UWP SUR­PRISE!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Toni Ni­cholas

At the very least, he must be cred­ited for pulling off what many were openly say­ing amounted to a small mir­a­cle, es­pe­cially those closely con­nected with the rul­ing St. Lu­cia Labour Party. Which fur­ther un­der­scores the fact that an in­abil­ity to speak Cre­ole bet­ter than one can speak English is no big thing, that it cer­tainly has noth­ing to do with per­suad­ing cit­i­zens to par­tic­i­pate in a protest march against gov­ern­ment poli­cies. Among the pro­test­ers on Thurs­day were those who car­ried aloft posters bear­ing the im­age of the UWP and the printed dec­la­ra­tion “Allen is our Man!”

By my own es­ti­ma­tion, well over a thou­sand cit­i­zens marched in their or­ange and in yel­low to protest against, among other mat­ters, the price of fuel, VAT, un­em­ploy­ment and the cost of living, shout­ing as they walked the UWP catch­phrase “Enough is Enough!” Sev­eral plac­ard bear­ers de­nounced gov­ern­ment’s eco­nomic poli­cies and the high level of un­em­ploy­ment.

The march started shortly af­ter 5 pm near the Vigie play­ing field, pro­ceeded across the Sans Soucis bridge and ended in Wil­liam Peter Boule­vard where the crowd was ad­dressed by lead­ing UWP mem­bers, all of whom dared the gov­ern­ment to “call elec­tions now!”

While Allen Chas­tanet may have been the Steven Spiel­berg of the march, Guy Joseph was un­doubt­edly the star of their un­pre­dictable movie. On Thurs­day evening the nor­mally feisty MP for Cas­tries Southeast was on fire. He had a grand time tak­ing apart the gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­i­ties in th­ese times of se­vere eco­nomic stress, es­pe­cially while list­ing the gov­ern­ment’s empty prom­ises, among them “bet­ter days.”

“Three years af­ter Labour took of­fice,” he said, “we are yet to ex­pe­ri­ence one day that was not bet­ter be­fore the 2011 elec­tions!”

Spi­der Mono­tute touched on sev­eral is­sues in­clud­ing the SLP’s prom­ise to re­voke the Video Lot­tery Ter­mi­nals and the gov­ern­ment’s sus­pen­sion of the con­tro­ver­sial Air­port Devel­op­ment Tax im­ple­mented by the UWP ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Dr. Gale Rigob­ert was at times hard on the ear but she nev­er­the­less added fuel to the oc­ca­sion. She said she and her party had marched and were speak­ing on be­half of “ev­ery cit­i­zen of this coun­try” re­gard­less of party af­fil­i­a­tion. She stressed that the eco­nomic hard­ship was hav­ing a par­tic­u­larly de­bil­i­tat­ing ef­fect on the most vul­ner­a­ble groups— women, chil­dren, the poor and the el­derly.

The House Op­po­si­tion leader crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment for “its lack of vi­sion” es­pe­cially when it came to ed­u­ca­tion and the youth. She called for a greater in­vest­ment in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem while lament­ing that cur­rently “four schools are still on the shift sys­tem.”

“If you care about the youth and you care about ed­u­ca­tion and the fu­ture of this coun­try, then you need to con­cen­trate less on ex­pen­sive bridges and build more schools,” she said. Rigob­ert has per­sis­tently pleaded with the gov­ern­ment to re­store the bus fare sub­sidy that was in place for school chil­dren whose par­ents could not af­ford trans­porta­tion fees. She re­peated her plea on Thurs­day evening, to wild ap­plause.

Speak­ing on the un­em­ploy­ment is­sue, Rigob­ert said: “They are quick to say how many jobs they have cre­ated through so­cial pro­grammes but they have failed to ad­dress the count­less Saint Lu­cians who have lost their jobs un­der Labour.” She also called for more ser­vices to be of­fered to raped and bat­tered women mainly be­cause they had lit­tle state pro­tec­tion.

Allen Chas­tanet, who brought up the rear of the meet­ing, sounded a lit­tle wary and not quite fo­cused. Could it be he was over­whelmed by the day’s turnout? The UWP leader called on cit­i­zens to stand up to the Kenny An­thony ad­min­is­tra­tion and keep press­ing on to re­turn the UWP to of­fice.

“Enough is enough” he shouted, adding that too many Saint Lu­cians were suf­fer­ing and that it was time a strong sig­nal was sent to the Kenny An­thony gov­ern­ment. No sur­prise that he re­vis­ited the is­sue of cur­rent gas prices. Fi­nally he called on Saint Lu­cians to pre­pare for elec­tions although he has yet to say where he plans to con­test for a seat in par­lia­ment. Then again, in pol­i­tics tim­ing is ev­ery­thing. Con­ceiv­ably, that is one thing Allen Chas­tanet knows well!

Pro­tes­tors turned out in large num­bers on Thurs­day for a peace­ful march to

de­nounce the poli­cies of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment.

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