Do You want to be from a Ghetto or from The Pearl of the Caribbean?’

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Toni Ni­cholas

The United Work­ers Party had not had what might be called a busi­ness meet­ing - as op­posed to the usual post elec­tion cel­e­bra­tions - with the peo­ple since its stun­ning against-all-odds 11-6 vic­tory last June. But the party’s sup­port­ers have been clam­our­ing for pub­lic meet­ings, es­pe­cially on the much pub­li­cized DSH (Desert Star Hold­ings) project, and if only be­cause the ever-in-op­po­si­tion mode St. Lu­cia Labour Party con­tin­ues to see it as a way back to of­fice. At least three TV shows seem to ex­ist solely to keep DSH on the front burner of pub­lic at­ten­tion. Even IMPACS - the fall-out from which con­tin­ues to have dev­as­tat­ing im­pact in many ways on the lo­cal po­lice, crime-fight­ing and the jus­tice sys­tem in gen­eral - has not re­ceived as much me­dia at­ten­tion as the pro­posed Vieux Fort project. Ditto Gryn­berg, a 16-years-old ex­pen­sive catas­tro­phe cre­ated by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, has not oc­cu­pied the spot­light as has the is­sue of DSH. Then there is the pro­posed dol­phi­nar­ium at Pi­geon Point that the govern­ment’s op­po­si­tion has man­aged to link to the pro­posed con­tro­ver­sial DSH de­vel­op­ment at the is­land’s south­ern end.

Af­ter some three weeks of stirring the pot is­land-wide, the Saint Lu­cia Labour Party an­nounced a mass protest on May 17. Among the party’s ad­ver­tised rea­sons for tak­ing to the streets, yes, you guessed right, the DSH project, the Pi­geon dol­phi­nar­ium. But there were also the side dishes, among them the “reck­less bud­get” the prime min­is­ter pre­sented a cou­ple of weeks ago and which was hardly at­tended by the House op­po­si­tion. In­deed, the re­lated de­bate is sched­uled to con­tinue on June 20.

On board, ac­cord­ing to the protest pro­mot­ers, was the re­cently formed Con­cerned Cit­i­zens Group of Vieux Fort and a num­ber of well known politi­cians in mufti who an­nounced their par­tic­i­pa­tion had noth­ing to do with any move to re­sus­ci­tate the SLP. Rather, they said, they had de­cided, if only this once, to put “coun­try be­fore party”. No sur­prise the num­ber of pro­test­ers on Wed­nes­day was elec­tion-time mas­sive.

Mean­while, Vieux Fort - the con­stituency rep­re­sented in par­lia­ment by the for­mer prime min­is­ter and ex-SLP leader Kenny An­thony - was host­ing its own march, cour­tesy the UWP led by prime min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet, also party leader. The event’s pur­pose was two-fold: to show south­ern sup­port for the DSH project and to hear from the prime min­is­ter him­self what was in it for res­i­dents in the is­land’s south­ern end. Nat­u­rally, it all kicked off with a march, mu­sic and bear­ers of plac­ards with handwritten mes­sages, more than a few in­sult­ing to the Vieux Fort south MP, as in­sult­ing as were the plac­ards that fea­tured in the Cas­tries march.

I spoke with the prime min­is­ter shortly be­fore he joined other mem­bers of his cabi­net and some other prom­i­nent cit­i­zens from the south on a dec­o­rated makeshift stage that re­minded of the weeks be­fore June 6.

“We want to talk about the new projects that are com­ing off the ground, es­pe­cially in the south, but also else­where on the is­land,” Chas­tanet told me. “We have OJO labs, the Black Bay project, and we ex­pect soon to break ground in Sab­wisha, Choiseul.”

Chas­tanet also in­di­cated his govern­ment was look­ing to get the He­wanorra Air­port project off the ground, as well as con­tin­u­ing work on the cruise ship fa­cil­ity in Vieux Fort.

“Tonight we want to talk about those things, talk about the young peo­ple in the south and the hope that we are bring­ing to the south,” he said. “Ev­ery­body knows Vieux Fort has been a ghost town for many years and the op­por­tu­ni­ties are very ripe. The dream of a new fron­tier is fi­nally about to be re­al­ized. My govern­ment will de­liver on that.”

Spe­cific to the DSH project, the prime min­is­ter stated that there had been a lot of mis­con­cep­tions that needed to be clar­i­fied.

“We know that change is never easy. But all we can do is keep ex­plain­ing to peo­ple what the project en­tails. The only part of the project that we have ap­proved so far, and the only phase that we have ac­tu­ally com­menced, is the horse rac­ing track. There has been no plan­ning ap­proval on Phase 2 or Phase 3 of the project,” Chas­tanet said.

Pressed about the con­tro­ver­sial “al­leged” leaked DSH agree­ment, the UWP leader stated that all the par­ties had be­fore them was a frame­work agree­ment. “A frame­work agree­ment is not a fi­nal con­tract. If it were, we would have said so. There is talk of a doc­u­ment be­ing cir­cu­lated but we have never stated whether or not it is valid. When all de­tails have been fi­nal­ized, we will say so. We have been trans­par­ent all the way with this, which is more than can be said about the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

As for the plat­form speak­ers, sev­eral ze­roed in on the ne­glect vis­ited on Vieux Fort by pre­vi­ous MPs, in par­tic­u­lar by its present par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tive, for­mer prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony.

In­deed it seemed, whether by ac­ci­dent or not, that the night’s pur­pose was to paint the SLP and its for­mer leader as be­ing anti-de­vel­op­ment. The SLP’s his­tory helped: project af­ter ap­pre­ci­ated project over the years was iden­ti­fied, all as­so­ci­ated with SLP-cre­ated chaos.

The party had caused much di­vi­sion in Saint Lu­cia, one speaker ob­served, to pre­vent In­de­pen­dence. Mi­coud North MP Gale Rigob­ert, South­east Cas­tries’ Guy Joseph, Choiseul’s Bradley Felix, and for­mer PM Stephen­son King were among the speak­ers who

con­tin­ued on page 6

Sup­port­ers showed up with plac­ards and stood in sol­i­dar­ity with the govern­ment.

Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tenet ad­dress­ing Wed­nes­day evening’s UWP meet­ing.

Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet (left) with Min­is­ter for Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Guy Joseph.

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