(CARIBBEAN NEWS NOW) — A press conference held by the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) in Saint Lucia on Monday, quickly deteriorated into what one media worker present described as a “street-side quarrel”.
The press briefing was chaired by Oswald Augustin, UWP general secretary, along with newly appointed prime minister’s political attaché Norbert Williams, and was attended by specially invited political operatives and media representatives, but absent members of Cabinet and ministers of government.
Party operatives dominated the agenda, with Williams stating that “the United Workers Party and administration are resolute in rectifying the issues that face Saint Lucians and to deliver on the promises made during the election campaign”.
Augustin claimed that “obstructionists are hell bent on creating confusion in Saint Lucia so as to make this government look bad,” adding, “Government is focused and will be moving on with consultation. We are all Saint Lucians and we want to see Saint Lucia succeed.”
However, when it came to question time by the media, Dr Joycelyn Fletcher, sitting on the sidelines of the event, loudly interrupted, telling MBC reporter Miguel Fevrier, “Shut up, how dare you,” when he tried to question the UWP officials.
Fletcher’s outburst on Monday was compounded by a bizarre interaction on former senate president Claudius Francis’s radio talk show, when Fletcher and Francis spent the entire time shouting at each other simultaneously.
Fletcher’s conduct has revived unanswered questions as to why the government of Montserrat recently severed its employment relationship with her after serving as chief human resource officer in the Human Resource Management Unit (HRMU) there for less than a year.
She now serves as chair of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC), leading many to question her suitability and temperament for such an appointment and calling on education minister, Gail Rigobert, to take action.
Augustin then proceeded to get himself in hot water with the local media when journalist Trisha Lionel started to ask, “Are you worried that people are disenchanted, they are discontent and they must be moving away…”
Augustin interrupted, “Let me tell you something, sweetie…”
“Don’t sweetie me… it’s Trisha Lionel,” the journalist retorted.
“Oh, glad to hear that,” Augustin said, proceeding with a clumsy response to the question, complaining about the recent national rally and protest march, including the political strategy of opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), adding “…but something am going to tell you, you see this UWP party, when it comes to elections, no one can campaign better that the UWP.”
Lionel later told her media colleagues, “He came to me afterwards to apologize and say he just didn’t know my name. There were many things he could have called me instead: Miss, but ‘Sweetie’; let me say that to other persons out there that it is a bit disrespectful and in the mode of feminism or even for gender equality, I thing that we should be professional in our way of dealing with things and speaking to women.”
Attempting to counter the SLP on various issues, Williams offered the following:
• On the policy to review all CIP applicants:
“This can be seen as nothing more that malicious, as the SLP and particularly Ernest Hilaire knows full well that any CIP applicant who is approved by this administration does so under the laws of Saint Lucia which are currently in effect.
“To suggest a redo of what has already been approved according to law is only an attempt to undermine their very own country for political purposes, this is tantamount to treason.”
• On health care:
On the matter of comparative death records, in recent times there has been “a lot of fake news, a lot of lies” and “a lot of propaganda”, by the SLP regarding the management structure of the Owen King European Union Hospital (OKEU).
” Government has made no definitive statement on the management structure to be used at the OKEU Hospital and that consultations and the way forward are still not finalised on how the OKEU Hospital is going to be managed.”
• On the no confidence motion proposed by the SLP:
“The SLP seems bent on employing every trick in the book to create an atmosphere of instability and weaken confidence in Saint Lucia by investors and other international agencies. It falls in line with the statements made by the SLP, which have gathered the attention of the Financial Times in their August 22, 2018, article regarding statements made about redoing due diligence investigations on CIP investors and requiring a payment for the balance on what has been originally legislated for CIP payments.”
• On the new border control agency:
“Government’s withdrawal of Cabinet Conclusion 247, which sought to establish the agency, claiming that this was done after consultation with the Customs and Excise Department and the involvement of the Civil Service Association (CSA), the bargaining agent for employees of the department.”
“We see a heightened rhetoric of almost violent speech in Saint Lucia with the SLP. The declaration of war against the Chastanet’s, of no peace, of frightening against the government on the streets, in the house and, although this can be excused away as not being or not needed to be taken literally, we wonder why every utterance of the SLP is leaning towards the use of violence.”
The question of an article appearing in The Voice newspaper, purportedly written by Oswald Augustin, on September 8, 2018, referring to “top Israeli investigative officer” presently on island in an attempt to suppress ongoing leaks of embarrassing Cabinet and other documents was also raised, with particular reference to a letter subsequently written by SLP chairman Moses Jn Baptiste to Police Commissioner Severin Moncherry.
“We view Mr Augustin’s statement as a suggestion that in his attempts at getting after political opponents, he has the benefit of access to the machinery and operation of the police in Saint Lucia. Such statements by a senior member of the ruling United Workers Party are ominous and should be a source of grave concern to the citizens of our country…” Jn Baptiste wrote.
Augustin argued at the press conference that “He (Jn Baptiste) should first find out how many Oswald Augustins there are in Saint Lucia before he says it (article) was written by the general secretary of the United Workers Party. And I want to caution him next time he calls or write my name anywhere he better make sure he has facts and knows what he is talking about.”
“Since he (Jn Baptiste) has written a letter to the police he needs to get his facts straight and find out which Oswald Augustin wrote that article because the last time I check there were five Oswald Augustins, one passed away. He has to be careful who he is talking about.”