Saint Lucia
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Richard Frederick rages from an SLP platform while Kenny Anthony and Philip J. Pierre watch poker-faced!

For over a decade his relationship with U.S. Immigration has occupied the Saint Lucian imagination.  At any rate, since Jeannine Compton let drop her stink bomb during a September 2011 television interview that the American embassy in Barbados had revoked his visas, A-1 and B1. It seemed to matter not one bit to her scoop-hungry interviewer that the revelator had chosen not to divulge the source of such sensitive information. Less than a week after Compton’s TV appearance, perhaps by happenstance, a visiting U.S. embassy official had confirmed for the benefit of over-excited muckrakers what in some circles was considered answered prayers and by others just another typically vicious election-time campaign by character assassins.

Richard Frederick and Jeannine Compton had, as they say, history. He was widely considered a leading member of the infamous Super Eight group that Jeannine’s mother, Lady Janice, publicly blamed for hastening the death of her 82-year-old spouse a year or so after he was resurrected out of retirement to help return the United Workers Party to office in 2006. Despite the persistent pleas of key party stalwarts, John Compton had initially refused adamantly to include Frederick on his slate of election candidates. He had a change of heart only after Frederick—with a rebellious Castries Central constituency group firmly behind him—easily dominated the by-election that preceded the year’s general elections. 

The green-shirted political greenhorn had little trouble disposing of Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, Compton’s hapless choice after she resigned from Kenny Anthony’s Labour Party government and triggered the by-election. As for Frederick’s over-ambitious Labour opponent, Victor LaCorbiniere, his dreams turned into ashes when his campaign was barely off the ground. According to press reports, he had pulled on a somewhat maladaptive potential constituent a firearm that he carried in an ankle holster. Just days after the by-election, with words reminiscent of Pilate, Compton embraced the man he had earlier declared too toxic to touch even with protected hands. Before a jubilant lushed-up prancing crowd in William Peter Boulevard, he crooned: “You asked for him . . . I give him to you.”

John Compton’s widow was not quite as accommodating. Not long after her husband’s passing in 2007, she publicly fingered the notorious Super Eight as the muscle behind a toothless palace coup that the departed prime minister’s successor Stephenson King had barely survived. Not that there was any love lost between her and the new prime minister. After several years as the wife of arguably the nation’s most successful politician, there was little she needed to learn about elections. She knew when to hold her cards, when to fold them. What secrets to share, and with whom. While campaigning with Jeannine at the time of the Micoud North by-election, brought about by her husband’s death, she had permitted herself to be photographed kicking up her high heels with Richard Frederick at the conclusion of a rally—more evidence that when it came to political battles the Comptons were unassailable, that they were ready to pay whatever price victory demanded. And what needed urgently to be won in November 2007 were a significant number of disgruntled hearts and minds, long-time party faithfuls not necessarily grief-stricken, who were stubbornly unconvinced the 37-year-old marine biologist Jeannine Compton was the best candidate to replace the presumed dearly departed parliamentary representative for rural Micoud North. In the event, she proved triumphant. Jeannine was all smiles and sensuality as for the first time she took her seat in Saint Lucia’s 17-member House of Assembly, along with Stephenson King, Richard Frederick, Rufus Bousquet and other honorable members. 

Alas their party had been in office a little over two years when a horrified Stephenson King discovered good reason to suspect all was not well between him and the Compton dynasty. Now it seemed the recently declared Micoud North MP had more in common with the House opposition leader than with her prime minister. On several occasions in and out of parliament she enthusiastically savaged government policy. Some of her party colleagues worried there might be more to her relationship with Kenny Anthony than met the eye. They had more cause for pause after it emerged she had led a surreptitious mission to the embassy in Barbados, accompanied by mutinous members of her own party, and others supportive of the opposition SLP, their common purpose being to prospect for dirt on Richard Frederick and Rufus ‘Bruce Tucker’ Bousquet, another troublesome member of the group behind the earlier mentioned attempted palace coup. Making matters worse for King was the seemingly inexplicable revelation that he had furnished Jeannine Compton with a letter of introduction bearing the signature of Saint Lucia’s prime minister.

Few were surprised when Jeannine Compton finally turned her back on the United Workers Party. She did not go quietly. At her first conference with the press since abandoning her father’s party, she told reporters that when she entered politics in 2007 her ambitions were all about service to country. Although many believed at the time the decision was her own, she confessed, “it was God who had decided this would be my path.” She said she hoped to bring to fruition her father’s dreams and aspirations for the people of Saint Lucia, in particular for the people of long-neglected Micoud North—the only constituency that for forty-seven years straight had given the United Workers Party their vote. Now that the UWP no longer stood for what it did when her deceased father founded it in 1964, God had directed her to pick up her cross and distance herself from the torch bearers. She proffered a list of names, heroes that had also “sacrificed much to take Saint Lucia to where it is today.”

