Best PM of All?

Mir­ror, Mir­ror Down The Hall, Who’s The

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE -

What­ever else might be said about the talk-show host Tim­o­thy Poleon, that he is among our more ta­lented TV in­quisi­tors is un­de­ni­able—a fact never clearer than when the in­di­vid­ual on the other side of his ques­tions is de­ter­mined to score by any means nec­es­sary, as politi­cians are wont to do.

Two or three weeks ago, Chair­man Moses JnBap­tiste ap­peared on Poleon’s

News­maker Live TV show, con­ceiv­ably to con­tribute to the op­po­si­tion party’s public­ity blitzkrieg aimed at de­liv­er­ing a do-or-die mother of all protest marches. Be­fore long the MP had let slip out of his well-oiled mouth his flat­terer’s con­tention that the best prime min­is­ter Saint Lu­cia ever had was named Kenny An­thony.

I fully ex­pected the host to feign sud­den deaf­ness; to pre­tend he had not heard what his au­di­ence cer­tainly had, and doubt­less dis­missed as, well, par­ti­san drivel. But on the Wed­nes­day night in ques­tion Tim was ev­i­dently in a mood to play cat and mouse. Eyes blaz­ing with in­credulity, he gen­tly pushed back: “Are you say­ing Kenny An­thony was a bet­ter prime min­is­ter than even Sir John?”

JnBap­tiste was true to form, aim­lessly toss­ing at Poleon souf­flé af­ter puffed up souf­flé in his mind­less de­ter­mi­na­tion to jus­tify the un­jus­ti­fi­able. The back and forth served fur­ther to prove how lit­tle politi­cians care for truth that does not serve their agen­das. But then, days later I would dis­cover my­self re­call­ing, rea­son un­known, the Moses JnBap­tiste in­ter­view and the se­ri­ous ques­tion it had thrown up, if in­ad­ver­tently: Which of our former prime min­is­ters best served the na­tion? (Let us agree at this point to leave out the cur­rent of­fice holder; he is still new to the game, hav­ing barely started the third year of his con­sti­tu­tional lus­trum. As for Mikey Pil­grim, let us be es­pe­cially gen­er­ous and de­clare him hors con­cours!)

It oc­curred to me that per­haps Moses JnBap­tiste be­lieved him­self to be telling his whole truth when he placed Kenny An­thony at the top of Saint Lu­cia’s imag­ined Mount Rush­more. I con­cluded that “our best prime min­is­ter” resided, as do so many other mat­ters of opin­ion, in the eye of the be­holder, whether or not bloodshot. Then, as if fur­ther to prove there re­ally is noth­ing new un­der the sun, I hap­pened upon a “Pres­i­den­tial His­to­ri­ans Sur­vey” that C-SPAN had con­ducted in 2017. It turned out that 91 his­to­ri­ans were en­gaged in this project that ranked the former lead­ers on “ten at­tributes of lead­er­ship.” These ranged from the moral cat­e­gories of cri­sis lead­er­ship, moral au­thor­ity, pur­sued equal jus­tice for all, to the more tech­ni­cal ones of eco­nomic man­age­ment, ad­min­is­tra­tive skills, per­for­mance within con­text of times, and set­ting an agenda, and in­cluded re­la­tions with the pub­lic, Congress and other govern­ments.

Com­mented pres­i­den­tial scholar Richard Nor­ton Smith: “The golden age of the pres­i­dency, ac­cord­ing to this sur­vey is 19331969. Five pres­i­dents from this era each rank in the top ten, which tells you some­thing about the cri­te­ria his­to­ri­ans tend to use. It re­in­forces Franklyn Roo­sevelt’s claim to be not only the first mod­ern pres­i­dent but the man who, in rein­vent­ing the of­fice, also estab­lished the cri­te­ria by which we judge our lead­ers.”

If we on this Rock of Sages should adopt the above-listed cri­te­ria as the yard­stick by which to mea­sure our lead­ers up to June 2016, how would they stack up? Let us start with the “moral cat­e­gories.” When it comes to cri­sis lead­er­ship, what im­me­di­ately comes to the in­formed mind is the pe­riod 1972 through 1982. John Comp­ton was in the hot seat at the birth of

the pesky but short-lived St. Lu­cia Fo­rum, when first were heard the rum­blings from the ba­nana val­leys. He barely made it back to of­fice fol­low­ing the 1974 gen­eral elec­tions and it was hardly a sur­prise when in 1979 Al­lan Louisy re­placed him as prime min­is­ter. In con­se­quence of the so-called lead­er­ship strug­gle with Ge­orge Od­lum, Louisy fi­nally agreed un­der in­tense pres­sure from within to hand over the reins of power to his at­tor­ney gen­eral Win­ston Cenac—the camel that cracked the SLP camel’s back. Two years af­ter Al­lan Louisy’s Labour Party took of­fice, a bat­tle-weary Saint Lu­cia was left lit­tle choice but to limp painfully back to the polls. The un­for­get­table year was 1982.

