The many complaints over the years by Saint Lucians that the Integrity Commission is not strong enough to challenge public officials and politicians may be a thing of the past as the Philip J Pierre administration has indicated it will strengthen the Commission so that it can undertake more meaningful action against public officials and politicians who engage in acts of corruption.
The Deputy to the Governor General Errol Charles stated these exact words during his delivery of the Throne Speech earlier this month.
He also spoke of providing early financial relief to families noting that the Ministry of Finance had already commenced the process of assessment and payment of facilities fees in time for the reopening of schools in September. Further, in the later part of the fiscal year 2021/2022, gov-ernment will be keeping to its promise by paying CXC examination fees for students sitting Mathematics and English.
Government, Charles said, will come to any citizens have been without work during this Covid-19 pandemic. Those people, he added, will require urgent income support to maintain their digni-ty as providers for themselves and their families.
Charles also said that immediate attention will also be given to improving the Respiratory Unit at Victoria Hospital, as part of government’s improvements to the country’s Covid-19 physical in-frastructure.
“These improvements should go a long way in allaying the fears and lessening the resistance of citizens to Covid testing because of the unacceptable conditions at the Respiratory Unit,” Charles said.
He spoke of the urgent need to return to some level of normalcy in the face of the country’s Covid-19 noting that to enable the effective management of the current Covid-19 challenges, government will make a structural change to the Covid-19 Command Center to allow it to be headed by a health expert instead of a government minister.
“My government’s main strategy in the battle against Covid-19 is to increase vaccine uptake to avoid our health system becoming overwhelmed by high levels of infected people requiring hos-pitalization. My government, together with health practitioners and officials, will formulate plans to ramp up efforts to encourage an increase in the number of citizens taking the vaccine. We have already received thousands of Pfizer vaccines from the United States through CARPHA, to complement those efforts,” Charles said.
He said government remains concerned about the many businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and will establish a Business Recovery Unit within the Ministry of Commerce to lend support, through a series of fiscal and non-fiscal measures, to those businesses in their process of recovery.
On the subject of tourism, Charles said despite the challenges of COVID-19, Tourism will, for now, remain Saint Lucia’s main economic driver. Government, he said, will be faced with the challenge of protecting the health of citizens and the livelihoods that dependent on this sector. And in addressing this challenge, the recovery and growth of the Tourism sector will be support-ed, while ensuring that the health of citizens is not placed at unnecessary risk.
“I am pleased to report that my government has secured an increase in airlift to Saint Lucia, with the return of scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from the UK in December 2021,” Charles said.
Government, Charles said, remains concerned about the high incidence of crime, especially grue-some ones, an indication of a very angry and frustrated society.
“We must become more intolerant of infractions of the law at all levels, and our leaders must be good examples to the rest of society. We must, as a society, find more civil ways of resolving conflict and disagreements. Those overseeing the observance of our laws must do so with impar-tiality and without fear or intimidation. You will have noticed that in my Prime Minister’s con-figuration of ministries the absence of a Minister for National Security. Given the highly im-portant role of the police, the Prime Minister’s office will be the oversight authority for policing,” Charles said.
He added that government intends to provide greater operational independence to the Police Service and the Commissioner of Police.
“The police should be allowed to do their work without being encumbered by political decisions of politicians. In addition, to providing the police with the necessary resources to be effective in their work, government will address the underlying social structures which give rise to crime and deviant behaviour, Charles said.
On the question of Saint Lucia’s heritage and patrimony Charles said government will protect them for all generations.
“To this end, we must develop the institutions that have been designed to protect our heritage and patrimony. My government has already begun the process of: Reinstating the annual subven-tion to the Saint Lucia National Trust. Public access to our beaches and queen chain will also be preserved for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of Saint Lucia and visitors,” Charles said.
He stated that government will be seeking a new path for Saint Lucia; a path where all Saint Lu-cians have a sense of ownership in the development of their beloved country.
“I am of the view that ownership can only come from participation, not exclusion. We all have a part to play in the development of our country, regardless of our stations in life. No nation can be at peace with itself if only a few have access to work, food, clothing, decent housing, education, and affordable quality health care. For these reasons, we must keep fighting for the disadvan-taged and vulnerable in our society so that together we can find peace in the soul of our nation. Let us make the 26th of July 2021, the start of a new beginning, where the Saint Lucian con-sciousness of fairness, inclusion, and empathy stays alive and becomes a model for other coun-tries seeking peace and happiness,” Charles said.