First, the cheese.
On Tuesday, 21st February, a young couple, who had gone on a cheese-stealing spree in Basseterre nine days earlier, were jailed for four months.
They stole just under $400.00 worth of tinned cheese. They were caught on surveillance cameras, and footage of their heist reached the police and the internet.
The female told the court that the she and her friend had intended to sell the cheese in order to get money. I don’t know whether they were motivated by dishonesty or by desperation. Either way, I can’t condone their behaviour. However, I wouldn’t be surprised, in these very hard times, to hear of more of that kind of thing happening.
Now, the chalk.
Just two days later, in the National Assembly, Opposition Parliamentarian, Mr. Shawn Richards, arguing against the increase in passport fees, complained of the hardships that the people of this country were already suffering. In making his point, he claimed that even chalk was subject to Value Added Tax (VAT). He said that a teacher had told him so.
At the time, the Prime Minister, who wasn’t in the Assembly, suddenly appeared out of nowhere, his face screwed up and etched in indignation.
He couldn’t contain himself, so even while he was in the aisle, racing to his seat, he started on Mr. Richards, accusing him of lying, saying that no teacher had told Mr. Richards any such thing, and ordering him to withdraw the comment.
Everything the Prime Minister did was out of order: speaking when another member was already on his feet, speaking from the aisle, accusing the member of lying, disturbing and interrupting the member and the Parliament, and ordering the member to withdraw a comment.
In my opinion, the Prime Minister is the most ill-behaved person in Parliament, and also possibly the most ill-behaved public official in the modern history of St. Kitts.
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn, therefore, that some people in this country believe that if the Prime Minister can do as he likes, then other folks will follow his example. And they’re saying that the overall impact of the ‘cheese’ story, bad as it is, pales in comparison with the damage that the Prime Minister has inflicted, and is inflicting, upon the country.
They’re saying that it’s really like……….well, chalk and cheese.
One young woman told me: ” Dem two people tek way four tin o’ cheese, but Douglas and he friend dem ah tek way de whole country from ahwe”.
Her companion said:”Dey gone jail for four months for de cheese, and Douglas got de heart to tell he friend dem dat he going go run again for a fifth term as Prime Minister. You mean, for all de blows he done gee us, and still geeing us, he still wan’ gee us more? Is punishment he need, Man, not more power!”
An old lady passing by paused for a moment to say hello, and upon hearing what was being said, she shouted:”Barabbas”! And she continued along her way.
These cheese and chalk incidents seem to have brought into sharper focus people’s perceptions of the Prime Minister, and his excesses.
The Speaker should’ve disciplined him in Parliament, but he didn’t. Why not?
And, you know, when he was fuming and foaming and trying to intimidate Mr. Richards, he wasn’t expressing the slightest doubt whatsoever on the matter. He was sure that there was VAT on chalk. Dead sure!
I’m told that when Mr. Richards completed his presentation, he went to a store in town, bought some chalk, and took both the chalk and the receipt to Parliament where Senator Vincent Byron took up the matter in his presentation, and showed the Parliament the chalk and the receipt.
I’m told that big and broad on the receipt was the price of the chalk ($2.99), and the amount of the VAT(51 cents).
Still, the Prime Minister refused to yield.
Meanwhile, WINN FM contacted the VAT Office, and was told that chalk was in fact subject to VAT. And it became news.
So the Prime Minister, boorish, un-parliamentary, and dead sure, was shown to be dead wrong.
A gentleman who was in the conversation mentioned above said:” You can’t believe a ting da man does say. And de more serious and aggressive he play, is de more he trying to gee people de Dougie. All dat happen in Parliament is dat he try to gee Shawn de Dougie, and Shawn trap him”.
At the close of the debate the next day, the Prime Minister said that he’d been informed that chalk was indeed VATable, and that the situation would be corrected.
But no apology. And he was not called upon by the Speaker to apologize.
Nevertheless, it took nothing more than a $2.99 box of chalk to expose the Prime Minister, and to create turmoil in the Parliament of this country.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, and I’m told that he wants to use the occasion to give himself a makeover, and to be projected with the status and image of a Robert Bradshaw.
But that’s mission impossible, because he and Mr. Bradshaw are also like…….well, chalk and cheese.
Mr. Bradshaw never behaved the way he does in Parliament, or anywhere else. Nor would he have allowed any of his ministers to do so.
You’d never hear Mr. Bradshaw say “Ah bad since ah born”, “I incite already and I can incite again’, national debt, me arse”, etc.
And while he related wonderfully with ordinary folks, he was equally at ease with the high and the mighty, and respected at all levels, at home, regionally and internationally. You’d never have seen a multimillionaire or billionaire or some other big shot speak down to him like he was some little whipping boy. That’s for sure!
He encouraged intellectual agitation and engagement among his colleagues and comrades, not spineless, character-less, opportunistic cronyism. Indeed, he did so with everybody.
And he loathed ‘yes men’ and ‘slime balls’.
He profoundly wanted his people to be a thinking, educated, trained, dignified, cultured, honourable, progressive, productive and proud people. And he’d never have accepted a situation with them being mendicant, marginalized, servile or dispossessed in their own land. Never!
He was a genuine Labour man who loved and respected the workers of this country, and his dear Union.
He passed a law to ensure that citizens and residents had access to our beaches. Nobody was allowed to own or to block off a beach, and nobody would dare to put signs up at the Frigate Bay Golf Course describing it as “private property”.
He acquired the sugar lands for the people of this country. He had a passion and deep, abiding respect for the land and for its vital importance as the sustainer of the people and their patrimony.
Mr. Bradshaw was an orator and raconteur extraordinaire. World class. And a master of the English language. A deep and wide reader, a lover of the arts and gardening.
He was a visionary, and he had around him a Cabinet made up of bright, strong-minded visionaries like France, Southwell, Bryant, Payne, Mills, and Moore. And with them, he laid the foundation to propel this country to independence and to political, economical and social modernity.
He’d never have allowed the national debt to reach as high as it has reached, or the national morale to fall as low as it has fallen. Nor would he have allowed friends of his to owe tens and hundreds of thousands, indeed, millions of dollars to the Government, and, on top of that, punish the entire population with excessive taxes and charges so as to give his friends a free pass.
And I can go on, but I think you get the point.
It’s in the mould this great patriot, thinker, leader, visionary, and true father of this nation that Dr. Douglas wants to cast himself.
But that can’t happen, because he’s nothing that Mr. Bradshaw was. Not even near.
So it’s sacrilegious even to mention their names in the same sentence. Sacrilegious to Mr. Bradshaw’s memory and his greatness, and to the glorious traditions and legacies laid down by him and by other stalwarts (leaders and followers alike) of the Labour Movement over the last 80 years, traditions and legacies which Dr. Douglas has disrespected and deliberately dismantled.
The man isn’t even a Labour man, yet he wants to be placed in the pantheon with Bradshaw.
Chalk and cheese.