De­ceased Julius and Randy Joseph De­serve Much Bet­ter

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Rick Wayne

It’ll come as no sur­prise that very lit­tle was writ­ten by other lo­cal news­pa­pers about the Oc­to­ber 1993 de­ba­cle that claimed the lives of two young farmhands, Randy and Julius Joseph, and se­ri­ously wounded sev­eral other peo­ple, among them cu­ri­ous by­standers and shop­pers at a Morne Panache gro­cery store. No sur­prise that some would to­day con­ve­niently seek to profit po­lit­i­cally by as­so­ci­at­ing the par­tic­u­lar hor­ror at Grand Riviere with re­cent pre­emp­tive po­lice ac­tion in the face of threats mind­lessly is­sued via the In­ter­net by per­son or per­sons un­known—but clearly ill-in­ten­tioned—all in the name of con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed dis­sent. The first-men­tioned hor­ror was re­lated to a good cause (bet­ter pay and con­di­tions for ba­nana pro­duc­ers) that des­per­ate politi­cians of the day had turned into a per­ceived easy ride to par­lia­ment. The more re­cent, again dressed up to look like le­gal protest, tar­geted a pro­posed con­tro­ver­sial de­vel­op­ment in Vieux Fort. The fol­low­ing re­lated press re­lease is­sued March 17, speaks for it­self:

“The St Lu­cia Labour Party has ex­pressed out­rage over the de­ci­sion by the Allen Chas­tanet gov­ern­ment to send armed SSU of­fi­cers to pa­trol the DSH site to de­ter any pub­lic protest. The SLP be­lieves the ac­tion of the Chas­tanet gov­ern­ment out of pro­por­tion and hasty in re­sponse to a post­ing on Face­book. The gov­ern­ment did not send reg­u­lar po­lice to de­ter­mine whether there was an il­le­gal protest or sab­o­tage but in­stead sent a bat­tal­ion of heav­ily armed SSU of­fi­cers. This is clearly an at­tempt to frighten St Lu­cians who are in op­po­si­tion to the pro­ject. The SLP thinks it was a clear state­ment to St Lu­cians that any at­tempt to protest for the preser­va­tion of their her­itage or pat­ri­mony will not be tol­er­ated by the UWP gov­ern­ment. It will in­deed be a sad day for St Lu­cia for the gov­ern­ment to or­der the SSU to put the peo­ple of St Lu­cia un­der the bar­rel of ma­chine guns if they dare go near the DSH site.

“The Labour Party notes that these tac­tics of the UWP are not new, as we re­mem­ber that the farm­ers who stood up for their rights were shot in cold blood by the SSU on the orders of the UWP. The SLP had hoped that the UWP would have learnt from its past mis­deeds and never again go down that road where St Lu­cians are threat­ened when protest­ing. Once again the po­lice are be­ing or­dered to turn their guns on peace­ful ci­ti­zens of our coun­try while the Allen Chas­tanet ad­min­is­tra­tion has started sell­ing our pass­ports at an un­ac­cept­ably low price to pro­vide St. Lu­cian cit­i­zen­ship to Chi­nese with an agree­ment that al­lows pro­ceeds from the sale to be kept over­seas un­der the con­trol of the DSH mas­ter de­vel­oper . . . The SLP calls on the po­lice to use their dis­cre­tion and to not be used for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses un­der the guise of en­sur­ing law and or­der. Ci­ti­zens have a demo­cratic right to protest and the po­lice must not be used to sup­press that right . . .”

Hy­per­bole is one thing. Out­right pre­var­i­ca­tion per­chance to pro­voke il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity in the name of peace­ful protest is some­thing al­to­gether dif­fer­ent. Nowhere in the SLP’s re­lease is the con­tent of “the post­ing which ap­peared on Face­book” quoted. Had the SLP cho­sen to re­pro­duce it, read­ers would’ve been bet­ter placed to de­cide for them­selves whether the po­lice ac­tion was “an in­ap­pro­pri­ate hasty re­sponse” or­dered by the Chas­tanet gov­ern­ment, not in the best in­ter­ests of the na­tion, and un­con­sti­tu­tional. Mean­while, the po­lice com­mis­sioner Mr. Mil­ton De­sir stands by his re­ac­tion “to the widely pub­li­cized threat on Face­book.”

He says: “We never re­ceived orders re­lat­ing to this mat­ter. We were alerted by con­cerned ci­ti­zens and we saw for our­selves a pub­lished threat that we could not in good con­science take lightly. We had no way of know­ing who would show up at the tar­geted site, whether they planned to carry out their stated threat. We had no choice but to do what we did.”

Fi­nally: “We were re­lieved that there was no in­ci­dent, that good sense pre­vailed.” As for the com­par­i­son that re­called the 1993 in­ci­dent at Grand Riviere, De­sir said: “This is pre­pos­ter­ous and dan­ger­ously provoca­tive, and peo­ple should be warned against in­cite­ment that could have se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions.”

Then again, the in­dis­putable truth is that the St. Lu­cia Labour Party’s his­tory is one of strug­gle, in or out of of­fice, of­ten against it­self. More of­ten than not such strug­gles in­volved in­ternecine prob­lems—with the na­tion suf­fer­ing the con­se­quences. Un­for­get­table is the Wil­liam Peter Boule­vard ex­cre­men­tal at­tack on lead­ing mem­bers of John Comp­ton’s United Work­ers Party days af­ter the Louisy-led SLP had won the 1979 gen­eral elec­tions. Sev­eral in­no­cent par­ties suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries. For­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions and works min­is­ter Clen­don Ma­son was near-fa­tally hit in the head by a rock. The show win­dows of all but one busi­ness house in the vicin­ity were smashed, stores looted. Dur­ing the as­sault that went on for more than three hours (the po­lice were or­dered to stay in their quar­ters) hun­dreds of poly­eth­yl­ene sacks filled with hu­man fe­ces were tossed around, in the process trans­mo­gri­fy­ing the area into an open la­trine. The dam­age cost mil­lions to re­pair.

Then there was the prece­den­tial 1982 House de­ba­cle that in­cluded the toss­ing of the Mace around the cham­ber while the threat­ened Speaker cow­ered in his of­fice be­hind locked doors. (Dur­ing what passed for a de­bate one MP had fa­mously ad­dressed a col­league thus: “I will shoot from the hip and make shit come out of your mouth!”) I need not go into the power strug­gle that saw the SLP’s Ge­orge Od­lum and prime min­is­ter Al­lan Louisy at each other’s jugu­lars, again to the last­ing detri­ment of reg­u­lar ci­ti­zens. The recorded his­tory is ac­ces­si­ble in Hansard and from the STAR ar­chives. As are the de­tails of the re­gret­table Grand Riviere in­ci­dent.

To mis­quote the ti­tle of a fa­mous civil rights song by Sam Cooke: “Change Has Gotta Come.” And the sooner the bet­ter!

The St. Lu­cia Labour Party con­tin­ues con­ve­niently to blame Sir John Comp­ton (de­ceased) for what tran­spired in Oc­to­ber 1993 at Morne Panache.

Pa­trick Joseph: Lit­tle is to­day heard of him but there was a time when his name was syn­ony­mous with ev­ery­thing ba­nanas in Saint Lu­cia!

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