By stephen lester Prescott
ABSENCE of former Prime Minister Stephenson King and, on occasion, Castries Central MP, Richard Frederick, there is very little dispute that the Parliamentary Opposition lacks depth in debates. Little wonder then that I haven’t viewed or listened to a parliamentary debate for many a year. But who can blame me? Why should I waste precious minutes listening to the multi accented but shallow Gale Rigobert, the pedestrian Arsene James, the out of his depth Edmund Estephane and Chastanet’s echo, Guy Joseph?
I was not always so apathetic and was previously an avid follower of House meetings. The 1997 – 2006 tenure of the previous Anthony administration was punctuated by quality debate which even my then 15 year old son found enlightening. I seldom missed a debate then. Not anymore, however.
I was at work earlier this week, on Tuesday to be precise, when the House met to debate, what according to the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, were fairly routine matters. I was therefore the most surprised person when during my lunch break I overhead colleagues discussing an altercation between the House Speaker, Peter Foster and Guy Joseph. What I heard, though surreal, was hardly surprising as in recent times Guy Joseph seems to have appropriated to himself, the role of the House “Bad John”.
Just recently he had embarrassed Stephenson King by making public, private correspondence between the former Prime Minister and the Governor General. How Guy Joseph came to be in possession of that document speaks volumes of King’s gullibility and Rick Wayne’s hatred for Kenny Anthony and the Labour Party. It is now common knowledge that King, while Prime Minister, had written to the Governor General enquiring whether she had been consulted on the matter of the Grynberg licence. For her part, rather than simply respond, the Governor General had descended into a bashing of Prime Ministers, past and present, for what she suggested was their disrespect of her office. That it has transpired her response was in excess of her jurisdiction is for another time.
For now let us suggest she wrote what she did thinking this was a discussion between a Head of State and a former Prime Minister. What possessed Stephenson King to hand a copy of the letter to Rick Wayne, only he knows for sure. Wayne would pass the letter on to, of all people, Guy Joseph. The sly Wayne would certainly have briefed Guy Joseph on what he wished him to do with the letter. Alas, Guy being Guy would be off script within seconds and in a performance worthy of a second grader Guy Joseph, cleverly goaded by the Prime Minister, literally read the letter into the Parliament’s record. Now in the public domain, a review of the letter revealed King’s note to Wayne. What a tangled web we weave!
There was also another recent House sitting where Joseph accused the government of awarding contracts without the contracts going through the tendering process. Asked to present evidence supporting his assertion, the Castries South East MP would say only that what was being asked of him was impossible as he could not present that which did not exist. Joseph would soon be proved a liar as Deputy Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre would present to the House several newspaper clippings each showing the contracts were in fact advertised. Not even in the face of that damning evidence did Joseph retract his earlier assertions prompting Prime Minister Anthony to indicate an intention to bring a motion of censure against Mr. Joseph.
My information is that when the House commenced debate on Tuesday of this week, only one opposition MP was present; Guy Joseph. The Opposition Leader Gail Rigobert, though spotted in the north of the island did not venture near the Parliament. I am reliably advised that her excuse was she had forgotten her parliament papers at her Micoud residence. Really?Dennery South MP, Edmund Estephane, under pressure with rental problems involving his siblings and his constituency office perhaps did not remember the House meeting. I have also been told that some hiccups have come to the fore regarding Arsene James and his deal with Chastanet regarding the Micoud South seat. Word is the James clan just isn’t buying into the exchange.
Speaking of Chastanet, suggestions are that he is in North America attempting to defuse “Certifigate” as the calls for him to make public his alleged degrees are growing louder by the minute so that the public can judge whether he is indeed an economist as he claims.
So there was Guy Joseph, planned or not, all by his lonesome self facing an army of battle ready Labour soldiers. It would not be long before he would fall afoul of the House rules. Reading from a document he claimed was a signed contract between the Government and Construction & Industrial Equipment Ltd, he suggested inappropriateness as the signatories on both sides of the contract carried the same surname. House Speaker Peter Foster quickly interjected seeking the relevance of Joseph’s comment. That simple question, which was within the Speaker’s authority to ask, served only to have Joseph unleash a verbal assault on the House Speaker the likes of which has never before been seen. The several warnings from the Speaker seemed only to further embolden Joseph as he dared the Speaker to “do something.”
Eventually Speaker Foster would instruct Joseph to curtail his presentation and to resume his seat. A chastened Joseph would seconds later pack his bags and depart the Chamber. It has since emerged that Joseph again misled the House as the contract from which he was reading was actually signed by Ivor Daniel and not the individual he had alleged.
Even a cursory reading of the House Standing Orders supports the Speaker’s instructions to Joseph to desist from the path he was taking. Whilst Members of Parliament have the privilege of being immune from lawsuits for things said in the House, the Speaker has a duty to ensure that the privilege is not abused at the expense of non Members who have no form of recourse. Anyone who has viewed the You Tube videos of the exchange between the Speaker and Joseph would clearly hear the Speaker admonishing Joseph that it was against the rules to impugn anyone, whether a Member of the House or a member of the public, without the appropriate evidence. Only someone bent on creating mischief could lend support to Guy Joseph’s seemingly demented behaviour during the last House sitting.
If indeed further proof was required this week provided it that it is past time for Guy Joseph and his UWP counterparts to be held to account, not only for their House shenanigans but equally for their alleged misdeeds whilst holding ministerial office. Last week the Court of Appeal gave leave in a contested application for the government to proceed with an appeal against Justice Belle’s decision in the Allen Chastanetmisuse of monies case. That’s a start. More needs to be done however.
The Director of Public Prosecutions can no longer pretend the Town and Village Councils report is a nonexistent document. She cannot continue to treat the IMPACS report like a plague not to be handled by her. She must move on these matters with the same alacrity that she has engaged the less pressing Lambirds matter.
When a poodle concludes he is a bull dog then the Doberman must be set loose!