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Tensions Over St. Jude Run Higher As SLP Plans Protest March

THE St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) is girding itself to battle the government over St. Jude Hospital and has planned a massive protest march for November 26.

The party further called on government to resume work on the hospital project that was stopped months ago, stating that if it was in government work would never have stopped as there would have been forward movement on the project until completion.

Image: PARLIAMENTARY Representative for Vieux Fort North, Moses Jn. Baptiste
PARLIAMENTARY Representative for Vieux Fort North, Moses Jn. Baptiste

Moses Jn. Baptiste, the SLP’s spokesperson on health, said on Thursday that the party is resolute in its determination to do all that is legally available to pressure government to complete the hospital in the shortest possible time.

“We ask the government of the United Workers Party to state clearly its policy on healthcare in St. Lucia. We ask the Minister for Health to stop confusing the people of St. Lucia. We ask for the sake of St. Lucia’s health, for the sake of our dialysis patients, and for the sake of all of St. Lucians who use St. Jude Hospital,” Jn. Baptiste said.

The protest march has been scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and begins from the Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School in La Ressource, ending near the site of the hospital’s reconstruction. A rally is to follow immediately at which a number of people are expected to speak.

Image of Parliamentary Representative for Laborie, Alva Baptiste
Parliamentary Representative for Laborie, Alva Baptiste

Alva Baptiste, First Deputy Leader of the SLP, wants the hospital to be relocated to its original site as soon as possible.

“Whatever is feasible technically, whatever is feasible in every aspect of the relocation of the patients and the staff from the stadium to the hospital, must be explored with immediacy,” Baptiste said.

He said the stoppage of works on the hospital is a central issue with his party which, when it formed the government, was under pressure from Chastanet and the United Workers Party (UWP) to complete.

“They were pressuring us, prior to the general elections, to open the hospital. Right through our term in office, we were working on the hospital. So there was a forward movement. You (UWP) came in and you simply stopped the reconstruction of the hospital and you start speaking in tongues about the demolition of the hospital,” said Baptiste.

He continued, “All sorts of funny things were being said that certainly were not compatible with sanity and, therefore, we are calling for sanity in government. We are calling upon the government to do what is right, to continue with the reconstruction of St. Jude and divest itself of the silly notion that it can demolish St. Jude Hospital.”

Talk of demolishing the hospital first came from Health Minister, Mary Isaac. However, this was dismissed by Chastanet and Economic Development Minister, Guy Joseph. But the SLP has not dismissed the talk altogether, saying that it does not trust the government.

Baptiste said the SLP will not sit idly by and allow the hospital to be demolished by politicians who simply want to proceed as if they have dominion over life and death in the country.

Former SLP Political Leader and Prime Minister, Kenny Anthony, at the party’s conference of delegates in Vieux Fort last month issued a warning to the government should it ever attempt to demolish the hospital.

“Touch St. Jude, try to demolish St. Jude, and you will feel the wrath of the people of Vieux Fort. Do not come,” Anthony said.

According to Baptiste, the government, in all of its seemingly political madness, should understand that there are outer limits beyond which it should not go. He said the SLP is exploring every peaceful and legitimate means to stop and counsel the government appropriately.

However, should the government insist on demolishing the hospital, the island’s entire southern belt will surround the hospital with lightning rapidity to stop the demolition.

“One of the things we will not fall easy prey to is provocation. We have been provoked, our members have been victimized, our communities have been undermined by this government. But we must maintain a certain level of democratic patience because we, the party, must always do the responsible thing even though we are a militant organization. So that’s why we are not going on Sunday, November 26 to enter the hospital, like we are US Marines.

“We are going to be within the immediate vicinity of the hospital to increase awareness of the importance of the hospital, to continue the discussion with the public and the government regarding the course of action it intends to pursue. We are going to exhaust every legitimate and peaceful means to bring about peace and tranquility in this country,” Baptiste said.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

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