LAST Thursday, had Mr. Ubaldus Raymond been introduced as the Honourable Dr.Ubaldus Raymond, I’d likely not have batted an eye. The following day we learned of his entanglements with an 18-year old student, her attempts to blackmail him, his refusal to pay the $700 she demanded and the online sharing of what appeared to be (and have yet to be denied by him) photos of him.
Since then, it has been difficult for most people to consider the nation’s Minister of Finance as honourable. Following the discovery and publications on Thursday and the firestorm of public discussion and debate, the minister held a press conference on Friday and issued a statement. Unfortunately, not only did his statement fail to stop the bleeding, it worsened it. In both text and tone, Mr. Raymond was arrogant, defiant and showed no trace of remorse or even regret, and anyone expecting either was clearly at the wrong press conference. Truly adding insult to injury, the minister suggested that he was the victim here – never mind that he is the ‘adult’, married with kids and the herculean task of lifting this country out of the financial quagmire we’re in. Never mind that the other party, as deserving of blame and rebuke as she is, is nonetheless an 18-year old student, a child.
Instead Mr. Raymond said he wouldn’t allow himself to be bullied. That’s right sir! You show them! (Sarcasm, in case you missed it). He described himself as a man of family values, never mind the fact that the leaked photos while being married and having young children of his own. He even evoked the name of God, suggesting that he would leave the matter to “the Almighty” and the courts, again never mind that he likely wasn’t thinking about God during his involvement with the young student.
The minister suggested that this was all political; a witch hunt by those seeking to damage his integrity and sully his wonderful reputation. But the obvious question to ask is whether those political operatives were also the ones who made him pull down his own pants and take those images. It’s perfectly okay to “not give in to political operatives who will use the most disgusting tactics in order to malign [his] name or to scare [him] into submission” as he put it. But ask yourself which was more disgusting; the tactics employed by those the minister accuses or the fact that he supposedly fell for them so fully. Sure, there may have been invisible hands influencing and even directing the young student to take the poorly calculated moves she did and by no stretch of the imagination is she or they blameless in this sordid affair. But unless the minister says and can prove otherwise, political operatives didn’t make him have that alleged conversation and didn’t make him take/send those alleged photos.
Even if he were not at work when the alleged episodes took place, ask yourself if you’re okay with your minister of finance, whose job is so demanding so as to almost consume him, having to spend time handling a personal blackmail attempt from an 18-year old.
Admittedly, the minister did no crime but there is a world of difference between what is legal and what is okay. It is legal for a minster to sleep around with 18-year olds but it isn’t okay for someone of that stature and moral and social accountability to do so.
An online poll by St. Lucia News Online on Jan. 17 suggests that over 70% of responders think he should resign and an HTS e-poll on Jan 16 found the same. While the methodology of both aren’t known, the results are telling. In a week devoid of much honourable action, it is the only redeeming thing Mr. Raymond could do. That he hasn’t yet done it is worrying. That he came out guns blazing, posturing and suggesting that he intends to fight this ‘attack on him’ is something much worse.
As a Ph.D holder and economist, he brings value to the cabinet. But he is no Arthur Lewis. He is no Dwight Venner. The minister should resign if for no other reason than to avoid being a distraction to a government that has far too much of greater importance to focus on. And if he refuses to, the Prime Minister ought to fire him before both are considered equally dishonourable.