THE debate on a Motion to secure a multi-million dollar loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to finance the Education Quality Improvement Project (EQuIP), turned into a row over St. Jude at Tuesday’s sitting of the Lower House of Assembly.
Already a controversial political issue, parliamentarians took the St. Jude Hospital debate to another level where they ended up throwing fiery barbs at each other.
While speaking on education, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet addressed the Laborie MP Alva Baptiste, after the Opposition Member, challenged him to “finish the hospital.”
“The Honourable Member from Laborie keeps on saying finish the hospital. I want to know that for the five years he was in government, when he passed by the hospital, everyday, how come he did not go to Cabinet every week and say “Finish the hospital?” Chastanet said.
.He continued asking; “Why all of a sudden now? Why all of a sudden now, this great need to finish the hospital?”
This of course has been a major source of tension between the two parties since UWP has been in power, with the SLP accusing the government of being uncaring and callous when it comes to the healthcare of St. Lucia.
The Government has contended that the Labour Party is in no position to be so critical over St. Jude, since it did not complete the hospital’s reconstruction after five years in office.
Only last week, Leader of the Opposition, Philip J. Pierre, accused the Government of depending on “finger-pointing and the blame game to substitute for advancing the completion and commissioning of our health facilities” and also accused it of being “totally dismissive of the anxieties and concerns that have been generated by their lack of action and conflicting statements.”
However at Tuesday’s meeting Chastanet restated that his Government’s intention is “to finish the hospital in order to improve the quality of healthcare for the people in this country.”
This came immediately after he had asked why there’s such a sudden urgency from the Opposition regarding the construction of St. Jude.
With the back and forth between Members from both sides of the House quickly turning into a shouting match; Chastanet accused the Opposition of being “interested in finishing the hospital for political gain;” an accusation, akin to the one that has been levelled at his Government, regarding the non-completion of the hospital.
“They could do nothing!” the Prime Minister exclaimed. “They’re asking people to do what [they] themselves could not do Mr. Speaker.”
At that point the shouting had gotten so loud between opposing Members of the House; that the Speaker had to intervene.
With tongue firmly in cheek, he told Chastanet that “It appears, Mr Prime Minister I may have to direct you not to use the word St. Jude, because whenever the word St. Jude is used it seems like it brings out…” Speaker Daniel said.
The giggle following his uncompleted thought was perhaps, an acknowledgement that the St. Jude Hospital issue, remains the rawest one for Members of both sides of the House.
Chastanet continued his attack on the Opposition; accusing it of failing to hold itself accountable, before promising that his Government will deliver.
“It’s amazing to me that people who have such a failed track record would be so brave and brazen to try to hold other people accountable when they could not even hold themselves accountable.” Chastanet said.
He added: “There are so many examples of things in which they promised and they could not deliver and yet now — but rightfully so I have to say Mr Speaker — the expectation on the other side is that we are going to deliver and we will deliver!”