Just over a year ago, we called on Saint Lucians to withhold judgment on the controversy that was brewing between the then Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and the opposition candidate for Castries South Ernest Hilaire, over the latter’s Range Rover imported from Britain after he demitted office as the High Commissioner of Saint Lucia in the UK which was released to him by the Customs and Excise Department, but later taken from him by the same Department.
At the time, we called on Saint Lucians to let this matter play out in court as it is only then we might get more than a snippet of the truth behind the different versions or episodes of the saga that is playing out before them.
It was, and still is, our view that Saint Lucians deserve to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth and that it is best to let the matter unravel itself in a court of law, after which we, as a people, can react appropriately.
Well here we are today. The matter was brought to court by the Comptroller of Customs and the court recommended that it be resolved through the mediation process. The mediation took place and, presumably as a result, the Comptroller of Customs withdrew his complaint before the court. What transpired during the mediation process we do not know, however the end result is that the Comptroller of Customs dropped all charges as they relate to Hilaire’s vehicle so there was no trial and no contest on the facts of the case. The Vehicle is now in the Minister’s possession. The story, in so far as the criminal complaint is concerned, it seems has ended.
But is it an end to the saga? Most certainly for the opposition it is not. From a criminal standpoint it may have ended, but for the opposition United Workers Party the story has become bigger and has been the hottest topic on the party’s radio station (93.1 FM) for the past two weeks.
The United Workers party is milking the whole saga for all that is worth. It is to be noted, they remind us, that whilst the criminal case may have been withdrawn there is still extant a civil case relating to the same subject. It is to be recalled that Minister Hilaire filed a defamation suit against former prime minister Chastanet. A preliminary issue raised in that case has been tried, appealed and is now the subject of a further appeal, yet to be heard. When the main case is finally heard, then the people of St. Lucia will have the opportunity to form, for themselves, their own opinions.
Further, Hilaire himself has stated that he intends to file an action against the former Acting Comptroller of Customs for the wrongful seizing of his Range Rover and against both the former Prime Minister and the former acting Comptroller for misfeasance in public office based on their actions in his case. If that threat is carried out, and it may only have been made in the excitement of the conclusion of the criminal case, then the issues surrounding the Range Rovers will be with us for some considerable time yet.
If one thing is crystal clear, it is that Chapter 100 of the Saga is by no means the last chapter. Judgment must be deferred until all the facts are in, or until the protagonists hang up their gloves.