By Alexis B. Montgomery
OVERHANGING most if not all topics of discussion and debate on national issues is a perpetual lack of adequate historical context and an abject lack of accurate information which can only be averted if commentators, particularly partisan commentators who call talk shows would only bother to undertake the required research rather than mislead significant sections of the listening or viewing public.
Oftentimes these people comment on incidents and issues without any depth in their contributions because they fail to go back to the history or even refer to current information, to properly contextualize their observations. This tendency illustrates a general reluctance to “go back” that is prevalent in this culture and very visible in the demeanour of both leaders and ordinary citizens alike.
In fact this scourge has earned Saint Lucians a reputation for short memory and convenient amnesia which means very few persons feel sufficiently compelled to turn to the past to gain knowledge and enlightenment, for the purpose of going forward. Is this why so many arguments seem pointless and strictly trained on prolonging defiance rather than promoting sustainable consensus and effective compromise?
Politicians and the media generally appear not to appreciate the importance of going to the back story, to our history where some archives and newspapers can be revisited, thereby avoiding the pitfalls that George Santayana pithily captured in the words: “ those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Perhaps for purposes of sensationalism the picture is often painted that every newsworthy occurrence in Saint Lucia is a “first”. Many situations have been faithfully recorded by our predecessors, which bear undeniable precedence in our history and even solutions to some of the more modern challenges. It is time to stop glibly overrating things with sensationalistic handles such as; “unheard of, “never before seen,” for the first time, “this never happened here before,” and the list of exaggerations go on, when in fact this is not necessarily the case as a little research would reveal.
Let us consider parliamentary confrontations of the past as a case in point. Recently between the Speaker of the House Peter Foster and the Member of Parliament for Castries South East honourable Guy Joseph was a rather testy exchange. This triggered a flood of exaggerated, unresearched voices crowding the airwaves claiming shock and awe at this supposedly appalling and unheard of behaviour, lamenting and complaining bitterly that Guy Joseph had dishonoured himself in the House. Rick Wayne, well known media and research guru that he is, in his July 11, weekend column ‘Writings on the Wall’, paid an interesting re–visit to recent history to dispel such poppycock. He reminded the Saint Lucian public of the “I’ll break glass in your ass” incident among other titillating “house rumbles” which had preceded the Peter/Guy encounter within the hallowed walls of Parliament in the early nineties. Back then there was this infamous confrontation between founding politicians and brothers-in-law former Prime Minister Sir John Compton, and Sir Julian Hunte, then leader of the SLP Opposition. Another reference to drama in the House goes back only a few years ago to 2011, when none other than the Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony who, upon suddenly discovering that he was in the midst of “renegades” stormed out of the House in a huff followed by his indignant opposition colleagues.
Why, only in April the budget estimates was passed in Parliament sans debate on the part of either side of the House leaving a stunned public to figure it out. Debates on the Estimates of Expenditure 2015/2016 were scheduled to take place on April 29 and Thursday, April 30, – not very far back, but some have forgotten already?
Let us go all the way back to 2003 when the Abortion Bill debate erupted in the House of Parliament, scalding some egos and dangerously parting the tightly knit Red Sea as the public had not seen with their naked eyes. During the debate in the House of Assembly, on the new Criminal Code bill, Mrs. Flood – Beaubrun referred to her colleagues as “child killers and murderers” and voted against the passage of the bill which contained an amendment to the Abortion Act.
In January 2004 as a first order of business for the New Year, Prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony fired Mrs. Sarah Flood-Beaubrun from her ministerial position in a cabinet reshuffle announced in an address to the nation that was broadcast on radio and television. The Prime Minister famously said: “ The principles of collective responsibility are enshrined in our constitution and there is no room for insult, disrespect, and invective no matter how powerful the passion and conviction one holds. If there is no respect for and among colleagues, then collective responsibility will not survive.”
And to end this recollection of some of the most heated House sagas, the question may be asked– where did the first poodle puddle pop up? If we care to go back then we should see that there was a re–baptism of the same protagonist Guy Joseph in the House of Parliament as ‘the poodle”. So dear fellow Saint Lucians who do not like to “go back” let us try to read through files of time rather than embark on unproductive smear campaigns. As difficult as it seems learning is often found to be both entertaining and informative.
Let us at least get the history right, and in so doing put things in the proper context so future generations can be properly reflected.
Certain politicians are well known to have capitalized on the “going back problems” of our people for years but now this disorder must be of the past, as we confidently assert to them that “You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people, all of the time, for they have seen the light”.