NewsConstituents Riled-up Against ex-MP for Opposing ‘Christmas STEP’

St. Lucia News OnlineJuly 4, 202219748 min

Castries, Saint Lucia, Wednesday November 23, 2021: — Constituents in Anse La Raye and Canaries whose lives and livelihoods depend on short-term government employment are up-in-arms against a former MP for opposing the Government’s launch of “STEP for Christmas” program. Affected persons in the two villages have been pressing the government for pre-holiday jobs to help them through their second COVID Christmas. But Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate and former United Workers Party (UWP) MP for Anse la Raye Canaries constituency, Dominic Fedee, is taking the Philip J. Pierre administration to task for planning what he cynically describes as “a Christmas STEP”.

Fedee during the November 18 Senate debate on the amendment to the National Economic Fund (NEF) Act, took the Government to task for “spending UWP Money” to “raise people’s hopes for a STEP for Christmas.”

The STEP and the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE) were both established by a previous Labour administration led by Prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony to create much-needed employment avenues for young and skilled Saint Lucians. The UWP, in and out of office, has been critical of STEP and NICE and other social programs, never mind the home care for the Sick and Elderly and assistants to school principals they provide. 

Their criticism had descended into racism and self-hate during the 2016 General Elections campaign, with a UWP display placard (widely circulated online) describing the NICE program as “Niggers in Charge of Employment”.

The contempt for the program had turned into the dismissal of workers because field surfaces had been replaced with AstroTurf, bringing the maintenance of grassed playing fields to an end, under the last UWP administration. Those who normally depended greatly on STEP and NICE to make ends meet had their livelihoods snatched away, since the pandemic took root in 2020. Between 2016 and 2021, the last UWP administration underplayed the contribution the programs had made in saving lives and livelihoods.

Fedee, assuming the self-appointed role of an opposition Chief Whip in the Senate, repeatedly whiplashed the Pierre administration with allegations of “shameless politicization” of the NEF to enable Cabinet Ministers easy access to funds and for the Government to create jobs island-wide through a “STEP for Christmas.”

Fedee several times directly accused the current Cabinet of Ministers of changing the law to access the NEF funds “for a Christmas STEP”, leading to Government Senators calling on him to retract the statement.

Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Guibion Ferdinand, “On a Point of Order…”, asked Senate President Stanley Felix to rein-in his opposition counterpart. 

The President called on Fedee to withdraw the statement, but the former Anse La Raye/Canaries MP and Tourism Minister repeatedly insisted on defending his “right” to express the allegation as “an opinion”.

President Felix (at least three times) instructed Senator Fedee to take his seat after repeatedly refusing to withdraw or apologize for his direct allegation.

The Senate President and the leading opposition senator crossed verbal swords more than once on the issue, but in the end, Fedee yielded to the presiding officer’s interpretation of the Standing Orders — and withdrew the allegation.

Meanwhile, many constituents of Anse La Raye and Canaries, the constituency most dependent on remittances from abroad, more so after 20 months of Covid, remain disappointed that their ex-MP would oppose the current government’s plans for a “STEP for Christmas”. 

One Single Mother of four in Canaries who daily hawks recycled personal items in the village “to make ends meet” told Saint Lucia News Online (SNO): “Mr Fedee lost but he is still very okay now for himself, but he does not know what I have to do to feed my children…”

She continued, “I can depend on STEP when Labour is in power because we get it all-year-round. 

“So, now we are about to get it for this second Christmas under COVID when things are rough for all of us poor people, I don’t see why he should oppose a Christmas STEP, just because he is in opposition now…”

“These people have to stop opposing just for opposing sake and take a break,” she said. 

St. Lucia News Online

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