ON 24th August 2020, the Saint Lucia Labour Party wrote to the Commissioner of Police seeking permission to stage a public march and mass rally in the city of Castries on Sunday, 4th October 2020. Our stated reason for the March: “to demonstrate public dissatisfaction with several policy decisions being pursued by the present government.” But to say public dissatisfaction is really an understatement. There is public outrage in the country with a Government that has plunged this country into an economic morass, which is vindictive to those who oppose it and tramples on our constitutional norms and freedoms, which is deaf to advice and dictatorial in its style of governance. This is what we are protesting.
This march, which we expect to be the largest demonstration in our history, is to protest the government’s failure to properly deal with the economic crisis in the country caused by its own economic mismanagement and exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic. We are protesting the billions of dollars of loans that have been laid on our backs and that of our children by this Government. We are protesting the rising food prices and the government’s failure to assuage the hunger and distress of the unemployed. We are marching against the neglect of our agricultural sector – the disrespect shown to our banana farmers and the disregard for our fisher folk.
We are marching against the misplaced priorities of this Government that gave more importance to the building of a horseracing track than to the completion of a hospital, which insists on borrowing $600 million to construct a new airport when the COVID 19 pandemic has decimated the tourism and airline industries worldwide. We are protesting the insensitivity of a government that received $78 million from the IMF, meant as income support for citizens affected by COVID 19 and spent it otherwise.
We are protesting against the poor state of our health care and a myopic education policy that lacked the vision to see the relevance of laptops for secondary school students.
We are protesting against the belittling of our patrimony and our heritage, the sale of our lands to undeserving foreigners at ridiculously low prices, the eagerness to facilitate empty-handed foreign so-called investors and consultants instead of our people with their entrepreneurial ideas and ambitions.
We are marching against corruption in government, naked political interference by the Prime Minister in the public and police services.
We are marching against a government which from its first days in office has continued to trample on our Constitutional and Parliamentary norms and refuses to consult with the people on pieces of legislation of serious importance to them. The latest example of this is the COVID 19 Protection Bill. In typical fashion, the Government sent the Bill for the consideration of Her Majesty’s Opposition just a couple of days before Parliament was to meet on it and placed it as the last item on a long Order Paper that would have seen it debated, as usual late at night. Two significant civil society groups –the Bar Association and the SLHTA, whose members are to be greatly impacted by the Bill, wrote the government asking for the deferment of Bill to allow for public consultation because of provisions in the Bill that of concern to them. The Opposition party on the basis of some Dracnian elements in the Bill, of the need for proper public consultation on it, and in light of the call by the Bar and Hotel Associations, also requested its deferment at the House of Assembly session on Tuesday. When the government refused to agree to these requests, the Opposition Party left the House of Assembly in order not to give legitimacy to the government’s action. The government passed the bill anyway. We are therefore marching in protest against yet another example of the government’s highhandedness.
The Senate failed to meet yesterday to ratify the bill and fortuitously, this provided the opportunity for the SLP to mount this protest march and demonstration. The stars have been well aligned and so we call upon all citizens of good will, all civil society organisations, to come and join us in this March to forcefully demonstrate to this government that the people will no longer tolerate them, that every member of this government must go and make way for a Saint Lucia Labour Party government that will put you the people first.
We encourage you to come with your placards and your messages for the Government. We also ask you to wear your masks as we still have to take precautions against COVID 19.
We look forward to you joining us on Sunday fourth October as we march to say that we are determined to liberate our country from a Government that is a danger to our people and our future.