PRIME Minister Allen Chastanet did not give any telling reason why he chose July 26 specifically as Election Day, leaving many to speculate about his real intention/s for arriving at that date, not that he had much more room to manoeuvre.
While there is precedent for snap elections in this country – the June 6, 2016 elections come to mind, as it also was a sudden affair that caught almost everyone by surprise, except, maybe the sitting prime minister and his inner circle.
We float again the idea of a fixed date for general elections. We vividly remember that such an idea had been accepted by both the Saint Lucia Labour Party and the United Workers Party not too long ago, with the expectation that whichever one holds the reins of power a fixed date for general elections will be established.
In the 2016 general elections it was thought that this would be the last time a sitting prime minister would have the privilege of opportunism where an election date is concerned. Sadly, we are seeing otherwise.
With the hope that a fixed date for general elections is established, we turn our attention to Monday, which is Election Day, and beyond. There is no doubt that the government which takes office after Monday will have its work cut out for it because there is much to be done in all spheres of the economy, especially in the three or four crucial areas that really determine whether a country is progressing or regressing.
Citizen security is one such area. Statistics on crime in this 238 square-mile country simply cannot be ignored. So brazen are criminals today that security cameras are not deterrents to them, as they boldly walk into business places with guns pointing at employees and walk out with their ill-gotten gains in plain view of the cameras.
Then there is healthcare. What more can we add to what has already been said about the healthcare system in the country today? One cannot talk about healthcare in this country and not point to the St Jude Hospital, a hospital that should have been opened 10 – 11 years ago by the Government. Sadly, and despite their many assurances, neither the Saint Lucia Labour Party nor the United Workers Party (governments) have managed to meet their deadline dates for re-opening the hospital, which for its size may very well turn out to be the costliest hospital ever to be built in the world.
Are we to believe that both parties are insensitive to persons in the south of the island needing health care services? While the rhetoric from both sides denies that, their actions certainly proclaim otherwise.
Healthcare overall has not had the type of change needed to significantly improve the citizenry’s state of health over the past five years as the promised provision of universal health and health insurance have not materialised.
Education is another key area the Government of Saint Lucia has to work on to adequately prepare our children for the world. Last year, as teachers, students, ministry officials and parents scrambled to get online teaching going, we came face to face with the inadequacies in urgent need of being addresses. Statistics will show that a significant number of the island’s student population were left in the dark (both figuratively and literally) when it came to enrolling in online classrooms last year due to a lack of personal computers and the internet.
Important to all of the above is employment as citizen security, adequate healthcare and education have to be financed. An unemployed population means the other key areas for a country’s progress will not materialise.
Monday therefore is indeed an important day in the lives of Saint Lucians. To each voter we say this: “Who you choose on Election Day to handle your affairs and that of the country for the next five years may very well determine your standard of living and your overall welfare. Vote wisely!”
A final word. At the last General Elections, less than 50% of eligible voters fulfilled their civic duty to choose their representatives for the next five years. Such disinterest is the height of civic irresponsibility. If we do not vote, how can we expect the politicians to pay any regard to what we say? The right to vote is a privilege. Let us recognize that many in the world have died in pursuit of that right and honour their memory and sacrifice by going out to vote.