SLP Candidate Outlines Plans For Constituency.
THE SLP candidate for Castries South, Dr. Ernest Hilaire, says job creation, education, infrastructure and sporting opportunities are some of the priority areas for the constituency should he become its district representative.
Dr.Hilaire, who will fight against UWP candidate, Mary Isaac, for the parliamentary seat outlined some of his plans for the constituency at a public forum held at the Ciceron Secondary School last Thursday evening.
The forum was organized by the Castries South Youth & Sports Council, which sent invitations to both political candidates. However, Isaac was absent due to a scheduling mix-up.
About 60 people showed up for the forum where the SLP candidate spent nearly 90 minutes fielding questions from moderator, Jerry George, and constituents.
Dr.Hilaire, a former National Youth Council (NYC) Vice-President and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said he has been involved in the youth movement since the mid-1980s. That experience, he said, qualifies him as a candidate for a constituency rich with youthful talents.
“I feel very versed with youth and sports issues and I am very familiar with the youth groups in the constituency,” Dr.Hilaire told the audience. “So I look forward to an exciting journey in the months and years ahead working with youth and sports leaders in the constituency to address the concerns of young people.”
Dr.Hilaire said he has had a long history in the constituency, having grown up on Hospital Road and maintaining ties with the constituency represented in Parliament by Dr. Robert Lewis since 2006.
Dr. Lewis, who currently serves as Minister for Education, recently announced that he will not be seeking re-election in the next general elections.
Increased foreign direct investment, Dr.Hilaire said, will be crucial towards realizing better support for the services, agricultural and manufacturing sector. While government spends millions of dollars to create employment for Saint Lucians, Dr.Hilaire believes that short-term employment is not the answer.
“What we really need to have are sustainable, long-term opportunities created in the country,” Dr.Hilaire, Saint Lucia’s former High Commissioner to the UK, said. “That can be done primarily through attracting larger amounts of foreign direct investment and encouraging more local investment in the economy. A primary concern of mine is to advocate for policies that support the promotion of investment.”
Dr.Hilaire said that while a large share of Castries South residents are employed outside the constituency, more needs to be done especially in the picturesque Marigot Bay area to spur investment in tourism. He believes Marigot Bay should be designated a Special Development Area to attract such investment.
Dr.Hilaire said an extended promenade featuring tourism-related investment such as bars and shops should replace the current Bananes Bay area which lies along the Castries Harbour shoreline.
Over the years, the Ciceron and Faux-a-Chaud areas have made the news for the wrong reasons, including violent crimes. Dr.Hilaire said that while the consequences to the real issues in the communities have been unfortunate, professional intervention is needed to dialogue with affected parties to resolve matters amicably. A recent soccer-rama, he said, saw footballers from rival factions participating under a banner of good sportsmanship. Such initiatives, he said, need to continue to create harmony among residents.
“Things like that have not happened for many years, but it’s happening now,” Dr.Hilaire said. “But it’s about getting the communities to start tolerating each other again. The value of tolerance is very important.”
One of the questions that came up at last Thursday’s forum concerned suicide, a subject currently the subject of controversy and interest in the media and other quarters. Dr.Hilaire said that while he was not privy to clinical statistics on suicide, people feeling depressed and hopeless need to seek professional assistance.
“The general sentiment tends to be that individuals have given up on life for whatever reasons, whether it’s personal, social or psychological…One of the things that I would encourage strongly if there should be incidents of suicide in Castries South is to ask for the intervention of professionals to be able to target who the people demonstrating that predisposition to committing suicide are and how do we engage them in dialogue.” Dr.Hilaire explained.
President of the Castries South Youth & Sports Council, Dianthea Justin, told The VOICE that both candidates were contacted to meet with the youth on Wednesday. However, Isaac indicated that Wednesday was not a good day for her and asked that the forum be rescheduled to Thursday.
However, Justin said that when contacted on Thursday, Isaac said she had not received prior confirmation that she was supposed to attend the forum on Thursday.
Meanwhile, another public forum has been organized by the youth and sports organization. Justin said that both candidates for the Castries South-East constituency – incumbent UWP MP, Guy Joseph and SLP candidate, Joachim Henry – have been contacted.
However, she said, Joseph has indicated that he will not be attending that forum. Nevertheless, Justin said her youth organization is hoping that political candidates would agree to meet the youths when upcoming similar initiatives are organized.