MY name is Francis Aristide, a pastor of Abundant Life Ministry. I was born in Castries but lived at Desruisseaux. Like most Micoud people, the entire family supported John Compton.
I came to know Mr. Neville Cenac when he became Leader of the Opposition in 1982. From that time, I virtually lived in his office in the Monplaisir building on Brazil Street. His wife worked with him as his secretary because the Government did not provide one. She was the fastest person I ever saw on a typewriter. She made it sing.
Whenever I came to Mr. Cenac’s office, I first sat at Mrs. Cenac’s desk, with shades on. She would say to me, “Francis, whenever you are at my desk, take your shades off so I can see you.” I would smile and do just that.
I would then go to Mr. Cenac’s office. Usually, he would be writing letters to get things done for his constituency. He was always thinking and organising meetings of the Executive of his party. He was a chain smoker and as he smoked one, he passed one to me. His wife served us tea and sandwiches often. It was the same when I visited his home at Morne Du Don from time to time. I also remember going with him and his family to an estate he owned with his wife in Soufriere. I was treated as a member of his family. He and his wife were like that with everyone.
One day, when I came to his office for my snack and cigarettes, there were no cigarettes. By that time, I was already hooked on his Diamond cigarettes. Mr. Cenac told me: “I have to buy bread for my family with that money.” Added to that, he kept an office in Laborie which he maintained with a secretary out of his own pocket.
Mr. Cenac’s troubles began in 1984 soon after he made Julian Hunte Leader of the Party (SLP). He complained to me that Mr. Hunte stopped talking to him as soon as he was not made a senator. As a result, he was unable to speak on any political platform. He only spoke in Laborie; and once on Peter Josie’s platform during the 1987 elections.
Mr. Hunte did everything to get Mr. Cenac out of Laborie. When he was unable to take the seat, he sent Mr. Cenac’s best friend, Mr. Kenneth Foster, to scout the area, then a young man named Placide, then Mr. Watson Louis, then Chris St. Hill. The people wouldn’t have any of them.
I was one of the closest persons to Mr. Cenac and his family and one day Mr. Hunte called me to his insurance office and asked me to help him get Mr. Cenac, Kenneth Foster and Peter Josie out of the Party. I was shocked and never went back to his office again and reported the matter to Mr. Cenac. I don’t think Mr. Cenac ever reported to Mr. Foster and Mr. Josie, for neither of them ever asked me anything.
Mr. Cenac helped make me the person I am today. He was my mentor. He would tell me, “Aristide, you must always be a gentleman. You must always be honest, and read.” I never heard him speak ill of anyone, even those who all conspired against him. Every member of the Executive knows how Mr. Cenac was treated. I have never heard one come out and put the record straight. And to the best of my recollection, the members of the Executive were never questioned by the press.
I remember well what Mr. Cenac said when he crossed the floor. It amounted to this: I have nothing against the Party, but one man only who tried to get rid of me without cause, and he gave his reasons. The press never reported it, investigated or verified Mr. Cenac’s reasons. But that’s not right. And those who were never close to the scene have been the ones shouting the loudest.
I know the sacrifices Mr. Cenac made for Labour. None of those talking would have tolerated half of what he has been through.
What is interesting is that all those who assisted Mr. Hunte while he was getting Mr. Cenac mad, eventually left him alone, causing him to lose his deposit in the Gros Islet constituency that elected him twice from 1987. On the contrary, though, Mr. Cenac crossed the floor, apart from UWPs, hundreds of Labour supporters voted for him because Labour had never before come across such a wonderful representative.
As a pastor, I cannot in good conscience hear all the lies being spread about that hardworking and honest man, my mentor, Mr. Neville Cenac. The God whom I serve teaches, “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” To remain silent when you know the truth is to be a false witness and I will not be that.
Those who want to know about Mr. Cenac, let them come to me for I know much more than I have said which cannot be denied by anyone, far less those who were never there, but keep talking.
For his hard work and sacrifices, Mr. Cenac deserves the Office of Governor General. God bless, Mr. Cenac, our Governor General.