Listening to the sound and fury spouted by Harold Lovell in the House of Representatives last week, anyone might conclude that the IHI affair is completely cut-and-dried and ready to go to court. Lovell made full use of parliamentary privilege when he launched a very thinly veiled assault on the Director of Public Prosecutions, Anthony Armstrong.
Lovell drew the tiny fig leaf tightly around his naked political ploy (he is a lawyer, after all) by claiming to be acting honorably in the public interest. In angry tones charged with righteous indignation, the MP told the ABS-TV cameras – and therefore the watching public – that he was in fact defending the “poor man”.
Lovell ranted that the “poor man”, whenever he runs afoul of the law, faces swift and certain justice. On the other hand, the rich can afford high quality legal representation from expensive lawyers – a fraternity with which the MP, himself an attorney when not in parliament, must be very familiar.
Clearly conscious of the thin line he was walking, the Honorable Gentleman took care to advise his listeners that his comments were not meant to be a criticism of any individual in particular (yeah … right). The cutting remarks, Lovell said, served to highlight deficiencies in our justice system – weaknesses that permitted the well heeled to escape retribution, while condemning the “poor man”, who has to accept whatever comes his way.
Lovell’s naked political maneuver clearly intended to shift the blame for the UPP government’s manifest failure to engineer “justice” in the matter of Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries. Ever since 2004, when the UPP” Rescue Mission” stormed into government on a platform of “justice”, the UPP administration has been blundering about in a vain attempt to convince an increasingly skeptical public that it is genuinely interested in pursuing the matter all the way to a successful conclusion.
The road has been long, hard, and expensive, over these past 9 years, and the successes have been few. Unless memory completely fails me, the sole “success” encountered was when a fading Bruce Rappaport, one of the respondents in the matter, reached an agreement to pay about US$13 million in settlement of his part in the affair.
Apart from that single and signal success, the IHI case has been one long and continuous saga of confusion, indecision, and abrupt changes of direction. The net result of it all thus far has been to tie the matter up in legal red tape. There have been some remarkable events along the way. A bemused and highly entertained public has witnessed a high-profile police raid on MP Asot Michael’s residence at Dry Hill; an explosive fire that allegedly destroyed some of the evidence thus obtained; a mysterious “break-in” at the High Court of Justice that saw the disappearance of the evidence file.
Through it all, the focus has been on Member of Parliament for St Peter Asot Michael, almost to the total exclusion of the other respondent in the IHI matter, former Prime Minister Lester Bird. In fact, Yours Truly would not be at all surprised to find that most people have forgotten that Lester Bird ever had anything to do with the IHI affair to begin with.
In the meantime, the 2009 general elections have come and gone. Despite strenuous efforts to unseat him, Asot Michael earned re-election as MP for St Peter, having held that seat since 2004. Lester Bird, swept out of parliament in the 2004 debacle (when Asot Michael swam in against the tide), was himself re-elected to parliament in 2009. The hapless UPP, having failed spectacularly to bring the IHI and other matters to a satisfactory conclusion, is staring defeat in 2014 squarely in the eye. Those are the political facts.
This is the political reality, and the political reality explains why a chagrined Harold Lovell chose the immunity of parliament to throw a stone into the hog-pen. Of course, Harold Lovell and the whole of Antigua & Barbuda are fully aware that the hog-pen has only one resident. No one, therefore, need be surprised that the Director of Public Prosecutions has reacted by emitting a loud cry of pain.
It is politically expedient for the disingenuous UPP to try to give a skeptical public the false impression that the DPP is the sole obstacle to concluding the IHI saga. Lovell has even been able to imply that the DPP is giving aid and comfort to the ruling party’s political enemies, at the expense of the interests of the “poor man”.
Clearly, if the IHI case file reached the very busy and understaffed office of the DPP a mere three months ago (after nine years of investigation), it is ridiculous to expect the DPP to have completed his own scrutiny of the case and be ready to file charges practically overnight. But then, Mr Lovell, being himself one of those officers of the court who are so skilled at slowing the course of justice on behalf of well-financed clients, should know what to expect.
The “IHI Follies” continue, as the hapless UPP administration seeks desperately to shift the blame for its own inadequacies onto innocent shoulders.