TRUE bipartisan support for laws beneficial to the public good, still remains a pipe-dream in St. Lucia. For a while last Tuesday, our political representatives flirted with the concept, but only briefly.
At the last Sitting of the House of Assembly (last week), the motion was put to the floor to secure a loan of just over US $11 million from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to fund the Dennery North Redevelopment Project, which would supply potable water to communities in the Mabouya Valley, which have had a long history of water supply and water quality issues.
Representative for Dennery North Shawn Edwards initially applauded the bill and gave it his support.
“I rise in support of the motion presented by the Honourable Prime Minister,” Edwards began.
“For me Mr. Speaker, this is a moment I ought to be very proud of. It is an intervention that will impact me personally but more importantly impact all the communities of Dennery North.”
It was quite an interesting choice of words: “I ought to be very proud…” And as I sat listening to the Dennery North MP, I thought he had misspoken.
However, he would later prove me to be (almost) a liar, as his choice of words turned out to be very deliberate.
After extending congratulatory words to the accomplishments of Julien Alfred in Argentina, Edwards reiterated his support for the motion.
“I want to state that the tabling of this motion, for the Dennery North Redevelopment Project, is welcome news, as I said for myself and my constituents in Dennery North and the Mabouya Valley.”
However, this olive branch extension was short-lived, as the former Sports Minister quickly pivoted to focusing on the former Labour Government’s contribution to alleviating the water problems in the Mabouya Valley.
He began by highlighting that “At a previous Sitting in this Honourable House, the Member for Babonneau who has responsibility for water resources, said to me across the table Mr. Speaker, that among other things I was busy taking pictures at the treatment plant at the completion of Phase 1 but that my Government had put nothing in place to ensure that there was funding for Phase 2.”
This was the opening salvo into what would become the typical blame/credit game that’s played at these Sittings.
“Here this morning Mr. Speaker, we are basically making an alteration to an agreement that was already in existence.” Edwards then declared. He was making it clear that the SLP Government made its contributions to the Bill and the Project as well.
And though I don’t begrudge Edwards or any of our politicians from defending their respective Party’s honour; as long as debates continue to centre on who should take the blame or who should get the credit, St. Lucia’s politics will never develop into something that can in turn, develop it and take it to new heights.
After Edwards spoke, Parliamentary Representative for Gros Islet, Lenard Montoute, grabbed the opportunity to take a slight jab at the Dennery MP’s comments.
“The Government has its role to play and we’ve heard that, yes, previous administrations have played their role,” Montoute said, regarding the maintenance of the project’s success in the coming years, while subtly referencing Edwards’ topic of debate.
He continued: “We, contrary to the rhetoric, are a government with a conscience and are a government with concern and regard for the people of St. Lucia. And it does not matter the source of the initiative, once it is a worthwhile initiative that will benefit the people of St. Lucia, we will pursue it, we will support it.”
And while I agree with Montoute’s sentiment — that it does not matter the source of initiatives beneficial to the country — there can be little doubt of the partisan elements in his message: a good one, yes, but one interspersed with political barbs aimed at Edwards’ comments.
Thus, the issue turned into a match of who should get more credit for the project, rather than a joint celebration of a breakthrough in the development of the country — in this case, the water supply in the Dennery North constituency.
And so, the dream of real bipartisan support for initiatives and laws in St. Lucia continues to be just that – and quite elusive, at that!