Commentary: Racketball in St Lucia

Commentary: Racketball in St Lucia
Melanius Alphonse
Melanius Alphonse

Racketball, not to be confused with the popular (and legitimate) game of racquetball, seems to have become the most popular sport in Saint Lucia – at least among Cabinet ministers – where the objective is to win by perpetrating the greatest number of shady rackets while at the same time having a ball doing so, even superseding the “Sport of Kings” – horseracing at DSH Vieux-Fort.

The latest game of racketball is the US$12 million contract awarded to prime ministerial friend, Don Lockerbie, and his Florida company, The Parker Company.

It doesn’t get much lower than this, but by now it is simply a routine part of the Allen Chastanet administration that runs on scandal and waste.

Bureaucracies sidestep individual initiative and accountability, and by nature are notorious for shifting blame and obscuring details. Case in point, the “cluster ministries and cabinet” combined with old fashioned mischievous politics, have become notorious as to who knows what and when in the frequency of government scandals.

Observing the rising power of the bureaucratic elite, Franklin Roosevelt said: “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car, but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”

The rise of the Chastanet-led administration, the virtues of a “cluster ministries and cabinet” expanding government expenditure to partner with crony businesses not only creates more opportunities for graft. It also creates new layers of bureaucracy with the worst elements, with an increasingly tolerant population. At least for now!

More serious by the standards of our own and probably representative of the culture of government and business cronyism, the conduct of Saint Lucia’s government to shell out US$12 million for sports consultancy in a ‘no-bid’ contract is “reprehensible” and the method “deleterious and vicious.”

At a recent press conference, Ricky Alexander, attaché to the minister of youth development and sports, Edmund Estephane said in part: “We recognize that our young people have tremendous potential, tremendous talent and we are moving into the direction of sports as a career.”

However, as previously reported, “the entire 2018/19 budget estimate for the ministry of youth development and sports is EC$8,360,100 (US$3 million), and the initial term of the agreement with The Parker Company is three years with an option to extend at the government’s option for up to five additional one-year terms.

The attaché’s rationale is opaque in many aspects. On the other hand, more lingering questions arise about what Saint Lucia has come to that most major undertakings are led externally, to wit, Don Lockerbie, ‘searching for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow’ – his sports racket has finally hit Saint Lucia, by virtue of his friend prime minister Chastanet.

More so, is it that corporate welfare and cronyism is truly necessary for accepting bribes and buying votes? What’s the motive behind reprehensible services to come up with crazy sports visions to ‘change and transform Saint Lucia’s sporting landscape’, our sporting culture and society that are no-less inconsistent with our needs and aspirations?

And then, of course, the increasing obsessions of neo-colonialists intrude into our lives with corruptible, transactional and heavy-handed tactics.

In more ways than one, the “cluster ministries and cabinet” of notorious exploiters and co-conspirators is a disservice to the socio-economic interests of Saint Lucia. What exactly is the Chastanet administration doing with taxpayers’ money, with the exception of waste, fraud and abuse?

This is enough reason to show the red card to this administration and, based on what is already known, along with others under investigation, to lump everything together in a court of inquiry.

To many minds on social media, yet another leak and secret consultancy to please friends, family and foreigners represents the very definition of corruption and cronyism.

Even one well-known government supporter wrote on social media: “Honestly, this consultancy trend adopted by Chastanet is way past ridiculous! This practice is such a disincentive to some public servants. How do we go about inculcating a sense of, consciousness, nationalism, and self-esteem in our people?”

A government critic and blogger replied: “That is why there was an amount (EC$50 million) in the budget for consultancies. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together!”

A tourism consultant wrote: “Shouldn’t that money have been used to reduce the national debt, reduce household debt and in the process increase [literacy]? Imagine a consultant has to be brought in to advise on sports… priceless.”

Similarly, others argued that The Parker Company agreement ought not to have been entered into and incur such phenomenal cost for Saint Lucian taxpayers if, as the government admits, the country has a “cash flow problem.”

A social media critic of the government wrote: “Who is the attorney general of Saint Lucia? I would like to move a vote of no-confidence in whosoever you are for not doing the job he’s paid to do and for being biased.”

The response by another: “The AG is doing just what he was employed to do. He is certainly not representing the interests of the people as AG, but he is doing what he was employed to do.”

This could be argued but perhaps the code of conduct replicated by the “cluster ministries and cabinet” and the Chastanet-led administration mirrors the Donald Trump scandals, apparently based on President Richard Nixon misguided premise: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

If I were in Lockerbie’s shoes, I would be feeling more than a little uncomfortable at this point:

• A friend and crony of the prime minister with questionable antecedents;

• A no-bid contract four times the national sports budget;

• Money paid in the US through US banks in US dollars.

Sounds to me like probable cause for a visit from the FBI pursuant to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Game on!

Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and News Now Global analysis. He can be reached at [email protected]


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