Letters & Opinion

In With the New, Stuck with the Old

Kensley Peter Charlemange
Independent Eye by Kensley Peter Charlemange

Soufriere is where it is all happening. The government of Saint Lucia finished the Hummingbird Beach Project, as most of us know it. The Soufriere Beach Park, as it is now named, started under the 2006/11 UWP administration, found itself stopped under the SLP 2011/16 administration. The Soufriere Square, which is the mother of squares in Saint Lucia, started by the 2011/16 SLP administration found itself completed under this present administration, with much controversy. Additional pools were added to the Sulphur Springs bath experience under the Village Tourism thrust. The Soufriere Fire and Police Stations have found themselves renovated. Astro turf, despite the opposition, is coming to the Soufriere Mini Stadium with a promised new cricket ground in the Ruby Estate area. A new hospital is also promised as the present one is near a river with flooding risks. Where I want to stop though, is at Old Trafford as we build a new Saint Lucia. The Old Trafford Complex started by the 2011/16 SLP administration with the aim of dealing with drainage issues in the town has a spanking new food market and a bus terminal. I am happy for the food vendors, drivers and commuters. Only, this commuter is not happy. The more things change, the more they remain the same…

On Wednesday afternoon just after 4 pm, I was heading to Castries. There were no buses on the 3F route. I joined the line of awaiting passengers, including four visitors from Martinique. At that point, I wasn’t even sure whether I would reach Castries that day. An hour passed and buses on the route coming from Castries were cutting style and not returning to the city. Stranded passengers were becoming irate. It was easy then, to understand the reason for piracy on the route; the drivers want to deny other drivers a service that they themselves do not want to provide. Getting out of Castries at 6:30/7:00 pm in the week is a hassle. Thank God for the pirates.

The mayor of Soufriere was in the area and I brought the difficulty we were facing to his attention. He seemed quite aware of the problem and told me of talks he’d had with the relevant minibus association. An hour and a half later, while rethinking my hopes of getting to Castries, a 3F bus entered the terminal. The driver did not enter the embankment post. You know what that means… Luckily for us Lucians, the relegated sect, the Martiniquains were able to entice the driver to head back to Castries. What I would do for a French accent! The driver started counting heads, “$10 a head to Castries and $5 to Canaries.” Of course I was not having it. I demanded my $2 change and sure enough I got it.

Driving a minibus is a business. I understand that. When a driver is missing one passenger to fill his bus and it is taking sometime for that person to arrive, it is at the driver’s discretion as to whether he moves or not. If you as a passenger want him to move immediately, you have the option to pay for the seat.

Driving is a business. You loose and you gain. Drivers must understand that. Reports have reached my ear that a 4F driver put down a child recently because he thought he had too many people heading to Meyer’s Bridge. The audacity of some drivers! In a country where we cared for each other all the passengers would have disembarked. New terminal, same old bus drivers. How far have we moved in building a new Saint Lucia?

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