MUST IT TAKE A NAT­U­RAL DIS­AS­TER TO COR­RECT MAN-MADE DIS­AS­TERS?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

Since re­cently be­com­ing a full­time STAR re­porter, I have been con­fronted by sev­eral new ex­pe­ri­ences and op­por­tu­ni­ties. I have also re­ceived the usual warm, wel­come re­marks and con­grat­u­la­tions a young per­son hears upon be­ing hired on the ba­sis of his or her skills and tal­ents. As have many be­fore me, I’ve been ad­vised to use my tal­ents to con­trib­ute to my coun­try, to help im­prove my so­ci­ety, to do what­ever pos­si­ble to bring about pos­i­tive change. All of that I en­deav­our to do - af­ter all, that is what the STAR has al­ways been about: bring­ing the truth to light.

I am writ­ing this piece hav­ing taken a trip down mem­ory lane via the

news­pa­per’s archives. I was un­pre­pared for what I dis­cov­ered: that in our coun­try there has been lit­tle new in at least three decades that might be con­sid­ered pos­i­tive. I was stunned by the in­con­ve­nient truths that slapped me in the face as I turned the pages of time.

Hav­ing read sev­eral ar­ti­cles, many pub­lished be­fore I was born, I found my­self won­der­ing about this mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion that I had set my heart on mak­ing. I wan­dered through is­sues of the pa­per from the years 1989 and 1993 and, I should also say, there were some ar­ti­cles that made me smile: Derek Wal­cott re­ceiv­ing the high­est “na­tional honour”, but only af­ter win­ning the No­bel Prize; Trop­i­cal Trav­eller be­ing wel­comed by the Min­istry of Tourism, and Pi­ton Beer re­ceiv­ing in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion soon af­ter be­ing launched.

It was fas­ci­nat­ing to see faces that I have known for some time, the only dif­fer­ence be­ing that they fea­tured in the

STAR with­out a sin­gle wrin­kle and not the small­est sign of worry. There were also the gentle­men with their locks and beards, with not a trace of grey, who di­rected the coun­try’s af­fairs. What a thrill to read what they had to say at the launch­ing of ho­tels I have known my en­tire life, but not the his­to­ries. Be­fore me, too, were the begin­nings of the fit­ness craze. And then there was carnival that could al­ways be counted on to lift the Saint Lu­cia spirit, re­gard­less of how de­press­ing the times.

Beyond those smiles, how­ever, there were mur­ders, rapes and min­is­ters hav­ing sor­did af­fairs with girls be­low the age of con­sent; protest­ing ba­nana farm­ers long ne­glected; petty politi­cians prov­ing their pet­ti­ness. As I thumbed through those pages that pre-date my ex­is­tence, I won­dered about the rapes that oc­cur al­most weekly and whether it was pos­si­ble for me, or any ‘Not Ask­ing For It’ cam­paign, to bring about a change when our jus­tice sys­tem is as bro­ken to­day as it was be­fore I was born, and the po­lice as in­ef­fec­tive. Do I still stand for what I be­lieve in - as Guy Joseph did in par­lia­ment on Tues­day - or will the “nays” con­tinue to have it, as they have had dat­ing back to 1989?

“There’s noth­ing new un­der the sun.” That was the pop­u­lar re­ac­tion of many when first the Ubal­dus Ray­mond scan­dal broke a few weeks ago. Af­ter I’d read an even worse story in­volv­ing “the fa­ther of our na­tion” and a 15-year-old Cas­tries Com­pre­hen­sive School stu­dent in 1993, I won­dered whether the cur­rent brouhaha would go fur­ther than it al­ready has.

There was a point in time when funds ear­marked to pay for a new hos­pi­tal were in­stead used to give Victoria Hos­pi­tal a face-lift. When I think about that sce­nario the St. Jude sit­u­a­tion comes to mind. I am also re­minded of the adage “the more things change, the more they re­main the same”. As for the new hos­pi­tal . . .

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion once de­clared that Saint Lu­cia had “the high­est homi­cide rate for men”. So far this year there have been fif­teen deaths, vic­tims of shoot­ings and knif­ings. Thirty years af­ter Rick Wayne and the STAR started “bring­ing the truth to light” how much has changed? It’s de­press­ing that things have merely grown worse. But then, that might be said of many other coun­tries with far more re­sources than are at Saint Lu­cia’s dis­posal. Nev­er­the­less, many cit­i­zens con­tinue to fight in the be­lief that all things must change - if only af­ter Na­ture has put in a hand. What has re­ally pro­gressed in our coun­try? Will my con­tri­bu­tion even mat­ter?

On the eve of yet an­other In­de­pen­dence celebration I am re­minded of some­thing Rick Wayne shared that Derek Wal­cott had told him: “Un­til you have achieved what you set out to achieve, you have not done enough!”

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