The street-side-type tirades, and Saturday-morning-like “bò laplas” “tiwé-mété” of Flambeau operatives now consumed by their disastrous election performance, may seem to be welcomed entertainment, but we must be careful. These symptoms of Allen Chastanet’s iteration of the party in disintegration should not have us lose focus. This third most disastrous showing of the party since its founding in 1964 has revealed its true nature – a grouping that has never truly represented the interest of the working people. And a party that has only used its popular base to ensure that its power is exercised in the interests of the few.
So, the Labour Government, a government of all the people, has its work cut out – notwithstanding the social and economic challenges we face as a consequence of a confluence of forces: geopolitical issues in Eastern Europe, the sanctions imposed by the West and, at the local level, the economic and fiscal indiscretions of a government that is totally lost with regard to the development issues of small states with open and dependent economies.
Our efforts to cushion and overcome the effects of these issues, as well as to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the misallocation of resources meant to ameliorate this, by Chastanet et al, must of necessity lead us to confront the issues of alleged corruption as it has never before reared its head. At the very heart of the malaise of deliberately distorted governance and its wide-ranging implications for our people is the personal economic advancement of some politicians, their families and business associates, which must be dealt with, and must be dealt with decisively.
The disingenuous protestations of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the bill to provide for a Special Prosecutor to address the allegations of rampant corruption is, as Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre would say, smoke and mirrors. Chastanet and his surrogates would have us believe that they welcome such investigations but they would prefer the government to concern itself with the everyday matters that affect the lives of the people. We should note however, that these are the very same ones who told us that the Special Prosecutor was an empty promise that would not see the light of day because such investigations have never been pursued before. Of course, they were indeed hoping that the manifesto commitment of the Labour Party was just a bluff – if only because of the possible implications for the leadership of the Flambeau Party.
Of course, we need to concern ourselves with the matters that impact the day-to-day lives of our people – and the Saint Lucia Labour Party Government is doing just that. The subsidizing of LPG, the foregoing of revenue on petroleum, the continued subsidizing of essential food and other commodities at increased rates so that their prices remain the same despite increased costs driven by supply-chain issues, the reduction of service charge on a wide range of items etc. are all measures which do have a fiscal impact, and which will have to be handled very deftly if the government must meet its economic and social commitments to Saint Lucians. Thus far, the PJP government is handling the situation effectively.
But does the need to address these issues obviate that of addressing corruption in public office? Every dollar of debt contracted by the state to line the pockets of the beneficiaries of the millions in direct awards that has been the hallmark of the Allen Chastanet/Guy Joseph regime, directly and immediately affects our ability to meet our commitments in health care (St. Jude Hospital), education (one university graduate per household), our ability to make the investments in the economy that will generate jobs, our ability to cushion the impact of the vagaries of international trade that are dictated by the big international players, etc. In other words, the effects of corruption are affecting our every-day lives and must be dealt with as urgently as with the problems like violent crime which seem to be more in-your-face.
While some seem to think that one can kick the proverbial can down the road, regarding the unprecedented corruption in government that has surfaced in recent years, the populace will today and into the foreseeable future pay a heavy price while those who commit these crimes accumulate wealth for untold generations to come – at the expense of the country’s current and future development. Are we then going to allow an ex-prime minister, now leader of the opposition, to get away with glibly saying that he supports the idea of the Special Prosecutor while dismissing the enabling legislation as being intended to underpin a witch-hunt?
The government of the Saint Lucia Labour Party is right on the button with its legislative agenda: the legalization of cannabis, legislation aimed at curbing domestic violence, legislation regarding the use of unlicensed firearms, and now provisions for a Special Prosecutor. It should not, of course end there. The provision of the infrastructure, both institutional and material, to effectively implement what has been legislated is of the utmost importance. Laws are just instruments on paper if we do not ensure the wherewithal to operationalize them.
The broad majority of decent citizens have been calling for us to deal decisively with what is euphemistically called white collar crime – especially at the level of officialdom. Some have been, understandably, impatient at the pace of our moves towards this. The government has explained that there is a need to approach these issues thoroughly if we will achieve the desired societal objectives – and this is indeed so. Now that we are on track, let us not be swayed or misdirected by a party whose leadership has not shown that they are about to seriously consider where they went wrong. This UWP party seems more concerned with preserving the leadership of what is arguably the most insensitive and self-serving government that we have ever had.
By Stephen Lester Prescott