In April 2017, the then sitting administration amended the Crown Proceedings Act on the recommendation of the Ramsahoye Commission to allow for the recovery of public funds, that was according to former Prime Minister Allen Chastanet during his budget delivery that year.
He said that the Act, as a result of the amendment, is not encumbered by a statute of limitations. To us this means that the Government of Saint Lucia is therefore free to go after anyone it feels used public funds in unjustifiable ways, irrespective of how long ago such misdeeds took place.
Five years have passed since the announcement of the amendment and to our knowledge not one report has been filed showing that public funds have been used in unjustifiable ways, or indeed recovered.
Chastanet in 2018 said the amendment to the Crown Proceedings Act was only the beginning. This second announcement gave the impression that government would put other instruments in place to recover public funds, or go after persons who spent public funds in ways not approved by our laws.
Well, such instruments never materialized and persons were never brought to account for spending public funds in ways not approved by law. Interestingly, at the time Chastanet made his comments, his administration was kicking up a storm over what induced former Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony to partner with deceased American oil speculator Jack Grynberg, a man notorious for practicing business ways different to our code of ethics.
“We must clear the suffocating smoke that conceals the truth about Messrs Walid Juffali, Jack Grynberg, Robert Lindquist, St Jude Hospital and the infamous Minister’s Account,” said Chastanet in parliament during his 2018/2019 budget address.
Saint Lucians were hyped up by these words, after all the names, hospital, and account mentioned by Chastanet were matters of concern to the general population at the time.
It was expected that with the Crown Proceedings Act made that much stronger that the authorities would get to the bottom of above-mentioned concerns, and people would be made to account before the 2021 general election.
Saint Lucians were smelling blood in the water back then; many of them believed that a politician or two from the Labour Party camp would be made to account – a long-awaited scenario in Saint Lucia.
This never happened.
He left office without one member of the former Labour Party administration accounting for action taken during their term in office.
Today, the reins of power are held by the Labour Party, which has gone down the same road as the former administration of building people’s hopes of seeing former government ministers made to account for past deeds while in office.
People are salivating over reports of a special prosecutor to be appointed by the current administration, to examine the alleged misdeeds by the previous administration.
Prime Minister Philip J Pierre is adamant that such a prosecutor will be appointed having gone as far as mentioning such an appointment in his budget address this year, and setting aside a sum of money for that office.
History has shown us that such talk never translates to charges, be it criminal or other, being laid against a former government minister or high-ranking member of a former administration.
There is nothing, therefore, in the Pierre administration’s talk of recovering public funds, or appointing a special prosecutor to recover public funds, or in bringing former government ministers before the courts, that makes anyone seriously think that a new day will dawn on the island’s political landscape.
To the politically weary Saint Lucian, such talk is just what it is – talk. No one should blame the doubting Thomases for their anticipation of this government’s like the last government’s, inaction
Will Pierre prove us wrong and introduce a new political way of life in this country before the next general election? Will credible machinery be put in place to hold former, and indeed present, government officials, both political and public, accountable?
Only time will tell!