is­ter to make a state­ment to the pub­lic of Saint Lu­cia about that trip to Bar­ba­dos.”

It is con­jec­tural why it was the Fred­er­ick ver­sion of the Vigie in­ter­cep­tion that fired up the lo­cal imag­i­na­tion and not that from the Cas­tries mar­ket. In all events on Mon­day this week the act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner Mil­ton De­sir took to prime-time TV to de­clare the pub­li­cized al­le­ga­tions, straight and im­plied, against the sen­a­tor null and void. Mac­a­roni pie with­out the cheese!

As for the tele­vised charges on the evening of July 6, that Sen­a­tor Henry was the sub­ject of a long on-go­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion that in­cluded wire­taps, noth­ing but fab­ri­ca­tion, the act­ing com­mis­sioner main­tained. He added that the of­fice of the com­mis­sioner had never is­sued a di­rec­tive tar­get­ing Jimmy Henry’s com­ings and go­ings.

On Wed­nes­day, act­ing PM Ezekiel Joseph ap­peared on TV to con­firm he had, on be­half of va­ca­tion­ing Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet, ac­cepted Sen­a­tor Jimmy Henry’s res­ig­na­tion with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. Ear­lier Henry had him­self con­firmed ru­mors of his res­ig­na­tion as a sen­a­tor and as an agri­cul­ture min­istry of­fi­cial, “for per­sonal rea­sons.” He re­sisted all me­dia in­duce­ments to elab­o­rate.

On Thurs­day I con­tacted Jimmy Henry via an in­ter­me­di­ary. Here now, his story as he told it: On his re­turn at Ge­orge F. L. Charles Air­port fol­low­ing a week­end busi­ness trip to Bar­ba­dos, he was stand­ing in line at cus­toms with other ar­rivals wait­ing to be pro­cessed. When it was his turn to an­swer the usual ques­tions, a fe­male of­fi­cer re­quested he fol­low her to the VIP lounge; she had for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son picked him out for a ran­dom search.

Still by Henry’s ac­count: “I told her I didn’t mind be­ing searched where we stood in the cus­toms area but she in­sisted the lounge would be more con­ve­nient.” Ac­com­pa­nied by a plain­clothes po­lice­man, Henry fol­lowed the cus­toms of­fi­cial and a col­league to the lounge where the fe­male pro­ceeded to in­spect his overnight bag.

“In truth,” Henry con­tin­ued, “she more or less just pat­ted the soiled clothes with­out tak­ing them out. But I in­sisted on re­mov­ing the items out one by one. Af­ter they were re­turned with­out in­ci­dent, and the fe­male of­fi­cer said I could leave, I vol­un­teered that I was car­ry­ing in my wal­let about $6000 Bar­ba­dos dol­lars. I handed over the wal­let, they counted the money, handed it back and said I was free to go.”

Jimmy Henry has more than one rea­son to re­mem­ber the ran­dom cus­toms search at Vigie. By re­mark­able co­in­ci­dence it was con­ducted ex­actly one year af­ter he came close to beat­ing Shawn Ed­ward for the Den­nery North seat af­ter just two weeks of cam­paign­ing. On June 6!

Mean­while some have been seek­ing to make hay out of cow dung. The fish­ing sug­ges­tion is that the act­ing com­mis­sioner may have played cu­ri­ous me­dia per­son­nel when he told them there had been no di­rec­tive from his of­fice to spy on Jimmy Henry. Say the wallto-wall ex­perts, the me­dia also should’ve asked about other po­lice agen­cies, not nec­es­sar­ily lo­cal. From my per­spec­tive the ques­tion, in what­ever form, sug­gested naiveté, at the very least. If in­deed lo­cal po­lice were sur­rep­ti­tiously cov­er­ing Jimmy Henry’s moves, would the act­ing com­mis­sioner have con­firmed this for the ben­e­fit of in­sa­tiable re­porters? At best he might in­stead have tossed them a no-com­ment plas­tic bone to gnaw on. But in the par­tic­u­lar in­stance De­sir stated em­phat­i­cally that his of­fice was not and had never en­gaged in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the for­mer MP; nei­ther had the po­lice had rea­son to re­quest au­thor­ity from a judge to sur­rep­ti­tiously mon­i­tor Henry’s calls.

De­sir also ad­vised that the tele­vised al­le­ga­tions were all false; with­out meat; fake news. In all events, of­fi­cials had ev­i­dently found no rea­son to de­tain Jimmy Henry at the Vigie air­port. No charges have been pre­ferred against him. He re­mains a free man. Had he not been a min­is­ter of gov­ern­ment the so-called ran­dom search to which he was sub­jected might never have been the sub­ject of a TV talk show or fod­der for Kenny An­thony and his red brigade. There may well be more to this story. Cer­tainly more than had met the eye of Richard Fred­er­ick; more than just “bad, bad, bad.”

Ah, now I hear you ask­ing, dear dis­cern­ing reader: if he is truly clean, if the po­lice have noth­ing on him, then why did Jimmy Henry re­sign his gov­ern­ment job? Why in­deed? Hear it from the horse’s mouth: “I had been think­ing of re­sign­ing a long time; since ear­lier in the year. Re­mem­ber, I was not elected. It’s not easy hav­ing to deal with sup­port­ers in my com­mu­nity who came out so strongly to put me in par­lia­ment on June 6, 2016. They ex­pect some com­fort. They ex­pect jobs. Of­ten I must put my hand in my pocket. Ask any politi­cian; their story is the same. I am not the elected MP for Den­nery North. But ev­ery­one ex­pects me to de­liver what the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive can­not or will not. I am some­times con­fronted by peo­ple who voted for Shawn Ed­ward in the last elec­tions. Whether they are pur­posely sent to me, I can only guess. They tell me the elected MP can­not as­sist be­cause he’s in op­po­si­tion.”

Jimmy Henry acknowledged he had heard the ru­mors, and the wild as­sump­tions that he had other means of mak­ing money, not all of them le­gal. “I as­sure you I have lit­tle to show for a man of 39. I’m not a prop­erty owner. Let any­one check me out.” He of­fered de­tails about how he keeps his head above wa­ter, how he barely pays his own bills, but not for pub­li­ca­tion. “Peo­ple think we make a for­tune as MPs. And they ex­pect you to be of greater as­sis­tance than re­al­ity per­mits,” he said.

Is there a chance Jimmy Henry might con­test an­other elec­tion? He was si­lent for sev­eral min­utes af­ter I asked the ques­tion. Fi­nally he said: “That’s a big one. I have a lot of sup­port in Den­nery North and chances are I might let my­self be pushed to have an­other shot. But that will de­pend on a lot of things, in­clud­ing whether my party wants me to. Who can read the fu­ture?”

The Jimmy Henry in­ci­dent rep­re­sents, among other things, his­tory re­peat­ing it­self; a com­edy of er­rors with the lead ac­tors in re­versed roles!

‘Lament, you made a trip to Bar­ba­dos re­cently, Lament. There are some things about that trip that the pub­lic of Saint Lu­cia need to know, Lament. I will give you time for you and your prime min­is­ter to make a state­ment to the pub­lic of Saint Lu­cia about that trip to Bar­ba­dos!’ —Kenny An­thony from the steps of the Cas­tries mar­ket on the evening of July 4, 2017.

Sen­a­tor no more Jimmy Henry. How much more is there to his re­cent ran­dom search at Ge­orge F. L. Charles Air­port? Film at 11!

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