I am a Saint Lucian living in the United States who is constantly seeking information about my country’s growth. I remember growing up in Fond Le Grande, Central Castries, and as a little boy politics has always been something I enjoyed taking part in. When I was old enough to vote, the excitement I felt has to date been rivaled only by my wedding years later.
I mention this part of my past because as someone who always yearned for the day that I would be able to exercise my civic duty, I just do not understand how people are so reluctant or unmotivated to vote; to participate in government owned by the people.
In 2006 while my party, the SLP, was seeking another term in office, I found myself campaigning with a man I admire. Although I never mentioned it to him, I have always looked up to him as one of my mentors, Dr. Vaughn Lewis. Though we lost the election that year, I remained committed to the party of substance led by a man of high caliber and substance in the person of Dr. Kenny Anthony.
So I continued to be keenly interested in the policies of government. After the death of Sir John and the appointment of Stephenson King as Prime Minister, even though I didn’t support the UWP I liked King, because I believed that apart from a few on his team, more than 50-percent could not be trusted. But as anything else, I figured let me be the voice of the people to ensure participation in the affairs of the country under the then UWP administration led by Stephenson King.
As expected, it didn’t take long for the fracas to unleash, so I started a Facebook group called St. Lucia General Election 2011; not to foment division, but to hold the powers that be accountable for the pappyshow representation I witnessed back then. When my party, the SLP, was returned to office, it was like giving oxygen to a patient on the verge of suffocation. Thank God! At that point I was so happy that not only was a party of good governance back in office, but the horrifying embarrassment that St. Lucians home and overseas felt at what was happening in our country was finally over. We could finally exhale in relief from the seemingly endless scandals gripping the post-John Compton UWP. I feel vindicated and proud for celebrating the return of the SLP to office in 2011. It was truly an event and a process of deliverance from that UWP nightmare.
Over the last five years we have had a complete turnaround in the quality of national governance. We are once again developing socially and economically, and once again command international trust and respect. Even as we go into another election and it is seeking to regain power, the United Workers Party remains the same entity that so terribly shamed, neglected and depleted this country – a legacy it appears desperate to reinstate and continue.
But for all this, our elected representatives – all of them – should always be aware that how they are viewed is not limited to within Saint Lucia alone, but around the world. In 2011 I started a new Facebook group called Saint Lucians Aiming for Progress (SLAP), a name suggested by none other than Professor Rosemarie Belle Antoine, the wife of our current Prime Minister. SLAP’s membership brings together all persons regardless of political affiliation, an inclusiveness which has propelled it to become the number one Facebook group in the Caribbean, with over 15 thousand members.
Prime Minister Anthony performed exactly as pledged and expected when he returned our country to stability and growth since assuming office in 2011. Allow me to list a few serious issues he had to deal with upon returning to office:
1. The Daher Mall issue
2. The Black Bay and Canelles lands
3. US pressure on our police over extra-judicial killings
4. Embezzled Taiwanese funds
5. The forensic Lab
7. The construction/completion of our two major hospitals
8. The restoration of our roads, bridges and other public infrastructure
I can go on and on, but suffice to say the above and others not listed have cost us billions of dollars; either because of the UWP’s insistence on playing political football with the national interest, or their total disregard of laws such as those pertaining to public procurement and award of contracts, not to mention our Finance Administration Act.
Now I know some of you might ask what’s the point of revisiting these issues? The money they cost us or siphoned from our public coffers (think Daher Mall; Black Bay and Canelles lands; Taiwanese Funds) – wastage and graft that contributed to the tight fiscal situation which the Labour Party and Dr. Anthony inherited upon retaking office in late 2011. And remember all that fiscal irresponsibility, incompetence and malfeasance was on top of the unemployment which the UWP increased from 13 percent when they took over from Labour in December 2006 to 24 percent by the time they were booted out in November 2011 – an 11 percent increase in just five miserable years!
Dr. Anthony was upfront, forthright, straight up and candid when he told us how bad things were and the sacrifices that would have to be made in order to claw our way out of the pit into which the UWP had sunk us. Decisive implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT) was one of the fiscal measures he had to take, in addition to containing the public sector wage bill and other recurrent expenditure which the UWP had allowed to spiral out of control.
Today the SLP under Kenny Anthony has reduced unemployment by four percent, and is on course to bring it down to single digits. I will not say much about VAT because it is evident that the former administration played political football with it. Even Sir John said that VAT would be coming, but his party still insists on blaming Dr. Anthony for what should have been implemented years ago according to their own timetable.
I listen to a noisy minority who revel in expressing hatred for Kenny Anthony via accommodating airwaves and publications. Questioned as to why they hate him so much, their response is usually a vague ‘he’s too arrogant’ – even while conceding that he is a good and effective prime minister who works and achieves for his people. Pressed a little more as what exactly they mean by ‘he is arrogant’, you discover they don’t even know what the word means, nor have they any reasonable concept of what it describes.
The Kenny Anthony that I know is a most kind and soft-hearted man; approachable and attentive; polite, courteous and humble. It is a view shared by tens and tens of thousands of people who cannot all be wrong. Many of those who were responsible for the scandals in the last UWP administration are still seeking (desperately) to regain office, and see Kenny Anthony as standing in their way. Smearing him with all kinds of false labels and accusations is their preferred method of attempting to turn voters’ minds against him and the party he leads. We cannot fall for their anti-Kenny Anthony propaganda, which is designed only to manipulate us into giving them another chance to plunder the Treasury for their own personal gain and that of close friends and relatives.
Do you really think the UWP will miraculously change if it gets reelected?
I am not into social media like before, but I still love politics, and even more so now having witnessed and tasted the splendid governance provided by the SLP. My support for Bread, Freedom and Justice is all about country, not party. This is why I want to encourage young people to please do not gamble with the future of our beautiful country. The opposition’s five-point plan makes no sense for generating growth and stands no chance of putting money in your pockets. If the opposition wants any opportunity to govern this country they must first get a group of men and women who truly love and care for the people instead of themselves and their close kin. I encourage you not to get into the name calling and ask you to please stop hating people! The Lord encourages us to love one another, even if we do not agree on a particular issue. There’s no need to hate anyone – period – politics or not!
Your vote is the biggest contribution you can make to a candidate or cause that you support. It is one of the biggest contributions you can make to your country as well. You ARE the government! Own it. They work for us, but we must communicate with them. Start today, because yesterday is gone and we can’t wait for tomorrow anymore. Ask questions. Listen to what is being said. Then go do you own research. Find out who is telling the truth and who is bluffing. The SLP is the best political party, but I still urge you to question the candidates so you can have a better understanding where to vote.