A recommendation that St. Lucia returns to the process of holding local government elections last held almost four decades ago has again been made, this time by Castries Mayor, Peterson Francis.
Francis told reporters last Saturday evening that he would like to see this happen as St. Lucians want to see their city and villages developed properly.
He was at the time speaking about his hopes for Castries and the changes he wants to see next year so as to improve the safety of citizens and visitor, and improve its aesthetics, so as to encourage business growth in the city.
“One of the things that is hurting me — and one of the things I want corrected — is that I want councilors and mayors to go back to being elected officials in this place. We need to have that,” Francis said.
According to Francis, more of what he has been doing for the city could be done if only he was elected mayor by the people.
“While I am doing what I am doing here, I am not comfortable because the people did not repose their confidence in (me),” he said.
Francis is not the first within the Allen Chastanet administration to express a return to local government elections. Prime Minister Chastanet did refer to the matter in July this year during an address at a Castries Constituency Council (CCC) ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the elevation of Castries to a city.
The Prime Minister was of the view that if all members on the board of the CCC cannot be elected, then some should, particularly for certain positions.
Over the years, several people of diverse political views within the ranks of political parties have expressed the need to revert to the time when councilors were elected by the people and not appointed by the political party in power.
In fact, the Constitutional Reform Commission supported the call for the country to go back to the holding of local government elections. The Commission said the role of the parliamentary representative in local government was of paramount importance.
Local government was introduced in Saint Lucia by an Ordinance No. 6 of 1850 entitled, “The Mayor and Town of Castries”.
According to the Commission, although the short title was specific to Castries, provisions were also made for the town of Soufriere and the other rural districts to incorporate their own local government councils.
The procedure for the incorporation of any town or district council was the submission of a petition to the Lieutenant-Governor signed by two-thirds of the male inhabitants of full age who were owners of three acres of real or free hold property, or lessees of six acres of land, or were in possession of real or personal property with a clear value of £300, in the town or rural district.
Here is a synopsis of the incorporation of local government in St. Lucia, as highlighted by the Commission:
The first petition requesting the incorporation of a local government council consisted of 126 names of the burgesses of Castries and it was published in the Gazette of January 2, 1851. By a Proclamation dated February 18, 1851, the Lieutenant-Governor announced that elections will be held on February 27, 1851.
“Elections were for nine councilors and two auditors. There were no provisions, however, which prevented Government officials, or employees of the Crown from being elected, but clergymen were not allowed to run for any of these offices.
“Elections were held every three years until 1872 when an Ordinance entitled “Castries Town Board” was passed by the Legislative Council at the instance of, and proclaimed by, the Administrator G. William Des Voeux on May 4 of that year. This Ordinance disbanded the elected council and replaced it with a Castries Town Board of three members nominated by the Administrator who also served as Chairman.
“Elected Local Government was reintroduced by an amended Castries Town Board Ordinance of 1889, which provided for the town of Castries to be governed, by a Corporate Body with perpetual succession and a Common Seal. The number of councilors was reduced to eight and the first election under this Ordinance was held in December 1889.
“After a period of suspension, local government was reintroduced in Saint Lucia with the passage of the Local Authorities Ordinance of 1947. For much of the period between the 1950s to the late 1970s, Local Government operated at the very heart of community life, offering a range of services.
“In 1979, Local Government elections were again suspended and Interim Councils comprising nominated members were appointed to conduct the affairs of Towns and Village Councils. In 1997, a Local Government Reform Task Force was established by Central Government, to, among other roles, “examine and advise on the appropriate legislative, fiscal, institutional and administrative measures required to strengthen the operations of Local Government.”