WITH the rising popularity of walks and run-walks for every purpose under the Earth, it would appear that our political parties have joined in on this new experience. Both political parties have chosen keep-fit classes as a mode of expression of their political thought. We saw the UWP leading a march from Vigie to Jeremie Street and we have seen marches by the SLP in the north and south of the island.
One striking feature is that the politicians have kept the walks to within 3 kilometres, whether it is reflective of the fitness of their leaders, or some other latent reason, none have said to date: “Let’s walk from Castries to Vieux Fort to demonstrate that it is a national issue.” In my mind, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of these marches in changing government policy.
Recently, I was in a very intensive discourse with my son on our democracy, and I told him that while we say our democracies are people-centred, I had to remind him that our system of governance is a mirage. For a period of twelve hours, the people gather for one purpose, which is to choose seventeen individuals, with the clear understanding that at least nine of them will form a government.
When that mobilization effort, which is driven by our Constitution, is completed and the euphoria of winning and the agony of defeat subside, there is no mechanism of mobilization that remains for the next five years. Mobilization of citizens extraneous from the power-seeking intents of the same political parties is a rare event. We are essentially stuck with the government in power unless there is implosion as was the case in 1981. Marching has never caused the collapse of a government in the Caribbean, not even the massive mobilization of the Black Power movement in 1970 in Trinidad; Eric Williams survived another 11 years until his death.
The dominant conversations of 2017 have been – DSH, Dolphinarium and St. Jude Hospital, many driven by emotive responses. The only common factor is that there has been little activity in 2017 on any of those projects. Over the last three months, the “D” projects have all subsided and the conversation has move on to the “J”.
The flammable substance was a comment made by the Minister of Health that after a second site visit to St Jude Hospital that she had a sudden revelation that the hospital was built like a school with no ventilation and that demolition was an option considered. The comment stunned the population, and even Nature responded in shock, as a few minutes after we had an earthquake in Saint Lucia.
From that point, it was J’Ouvert morning mass. Everybody started to jump and wave their flag. In an effort to control the “wining”, the Minister of Economic Development stated categorically that demolition of the St. Jude Hospital will not happen under his watch. The Opposition, who at that stage were very much on the defensive, suddenly saw an opportunity to put together a band in this J’Ouvert morning mass. So let me take you now to an Ash Wednesday moment, when one acknowledges one sins.
The suggestion that there can be justification for what happened at St. Jude during construction is an obscene thought. The level of mismanagement that took place on this project is astounding, and one is fully convinced that there was massive wastage of public funds at St. Jude Hospital. I dare to say that if there was prudent management of the project, the funds expended to date could have completed the project. I would also say that I accept that former Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony had a difficult time in keeping economic stability in the last three years at the helm. I would also say that he has to accept that the confidence he placed in those who were entrusted on the St. Jude Hospital project was misplaced.
He is in a very difficult position, having four layers of constitutional responsibility on the St. Jude project. He was the representative for Vieux Fort South, the Minister responsible for the implementation of the project, the Minister responsible for financing the project and the Prime Minister with overall responsibility for the affairs of government. Yet, some may say that as a Minister you have to trust your technocrats.
The Government has paid almost $ 1 million for a Technical Audit that has not outlined a way forward on St. Jude Hospital. It is clear that after close to 18 months that the Government is clueless as to how to approach the completion of St. Jude Hospital. The time is now for the Prime Minister to act decisively and bring this saga to an end and convey with clarity the position of the Government on St. Jude Hospital. It is unfair to the hardworking nurses and doctors at St. Jude Hospital to leave this in limbo.