Prime Minister King made his first public statement in relation to Frederick’s visa three days after Jeannine Compton sounded her Judas bugle from the Morne studios of Helen Television Service. In a follow-up televised address to the nation, King acknowledged the matter that was first aired on 16 September 2011 was now a full-blown scandal that had sparked island-wide debate and speculation. He said he’d had related talks with a visiting diplomat from the U.S. Embassy in Barbados. On September 22, he had received hand-delivered correspondence from the embassy but it contained nothing new. “After careful consideration of this sensitive matter that some have sought to turn into a political distraction,” said King, “and in consultation with my Cabinet, I have accepted the resignation of the minister involved, effective 26 September 2011, although he has repeatedly assured my Cabinet and the general public that he has done nothing wrong or illegal that might warrant this abrupt revocation of his visas . . . I would like to reiterate that our priority is to proceed with our task of governing. We will not be side-tracked. In the meantime, I will assume responsibility for the portfolios vacated by Mr. Frederick.”

What King had diplomatically referred to as “island-wide debate and speculation” might’ve been more truthfully described as a tsunami of venomous vilification—much of it spewed from the erudite mouths of Kenny Anthony, the late Hilford Detervile QC, attorney general Victor LaCorbiniere and other electioneering St. Lucia Labour Party front-liners. At one point the opposition leader described Frederick as the “most frightening prospect ever to confront Saint Lucia.” He would later spell out in discombobulating detail the message he sought to convey. Small wonder it was widely bruited about that Frederick’s arrest by the FBI was imminent, that he might not be on-island come Polling Day.

Meanwhile, Frederick insisted he was being scapegoated by some of the country’s most influential citizens. The following is taken from his 25 September 2011 resignation letter: “My political enemies are rejoicing. For them, the revocation of my visas is as manna from heaven. They see this as the vehicle that will return them to power. There is blood in the water and the circulating sharks are insatiable. Let them feast on the juice from their smear campaign while they still can.”

Moreover: “The common goal of my enemies is to discredit Richard Frederick in the eyes of the electorate and the world. It matters not to them that in their attempts at discrediting me they are also giving Saint Lucia an altogether unmerited bad name. They will stop at nothing. Their goal is to stop Richard Frederick at all cost. The lawyers among them have carefully insinuated I am a money launderer, a woman batterer, a thief, an unscrupulous land speculator, a drug trafficker. They have even implied I was investigated by Scotland Yard in connection with a local murder. They are schooled in the demonic art of weaponizing words for the destruction of reputations.”

A short time before he threw in the towel, Richard Frederick was invited by an HTS newshound to comment on Jeannine Compton’s expressed fears for her personal safety. “I heard yesterday that she had received death threats,” Frederick said. “I totally disassociate myself from that. I have no intention of killing anybody. I’ve never had, and never will.” As for his newly acquired persona non grata status, he said he had recently read about a Jamaican businessman who claimed his U.S. visa was canceled for no good reason. “I did nothing wrong,” Frederick assured his interviewer. “There has been a conspiracy against me from the moment I entered politics.”

The following is an extract from an article titled ‘No Visa, Do Cry’ that featured in the 2 June 2011 issue of The Economist: “In the Caribbean, being barred from flying to Miami can spell social shame and political oblivion. The latest to be ostracized was James Robertson, who resigned as Jamaica’s energy and mining minister last month, four days after being told his visa for the United States had been revoked. The reason, he said, was that a fellow Jamaican had told a Florida court Mr. Robertson conspired with gangsters to have him killed . . .” The story also cited a 2005 American diplomatic cable (made public through Wikileaks) that admitted “the potential loss of a visa is a source of considerable leverage and suggested this could be used to press Jamaica’s then prime minister to act against corruption.”

Per the American Embassy’s website: “The fact that a visa has been revoked does not necessarily indicate something negative about the visa holder, nor does it mean the visa holder will never be able to obtain another visa. It only means that subsequent to the issuance of a visa, evidence came to light that the visa holder may be ineligible to retain that visa under the laws of the United States.”

It remains unclear why American immigration authorities refused to lift their ban on Richard Frederick, despite repeated appeals by U.S.-based family members, despite appeals to the American justice system—despite that Frederick continued to win election after general election, to the extent some political pundits are convinced it would be easier to relocate Gros Piton than to unseat the Castries Central MP. He is widely, if in some quarters reluctantly, credited for the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s massive 2021 victory. If the notion is valid, it would mean Philip J. Pierre owes Frederick an enormous debt, greater by far than his current junior minister position in the office of the prime minister.

Two weeks ago, Shelton Daniel seemed to interrupt his regular MBC-TV program to take a call. It soon emerged the intruder was none other than the show’s regular host, also the government’s Housing Minister Richard Frederick, and that he was calling from the United States. To be more precise, from New York. Moreover, that the U.S. authorities had restored his visa, “with longevity.” Frederick promised to elaborate on his return to Saint Lucia.

