R. Rose
September 14, 2007

Interesting political development

Let me first begin by offering my condolences to the families and relatives of Mr. Carlton Williams, a former Commissioner of the Constitutional Review Commission, Mr. Josiah Bobb, an ex-President of the Calypsonians Association, and Sir John. My condolences are extended to the entire St. Lucian nation during their two-week period of mourning for the “Father of the Nation”.{{more}}

While Sir John has physically passed away, the baton had been handed over to Mr. Stephenson King for some time now. In the case of Jamaica, the baton of leadership has been taken from the 18-year grasp of the People’s National Party and its female leader, Ms Portia Simpson- Miller, and is now firmly in the hands of Mr. Bruce Golding, at the head of the Jamaica Labour Party. My congrats to both new Prime Ministers. One cannot help remarking, however, on the strange developments in politics. Who in the Caribbean, a mere five years ago, would have predicted that in September 2007, Roosevelt Skerritt would be the Prime Minister of Dominica, Bruce Golding would lead the JLP to electoral victory in Jamaica and that Stephenson King would be at the helm of St. Lucia? Food for thought there!

As is usual after any poll in the Caribbean, sometimes even beyond, there is much public speculation as to its relevance and impact on the local scene. It was interesting, therefore, to see one newspaper story last weekend describing the PNP’s defeat in Jamaica as the “third one” to an ally of SVG’s Prime Minister Gonsalves in the past year. Comforting thoughts to those aspiring to unseat him, but by itself not likely to have any significant bearing on his political future this early in his term of office.

King faces huge challenges in St. Lucia, and it was interesting to hear the insightful advice of veteran political scientist and commentator, Dr. Neville Duncan, on his possible course of action. Dr. Duncan, one of the most respected regional analysts, proffered the advice that the new St. Lucian leader should first clean out his house, attract fresh, politically valuable and professionally competent new blood, then seek his own mandate, from the people. The problem is that this is easier said than done. King has yet to carve out his own political base, and will face stout resistance from some of the controversial figures in his camp. At the same time, he must be watchful of division in his ranks, with an Opposition branding the “We told you so” story to the electorate. Quite intriguing to see where he goes.

The tributes have been pouring in thick and fast to Sir John’s contribution to St. Lucia and the Caribbean islands. Though not an original signatory to the Treaty of Basseterre, establishing the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in 1981, being then in opposition, he was subsequently a staunch supporter of unity moves, and was a key participant in the initiative for regional political union in the Windward Islands, including the Regional Constituent Assembly, launched in St. Vincent in January 1991. Ironically, it was Compton who moved the nomination of Justice Telford Georges as Chairman of that Assembly. His brother Justice Ephraim Georges now heads the Ottley Hall Commission of Inquiry, and is seeking to get Sir John’s long-time political confident, Sir James Mitchell, to testify before him.

The reluctant Sir James has just broken his silence on the matter, with a Press Conference in which he appears to have stirred up a veritable hornet’s nest, denying primary responsibility for guaranteeing the Ottley Hall loan on behalf of the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He has been hotly rebuked by Prime Minister Gonsalves, who pointed to documentary proof to the contrary. Significantly, Sir James made two interesting remarks during the press conference. One making what he called a “political statement” on Ottley Hall. The other, not ruling out some re-entry into politics “if the people” request it”. WATCH THAT SPACE!