NOT SO FAST, MR. HUNTLEY!
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!