The word rape conjures up images of a violent assault on a person, often a young woman. It is seldom associated with the abuses of a political system such as democracy except in extreme cases. As practiced in this region, parliamentary democracy allows people to freely and regularly elect their government. However, since political independence less than fifty years ago, two elected governments have abused (raped) democracy to the detriment of the electorate – and the country. I refer to St Kitts/ Nevis and Grenada. Add Trinidad for good measure.
It may be opportune at this time, to remind ourselves of the words of James Madison, a founding father of the US constitution. “But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on governments would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
The opposition UWP had done an excellent job of rebutting this year’s budget as presented to the Saint Lucia Parliament. Still, I deem it sufficiently troubling to further highlight a misguided proposal to spend $100,000,000.00 on new offices for the Prime Minister even as a brand new four storey government building lays empty at Point Seraphine in Castries. One also questions such extravagance in the face of the neglect of Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) at Vieux Fort and its handing over to a Middle East outfit for thirty years to do as they please.
The former government in its wisdom had imposed an airport departure tax at Hewanorra to aid in its re-development. On assuming office the Labour government immediately removed that departure tax. When they discovered their mistake they imposed a tax on water and on food, rather than re-introduce the airport tax. Hewanorra airport remains the center of economic activity in Vieux Fort – its importance grows with the growth of tourism. Unfortunately, humility is not a quality that fits easily on Prime Minister Anthony. By the way, is the business mind of Saint Lucia’s representative to UNESCO connected to the new HIA airport deal?
Why couldn’t the Prime Minister re-develop Hewanorra airport instead of building a new government campus at Vieux Fort and an office for the Prime Minister at La Toc, Castries? Why? Madison’s point on the people obliging the government to control itself is doubly relevant. What can the citizens do, short of a violent revolution, to make a government listen when it stubbornly refuses to? How long should a people tolerate a government that consistently mismanages the finances of a country?
Madison’s two great difficulties in forming a government are: ‘enable the government to control the governed and, oblige it to control itself.’ These two beg a third question that bears repetition. What can (must) a people do when the government is out of control and arrogantly refuses to listen to the people even as it fritters away their taxes?
For further elucidation we return first to the IMPACS report. That report has negatively impacted the Royal Saint Lucia Police Service by the way it was presented by the Prime Minister on radio and television. The second example is the more dastardly act of human trafficking involving Saint Lucia. How can these two events which cast such an accusing finger at the island be allowed to lay low … unexplained? Why was the IMPACS report used to embarrass a popular and well loved Police Commissioner and other officers who had sworn to serve and protect? At whose desk does the responsibility for the work of the police lay? Is it that of the Commissioner of Police or, that of the Minister for Internal Affairs and National Security? Who, when and in what situation was the police given orders ‘to do their jobs’ to quell the spate of killings five years ago? In whose interest were the politicians working, theirs or that of their friends … or the public’s?
Why were the policemen assigned to investigate the human trafficking scandal summarily removed from that duty? Why? Who from the Royal Saint Lucia Police Service is presently investigating the Lambirds matter? Who will save Saint Lucia from that embarrassing international scandal and shame? Is silence the only remedy this deceitful government knows?
And speaking of silence wasn’t it new Labour who promised more transparency, more openness and greater integrity in government? Why then this deafening silence? Why this cloak-and-dagger secrecy? Why this sleight of hand in Lambirds and IMPACS scandals? If we returned to James Madison we may now ask what were (are) the ‘auxiliary precautions’ to which Mr. Madison referred? Was it to the laws and institutions which would help curb the excesses of government?
Here is Cicero, a prominent Roman Senator, speaking one thousand years before Madison. ‘The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and, the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance….’ Cicero, 55 BC. Where does Saint Lucia stand?