Letters & Opinion

A Very Special Case – A Test Of Integrity

By Peter Josie
By Peter Josie

THE ascendancy of Allen Chastanet to the leadership of the United Workers Party (UWP) has sent chills through the spine and backbone of his political opponents. Rather than focus on the work for which they were elected – driving the economy towards development and prosperity – the government has spent its time attacking Chastanet and his family.

It is not difficult to understand why the lost leader of Labour feels so threatened by Allen Chastanet. The reason goes deeper than simple politics. Neither can it be explained by Allen Chastanet’s call for the minister of Finance to be replaced by a more competent member. The reason is psychological and deep inferiority complex. For the purpose of this article, however, we shall set aside psychology and inferiority complexes. We also set aside accusations of incompetence against Anthony and his government. We disregard the imposition of his punitive VAT; set aside job losses; neglect increasing pauperization and his inhumane proposal to cut salaries and implement a pay freeze in the public sector. Instead, we focus today and for the next ten weeks, on a very special case.

In order to fully study and unravel this very special case this country needs at least five or six seniors of integrity. Such seniors ought to be endowed with the following qualifications and experience: An accountant, a former fudge, a senior engineer, and a former permanent secretary. We may add a senior business person and a retired teacher who are both held in high esteem by the population. And what pray would such a committee be empowered to do for the people of this fair Helen? We the people of Saint Lucia deem it necessary and expedient to get to the true and accurate cost of construction of the Bois d’ Orange Bridge. There have been too many exchanges between politicians from both sides on the cost of that bridge. This matter must be brought to light before February 22, 2015.

It is time to stop the annoying back and forth between the Minister of Infrastructure and his parliamentary colleague, the former minister in that ministry and get to the facts. When the two parliamentarians are not satisfied with their scurrilous exchanges in the parliament they take their differences to the media. Still not satisfied they resort to their respective public political platforms and continued their vulgar exchanges…. ‘The work was for three point seven million’, shouts one….’that is not true, it was for eleven and a half million, not three and a half,’ the other one screams. It is not the first time that accusations are levelled by political opponents wherein truth becomes the victim. The people of Saint Lucia must now deem it appropriate to bring these important contentious expenditures on the Bois d’Orange Bridge to a head. It is now high time that the media and the people rise and demand a proper and thorough investigation into the full cost of that Bois d’Orange Bridge. Let us for once follow the example of the great Nelson Mandela, former prisoner and later, President of the Republic of South Africa. In this very special case we shall call the committee of experienced and qualified Saint Lucians a ‘Truth Commission.’

For my part and to give the work of such a truth finding commission complete legitimacy, impartiality and professionalism I recommend Leonard Earl St. Hill, retired engineer and town planner of Barbados to act as the overall coordinator in charge of ensuring a speedy delivery of the investigation on all aspects of expenditure on that Bois d’Orange Bridge. No stone must be left unturned in getting to the facts and revealing for public information the true and real cost of that bridge – from its original design to final product. It’s in the best interest of all Saint Lucians to discover the truth as regards that bridge. It’s time to stop the speculation! That bridge according to former Minister Guy Joseph was estimated to cost $3,700,000.00 (three million, seven hundred thousand dollars (EC). A contract for the works was given by the present Labour government to the builder for some $11,500,000., in a matter of months after Mr. Joseph had demitted office. Minister Pierre and former Minister Joseph cannot both be right. The jump from three million dollars to eleven plus million is beyond the imagination of most Saint Lucians and needs professional and independent explanation.

WHAT’S BEHIND ‘the Commission’ IDEA
I wish to make it plain that the reason for such a Commission is to find the truth and let Saint Lucians know the facts. It is not meant to embarrass anyone or to suggest court action against anyone. I repeat, this charade of the constant airing of various bits and pieces of cost-information regarding the design and construction of the Bois d’ Orange bridge must be brought to an end by the work of an experienced, impartial body which we shall call a Truth Commission, mentioned above. This may be the best gift that citizens of this fair land who love justice and fair pray and who daily rely on the blessings of their Divine Creator can give to themselves this Christmas and for the 36 th.anniversary of independence.
In this regard, I repeat that the work of such a Commission should be concentrated and focussed on this one bridge only – the Bois d’Orange Bridge. Let us not complicate matters by introducing other bridge building projects which will only cloud matters and act as a smoke screen for those who wish to hide behind the large disparity in the cost of construction of the Bois d’ Orange bridge from one government to the next, in a matter of months.

In ending, I invite all strong and independent thinking Saint Lucians to join me in promoting and spreading the idea of a Truth Commission. The work of such a commission should begin soonest. Its report must be made public by release to the media (both local and regional) and not only to any political party, or to the Government or the Parliamentary Opposition. The report ought to be released on or before February 22, 2015. I therefore invite the media to take up this cause and help create the demand among Saint Lucians, both here and abroad, for the establishment of such a Truth Commission for the specific purpose which I have dared to state here and to make its report public by the suggested date.

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