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

“Dras­tic mea­sures are re­quired by Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet if he is to clean up the St. Jude Hos­pi­tal mess and send a stern warn­ing to those lurk­ing at the mar­gins of pol­i­tics, wait­ing their turn to ex­ploit the na­tional trea­sury.”

Amaz­ing; to be struck with won­der has emerged an of­ten abused word by those whose vo­cab­u­lary seems limited to a doubt­ful depth of the lan­guage, and un­fa­mil­iar­ity with its us­ages. Still, one with a nim­ble fa­mil­iar lex­i­con must be ex­cused if amaz­ing springs to mind in the St. Jude Hos­pi­tal tragedy. As the de­ba­cle un­folds one is per­suaded to re­turn to the golden era of Saint Lu­cian pol­i­tics with Sir John Comp­ton at the helm and Ge­orge Od­lum at his faith­ful weekly Cru­sader. What would th­ese two have to say about the ap­par­ent reck­less­ness and ex­cesses of St. Jude Hos­pi­tal re­con­struc­tion? How they would mar­vel at the squan­der­ing of the scarce re­sources of the is­land. Would they re­fer to it as ‘squan­der­ma­nia’? Surely, the ques­tion would be asked, had greed and in­com­pe­tence been al­lowed to rule un­fet­tered in the St. Jude spend­ing spree?

Alas, we can turn to nei­ther Comp­ton nor Od­lum for an­swers. Those who were fa­mil­iar with their dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to pol­i­tics would agree that both dis­played ab­hor­rence for in­com­pe­tence, reck­less­ness and greed. Wher­ever th­ese raised their cal­lous heads in the gov­er­nance of the coun­try there was lit­tle dif­fer­ence in the way th­ese two po­lit­i­cal icons would ap­proach a res­o­lu­tion of the prob­lem. Ad­mit­tedly, both men were a lit­tle squea­mish about send­ing public per­son­al­i­ties to prison but they equally would do all in their power to ex­pose the cul­prits to ridicule by an en­tire na­tion.

As some­one who had a close fa­mil­iar­ity with both po­lit­i­cal icons and who at one point had openly agreed and dis­agreed with them, I deem it ex­pe­di­ent to com­ment on the St. Jude fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter/ mis­man­age­ment and the grow­ing smoke screen crafted to hide the truth from the public. I will do my best to avoid the word cor­rup­tion as one feels cer­tain that that will be pro­nounced by a far more com­pe­tent law court – in­clud­ing the court of public opin­ion.

As with all pol­i­tics, se­crets and self­ish mo­tives abound in men’s hearts. It re­mains a tru­ism that in pol­i­tics the peo­ple must aim to hold their gov­ern­ment to ac­count. The peo­ple must in­sist on openly ques­tion­ing the work­ings of their elected of­fi­cials at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals. It should be manda­tory that ev­ery po­lit­i­cal leader, prime min­is­ter, min­is­ter of the gov­ern­ment and other highly placed of­fi­cial be grilled by com­pe­tent per­sons, in­clud­ing an in­de­pen­dent and fear­less me­dia. The lat­ter has un­for­tu­nately been lack­ing since new Labour was gen­er­ously handed po­lit­i­cal of­fice more than twenty years ago. It is crit­i­cal that the public ob­serve the de­ter­mined si­lence and the avoid­ance of shar­ing crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion by the SLP, in and out of of­fice. The mat­ter of the Gryn­berg oil deal, in which a se­cret deal went sour and the poor tax­pay­ers of Saint Lu­cia had to pay huge sums to lawyers de­fend­ing the gov­ern­ment, is clearly un­ten­able. When will Saint Lu­cians learn the truth from the man at the cen­tre of Gryn­berg? That’s an­other mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion that the me­dia should aim to un­cover.

The peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia learnt only af­ter the fall of the SLP ad­min­is­tra­tion that the col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Cabi­net had been usurped (tem­po­rar­ily aban­doned?), al­low­ing the for­mer PM to act on his own com­pe­ten­cies in cer­tain mat­ters. What were th­ese mat­ters? Could the Gryn­berg oil deal be one of them? Why did the Cabi­net of Min­is­ters aban­don its col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity and un­der what cir­cum­stances did it hap­pen? Who pro­posed it and was there any ob­jec­tion?

More specif­i­cally, how of­ten were re­ports made to Cabi­net by the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance and the per­sons in charge of St. Jude Hos­pi­tal re­con­struc­tion? How of­ten did the var­i­ous gov­ern­ment tech­ni­cal teams and min­is­ters of gov­ern­ment visit St. Jude Hos­pi­tal dur­ing the early stages of re­con­struc­tion? Im­por­tantly, when will Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet dis­close the names of the lawyers and ac­coun­tants his gov­ern­ment has em­ployed to pros­e­cute the St. Jude Hos­pi­tal mat­ter in the courts?

Dear reader, you are aware that the money to fix and re-open St. Jude Hos­pi­tal is an in­te­gral part of the na­tional econ­omy. You will there­fore agree that the book be thrown at those who have used their of­fices to squan­der the scarce re­sources of the coun­try. Dras­tic mea­sures are re­quired by Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet if he is to clean up the St. Jude Hos­pi­tal mess and send a stern warn­ing to those lurk­ing at the mar­gins of pol­i­tics, wait­ing their turn to ex­ploit the na­tional trea­sury.

We re­cently wit­nessed a hastily ar­ranged town hall meet­ing in the south by some per­sons in the St. Jude af­fair. We in­ter­pret this as yet an­other smoke screen. In­vok­ing the name of poor Guy Joseph is yet an­other di­ver­sion. Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet must not be de­terred. He must act now and let the chips fall wher­ever they may. He must lead the charge to clean up the coun­try of its many ills.

In ad­di­tion to de­ci­sive ac­tions which Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet must take to com­plete and re-open St. Jude Hos­pi­tal (and by ex­ten­sion the Ge­orge Od­lum Sta­dium), there is one more cru­cial mat­ter he must su­per­vise. He must re-en­er­gize the UWP to be­come a dom­i­nant force for good! The party needs to un­leash at least five com­pe­tent lions – those not hold­ing po­lit­i­cal of­fice - to lead its ver­bal at­tacks and fight back, whilst his gov­ern­ment does the work for which it was elected.

The failed op­por­tunists seem to think that the peo­ple are all fools. They think that they can aban­don the prin­ci­ple of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity and sim­ply waltz unashamedly, em­brac­ing in public view those they pre­vi­ously ac­cused of crim­i­nal­ity. In for­mer times, the Queek-Quack col­umns in Od­lum’s Cru­sader would have dealt th­ese SLP hyp­ocrites and their new-found friends a se­vere lash­ing where it hurts most.

In end­ing, I re­turn to the small mat­ter of the SLP gov­ern­ment spend­ing thou­sands, if not mil­lions, in­ves­ti­gat­ing Guy Joseph, and we de­mand to know what it has dis­cov­ered. Who hired the lawyers and ac­coun­tants that delved into all as­pects of Guy Joseph’s life, and who is pay­ing? When will the peo­ple who or­dered the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Guy Joseph hold a press con­fer­ence to re­port to the na­tion? The an­swer, dear reader. may amaze you. Sim­ply amaz­ing, me thinks!

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