A recent address by United Workers Party (UWP) Leader Allen Chastanet continues to stir interest among various circles on the island.
In his statement, Chastanet raised concern over a number of issues which he insisted should be immediately addressed by the St. Lucia Labour Party government.
Among the matters raised, was what he said was the need for St. Lucia to move away from partisan politics.
He also called for a comprehensive review of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and made a request for government’s full disclosure on some ongoing projects on the island. In addition, Chastanet also questioned St. Lucia’s recent joining of ALBA.
His August 7, 2013 address has already prompted a few media responses from the SLP.
In answer to these rebuttals, the UWP has now issued a press release which is posted in its entirety below:
“The United Workers Party is indeed pleased that the recent address to the nation by its newly elected Political Leader Allen Chastanet has drawn so much interest from government and Labour Party operatives.
The August 13, 2013 press release from the Office of the Prime Minister was indeed another feeble attempt to discredit the new indomitable UWP leader Allen Chastanet.
Although the government’s press statement is laid naked by its own attempts at distortion, it is important to review the August 13 press release in order to set the record straight.
It must be noted that the address by the political leader spoke to “potential fall-out”, not just with respect to the OECS, but also the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The concern expressed was the proposed use of the SUCRE as the trading currency of ALBA countries, and the implications for the OECS Monetary Union.
In other words, does St. Lucia plan to leave the ECMU and abandon the Easter Caribbean dollar? Does St. Lucia’s accession to ALBA now put us in conflict with the pro-Argentina position on the Falklands Islands and could have serious repercussions for our foreign policy standing with the United Kingdom?
Similarly, the clear anti-USAID stance of ALBA may undermine our longstanding relationships with the USA. Such decisions can have widespread implications for our nation as a whole and ought to be part of a national debate.
These are major concerns which affect our people and they must be aware of the implications, and be given the opportunity to express their opinions on matters of foreign policy should not be left exclusively to the dictates of a short-sighted government.
The suggestion for the need for parliamentary approval as relates to ALBA is in consonance with transparent and participatory democracy. The history of Labour Party governments led by Prime Minister Anthony gives natural cause for concern, as reflected in the very recent and damning examples of Rochamel and Grynberg which were cited in Chastanet’s address.
It is, therefore, mischievous that the government’s press statement would attempt to draw parallels between the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and ALBA. This is clearly an attempt at mixing the disparate issues with all the attendant connotations.
The UWP insist that because of the implications re: debt accumulation ref. PetroCaribe which is an initiative of ALBA and the potential political fall-out from membership of ALBA which is an anti – American alliance that the approval of parliament must be sought.
Our apprehensions regarding ALBA may already be gaining merit in the recent manifestations of possible US reprisals. Further, the articulation of policy intent within a throne speech does not mean that the government has the “go ahead” to take Saint Lucia to the “gates of hell”before consulting with the people and parliament.
The fact is, most Saint Lucians do not know or understand what ALBA is or represents. This approach is what in our folklore is referred to as “Jab an Sak” (the Devil hidden in a sac).
The worn out strategy of seeking to tarnish Chastanet’s record as a minister in the last UWP administration by bringing into question minimum revenue guarantees (MRG)agreements with some airlines is exposed by its own pale weakness.
Firstly Chastanet makes it clear that all MRGs were subject to approval by the cabinet of ministers and were in fact signed by the St Lucia Tourist Board and not the Minister of Tourism.
The shallowness of this attempt to denigrate the UWP political leader is highlighted by the fact that the use of MRGs is a policy which has been employed by successive UWP and SLP governments.
It is obvious that such agreements are treated as confidential for strategic purposes. It is for that same reason that the current government might not wish to divulge the details of the current agreement/arrangements between itself and United Airlines.
There is, however, a deafening silence from the government on issues that are of grave concern to Saint Lucians, as they affect and threaten our livelihoods and sovereignty.
The following issues highlighted in Chastanet’s address are restated for the attention and response of the Kenny Anthony Administration:
– The removal of VAT on all reading glasses for senior citizens;
– The removal of VAT on all medication;
– The request for full disclosure and clarification on the award of a contract by SLASPA for
the construction and operation of a Fixed Based Operation (Private Jet Terminal) at HIA;
– The status of Post Hurricane Tomas Reconstruction Projects;
– The revision of the VAT with a view to reduction of the rate;
– The update on the St Jude Hospital Redevelopment Project and a definitive statement on a date for returning the Hospital to its original home;
– The full disclosure on how much money was collected from the Airport Development Tax for the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project;
This is also an opportunity to once again call on Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Kenny Anthony to address the nation on the troubling Grynberg matter.
Finally the address to the nation by newly elected political leader of the United Workers Party presented the Labour Party and the current government with an opportunity to engage on a new standard of political discourse.
During his address, Chastanet stated the following: “our people deserve better than the maypwee and personal character attacks which pass for political discourse, and they are demanding, rightly, that our exchanges be about real issues that matter, the issues which affect our welfare, as a nation, and as a people. And I say to members and supporters of the UWP, the Labour Party is not our enemy, Kenny Anthony is not our enemy, his ministers and supporters are not our enemies. But we do have enemies –and our enemies are poverty, unemployment, ignorance and apathy; and we must fight those enemies, with everything we have ….”
We continue to seek opportunities to engage all interested parties in this new dialogue about the current and future development of our small nation.”