JANUS has also been defined as the god who looks both back and front at the same time. In that sense January is appropriate for looking back in order to identify past mistakes whilst looking forward to define a new path, avoiding past errors.
Today’s piece has been inspired by Calixte George’s eulogy at the last rites and ceremony of his friend, student and confidant, Hilford (Pough) Deterville. It was also inspired in part by a tribute in writing to the memory of the late brother by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony of Saint Lucia.
In his tribute Anthony wrote: “Though his career had many highlights, one which especially stands out relates to the dismissal of a public servant by then Prime Minister John Compton. The case involved Emma Hippolyte who, as Director of Audit, had pointed out to the Prime Minister several areas of concern as they related to the country’s fiscal management.”
There was more. “Prime Minister Compton was unimpressed with Ms. Hippolyte’s frank disclosures and the government terminated her services. HilfordDeterville sued the state on Ms. Hippolyte’s behalf and eventually won a judgement ordering the government to immediately reinstate Ms. Hippolyte. That case was ‘precedential’ in the OECS and has been cited on numerous occasions, even within the wider Commonwealth,” added Anthony.
Two matters sprung to mind. The first was when the last report of the Director of Audit was published and whether the people of Saint Lucia, including the business community, know anything about the last Audit report?’ The appointment of a chairperson of the Finance Committee of the present House of Assembly is a matter of good governance. At independence Saint Lucia adopted the British parliamentary system and voted for the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to chair the Finance Committee of the House. The membership of that committee is drawn from both sides of the elected House. The Leader of the Opposition has chaired that committee for thirty plus years. That practice has recently been stopped. Why?
The people of Saint Lucia, including the Chamber of Commerce must demand to know who stopped the process and why. They ought also to demand answers about the last Audit report; when it was presented to Parliament, etc. In addition, organizations such as youth groups, trade unions and farmers’ groups must also demand a financial account of their country’s affairs by the Auditor General. Surely, the dearth of recent Audit reports could not have been the work of someone with a PhD in Constitutional Law. Neither could it be that of a person who did not wish the Leader of the Opposition chair the Finance Committee of the House.
It struck me that any self-respecting lawyer must be aware of the many ‘laws’ in the English legal system which are slavishly obeyed even though these are not codified. The British take a certain pride in informing the rest of the world that they do not have a written constitution. Their Common Law arose from ancient custom and practice which date back to the earliest times when people benefitted and survived by certain practices they found beneficial.
Since his name was widely invoked by people who claimed to know him perhaps someone should have asked whether the legally astute Deterville had offered any advice to the government of Dr. Anthony on the granting of a licence to Grynberg for the drilling of oil in Saint Lucia’s sea bed. Some people would also like to know whether Mr. Deterville had advised that the Governor General was the correct authority to sign such an agreement with Grynberg. By the way, what is the latest information on the Grynberg lawsuit against the government of Saint Lucia?
The following also came to mind when I listened to Calixte’s eulogy last Saturday. Does the present Labour Government know of what Calixte George spoke? Who in new Labour cares about the sale of the Bank of Saint Lucia to Trinidad or about land reform and the crucial work of a land bank? Did anyone try and stop the Labour Government from selling the Bank of Saint Lucia to Trinidad? When Kenny Anthony ‘privatized’ the banana industry and handed the assets of the former St. Lucia Banana Growers Association to his chosen friends did anyone try and stop him? When Anthony later replaced three SLP senators for speaking their minds at a meeting of the Senate, did anyone try and stop him?
I was taken aback when I listened to others referring to Hilford as their friend. The HilfordDeterville I remember had many acquaintances, associates and admirers. After fifty years of quiet observation, not counting the years at St. Mary’s College during which I was his senior, I know of some genuine friends Hilford appreciated throughout his life. Among these were Eli Greenidge, Michael Bartlett, Richardson St. Rose and Calixte George. I would add Thecla his wife, as people who spend much time together often become friends. There are others he picked up along his life’s journey. These were few and far between and Hilford was too kind and too often passive to hurt anyone who sucked up to him.
The Seamen Waterfront and General Workers Trade Union has lost three of its former presidents in short order. Dunstan Fontenelle, Eli Greenidge and now HilfordDeterville. I was president of that union before the above three. It still remains a mystery to me how God chooses his servants and how he allots and times their life’s work. He calls them to himself when their work is done. It is such belief which helps me continue to work towards a better more just Saint Lucia and Caribbean. It is therefore in this same spirit of work and struggle that I wish a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year to all who regularly read this column. The proper response is to make January 2015 and the months which follow, one of service to family, to community and to country.