A disgruntled supporter of the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) recently said within hearing that, Kenny Anthony is a ‘mad man.’ I pressed him for proof. He mentioned the poor handling of the island’s economy and the proposal of new offices for the Prime Minister at La Toc. To my surprise the man added ‘they should keep him in there’ – a reference to La Toc, the former site of the island’s mental institution. I countered that calculated and deliberate behaviour cannot be classified as madness. Irresponsible, uncaring, even reckless may be a more aptly description – not madness! The disgruntled SLP walked away angry at me!
That conversation led me to review the modus operandi of the Anthony administration to ensure I had not missed something crucial. In our parliamentary system after general elections the majority leader is appointed Prime Minister, (PM). The PM and his Ministers lay down policy to career public servants. These public servants are then charged with implementation. The machinery of government never stops, unless politics intervenes. Public servants are paid professionals and ought not to identity with any particular Minister or Government.
But this basic model can get tricky. In times past, the colonial administrator (later the Governor) had powers of veto over public service appointments. That power is now in the hands of the politicians. Indeed, since independence, the politicians have manipulated the laws so that they virtually create statutory bodies and place people there whom they can control.
That ‘new legal arrangement’ has opened up the floodgates for unscrupulous politicians to appoint party supporters at their whim and fancy in government and on boards which are all paid from the public purse. Perhaps the time has come for new and committed politicians to return the Town and Village Councils to the people for choosing, instead of to their party hacks and lackeys. The naked manipulation of Public Service appointments leads one to suspect that the stalwart who criticized the PM had more on his mind than the national economy and new offices for the PM.
Promoting party hacks and lackeys into senior positions in the government which they do not deserve, may account for the poor state of the national economy and general disenchantment with the government.
For more proof of deliberate and calculated action one only has to observe the way the Labour government does business. For example, a registered business is expected to file an annual tax return. Records of profit and loss accounts ought to be available to the Inland Revenue Department for scrutiny as the law provides. Compared to the private sector, who audits the financial accounts of the government? When was the last audited statement of the government presented to parliament? Is such a procedure necessary according to the laws of Saint Lucia?
When last did the Finance Committee of the House meet and who heads that committee? Why was the chair of the Finance Committee of the House denied to Dr Gale Rigobert when she became Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition? Why was the PM so adamant that Dr.Rigobert should not head the Finance Committee of the House? As a former Parliamentarian both before and after independence, selecting the Leader of the Opposition as head of the Finance Committee of the House was a matter of practice and tradition upheld by every Saint Lucia leader. Why has PM Anthony deliberately and calculatingly decided to be different? Was his the action of a defeated man lashing out in frustration?
Who is there so bold to investigate the finances of the country at this time and report to the people? Can anyone, including the island’s Ombudsman, compel the Public Accounts Committee to meet? What if anything, can the office of Governor General or that of the Law Association or the island’s Chamber of Commerce or its Trades Unions do to make the government respect (and obey) the provisions of the Finance Act, as customarily practiced in Saint Lucia?
What is the real financial situation of Saint Lucia at this time? Why can’t hospitals afford basic medicines or schools afford toilet paper? Why can’t important rural roads be repaired? Why. Why, and why again? Earlier this year in a tribute paid to a departed Labour stalwart, the PM was moved to remind mourners in a written tribute of an earlier audit by then Director of Audit Emma Hippolyte (now a Minister of the government) in which she chastised the former minister of Finance, John Compton. Ms. Hippolyte then won a case against government on the same matter. She was represented by the departed legal scholar. What, pray, does the erstwhile Emma Hippolyte have to say on the present state of the hidden audits of her government? Where is the current Auditor General? Where are the legal minds ready and willing to force government to act according to law? The former legal challenge brought much glee to the conniving faces of many Labourites. Why the silence today? Why are some persons now behaving like mute sheep in the face of the obvious illegality of a government refusing to expose its business books?
Not surprisingly, such deliberate calculations do not stop at the Finance Act or at refusing to name the Leader of the Opposition to chair the Finance Select Committee of the House. The evidence of political interference looms everywhere one turns.
Traditionally, the Public Service Commission (PSC) was comprised of senior citizens of proven dignity and integrity. One still recalls Desmond McNamara QC, and the likes of C. A. P. St. Hill, an extra mural tutor from Trinidad, as members. At that time, a Permanent Secretary (PS) would never permit a Minister of the Government to act as his politics and fancies dictated. One remembers such PS’s as Ira Simmons, W. King, Ferdinand, Dr. Louisy, C. Cadet, D. Charlemagne, Fitz Louisy, Martin Elwin, Leton Thomas, and Victor Girard among others who would never allow themselves to be led by any politician. These men were men of caliber and class!
Soon after new labour got into office, former Prime Minister Sir John Compton was moved to comment that, ‘the civil service had been so politicized that one did not know where the political party ends and the government begins.’ It is also to be regretted, that top public servants who have earned their place by merit are as likely to be regarded as party hacks and lackeys, as others who ‘made it’ by pandering to temporary political misfits, prostituting themselves in the process.
For more proof that the manipulation of the public service is calculated and deliberate rather than the work of mad men, readers are invited to read Caswell Franklyn’s article at page 31A, in the Sunday Sun newspaper of Barbados, dated May 31st 2015.