by Earl Bousquet
In the past week, the St. Lucia Parliament met in joint session for the first time since Independence, Government and Opposition had their say on crime, a new British High Commissioner to St. Lucia presented his credentials to the Prime Minister, thee Standards Bureau threatened to prosecute businesses selling products with labels in foreign languages, Commerce Minister Philip J. Pierre met with poultry processors and KFC to discuss improving standards and the possibility of local purchases by the American fast food giants local outlets, the Prime Minister met with trade unions, business leaders, bank managers and airline executives to discuss the governments proposed response to the deepening global recession, the Tourism Ministry and the top tourism bodies met to chart the industrys response to the challenges and consequences of the terrorist attacks on America and it was announced that CIA agents are combing Caribbean shores in search of persons who received military training in Libya. St. Lucia also learned of the death of Chris Jn Charles, who had won their hearts several months ago.
The historic joint sitting of Parliament was called to discuss crime and resulted in a negative response from the opposition, with MP George Odlum and UWP Senators merely speaking and leaving without bothering to listen to what other MPs had to say. However, the Government spokesmen took the opportunity to air their views on the national crime situation and passed the Motion calling for a national approach to the solution of crime.
However, much of governments business proceeded during the week with much emphasis on St. Lucias response to the worsening global recession and the recent attacks on America. The Prime Minister also reached out to the Governments social partners and other institutions to apprise them of governments response.
During the meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, the Prime Minister was called upon to make a categorical statement on governments response to increasing ties between regional states and local bodies with Libya.
Consequent on the recent visit to Libya by three regional Prime Ministers and the increased attention to Libya by the Americans in their quest to retaliate for the attacks in New York and Washington, it was also reported this past week that agents of the CIA are stalking Caribbean shores in search of persons who may have received military training in Libya.
The word came from Barbados, where a major local newspaper said there was renewed interest at the CIA in relations between the Caribbean and Libya.
The Barbados Advocate, in an editorial in its September 20 issue, said the CIA has renewed its interest in the Caribbean s relations with Libya in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.
The paper reported that American intelligence agents are not only hunting for persons with connections to the oil rich African Republic. Their chief interest, it said, is to identify persons who were trained in terrorism there and who may in some way be linked to Osama bin Laden.
The Advocate said the CIAs interest in the relationship between Caribbean political activists and Libya was spawned many years ago -- long before the recent visit by three Caribbean leaders to Tripoli.
It recalled that several Caribbean political groupings had established close relations with Libya over the years, but said the CIAs attention at this point is on Trinidad & Tobagos Jamaat al Muslimeen, which has been under close surveillance since its attempted overthrow of an elected government on the twin island state eleven years ago.
The Advocate said weapons and munitions consigned to the Jamaat were recently intercepted in the USA, but that the Jamaat is also known for its handling of other military hardware, with Prime Minister Basdeo Panday saying the Muslimeen is planning another attempt at violent takeover.
According to the Editorial: The CIA apparently believes the Jamaat and other Trinidadians may be implicated in preparation for a domestic revolt and more especially from a US perspective -- in mass carnage at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
Concluding that people are categorized by the company they keep, the paper said: If the CIAs investigations confirm current suspicion of a strong connection with Osama bin Laden, whether or not involving the Jamaats leadership, the eyes of the world will focus on Trinidad & Tobago in ways than can do this region no good.
With news of CIA agents combing Caribbean shores in search of persons sent for training in Libya, there is concern in political circles here that their investigations can lead the US intelligence officers to St. Lucia. Thats because one of the islands best known political leaders is known to still have strong ties with Libya and to have sent several St. Lucians for military training there.
Some of the recruits who left here in 1983 under the guise of being students and cultural performers headed for Martinique and Paris -- were intercepted by the police. But others are known to have reached Libya undetected.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister George Odlum, who is now the Political Leader of the opposition grouping called The National Alliance has stoutly defended his strong ties with Libya, even in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack on America.
Mr Odlum also this past week caused a stir among the Caribbeans European Union partners in the trans-Atlantic the banana trade, when he claimed Libya was prepared to pay top dollar for Caribbean bananas. He also announced recently that Libya plans to establish a development bank in the Caribbean to provide financial support for poor states that find it difficult to survive on World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) handouts.
But the leaders who traveled to Libya denied ever discussing bananas with Colonel gadaffi and have said theres no truth in the claim by Mr Odlum that Libya was prepared to buy all of the Caribbeans bananas at top-dollar prices.
WIBDECOs Chief Executive Bernard Cornibert, who returned from Europe this week, said purchasers of Windward Islands bananas were concerned that their reliable supplies might end up being sent to Libya. He said he worked overtime to convince them that no decision has been made to change current marketing arrangements and that it would be business as usual.
Mr Cornibert offered the view that it would have meant an end to WIBDECO and the Windwards European market if the islands quota would have been sent elsewhere. He said the press reports had caused quite a stir and EU officials were concerned about the ramifications of such a move.
But perhaps the saddest news of the past week was that of the passing of Chris Jn Charles, who died after a sudden downturn in her medical condition.
The young patient had won the hearts of St. Lucians earlier this year when a special appeal for assistance for overseas emergency treatment resulted in pledges of over $40,000.
She was treated abroad and returned home, but it would appear that the aftercare necessary in such case was either unavailable or her condition was too advanced to have been turned back.
September 25, 2001