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Oh, the irony! At a price lo­cal tax­pay­ers can ill af­ford, Saint Lu­cia ad­ver­tises it­self to the out­side world as “Sim­ply Beau­ti­ful.” The planet’s fa­vorite hon­ey­moon des­ti­na­tion— par­adise! Madi­son Av­enue hy­per­bole, you say? Only last Thurs­day I had TALK- ed at length about our gor­geous beaches and ir­re­sistible pris­tine wa­ters, a mag­net for divers and other lovers of all things ma­rine. Alas, lured by count­less photo-shopped glossy brochures, su­per-slick TV com­mer­cials and high­priced silver-tongued sirens, the cu­ri­ous vis­i­tor will soon dis­cover all his credit card had bought him was a mi­rage.

As count­less en­vi­ron­ment de­tec­tives have lamented, for close to a century, and at ever in­creas­ing speed, we have been turn­ing our once glo­ri­ous wa­ters, sea and rivers, into su­per­fi­cially invit­ing cesspools daily topped up with un­told thou­sands of gal­lons of un­treated sew­er­age—with at­ten­dant con­se­quences to the pop­u­la­tion and to their in­vited pay­ing guests.

In­deed an out­break of vagi­nal dis­or­ders in the mid90s had been at­trib­uted to bathing in highly con­tam­i­nated Choc Bay. Ear­lier, the day’s govern­ment had de­clared swimming in the Cas­tries har­bor

ver­boten. The rust-crusted sign with its now barely read­able un­der­stated warn­ing a few yards from the govern­ment’s white­washed of­fice build­ings might just as well not be there. Ven­dors in the sun-baked vicin­ity keep their fish look­ing fresh by soak­ing them ev­ery few min­utes in buck­ets of water from the fe­ces-and-oil-laden har­bor. That most city res­i­dents nev­er­the­less pre­fer to pur­chase their tuna at the il­le­gal but con­ve­nient open-air mar­ket on John Comp­ton High­way, not that op­er­ated by the Cas­tries City Coun­cil on Jeremie Street, speaks vol­umes about the na­tion’s health ed­u­ca­tion. Which brings to mind a Saudi bil­lion­aire, re­cently de­parted: Sheik Walid Juffali.

I have no idea whether the gen­tle­man had spent sev­eral hours fish­ing off the coast of Gros Islet when al­legedly he vis­ited Saint Lu­cia aboard his lux­ury yacht in 2013 (or was it 2014?). Or whether he had con­sumed mass quan­ti­ties of red snap­per pur­chased at the ear­lier cited water­front mar­ket.

The lit­tle we do know about the Saudi’s con­nec­tion with our coun­try was contributed ei­ther by on­line for­eign news­pa­pers or by the fa­mously tightlipped for­mer prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony un­der duress. Since the diplo­mat’s widely pub­li­cized pass­ing, how­ever, lit­tle has been said about him lo­cally. There were no of­fi­cial con­do­lences, save from Ernest Hi­laire. But then he went out of his way to say he was speak­ing for him­self, not for his party col­leagues, and cer­tainly not for the govern­ment of Allen Chas­tanet who, when his United Work­ers Party was in op­po­si­tion, had ques­tioned the multi-bil­lion­aire’s se­cret appointment as Saint Lu­cia’s diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the board of the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion. In­deed, one of Chas­tanet’s prom­ises to the elec­torate was that if his party was suc­cess­ful on June 6 Juffali would be sacked!

But reg­u­lar cit­i­zens have qui­etly been ask­ing ques­tions about the sta­tus of the di­a­betes re­search cen­ter that Juffali had promised to es­tab­lish here, at any rate, ac­cord­ing to then prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony. I, too, have been ask­ing re­lated ques­tions. Alas, I was un­pre­pared for what my queries have un­cov­ered. Con­trary to what Kenny An­thony had bel­lowed from the steps of the Cas­tries mar­ket shortly be­fore the 2016 gen­eral elec­tions; and never mind Ernest Hi­laire’s re­cent rev­e­la­tion that “the money for the cen­ter is there . . . it all de­pends on what the govern­ment de­cides,” I’ve seen no ev­i­dence that Walid Juffali had promised Saint Lu­cians a re­search cen­ter for di­a­betes— never mind he may in­deed have fallen madly in love at first sight of our Pi­tons.

Which is not to say what the then prime min­is­ter had emo­tion­ally de­liv­ered from the steps of the Cas­tries mar­ket at elec­tion time was all smoke, no fire. Although Kenny An­thony never men­tioned it, there ex­ists a pri­vate com­pany called W Science, whose stated rai­son

d’être is “to pro­vide re­sources and lead­er­ship skills, and bring to­gether in­ter­dis­ci­plinary teams to sup­port med­i­cal and sci­en­tific re­search part­ner­ships.” W Science was founded, by all I’ve read, in Zurich, in

2015. Its chair­man is—bet­ter to say

was— Walid Juffali. Ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments I’ve seen, in 2015 W Science had ex­pressed an in­ter­est in “col­lab­o­rat­ing” with gov­ern­men­tal, non-gov­ern­men­tal, med­i­cal, sci­en­tific and ed­u­ca­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions in Saint Lu­cia, “to strengthen, unite and ex­pand ef­forts to un­der­stand and com­bat di­a­betes.” The com­pany had learned from a re­port by the In­ter­na­tional Di­a­betes Fed­er­a­tion that in 2014 there were 10,200 cases of di­a­betes in Saint Lu­cia. W Science rec­og­nized “this huge bur­den on all lev­els” and hoped to ad­vance clin­i­cal re­search in the coun­try and po­si­tion Saint Lu­cia as “an ideal part­ner for in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tive projects.”

It fur­ther hoped this would lead to im­proved man­age­ment and un­der­stand­ing of di­a­betes in Saint Lu­cia, the Caribbean com­mu­nity and the world in gen­eral. On that ba­sis W Science had ini­ti­ated “a fea­si­bil­ity study to gather per­spec­tives, ex­plore the in­ter­est and ca­pac­ity for a col­lab­o­ra­tion and learn how W Science could work with the peo­ple to have a pos­i­tive and mean­ing­ful im­pact on their well-be­ing.”

The pub­lished re­sult of this study which kicked off in Au­gust 2015 shook me to the mar­row and un­der­scored for me how lack­adaisi­cal, not to say self-serv­ing and cal­lous, have been our pol­icy mak­ers, es­pe­cially when it comes to health mat­ters—re­gard­less of their plat­form rant­ings. Alas, space does not per­mit me on this oc­ca­sion to di­vulge the hor­ri­fy­ing de­tails of what W Science un­cov­ered. That must wait un­til next Satur­day. Stay tuned.

If what you see here turns your stom­ach, wait till you see what’s be­low the sur­face. But wide­spread pol­lu­tion is merely the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to Saint Lu­cia’s en­vi­ron­ment with its at­ten­dant health prob­lems!

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