Are Ernest Hilaire and the Castries Mayor gearing up for something bigger than control of the CCC?
Last week this newspaper featured a comment by Mayor Peterson Francis that was his response to several unsavoury insinuations tossed at him by South Castries MP Ernest Hilaire at the most recent sitting of parliament, among them this: “The Castries Constituency Council has become synonymous with bad governance and irregular practices, bordering, some might say, on corruption.” We also featured the mayor’s reaction: “The same Dr. Hilaire, immediately after I assumed office, came to me to see whether I could pass on leftover funds for a Marigot road
project. When has the council ever been involved in building roads?”
This week Hilaire told this reporter: “To be honest with you, I’m not even sure what the mayor was trying to say. I don’t know that I was involved in any road project in Marigot. Whatever he meant, and he can always clarify, if he is suggesting corruption he should say so. If he is suggesting that the CCC ought not to be involved in road construction and I condoned it by asking him for funds, then he should say so. I have no problem with the CCC fulfilling its mandate, as long as it is done the right way and the right procedures are followed.”
An official in the Office of the Mayor, promised to provide proof of the contrary but up to time of writing has not delivered. Meanwhile, Hilaire had not dismounted the evidently toothless tiger: “The mayor must understand he is not a lone ranger on a horse just riding through, cracking his whip and firing his pistol to get order in the city. I support what he’s done in terms of cracking down on urination and things like that, but he should not feel offended when I say to him that there are too many reports of irregular activity in the CCC.”
Hilaire also accepted the challenge issued to him by the mayor last week. “I’m going to write the mayor and ask him for all the minutes of councils to see what was done. I’m going to ask him for access to all the books and I will definitely go into a meeting to ask questions. If he is claiming that everything he has done is above board, then I will go to the council meeting and ask the councillors if they were aware of this. You see, the mayor seems to forget I have a representative on the council and when he comes out of those meetings I ask him questions. There’s a lot that has gone on in the CCC. Does the mayor really want me to come out with them in public? It will come out at the right time.”
Could the “right time” for Hilaire turn out to be in the middle of a campaign for the seat he now holds? “Everybody knows Peterson has political ambitions,” said the opposition MP. “I’ve heard those rumours about a possible Castries South run, just as you have. I just have to do my work and do it to the best of my ability. I’m grateful to the people of Castries South for the confidence they’ve put in me. Since then, I’ve tried my best to represent them, get to know and understand them. I’m from the constituency and grew up here. I will work as hard as I can to win the next election.”
He added: “I’m not really worried whether the UWP turns out to be Mary Isaac or Peterson Francis. I am doing the best job I can and hopefully that will carry me through. If it doesn’t, at the end of the day it’s the constituents who have the final say.” He paused, chuckled, “The last time I was a political virgin. Obviously the next time around I won’t be.”
Are the mayor of Castries and South Castries engaged in a war other than involves the CCC? Time will tell!