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Prime Minister on Commission of Inquiry - October 22, 1997

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Fellow Saint Lucians, since the announcement by the Government of Saint Lucia, that a promised Commission to inquire into certain allegations of corruption in past administrations was about to be established, the people of this country have witnessed a return of the viciousness, spite and arrogance which characterised the governments of the United Workers Party. The behaviour of then two most discredited members of the last UWP government, Sir John Compton and Dr. Vaughan Lewis, must surely confirm in the minds of all Saint Lucians, the vision of the people's overwhelming decision, so eloquently delivered on May 23.

I do not propose to comment on any matters before the Commission. The High Court is presently considering a matter pertaining to the Commission and I know that we shall all patiently await the hearing and eventual resolution of this issue, during the month of November.

However, I cannot let pass, the undignified and spiteful assault by Sir John, on a public servant of high esteem and long service to this country. When, on Thursday, 16 October, Sir John expressed what he describes as "his disappointment," with the answers given under oath by the Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr. Anthony Severin, he continued his cowardly style of attacking officers in the Public Service knowing full well that these officers are prevented from responding publicly to such attacks. As Minister with responsibility for the Public Service, I regard it as my duty, to come to the defence of a dedicated officer, whose only sin was to reply clearly and honestly, to the questions posed to him by examining Counsel.

It is indeed ironic that Sir John had to resort to this scandalous method of response to what he perceived as an injustice. Had he not chosen to run away from assisting the Commission, and to seek instead to undermine it by various means, he would have had the benefit of his Counsel to cross-examine Mr. Severin, in accordance with his instructions. Sir John cannot expect to eat his cake and still have it as well.

Most disappointing and revealing of all, was the suggestion that Sir. John's feelings of hurt came about largely because he "played a part in putting the Cabinet Secretary in the position which he now holds." Was Sir John implying that the Cabinet Secretary should, as a mark of gratitude, seek to protect and/or defend the past Cabinet? Or was he suggesting that a public officer has to maintain a loyalty, even to the point of dishonesty, to the person who may have been Prime Minister at the time of the officer's appointment?

This despicable notion strikes at the very integrity of the Public Service and must be vigorously condemned by all good citizens of this country. The bad old days where public officers were under constant political duress, and were expected to pay homage to those who perceive themselves as political gods and dispensers of jobs and other privileges, are over.

Sir John Compton, contrary to any illusions which he may harbour, is not Prime Minister of this country, and God and the people of Saint Lucia willing, will never be Prime Minister of this country again. I strongly advise him to come to terms with this reality and to graciously slide into his unavoidable retirement.

The Cabinet Secretary, in his responses before the Commission of Inquiry, was true to the traditions of neutrality and truth which underpin an effective Civil Service. That he was condemned for doing so, says more about Sir John's desperation than it does about Mr. Severin's supposed lack of gratitude.

October 22, 1997

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