So, who best weath­ered the lead­er­ship crises of 1972-82? While you’re busy sep­a­rat­ing the chaff from the chaff, dear reader, you may also wish to con­sider which of our prime min­is­ters had the least (if any) moral au­thor­ity to lec­ture im­pres­sion­able chil­dren and their mostly very young moth­ers about the pit­falls of free-forall sex and teen preg­nan­cies, un­con­trol­lable out­bursts of anger, ac­count­abil­ity, and other things good, in­clud­ing thou shall not steal, com­mit adul­tery or ac­cept bribes?

We come now to my fa­vorite cat­e­gory from the Pres­i­den­tial His­to­ri­ans Sur­vey: “Who Pur­sued Equal Jus­tice For All.” Was it John Comp­ton? Al­lan Louisy? Kenny An­thony? Or have our politi­cians al­ways cared about the peo­ple’s con­sti­tu­tional rights, re­gard­less of party af­fil­i­a­tions? It can hardly be a se­cret that our lead­ers have rou­tinely in­flu­enced the way our po­lice carry out their du­ties, here and there ne­go­ti­at­ing or out­right order­ing the re­lease of a sus­pect or the oc­ca­sional turn­ing of a blind eye.

Some have even per­suaded the po­lice to con­duct day­light raids on homes painted red or yel­low, for no other rea­son than to em­bar­rass own­ers or oc­cu­pants. So the ap­pro­pri­ate ques­tion might be: Which of our prime min­is­ters was most guilty of such prac­tices? Who cared the most about cit­i­zens be­ing equal un­der the law? Who worked the hard­est to es­tab­lish le­gal aid, a func­tion­ing ju­di­ciary and a po­lice depart­ment trained in ac­cor­dance with the day’s de­mands?

When it comes to fi­nance, I feel tempted to say the proper man­age­ment of a na­tion’s econ­omy de­mands, first of all, the ex­is­tence of an econ­omy. But I’ll re­sist the dev­il­ish temp­ta­tion. Bet­ter that I point out that as far back as I’ve taken an in­ter­est in such mat­ters, prime min­is­ter af­ter prime min­is­ter has warned about the cost of “spend­ing more than you take in,” as if in­deed the ad­vice they of­fered ap­plied to ev­ery­one else, and not those who de­ter­mine (of­ten sur­rep­ti­tiously!) how money from the Con­sol­i­dated Fund is spent.

Maybe here the ques­tion should be: Which of our former prime min­is­ters was most ac­count­able? Who cared most that govern­ment ac­counts were al­ways up to date and tabled in par­lia­ment? Dur­ing whose ten­ure were the most meet­ings con­vened by House fi­nance com­mit­tee? Which of our prime min­is­ters was most widely per­ceived as hon­est, an ex­em­plary fam­ily man, ever faith­ful to his mar­i­tal vows? (In­ter­est­ing to note, our prime min­is­ters have all been mar­ried men—un­like sev­eral mem­bers of par­lia­ment best known for their end­less sow­ing of wild oats!)

I feel con­fi­dent, dear read­ers, that with the slight­est ef­fort you can pro­vide your own ques­tions for a prime min­is­te­rial sur­vey. I’m also well aware, to cite the usual par­lance in these cir­cum­stances—and de­spite that noth­ing could be more ob­vi­ous—that “Saint Lu­cia is not Amer­ica!” In all events, who wants to make He­len great again when in truth we’ve al­ways been happy to sell her as cheap whore?

The pre­ced­ing is but a small re­minder that the num­ber of pot­holes filled in with con­crete dur­ing a term in of­fice, or the num­ber of cit­i­zens who par­tic­i­pated in ac­tiv­i­ties best de­scribed as “dis­guised unem­ploy­ment,” do not de­ter­mine a good prime min­is­ter.

By the way, I seem to re­call Moses JnBap­tiste gas­con­ing to Tim­o­thy Poleon about what sep­a­rated Kenny An­thony from his fel­low prime min­is­ters: “When Dr. An­thony took of­fice there was mud ev­ery­where. Peo­ple of­ten had to carry their shoes in their hands.” Ev­i­dently muddy feet were more so­cially ac­cept­able pre-An­thony than were muddy shoes! I can only imag­ine the Ken­ny­la­tion of former farm­ers and other Mi­coud North com­muters while buy­ing at Vieux Fort su­per­marts im­ported sub­sti­tutes for what they once pro­duced— be­fore their “muddy” farm­ing en­vi­ron­ment was trans­formed into a con­crete jun­gle!

Should Gros Pi­ton be turned into St. Lu­cia’s Mount Rush­more, whose face would dec­o­rate the iconic peak? Ge­orge Charles, John Comp­ton (left to right), Mikey Pil­grim, Vaughan Lewis, Kenny An­thony, Stephen­son King, Allen Chas­tanet?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.