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The United Workers Party (UWP) government came under some sharp criticism Tuesday night as the main opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) held its “people’s parliament” meeting in Castries city.
The gathering was done to allow three of the SLP’s members of parliament, who had not gotten a chance to respond to the budget in the House of Assembly, an opportunity to voice their concerns.
Opposition members had walked out of parliament at its June 20 sitting in protest of what it said was “spiteful and vindictive” behaviour by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet. They also decided not to appear at the June 22 sitting of the Upper House.
The three speakers – former prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, Vieux Fort North MP Moses Jn Baptiste and Dennery North MP Shawn Edward – all addressed the public at Tuesday night’s assembly.
Among the topics of discussion were the non-appointment of a deputy speaker of the House of Assembly, former sports minister Shawn Edward’s alleged involvement in a “minister account” with the National Lotteries Authority and agricultural exports.
Former Agriculture Minister Moses Jn Baptiste criticised the progress of agriculture in St. Lucia, pointing to particular attention to the island’s export of dasheen.
“St. Vincent has shipped a number of tons of dasheen to North America. You can read it. Dominica has shipped dasheen. What has St. Lucia done? When UWP came into office, they abandoned the plan. So right now St. Vincent and Dominica are shipping dasheen and other produce to the northern Caribbean and Ezechiel Joseph is sitting on his backside, a lazy man, doing nothing and all he is saying is that he is going to plant bananas,” Jn Baptiste said.
Regarding the appointment of a deputy speaker, Edward was adamant that conventions of parliament are not being observed.
He said: “I always look forward to going to parliament to engage in constructive conversations and discussions and debate, but today, the parliament has been reduced to a pappyshow parliament. The conventions of parliament are not being observed. We have had so many prime ministers before Allen Chastanet [and] everybody recognised the need to have a deputy speaker, [and now] you’re telling me that Allen Chastanet is the only prime minister in St. Lucia who can decide that there is no need for him to appoint a deputy speaker?”
The Dennery North MP said that while he and other SLP parliamentarians have tried to cooperate with the UWP members in parliament, “there are going to be days when we will put our feet down and say we are not staying in the parliament to condone the nonsense that is being done by the United Workers Party.”
On the issue of Edward’s alleged impropriety of funds at the lotteries authority, the MP continued to defend his name, as he had done at a House sitting earlier this week.
“…It doesn’t matter how much of an investigation they do into the National Lotteries Authority, they can never find one instance where I as minister or the Board of the St. Lucia National Lotteries Authority misused monies belonging to the national Lottery. They can jump high, they can jump low. They can investigate, they can come to parliament. They can take attacks at me, I really do not care. My conscience is clear,” he said.