Letters & Opinion

Inspiring Hopelessness – Part 1: Trial by Parliament

Image of David Prescod
By David Prescod

THE title might seem a contradiction of sorts, but hopelessness is now all our politicians seem capable of inspiring in us.

In May and June this year, we were treated to more of the uncouth behaviour now to be expected as the norm from our parliamentarians. Back then, we witnessed the accustomed finger-pointing, nose-thumbing displays which have seemingly replaced parliamentary debate.

Then, in September, the Speaker of the House had to tell these parliamentarians that she had had enough of their hooliganism and decided on a strict application of the rules of the House so as to maintain order.

We return to this because of one reason that had been advanced for the Opposition’s behaviour in May and June, according to which the Opposition’s tactics then were geared at preventing the discussion of an allegation that there was an account termed a “Minister’s account” at the National Lottery.

At the time, we did not hear allegations of fraud in the House, although there were suggestions of ministerial impropriety. Even so, though, we fail to understand the relevance of these repeated allegations in the House because there are institutions of government responsible for the investigation of fraud where this is suspected.

Our Constitution makes provision for a Director of Audit and authorises the Director to conduct audits of all government offices and departments, statutory bodies and government companies. The Director’s report is to be submitted to the Minister of Finance at least once a year for transmission to Parliament, though we cannot tell the last time that an Audit Report was discussed in Parliament. Yet, the insinuations of fraud continue.

The Director of Audit’s function itself has been circumvented in at least one instance,as we saw with the Town and Village Councils investigation by the last Labour government, with those Councils somehow being beyond the reach of the Director. This cannot have been the intent of the Constitution or the Audit legislation, but even then, these quasi-governmental statutory bodies and companies are required to present their audited accounts to Parliament annually. For some reason, though, we never hear of it.

So that with the issue of the Town and Village Councils, there were widespread allegations of major fraud in the management of Taiwanese Government funds by the UWP administration of 2006-2011. Having won the 2011 election, and with the Director of Audit hamstrung, the SLP administration chose to handpick a number of government employees to conduct an audit.

Lacking authority, that report was then forwarded to the DPP’s office for attention, and we then heard that it was the DPP’s fault that no further action was taken; this in the face of widespread rumours that some of the Taiwanese funds had been diverted to the purchase of luxury apartments and large parcels of land.

Now, with a UWP administration in place, there are repeated allegations of misallocation of Taiwanese funding for projects by the immediately previous SLP administration.

But that is not all, as prior to the 2011 election, former Prime Minister Anthony assured us that, on winning, he would tell us why the United States had withdrawn the visa of a sitting Member of Parliament. He won, but six years later, and he having lost again, we still don’t have a clue, and all we are left with is that exchange outside Parliament, with one individual indicating to the other that “you know that I know…”

Eighteen months into a new UWP administration, we still don’t know the details of that Juffali episode under the SLP, or even if Juffali held a diplomatic passport. Neither is public information available on the Grynberg issue.

While in the 2016 election campaign, former Prime Minister Anthony is reported to have publicly accused a UWP Minister of attempted bribery when formerly in office. That accusation has since been repeated by others, publicly, with no effect. In any other part of the world those bribery accusations would have received the immediate attention of the police. Not here; but either someone is guilty of attempted bribery, or others are guilty of making false accusations of attempted bribery.

Today in St. Lucia, the odour of corruption, fuelled by all of these allegations, is overpowering.

Somehow, we seem to repeatedly create Parliaments of tin-pot despots, where members might not only possibly be chief crook and bottle-washer, as they themselves allege of each other, but judge, jury and executioner, too. And in this all-pervasive atmosphere of official lawlessness, those despots pretend not to see the link between their own behaviour and the increasing criminal mayhem that our society has to endure.

They seem to think that continuous public relations campaigns will somehow confuse us into accepting this dense fog of hopelessness slowly choking the life out of our country, but the crime statistics betray them, and we are daily shocked back into reality.

This hopelessness cannot represent our future. We have had enough!

4 Comments

  1. David, even if we spoke but as the St. Jude’s debacle/fiasco/mystery/circus (all inclusive) heightens you have fallen silent. It might be strategic. However if you wait too long, when you resurface, maybe inadvertently, yours might be dimmed or swallowed by distractions of nonsense.

    1. Maybe so LM, but there is no construction fiasco associated with St. Jude. If this were so, it would have been uncovered by that EC$1m Technical Audit. What we have at best is “Monday morning quarter-backing”, but there is sufficient video record to dispel notions of incompetence and fraud. I will get to those details in future articles, but the over-riding issue is that of governance.

      To paraphrase from future articles:
      1) why were these current voices not raised during the SLP administration when expansions of both scope and cost were duly reported by Dr. Anthony in Parliament?
      2) What formed the basis for the termination of the consultants to this project, and was this action legal? Did Minister Joseph’s initial disapproval of the consultant’s appointment in 2010, now on video record, colour this?
      3) Why has the government refused to publish the Audit even though the Prime Minister now swears by it and claims that the consultant is prepared to testify in Court?
      4) Why also has the Prime Minister refused independent assessment of this Audit? and finally,
      5) How does the Prime Minister simultaneously embrace the report and reject its recommendation that an EC$100m repair job is required?

      What is of critical importance is an examination of how the public’s mind and attitude to this hospital has been, and is being manipulated through the media, so that now we end up with seemingly impartial medical professionals, commenting negatively on the construction, but unable to specify the medical issues for which the hospital’s construction is being condemned. They should know better, but if it can happen to them, then what of less disciplined minds?

      Most persons haven’t read the leaked Audit Report, but if you would glance through it you would have a much better appreciation of what this country is being put through, and why this must be resisted at every turn.

      Unfortunately, the reduction in space allowed for these articles means that information is presented more slowly than persons might wish, but we persevere if only to establish a record of what took place.

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