When I tuned in to view the debate on the Appropriation Bill (Budget Statement 2014), like everyone else, I was not expecting to view a huge Digicel banner along with their representatives and Saint Lucia parliamentarians sparkling from ear to ear.
Unknown to most there was a massive publicity stunt for all to see. On display were red bags lined up with Digicel tablets that are reported to have 4G capabilities and will help to improve the efficiency and productivity of the House representatives.
Mister speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Peter Foster QC, went on to say that “this partnership was initiated by Prime Minister Hon. Dr Kenny D. Anthony and will lead to the transition of the House of Assembly from its current mode of operation to a technology aided ‘paperless’ and Wi-Fi zone.”
With time on my hand, rocking on my favourite chair overlooking the Caribbean Sea, I took a look at the conversation on Facebook to follow the argument.
This is what was revealed by the president of the senate Claudius J. Francis: “The tablets are meant for the work of Parliament and once fully in use will negate the printing of Bills, etc, thereby saving millions in ink and paper. There will also no longer be the need to utilize police outriders to physically take papers to members who reside outside of the capital. The presiding officers and other members will also be able to initiate face to face contact regardless of their physical location.”
This is interesting. But as is well known, there is nothing such as a free lunch in politics. So really who is paying for this and is this expenditure in the 2014/2015 estimates of expenditure?
Just last week Sen. Hon. Dr James Fletcher, minister for public service, information and broadcasting, sustainable development, energy, science, and technology, made the announcement that government is moving to upgrade its telecommunication systems, and to purchase a new PBX system.
Is this latest publicity stunt in the House of Assembly a coincidence? Is this latest publicity stunt part of the prime minister attempt to build the pillars for economic success, resilience and fiscal stability? Was this a misappropriation of the House of Assembly even though the mace was in a back room?
Some argue that there was nothing inappropriate, the mace was not present, the speaker was not robed, and prayers had not been said. But really, why would a government openly show its delight in favouring one telecommunications company from the other in the people’s house, where impartiality should be practiced?
My take on this ugly display of preference is one that cements what many have suspected for some time now; the en-rouge marriage of telecommunications and the St Lucia Labour party.
I can only wonder. Will the other service provider “LIME” come to parliament bearing gifts as well?
I guess the interpretation of the house rules and precedents is now well documented.