Keeping a newspaper column dedicated to national, regional and international issues going three times a week is cheesecake for me.
But it’s never easy just choosing a topic – more so at some times than others, but never an easy job.
Following a Whit Monday Holiday in which I am still being asked ‘Since when is Saint Lucia planting wheat?’ (Because most young people still can’t figure out what Whit is about…), I scoured the local news headlines on Tuesday and yesterday (like I normally do) to see whether there was anything else to trump any of my own earlier-thought-of topics.
As usual, I was able to note some of what I would call unlikely headlines – some I would not even have reported on.
But then, they were about things said and done here, happenings in Saint Lucia that could not have been totally ignored — except that I would not have written about them the way they were.
Take the issue of the Prime Minister making fun of the Leader of the Opposition stammering; and the Foreign Affairs Minister’s disassociation and association with the statement — even defending it as not having been bad intentioned.
Here we have a nation’s leader, in this day and age of sensitivity to handicapped people and other aspects of ‘political correctness’, publicly ridiculing another national leader about how he speaks and sounds.
And instead of telling him his joke was both offside and offline, his foreign affairs minister is saying, in effect, ‘I won’t ever say that, but I don’t think he meant anything bad…’
Gimme a break…
I know the Madam Minister is (in effect) the nation’s top diplomat; and that it’s said that ‘A diplomat is one who will tell you to Go to Hell in such a nice way that you’ll actually look forward to the trip.’
But on this one, I think it would have been better for her to have just told the reporter ‘No comment…’
I mean, whether he was serious or joking, the Prime Minister could not have meant well.
His choice of words left his ‘joke’ in poorer taste than ever could have been intended; and it would have sounded better if any fellow Cabinet Minister wishing to publicly comment had instead summoned the testicular fortitude to at least tap him on the wrists.
Not that this matters one bit to the Opposition Leader, who has been re-elected consistently — with his speech defect — more times over the past three decades than anyone else in the current Parliament of Saint Lucia.
There’s definitely no stammer (either) in the Castries East MP’s ability to deliver the electable returns, whether as a Senator, MP, District Representative, Cabinet Minister, Party Leader or Opposition Leader.
And the Philip J. Pierre I have known all my life won’t descend into like behaviour: like challenging the PM to a public reading or pronunciation contest, for example.
And then there was that comment attributed to the Castries South MP about the next election possibly being the nastiest in recent history.
I put that alongside an earlier comment by a usually-forward-looking young politician of the new type (but also from old stock) who asked me squarely: ‘Do you think the opposition is really ready to fight-back against the next election being rigged?’
I told her I’d never given it thought — to which she added another related question: ‘You think there’s no reason to think of that?’
Again, I didn’t answer — because I already had.
Unfortunately, whether there are precedents or not, discussions like these tend to elicit, even today, a response that will most likely be to seek the usual historical political equations, like saying: ‘Yes, it’s wrong, but your side did it first.’
It would also mean: ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…’
Which also means: ‘we will never get to clean-up our politics, because someone dirtied it long before now…’
But on the ‘rigged election’ idea, I preferred to point to the very idea as one of the reasons I prefer to spend time discussing why our political discussions (unfortunately) tend to be (only and purely) local, with no reference to what’s happening – likewise or not – in the Caribbean or the rest of the world.
Here too, there would be real historical Caribbean equations that can be extracted, but almost never are…
Which is why, in this column, I always look beyond our boundaries and borders – not because I can see any further, but because in this field we must always look beyond the horizon.
But, unfortunately, as a national entity, we tend to just enjoy living ensconced in our own local political cocoon, while the rest of the world tries to adapt to the new political challenges forced by the new times…