Unprovoked And Unjustified

THE writer who goes by the name Stephen Lester Prescott in his latest weekly column on behalf of the St Lucia Labour Party which appears in this newspaper sought to take us to task over a recent editorial that looked at the state of St Lucia on the occasion of its independence anniversary.

Now normally, we would not bother to respond to such unprovoked and unjustified criticism, but on this occasion, we must. From all indications campaigning for the next elections is on, a time when usually our politicians and political parties are prone to promoting all kinds of agendas in the hope of influencing voters. We thought we should sound the message early, that we will not be anyone’s whipping boy.

The bone of contention of Prescott’s article as it related to the VOICE editorial was that we had “joined the purveyors of gloom in trying to disparage better days in tourism”, and all because our editorial made the following point:

“With tourism touted as the new economic saviour, we have already squandered huge chunks of our patrimony and created a situation where more and more St Lucians are finding themselves crowded out of natural God-made amenities like our beaches. Now, we are contemplating selling the citizenship of this great little country of ours for money. Is this what independence was supposed to mean to us?”

Prescott used the tired, childish, apparently made-for-SLP-cliché that the writer of the editorial “who should certainly know better” had also sought to “light a fire” and “jump on the bandwagon of hostility to the recent proposals for economic citizenship”. He claimed we had not done so by “reasoned argument” that would be expected from St Lucia’s oldest newspaper.

But neither tourism, nor economic citizenship was the theme of the editorial under discussion. Also, we fail to see how 16 words referring to economic citizenship en passant — which is what was contained in the paragraph quoted above– can be interpreted as “hostility”. The fact of the matter, which Prescott is obviously unaware of, is that we dealt with the matter of economic citizenship in a full editorial on May 27, 2014 shortly after the government made known its intention look at this economic/investment option. On that occasion, we examined the pros and cons of the proposed measure.

The following are some of our comments then:

“There are several regions of the world currently in turmoil and whose rich citizens could be looking to get away to safer havens in return for a healthy investment. The same procedure could also be open to terrorists and criminals and we may seldom know who exactly these citizenship by investment programmes are attracting. Of course, a lot of due diligence accompanies applications for citizenship but we should never under estimate the creativity of a devious mind.

“Does St Lucia have to go the citizenship by investment route? Have we exhausted all other means of attracting investment? Are we prepared for any possible fallout if we were to adopt such a scheme?”

Every politician should be aware, by now, of the embarrassment which such programmes have brought to the governments and people of at least three of our sister states, Grenada, Dominica and St Kitts-Nevis.

As for trying to disparage “better days in tourism”, we flashed the 2014 performance of the tourism industry on our front page on January 15 with a big headline that read: 6% TOURISM GROWTH” and in the same issue we carried an editorial, hailing the achievement. This is some of what we said: “Quite deservedly, all players in the vital tourism plant deserve some measure of praise for collectively ensuring that despite the many challenges faced in the sector last year, positive achievements were realized. A great deal of achievement must be felt by the industry’s stakeholders—from the single mother who has to depend on others to raise her children while she is away at work in the hotel’s housekeeping department to the top marketing executive selling the island’s positive image overseas. Kudos”

Then, in typical style of someone with a serious superiority complex, Prescott proceeds to tell us what our agenda should have been: that we should have celebrated the fact that the tourism industry appears to be making some progress (which we did); that we should have, “as has been indicated in another media outlet, emphasized developments in the tourism industry and elsewhere as done just prior to Independence Day by the Director of Invest St Lucia”. In other words we should have taken our cue from an agency of his government. Really? How presumptuous!

Prescott is unaware that the entire legacy of this newspaper has been rooted in our support for national endeavour and initiative and the promotion of all that is good and wholesome for St. Lucia. We have never sold this country short. If there are areas of concern, it is our bounden duty to air these concerns without fear. THE VOICE has never pandered to ideologies or positions that drove us to discouraging investors and investment in St. Lucia. Neither have we ever taken positions in support of any agenda that targeted the destruction of vital elements of this country’s economy. Unlike some who have become recent converts to the importance of tourism we have spurred this industry on over many decades, especially since the 1960s when it began to emerge as a major economic indicator. We have never espoused race and class in our columns as he has been doing in recent times, fanning the flames of division and hatred to dangerous heights.

We are at a loss to understand why Prescott now wants to brand this newspaper as being “hostile” simply because we have expressed some reservations about economic citizenship. He ought to now know that ours is not the only voice of concern on this matter. Prescott cannot assume that some of us have a monopoly on thought and opinion, and should be allowed to beat their chests and shout out loud while others should stay quiet and submissive.

We understand fully that there are various classes of professionals who stand to benefit handsomely from an economic citizenship programme in St Lucia, and we say good luck to them. May they reap their rewards.

By Guy Ellis

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