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The news out of Castries was so very disturbing. It sent reverberations in many capitals in the Caribbean. Seems, rather than attempting to bluff the people of St Lucia with bluster and braggadocio, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet levelled with them by ruefully admitting that the country was broke. It was a moment of great candour, and we all could feel the pain. We certainly extend our sincerest sympathies to our kinfolk in that most breath-taking land called, Helen of the West Indies. Yes, St Lucia is beautiful; ruggedly beautiful, but her finances and governance are an ugly mess.  The road to recovery will be long and difficult, and she will need all the help that she can get.

Of course, we knew that there were storm clouds on the horizon, what with the increasing sentiments of discontent. The PM has been described as being high-handed, vengeful and “outrageously self-interested.” So much so, that many members of his own party have been lending their voices to the growing disgust.

Two Sundays ago, the opposition St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) staged a huge protest rally in Castries “to demonstrate public dissatisfaction with several policy decisions being pursued by the present government. The government has plunged this country into an economic morass, and is vindictive to those who oppose it, and tramples on our constitutional norms and freedoms; deaf to advice and dictatorial in its style of governance. This is what we are protesting. . . the government’s failure to properly deal with the economic crisis in the country caused by its own economic mismanagement and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic . . . We are protesting the billions of dollars of loans that have been laid on our backs and those of our children by this government. We are protesting the rising food prices and the government’s failure to assuage the hunger and distress of the unemployed. We are marching against the neglect of our agricultural sector – the disrespect shown to our banana farmers and the disregard for our fisherfolk.” [Caribbean News Global] Good grief!Where have we seen this movie before? It all seems so very familiar.

Of course, there are additional grievances against the Chastanet administration that also bear an uncanny resemblance to the transgressions of this administration here in St John’s, but we will spare you the recitation. That is, except for this one. – the betrayal of the culture and the environment in the Pitons, by allowing a wealthy Canadian to build a huge house as his playground on Gros Piton. Mind you, the former Prime Minister of St Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony, initially granted the developer an ‘approved developer’ status. The regulatory bodies said that the development was not a threat to Mother Nature. But concerned citizens were not so sure. Since then, it has been mired in controversy, with environmentalists up in arms. It is so much like what our government is allowing with YIDA and Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) in Barbuda. Remember, Gros Piton is in the Pitons Management Area, a UNESCO World Heritage site with “outstanding universal value,” much like our North East Marine Management Area (NEMMA) and the Palmetto Point area in Barbuda, a RAMSAR site. The Pitons Management Area has sulphur springs and hundreds of species of exotic birds and rare and magnificent flora and fauna. The waters in that area, 60% of which contain gorgeous coral reefs, are teeming with an assortment of beautiful marine life.

Sadly, the government in Castries, rather than stopping it, is willing to sacrifice all of the above in the name of development. Much as our government is hell-bent on destroying the history, culture, tradition and the environment in the NEMMA and Palmetto Point. Indeed, so vested is our PM in providing the rich with their precious little golf course, that he has vowed to fight the Barbuda people to the bitter end, and would “rather resign” than yield an inch on the PLH project. Mind you, the dunes in Palmetto Point, provide protection to the low-lying Barbuda coastline against storm surges, and they act as a filter for the water that ends up in the aquifers and the wells in Barbuda. This is according to Sofia Pedikaris, an environmental archeologist at the University of Nebraska, who has worked in Barbuda for the past fifteen years. But to hell with the tree-huggers and the bird-lovers! To hell with Mother Nature! Just bring the moolah and come! Nothing is sacrosanct! Every blessed thing can be bought for the right price! Sigh! Aren’t there some things that are worth more than filthy lucre?

We began this discourse by citing some of the ugly similarities between what is happening in St Lucia and what is happening here.  We believe that it is fitting that we note a remarkable exception. Whereas many of us are willing to abide ‘the administration and its cronies doing well, while everybody else catching hell’ (Tim Hector); and whereas we complain about late pensions and contractors not being paid; and money being squandered;  and all the back-stabbing and finger-pointing by comrade against comrade and others in high places; and whereas we watch as so much of our lands are sold off; and some  institutions can’t even feed the residents; and Customs and Police officers are assaulted with impunity, (one was killed); and our brothers and sisters in Barbuda are treated like dirt and called the most vile names; and so many promises are made, and so few are ever kept; the good people of St. Lucia are in no mood to tolerate any of the sort.

As we mentioned before, more than a few good men and women in St Lucia, erstwhile supporters of the regime, are willing to dismount the gravy train and march against the Chastanet regime. May God bless them!

Which beggars the eternal question, once posed by the bard in his classic, HAMLET: “To be, or not to be, that is the question; whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them?”  The people of St Lucia have decided to “take arms against a sea of troubles.” They have decided to oppose and end them!

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