Letters & Opinion

Who Benefitted? – A Deadly Question

THE EDITOR:
The Voice of Saint Lucia was first published over one hundred years ago. In that time its editorials have consistently represented reasoned argument, frequently falling on the side of conservatism, occasionally taking a principled stance against lapses and infelicities, summoning up the courage to speak out boldly on national issues.

The editorial of January 2, 2016 was critical of a certain diplomatic appointment by the island’s government, in secrecy and silence. Such behaviour from politicians who shouted their commitment to transparency and openness from the roof tops has struck a raw nerve in many Saint Lucians. The ideas they espoused meant working with transparency and openness in the interest of all the people – not just its friends and party hacks.

In its January 2 issue the paper pointedly asked: ‘who benefits’ (from) the Juffali Saga. Such a burning question at the commencement of a brand New Year must make us pause and think anew how we appoint ambassadors and representatives, to serve our interests overseas. The editorial also forces us to ponder what ought to be the next item on the national agenda pertaining to Ambassador Juffali. That item ought to be an invitation to the local and foreign (Caribbean and British) media to persuade the government to answer the question, ‘who benefits’? It is a question which deserves simple and clear answers. The studied silence, the bobbing and weaving, the hiding behind legalese that serve to cloud rather than clarify, will not do.

I suggest that the media goes one step further than demanding answers from the government. It ought also to warn politicians who are aspiring to government that they must clearly demonstrate a willingness to secure legislation which would ensure that cabinet decisions, especially those which impact foreign appointments, citizenship by investment, and contracts of a certain value are clearly explained to the public at weekly press briefings following cabinet meetings and sittings of parliament. This new openness should be seen as a positive outcome of the Juffali affair. Transparency and accountability must be more than nice intentions. They need to be legislated and form a central part of the way governments act. Henceforth there are to be no secrets, no silence, no smoke screens and no bull.

To the relief of its readers that VOICE editorial went some way in answering its own question. It suggested various scenarios for discussion. The more telling is the choice which the government must make between Ambassador Juffali on the one hand, and the island’s continued cordial relations with Britain, on the other. Perhaps to avoid embarrassing anyone, the newspaper steered clear of posing an even more damning question: Is Ambassador Juffali a ‘citizen-by-investment’ of Saint Lucia, and if so, when did this happen and how much has he invested in the island? It is now known that the worthy Ambassador secured his appointment in early 2014. After that fact everything else surrounding Juffali and this island seems a muddle in obfuscation, double-speak, cover-ups and silence.

There are, to be certain, many among us who would prefer to focus on Ambassador Juffali’s sexual shenanigans and the lawsuit by his ex-wife hanging over his head. For my part, his personal love affair ought to have little or nothing to do with the government and people of Saint Lucia. Here are some questions which should interest every Saint Lucian: How did Juffali come to represent Saint Lucia on the International Maritime Organization, (IMO)? When was the Cabinet decision? How many meetings of that body has he attended since his appointment? When will the Minister of External Affairs and/or the Prime Minister address this Juffali matter? Should the opposition declare an intention to set up a Commission of Enquiry into this and other related matters when it forms the next government? These are serious matters which ought to be occupying the minds of the people of Saint Lucia. A great pity that, so few are prepared to speak sensible and clearly on this pressing national issue.

Her Majesty’s Government in Britain has taken the unusual step of asking the government of Saint Lucia – a friendly government – to have Mr. Juffali’s diplomatic immunity waived so that his ex-wife may have her day in court. The response to that unusual request is likely to test the strength and influence of both Mr. Juffali and the government of Saint Lucia. The diplomatic note from Britain could not have come at a more awkward time for the government of Saint Lucia. And as if it was intended to add to the chagrin of an overburdened leader, Britain has asked that the government of Saint Lucia reply to its request by January 8, 2016, the presumptive date of birth of the island’s beleaguered prime minister.

It may not be farfetched, if in a moment of hardened socialist rectitude and defiance, the beleaguered prime minister was to fire back a diplomatic note of his own denying the request from Her Majesty’s Government, preferring to stay the course with his newly-minted Juffali, of Saudi Arabia fame. Such an action would be in keeping with the prime minister’s former actions in sending his stuttering deputy to meet with US Vice President Biden in Trinidad, while he went off on a frolic to Cuba with his official side kick? In addition, the man has said repeatedly that he will pursue new friendships regardless of their ideologies and relations with the US and Britain. So choosing to ignore Her Majesty’s diplomatic note and letting the chips fall where they may, is not farfetched.

Whatever happens and however the government of Saint Lucia may decide to act on the request from London, the fact remains that this year will be a very difficult year for the government of Saint Lucia. It will certainly be bombarded from left right and centre with more questions than it can truthfully answer, perhaps going back to Grynberg and the NCA. As I see it, of the anticipated mass of questions which will be thrown its way, the one by the VOICE editorial of January 2, may well turn out to be the most deadly.

–T.M. Verneuil

4 Comments

  1. and this mr.know-all.
    this whole matter is full of bull-shit.
    all fall down for the uwp come election

  2. PROPHET if any body is full of it, it’s you.
    Jan. 8th. is come and gone, Labour have not had the respect to
    announce to the nation their intention on this matter. Is the Arab
    in or out? We need to know one way or another. Here’s the rub, if he is
    outed, does he get his money back? and who gets his place? please
    save St. Lucia the burden and shame, don’t send Hileair back there again.
    He is a proven failure and does not need to be compensated for that mess.
    If there is an ounce of decency at the ‘HEAD’ he should be FIRED forthwith.
    Does the Boss have the guts???

  3. The boss has no guts. The SLP will be destroyed because of one man’s highly questionable character and to Kenny Damn Anthony that is ok. That is not the mark of a good leader. A good leader knows when to cut loose a destructive force. That one is inertia at its best. If there were benefits to be gained for that exchange with the Saudi then such actions are treasonous. Treason carry a stiff penalty elsewhere. But not in our banana republic. We give certain people big positions instead.

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