MEMBERS of the Opposition took a strong stance against what they claim to be disrespectful behaviour from Prime Minister Allen Chastanet by staging yet another walk-out of Parliament on Tuesday.
The actions came during the debate on the Estimates of Expenditure in the House of Assembly when immediately after Parliamentary Representative for Laborie, Alva Baptiste, delivered his presentation,Chastanet stood up and closed the debate, denying its continuation from even members of the government.
Angered by the apparent disregard of the House rules, where a speech given by a member of the Opposition is to be followed by a rebuttal from a member of the incumbent party, with the Prime Minister giving the final speech, the Opposition wasted no time in packing up and leaving, saying that they refused to sit by and allow such disrespect to continue in their presence.
During a Tuesday press conference called by the Leader of the Opposition, Phillip J. Pierre, he said that as unfortunate as it was that Parliament was adjourned for 40 days, which was unprecedented – further insult was added when the Prime Minister showed disregard for the people and the Parliament of St. Lucia.
Pierre said for the Prime Minister’s flagrant disregard, the members of the Opposition will not give the Prime Minister the courtesy of listening to him. This, he said, was the right thing to do.
The Opposition Leader said: “We came willing and able to speak to the issues of the budget. But the Prime Minister, in his normal vindictive and spiteful manner, because he has the power of rebuttal, refuses to allow four senior members of his government to speak.”
He continued: “We will not allow the Prime Minister to run roughshod over us.”
Pierre said he recently tried to extend an olive branch to the Prime Minister with hopes that they could meet and discuss a way forward in coexistence; however, he said he has so far received a cold shoulder.
Said Pierre: “I wrote him in a respectful manner deserving of the treatment of a Prime Minister. I wrote him and I said to him that there are some issues that need to be discussed. I wrote him on May 29; he hasn’t had the courtesy to respond and even acknowledge the receipt of my letter. We have said to the government that we are not against St. Lucia, (that) we have a responsibility to St. Lucia. Thirty-seven thousand people voted for us; we want to defend these people. We like St. Lucia, we want St. Lucia to progress and advance, but the government is callous; it holds the opposition in contempt, it’s vindictive, it’s spiteful and it believes in victimisation.”
According to the contents of the letter mentioned by Pierre which was titled “Request for Dialogue on Issues of National Interest”, Pierre stated his wish to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss a number of deeply concerning issues of national importance.
In the letter, Pierre stressed the Party’s “well-stated position that we are not opposed to any development which is sustainably beneficial to St. Lucia” and that “we are prepared to support the government in any meaningful initiative.”
The letter also mentioned initiatives that the SLP said it was not going to support, including the ongoing unrest between the St. Lucia National Trust and the Government, claiming that the institution and individuals “became targets of attacks and intimidation simply for expressing views which do not find favour with the government’s development plans.”
Pierre also expressed concerns over the planned dolphinarium’s location, the matter of the government’s failure to elect a Deputy Speaker which he called a stain on democracy and the party’s strong opposition to the terms of the Desert Star Holdings’ ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ project.
Pierre said the SLP will stand strong against the government’s every move to derail them.
“The Prime Minister will not succeed in quieting the St. Lucia Labour Party,” Pierre said on Tuesday. “The Prime Minister will not succeed in sending us into oblivion. We will do all that is legally possible to ensure that democracy prevails in St. Lucia. We will continue to go to Parliament because we believe that we have to express the wishes of the people of St. Lucia, and we have to show the people of St. Lucia the wrongs and the ills of this government.”