YOU would have thought that by now certain realities just don’t change, one being that in all that matters, blood is always thicker than water. And especially family blood.
I was indeed surprised when I heard the Saint Lucia Prime Minister name in his 2020 New Year Address one of the daughters of the late Sir John Compton as a Saint Lucia Goodwill Ambassador.
Normally, nothing would be wrong with one prime minister naming the daughter of the island’s first prime minister as an ambassador of good Saint Lucian will, except that in this case it’s not all that normal.
In the mater at hand, Prime Minister Chastanet named Nina Compton, the world-famous Saint Lucian Chef in New Orleans who won the People’s Choice Award in a recent international TV Food contest to the honourary diplomatic post in the middle of a public dispute with the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) over appointment of her sister, Jeannine Compton, as its next Executive Director.
The government funds the Trust by subvention and appointment of any Executive Director has to be approved by the Prime Minister, who is also Finance Minister.
The Prime Minister blocked the appointment of the older sister, a former parliamentarian who succeeded her father after his untimely death in 2007 but fell out of favour with the ruling United Workers Party (UWP), resulting in the trust creating a new post that won’t require his permission.
But this war of words and wits with bad blood between the PM and the Trust is also taking place against a history of torment in a torturous relationship between the two since Chastanet took over the reins of power, starting with his withdrawal of the Trust’s subvention after it opposed his government’s plan to introduce a ‘dolphinarium’ for captive dolphins at the Pigeon Island National Park, which is entrusted to the Trust by law.
The bad blood thickened toward the end of 2019, when the government sought to demolish the oldest building in the capital city, the colonial Royal Gaol (also officially called Her Majesty’s Prison), without consulting or informing the Trust, which is also entrusted with caring for the future of historic buildings in Saint Lucia.
Excavators hired by government were already on site demolishing the ancient jailhouse on a weekend when the Trust sought and got a restraining order from the High Court stopping the tractors on their tracks.
The bad blood seeped into the island’s courts where the two sides engaged in a legal battle that’s seen the demolition stopped while the two sides argue over whether the site should be a place of historical and touristic value or whether the old structure should simply be demolished to make way for a new Police Headquarters and justice complex.
In the midst of all that, while objecting to and not facilitating the appointment of one sister at the Trust, the Prime Minister nonetheless names the other sister as being appointed as an ambassador-at-large for Saint Lucia.
Nina Compton’s blood affinity for her sister Jeannine naturally running deeper and longer than all of Saint Lucia’s clearest waters and given all the above, I just couldn’t see how the Prime Minister would have expected Nina to accept his appointment, which was in fact an invitation communicated third-hand by a senior government official.
Unless, I thought, PM Chastanet had found a way to make water thicker than blood, in the process showing one sister he could push her over while warmly embracing the other, both in the national interest.
But that was not to be, as Nina cooked-up a penned missive so heavy on spicy but palatable verbal ingredients as to rival any of her edible innovation at her award-winning New Orleans outlet for Saint Lucian national and indigenous dishes appropriately named after the fabled creole rabbit of Saint Lucian folklore, Compere Lapin.
But there was another reason – this time not a bloody one – why Nina just couldn’t accept Prime Minister Chastanet’s offer to become a Goodwill Ambassadorship: she’s already one, having been appointed in 2014 as Saint Lucia’s Culinary Ambassador by the then Dr Kenny D. Anthony administration.
For Nina, it’s not about titles, pointing out in her ‘Return to sender’ letter that she had been and will always continue to be an ambassador for Saint Lucia in all she does, wherever she is.
But she did also let the Prime Minister know that she could not and would not accept his offer while he and his administration continue to treat her sister in ways she described with words straight out of her late father’s book.
PM Chastanet is an admirer of President Donald Trump. Both are sons of successful business entrepreneurs and each campaigned on the promise to ‘Run Government Like A Business’, the former even changing the traditional and official descriptions of Ministries to ‘Departments’ with the PM as a combined Executive Chairman and CEO, with the most ministries, among them the most important in any government.
It would be a bit of a stretch of the imagination to suggest that PM Chastanet’s holdback on National Trust funds and his opposition to the appointment of someone considered an enemy of the ruling UWP is akin to President Trump’s holdback on congressionally-approved Ukraine aid as part of a quid pro quo arrangement for Kiev to dig for, fund and provide dirt on a political opponent, or vice versa.
The Prime Minister, like the President, will argue until Thy Kingdom Come that he’s done nothing wrong and is innocent of all charges and accusations leveled against him by spokespersons for the Trust and anyone else supporting its position(s).
But one thing he simply cannot say he didn’t know or expect was that he would have been able to come between two sisters who are daughters of one of the most wily politicians ever nursed by Saint Lucia and whose family name has not been erased from the ruling party’s vocabulary since he died 12 years ago, but is hardly heard of except in general historic terms.
Some in the leadership of the UWP have never forgiven Jeannine for coming clean in parliament about how she spent cash secretly and unofficially received from Taiwan for spending on her constituency as part of the Cabinet Coup that resulted in the sparking-off of the illness that prevented him from returning to office and eventually taking his life.
Nor has she been forgotten for loudly claiming on an opposition platform during the 2016 election campaign that she’d been wrongfully approached by a former UWP Cabinet Minister then campaigning on a UWP ticket, in the privacy of his office.
The accused went on to win the seat, but the party never treated the matter like the proverbial Water Under The Bridge.
Now The Sisters have come together to remind the prime minister that: ‘In case you didn’t know (ICYDK), blood is thicker than water.