THE Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) will host the opening of its 2014 Annual Conference of Delegates tomorrow at the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School. The conference begins from 3:00 p.m.
The conference comes three years and two days since the SLP was successful at the November 28, 2011 polls, defeating the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) by an 11-6 seat margin.
SLP’s General Secretary, Leo Clarke, told The VOICE yesterday that Sunday’s open session is expected to attract hundreds of supporters, well-wishers and party members. Among the speakers making presentations this Sunday will be party leader, Dr. Kenny Anthony. The keynote address will be delivered by Saint Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, Dr. Denzel Douglas.
Clarke said that while he has no knowledge of the contents of the Prime Minister’s address, that address will most likely be based on how the party has been faring since forming the government three years ago.
“I do believe that he will speak on the performance of the party in government,” Clarke told The VOICE. “For the last three years, that has been the central focus of the government. Not the only thing, however, because as a party we still have other constitutional things to do in relation to maintaining the structure of the party, servicing its membership, and so on.”
Clarke said delegates will be given the opportunity to respond to the reports when the second part of the conference is held at Grande Riviere Secondary School on Sunday, December 7. That closed session will be used to discuss the internal business of the party, including the presentation of the national executive report that will be presented by the party’s General Secretary, the report by the treasurer, elections of officers, to name a few.
Thus far, he said, he only has knowledge of a challenge for the position of Vice-Chairman. Consistent with the party’s constitution which mandates a vote of confidence for the political leadership be undertaken for that position annually, delegates have successively endorsed Dr. Anthony for that position.
On Thursday, the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) pre-empted the SLP’s third year in office by convening a press conference at its Rodney Heights secretariat. During that press conference, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Gail Rigobert, and Castries South-East MP, Guy Joseph, categorized the current administration’s performance as “dismal”. According to Joseph and Dr.Rigobert, Labour has not delivered on its campaign promises. Joseph went as far as rating the government’s performance thus far at 20%.
However, Clarke yesterday dismissed both Joseph and Dr.Rigobert’s claims, telling The VOICE that upon assuming office, the SLP inherited a litany of failures brought about by the past administration. He cited the Black Bay land deal and the Daher building matter as situations the SLP had to deal with immediately when they regained governance in November 2011.
Clarke said that over the past three years, government has made inroads into alleviating the challenges faced by Saint Lucians, referencing the NICE, STEP and other programmes which, he said, were able to create employment for many Saint Lucians. In the case of STEP, Clarke said over 9,400 people have been employed in the programme in the past three years. NICE, he said, has employed over 4,000 people. He added that healthcare, tourism, sports, youth development, infrastructure and education were just some of the areas in which the SLP administration has made a positive impact during the past three years.
Clarke said that while many Saint Lucians continue to chide the government, especially for not doing enough to create job opportunities to reduce the current runaway unemployment rate, government has not reached the capability where it can possibly create employment for 100% of the working population.
He said that while past Labour administrations were able to reduce unemployment on the island, having to deal with the myriad of problems inherited three years ago had placed considerable strain on government’s limited finances. Nevertheless, he said government has managed to stabilize unemployment levels while seeking foreign direct investment to create employment. Worse, he said, could have resulted had the hotel plant been forced to close many of its doors.
Unlike Joseph and Dr.Rigobert’s 20% rating, Clarke said that having been at the helm of government for three years now, the SLP’s performance ranks better. He said that having inherited more difficulties than it anticipated, the Labour Party had done remarkably well thus far and will continue to better that performance.
“It’s one thing to run a campaign working on the basis of the information that the government was putting out about the state of the country and then to go in and examine the books and see how much worse it was,” Clarke explained. “I’m sure the government would have liked to have gone much further but the challenge has been huge. But the government has persevered and I would say (this) government deserves a good 75%-plus mark. There’s another 25% that we would have liked to put in that basket but we will work on it.”