NOT SO FAST, MR. HUNT­LEY!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Del­ridge Flav­ius

For fif­teen years John Comp­ton promised to build a dam on the Mil­let River to im­prove the wa­ter sup­ply in the north of the is­land, es­pe­cially for the area’s ho­tels. Year af­ter year, in his bud­get pre­sen­ta­tions, he would re­peat this prom­ise never ma­te­ri­al­ized. Even his own UWP sup­port­ers be­gan to lose faith.

From his op­po­si­tion bench Velon John sar­cas­ti­cally re­ferred to the promised project as one of the many items in the Comp­ton’s bud­get that would have to be aborted due to its un­nat­u­rally long ges­ta­tion pe­riod. Notwith­stand­ing, the ridicule and sar­casm, John Comp­ton never gave up dream. The John Comp­ton Dam is proof of that. It has played and con­tin­ues to play a ma­jor role in the devel­op­ment of the north.

Ar­guably one of Sir John’s great­est at­tributes Comp­ton was his vi­sion; his abil­ity to vi­su­al­ize the in­fras­truc­tural devel­op­ment of Saint Lu­cia. Upon his sec­ond com­ing the prime min­is­ter spoke about the Quad­rant Devel­op­ment The­ory his gov­ern­ment in­tended to pur­sue. He was well aware that the na­tion’s in­fras­truc­tural devel­op­ment needed to be de­cen­tral­ized, and the South­east­ern cor­ri­dor was one of the ar­eas in the Quad­rant Devel­op­ment that would re­ceive ma­jor at­ten­tion.

He spoke about the im­prove­ment of He­wanorra In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the con­struc­tion of a Ma­rina at Coco Dan area and the devel­op­ment of ho­tel plants. He was pas­sion­ate about achiev­ing what he had started in his First Com­ing. How­ever, he made it clear that in or­der for that to hap­pen three things would first have to be put in place: elec­tric­ity, roads and wa­ter. Elec­tric­ity and roads were al­ready there; it was the wa­ter sup­ply that now needed to be worked on. Sir John had yet an­other dream: an­other dam, this time on the Wood­lands River, which would sup­ply the en­tire South-eastern quad­rant. Alas, a higher power de­cided oth­er­wise.

As far as Sir John was con­cerned the ideas of Quad­rant Devel­op­ment, dams, roads and so on were just a means to an end. What he re­ally wanted was to solve the prob­lem of ur­ban drift—a uni­ver­sal prob­lem, by the way—and cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for res­i­dents in the ru­ral ar­eas. Cen­sus af­ter cen­sus had in­di­cated the pop­u­la­tion in the north was grow­ing dis­pro­por­tion­ately to the rest of the is­land.

Any­one with a mod­icum of un­der­stand­ing will agree Comp­ton’s devel­op­ment the­ory made sense. Why, there­fore, would the Labour-dom­i­nated Con­stituency Bound­aries Com­mis­sion, and the most con­tro­ver­sial Earl Hunt­ley (with his own not so se­cret po­lit­i­cal agenda, and the man who started us on the road to Gryn­berg) tell us that mov­ing from 17 to 21 is in the na­tional in­ter­est. Not only do they think it’s fair they have also present their view as the only use­ful op­tion. You know, as was done with the “op­pres­sive, anti-poor, anti-worker” VAT!

If, for ex­am­ple, Gros Islet has 30,000 res­i­dents, why can’t we place 22,000 in Babon­neau and Cas­tries North and keep spread­ing the ex­cess into other con­stituen­cies un­til Ca­naries be­comes a part of Soufriere and Augier a part of Vieux Fort etc? Hav­ing done that, the next pri­or­ity for the gov­ern­ment would be to en­sure op­por­tu­ni­ties are cre­ated in ru­ral ar­eas so that there would be no need for res­i­dents to con­tinue mov­ing to the north in search of a job.

Those cur­rently mak­ing a case for an in­crease in con­stituen­cies know what caused the prob­lem in the first place. Why can’t we stay with the 17? Seven or four­teen years down the road, an­other re­view will find that the eleven con­stituen­cies in the north have again out­grown the other ten. What will Hunt­ley & Com­pany do then? Cre­ate more con­stituen­cies? Un­less this and suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments de­lib­er­ately pur­sue a devel­op­ment the­ory along the lines of Sir John’s vi­sion the prob­lem will con­tinue.

At a time when our un­em­ployed young are so frus­trated and hun­gry that some give crazy thought to harm­ing of­fi­cials; when they are forced to stand on the bread line while the cho­sen are af­forded more op­por­tu­ni­ties fur­ther to bleed near co­matose tax­pay­ers, what could be worse than the gov­ern­ment’s lat­est move? Why does the leg­is­la­ture be­lieve that this is the per­fect time to con­fer more power on it­self in­stead of em­pow­er­ing the peo­ple by way of lo­cal gov­ern­ment?

Why does a lit­tle dot of a coun­try, only 17 miles long and 14 miles wide, with less than 180,000 res­i­dents, 21 par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives? At elec­tion time ev­ery dis­trict rep and can­di­date knows how to do house-to- house cam­paign­ing. Reach­ing the peo­ple has never been and will never be a prob­lem for them. The idea of smaller con­stituen­cies is just an­other ruse at the ex­pense of the peo­ple.

Earl Hunt­ley has ad­vised that when you have to solve a prob­lem, es­pe­cially one which re­lates to com­pli­ance with our Con­sti­tu­tion— how­ever out­dated and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive—cost should not be a de­ter­rent. This is the kind of think­ing that reeks of self­ish mo­tives, that re­minds of other es­capades for which the public has paid and con­tin­ues to pay dearly.

In any case, the cost of im­ple­ment­ing Sir John’s Quad­rant Devel­op­ment The­ory should not be a de­ter­rent ei­ther. It is an in­vest­ment that will pay huge div­i­dends down the road. New con­stituen­cies amounts to more re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture that will never be re­cov­ered!

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