Letter: When the going gets tough…

Letter: When the going gets tough…

Dear Sir:

When the going gets tough, legal counsel Mr Anthony Astaphan gets going on behalf of the prime minister of Dominica. Why? Mr Astaphan himself will give you a clue on his private Facebook page. His favourite quote happens to be: ”When the President (or Prime Minister) does it, that means that it is not illegal” ~ Richard Nixon.

President Richard Nixon, whose nickname was “Tricky Dick”, resigned from office after a political scandal. So, if this is the favorite quote of a legal counsel for politicians on Dominica, St Kitts, St Lucia, and St Vincent, brother beware. (I took a screenshot of this page to keep it on file, because most likely that quote and/or page will disappear sooner than later.) So, this is not defamation. Mr Astaphan is discrediting himself and actually indirectly discrediting his clients in politics, in this case the prime minister of Dominica.


Mr Astaphan’s utterances made me curious to find out more about him and how he behaves. I also happen to be a behavioral scientist. In behaviorism, we focus on the study and alteration of people’s behaviors, including their actions, emotions and thoughts. It assumes that all behaviors are either reflexes produced in response to certain stimuli within the environment, or a consequence of that individual’s history, including and especially reinforcement and punishment, along with the individual’s current motivational state and controlling stimuli.

In an article dated August 2009 by Wilbert Connor, the character and behavior is characterized. If this was a mischaracterization most likely Mr. Astaphan would have sued the person, but he didn’t. He accepted by not reacting. A legal counsel of his standing and reputation should know that according to the interpretation of the law, accepting is “the final and unequivocal expression of assent to another’s offer to contract” and silence will constitute acceptance if the offeree gives the offeror the impression that silence will be considered an acceptance.

In the article, he is characterized as follows:

“A senior counsel in legal terms is a high ranking distinguished lawyer, but Dominicans probably know Tony as the de facto prime minister of Dominica. It is said that he speaks for the prime minister out of convenience.

“Ladies and gentlemen, regardless of what you think, the man presents himself on local media with the intention of being heard by wide listenership. He is listened to by and influences many. Unfortunately, his criticisms of those he apparently does not like are distasteful and uncharacteristic of a senior counsel. This is apparent when he calls them names. Mr Astaphan has referred to Dominicans, our brothers and sisters, ‘CACADOR’, ‘PIGS AT A TROFF’ and more, simply because they disagree with the government and its governance methods.

“This reminds me of the colonial era when ‘certain’ human beings were considered inferior, or less than others. Humans are humans, and not animals. Genetically, biologically, socially and intellectually humans are characteristically different from animals.”
Rest assured that Mr Astaphan will soon come up with his own interpretation of acceptance by silence. A behavioral scientist will tell you that Mr Astaphan has proven in his behavior in legal practice that he embraces suing for ‘defamation’ as a means by which to defend his clients. This method of challenging in the courts can be categorized as not accepting by one’s silence, that which was uttered. One goes to the court to register discontent and to request of the court, compensation from the person who sought to injure by their defamatory utterances.

Everyone is free to think whatever he/she likes. When it comes to character, everyone is free to choose counsel, whoever he/she likes or wants. But if there is a question of credibility of character, a client should be aware that such may reflect upon him, the client.

In his article, Mr Connor makes such even clearer and calls the behavior of this legal counsel ‘Astaphanism’, warning that it is a “distraction to the conventional political process. When sitting governments allow non-elected members to be so influential in the political process this skews everything from who has real power to who actually wields that power. Elected members and even ministers are subjected to his legal, economic and political positions on matters of national interest.

“When the prime minister does not speak on selected issues the senior counsel speaks on them. By all means he’s a much better spinner!”

This may be a reflection of Mr Astaphan’s influence on the current leadership of Dominica not only at home but also abroad. International media are following these developments with interest. Dominica may be on their “alert”. Take note Dominica!

Claudine Williams