Following a rather perplexing brouhaha over what the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) should and should not discuss at its public meeting on the Castries market steps, the SLP’s self-styled political university of the people – a sizeable crowd, perhaps more curious about what the Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) did not want them to hear, turned out to listen to what all the fuss was about.
“Your government is working and the country is on course!” seemed to have been the night’s theme as each speaker presented more fact than the customary political platform oratory.
The dominating topic however, was the ALBA agreement to which St. Lucia is a signatory and has somehow managed to become a political football with Labour defending St. Lucia’s economic goal, while the Opposition seems hell bent on calling foul.
The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, or ALBA) is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of the social, political and economic integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The name “Bolivarian” refers to the ideology of Simón Bolívar, the 19th century South American independence leader born in Caracas who wanted the continent to unite as a single “Great Nation.” Founded initially by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004, it is associated with governments wishing to consolidate regional economic integration based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid.
The Opposition UWP has attempted to malign the agreement, using it as the ‘real’ reason for the US State Department’s withdrawal of support for the island’s police force while distancing their administration from its ill-fated “Operation Restore Confidence” which the State Department has clearly indicated is the actual source of their dismay – characterizing the deaths associated with the law enforcement crime-reduction strategy as “extra-judicial killings.”
“If you apply for a US visa and for some reason you don’t get it, they want you to say that is because St. Lucia is a member of ALBA; that the United States is punishing us for associating with this group of countries. Why are the flambeaus against this country receiving economic aid from countries who can and are willing to help us?” enquired Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony.
The Opposition appears to have missed the lessons on south-south geopolitics.
Thursday night’s public meeting also heard from Deputy Prime Minister, Philip J. Pierre; Soufriere/Fond St. Jacques Parliamentary Representative Harold Dalson; Laborie MP Alva Baptiste and Education Minister Dr. Robert Lewis.
The speakers mostly steered clear of platform mudslinging, opting to update their audience on progress within their respective ministries – infrastructural projects including several bridges destroyed by hurricane Tomas, laptops for children attending secondary schools and annual bursaries for students to assist in purchasing school supplies amongst other issues of national interest.
If as DR. Robert Lewis put it, “when you are educated, then you will seek the truth”, then the meeting at the Castries market steps university did much to enlighten the masses on issues which others have sought to mire in the mud of intellectual dishonesty.