Per­son of the Year (Read­ers’ Choice)!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - Shane Felix, still stand­ing: STAR Read­ers have voted him their Per­son of the Year for 2014 (Photo by Bill Mort­ley) By Toni Ni­cholas

It

is said that if you don’t stand for some­thing you’ll fall for any­thing. Some 60 per­cent of STAR read­ers who ev­i­dently be­lieve in the ax­iom have voted Shane Felix their Per­son of the Year.

Orig­i­nally from Pi­aye, near La­borie, Felix joined the Saint Lu­cia Fire Ser­vice (SLFS) in Novem­ber of 1999 and has made fire­fight­ing and be­ing a first re­spon­dent his life’s pas­sion. Over the years he has served in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties on the ex­ec­u­tive of not just the lo­cal fire depart­ment but also the Caribbean As­so­ci­a­tion of Fire­fight­ers.

In 2014 Felix led the charge to con­tinue press­ing for bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions for fire­fight­ers. He also stepped up the pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment to re­lease the find­ings of a com­mis­sion of en­quiry into the fire ser­vice and for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of its rec­om­men­da­tions. For some time Felix had called for the res­o­lu­tion of griev­ances in­clud­ing the fail­ure to ap­point and pro­mote of­fi­cers. He also lev­elled ac­cus­taions of sex­ual har­rass­ment and sex­ual im­pror­i­ety on the part of se­nior of­fi­cers to­wards their fe­male cooun­ter­parts.

Back in 2012, after years of ac­cu­sa­tions lev­elled at the top brass in the fire ser­vice, the gov­ern­ment set up an en­quiry. In De­cem­ber of that year it was an­nounced that com­mis­sioner Dr. Fran­cis Alexis, Q.C. would head it. How­ever, more than a year after the com­mis­sion de­liv­ered its re­port (Felix and fire chief Leslie Fon­tenelle were among those who tes­ti­fied), there was no word from the gov­ern­ment. Felix and his as­so­ci­a­tion took their com­plaints to the me­dia, to no avail. They re­sorted to sick­outs, also to no avail.

Fi­nally, on 1 Septem­ber 2014 the fire­fight­ers downed tools with the support of more than 100 col­leagues across the coun­try, im­pact­ing the is­land’s ports as well as med­i­cal and health ser­vices. The protest ac­tion which got support from a num­ber of other trade unions, also caught the at­ten­tion of the prime min­is­ter. In an ad­dress to the na­tion he said the mat­ter was in the hands of the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (PSC) but nev­er­the­less changes would be made at the high­est level of the fire ser­vice.

Fire Chief Leslie Fon­tenelle was sec­onded to the Saint Lu­cia Air and Sea­ports Au­thor­ity. Then the PSC re­leased the re­port from the com­mis­sion of en­quiry but a swipe was taken at Felix: he re­ceived from the PSC a let­ter of in­tent to pur­sue dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against him on a mat­ter dat­ing back to 2013.

Felix re­mained re­lent­less and ap­peared fo­cussed in his pur­suit of jus­tice and in the end was vic­to­ri­ous. The im­passe was called off when, in the ab­sence of Kenny An­thony, the act­ing prime min­is­ter Philip J. Pierre an­nounced a truce and gave his as­sur­ance that the griev­ances of the SLFS would be fully ad­dressed.

Felix was openly de­clared a hero by his fel­low fight­ers but in an in­ter­view with the STAR he in­sisted that the fight was never about him­self but “about jus­tice” for his col­leagues.

Mean­while he cam­paigned in favour of the rule of law and for a bet­ter work­ing en­vi­ron­ment “that will al­low us to carry out our du­ties to the Saint Lu­cian pub­lic”.

Just last week the SLFS re-elected Shane Felix as its leader. And now our read­ers have es­sen­tially sec­onded the mo­tion by declar­ing Felix their Per­son of the Year 2014. As we speak, Shane Felix, who is also an avid sup­porter of lo­cal cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly from his rich cul­tural her­itage sur­round­ings in Pi­aye and Choiseul, is busy pre­par­ing for an ac­tiv­ity this week­end. It will be in hon­our of Clifton “Dou Dou” Joseph, a cul­ture hero from the com­mu­nity of Pi­aye who passed away this week. In next week’s STAR Felix pays trib­ute to Joseph.

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