Alas, he was beaten to the punch by the prime minister on his way to last Tuesday’s House session. In response to queries from the usual cluster of reporters waiting outside the parliament building, a chuckling Philip J. Pierre seemed to confirm what Frederick had earlier shared with Shelton Daniel, his co-host on ‘Can I Help You?’  The prime minister also questioned the demonstrated level of media interest in Frederick’s visa.

With uncharacteristic exuberance, Pierre said: “I never understand why a government minister who gets a visa to go to the United States for five years . . . a diplomatic visa. I mean, it baffles me. First of all, Richard Frederick went on a holiday. He did not go on government business. He went on a holiday. He paid with his money. He used his credit card and he went on holiday.   Don’t ask me what he went to do, I don’t know. He didn’t tell me. So, all those who said he went on government business . . . I know you’re very disturbed because you believed your own propaganda. All I can tell you now is he has a diplomatic visa for five years.”

According to U.S. Embassy information: “To qualify for an A-1 or A-2 visa you must be traveling to the United States on behalf of your national government to engage solely in official activities for that government. The fact that there may be government interest or control in a given organization is not, in itself, the defining factor in determining whether or not an applicant qualifies for an A visa. The particular duties or services to be performed must also be of an inherently governmental character or nature. Government officials traveling to the United States to perform non-governmental functions of a commercial nature, or traveling as tourists, require the appropriate H, L or B-1 or B-2 visas . . .” [Emphasis not this writer’s]     

In his own turn, and in typical fashion, an unusually subdued Frederick addressed reporters: “When you see you have naysayers spreading rumors, spreading propaganda, spreading mis- and disinformation . . . You must understand persons are listening. You have a situation where UnitedPac [a Facebook platform supposedly operated by the UWP] and their zeleves [kwéyòl for devil’s disciples] were saying a lot of stuff, literally begging the embassy to listen. Well, I’m not sure, but I believe the embassy listened . . . A former prime minister, in our most august chamber, said I only had a -3-day visa, which is so far from the truth. Well, the embassy was listening. They heard one of his zeleves challenging me to take him to the Privileges Committee after he said I only had a 3-day visa. Again, the embassy was listening.

“To say the embassy would never ever ever give Richard Frederick a visa . . . Again, the embassy was listening. The embassy finally asked themselves: To which embassy are they referring? The embassy realized they were becoming unwittingly embroiled in the politics of this country, with loads and loads of untruths. I pride myself on speaking the truth at all times. And if they can learn that, they will understand the trap they set for me actually assisted in my liberation.”

And now, dear discerning patient reader, you are invited to place yourself, if only for a few minutes, in the shoes of Richard Frederick. From 2011 he had declared himself the victim of a conspiracy comprising members of both the St. Lucia Labour Party and the United Workers Party. In consequence, he had lost his visa. For twelve years he had been unable to visit, even for a day, offspring and other relatives resident in the U.S.

Try to imagine his embarrassment every time detractors accused him of engaging in egregious illegalities, even in murder, dear reader, largely on the basis of concocted tales perpetuated by this nation’s most powerful. Dare to consider the shame his loved ones must’ve felt whenever his name was mentioned from a political platform in connection with stomach-turning allegations. Imagine the impact on his children still attending school.

And now it had all come to naught. To borrow from Richard Frederick’s latest deliveries in and outside “our most august chamber,” the U.S. authorities had recently seen the light after more than a decade in the dark. Finally, they had accepted the fact that some of our nation’s top officials are unworthy of the public trust, to say nothing of opposition-party zeleves that had turned embassy officials into unwitting co-conspirators in a scheme to destroy an altogether innocent citizen and his family, his career—all to satisfy an insatiable thirst for power.

How many of these alleged co-conspirators hold public office at this time? If Richard Frederick—who reassured the nation yet again last week that he prides himself on always speaking truth, at whatever cost to himself—if on Tuesday last week he spoke the whole truth and nothing but the truth, shouldn’t those who sought to destroy him for political gain now be required to make appropriate amends? Considering all Frederick must have suffered these past twelve years, what would be enough compensation? An apology delivered by the House Speaker? Or should the words of regret come from the same mouths that twelve years ago had declared him the worst prospect confronting Saint Lucia? Those were the words that had set in motion the avalanche that almost swallowed Richard Frederick.

Keep in mind, dear reader, what Richard Frederick has told the whole world was a calculated evil conspiracy that in diverse ways affected his life. What happened to him, despite his resources, could tomorrow happen to you, to your offspring, to your closest relatives and friends. Even at this moment another innocent citizen may be the target of venal public officials. Your reaction to all you’ve just read could determine the quality of people in whose hands you place the future of Saint Lucia and those who live here. In the meantime, God bless America!