Acting PM says St. Jude demolition rumours untrue
THERE seems to be no end to the back and forth between the government and the opposition over the completion of the St. Jude Hospital, even after last Sunday’s protest march by the Labour Party aimed at drawing public condemnation of the government’s handling of the project.
Acting Prime Minister Guy Joseph has since labeled the march an unfortunate reaction by the Labour Party, which over the past few days had, among other things, advertised the demonstration as standing up against government’s intention to demolish the hospital.
Joseph yesterday reiterated that government had no plans to demolish the hospital, noting that if he wanted to play politics he would have simply completed the hospital and informed the people that he completed it just the way his government inherited it.
Joseph, who has responsibility for the hospital’s reconstruction, told reporters that there are certain aspects of the hospital that require working on.
“We have not ruled out any decision in terms of what is going to happen (to) St. Jude other than we have no intention of demolishing St. Jude. That was never the intention,” Joseph said.
Joseph is not the only government minister denying St. Jude demolition by government. Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has also made similar remarks.
But how did that argument came into being?
A statement referring to the hospital’s demolition was first made by Health Minister Mary Isaac, who at the time was speaking about the hospital’s condition when her government came into office last year June.
Joseph defended Isaac’s statement, claiming that her statement was not one outlining the government’s position on the hospital’s flattening, but one outlining a suggestion, one of several possibilities that came up during discussion on the hospital.
“For people to make such a big issue out of this one statement and to find a reason is cheap politics the Labour Party is playing,” he said.
The Labour Party for its part has said it does not trust the government when it said it will not demolish the hospital, hence it has repeated the challenge to the government not to go that route because if it does, it would face the wrath of the people of the country’s southern belt.
“The SLP wanted to find a reason to march and said it was a St. Jude march. But it was evident that from information that this was a political march and not a march for the health and wellbeing of St. Lucians,” Joseph said.
The Castries South East MP took a swipe at the parliamentarian for Vieux Fort South and former Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, saying that he seems to be the “most quiet” person on the issues surrounding St. Jude, which should not be the case seeing that as the parliamentary representative for Vieux Fort South for the past 20 years, his constituents depend entirely on the hospital as their primary health care facility.
Joseph then challenged the Labour Party’s claim that it had left US$10 million to finish the hospital construction.
“I have a challenge for them (Labour Party). They said they left money there to finish the hospital. I want them to show in the budget (2016/2017) where the US$10 million is that has not been drawn down from the Taiwanese loan. I want them to show me where they left it in the budget to finance the hospital. I want them to tell me how $27 million (EC) can finish the hospital. I would love to give them the job to finish it for $27 million,” Joseph said.
He said he respects every person’s right to march and that he has no problem with persons marching for the bad health conditions in St. Lucia. However, when it comes to marching to send a message to the government about St. Jude, Joseph said the Labour Party has no moral authority to do so.
According to him, when the Labour Party took office in November 2011, the party found that the hospital was 80 percent complete but after its five-year term in office, it had reduced that percentage to less than 50 percent complete.