Letters & Opinion

‘Labour in Micoud’ No Longer An Oxymoron!

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

‘All roads lead to Micoud for the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s 2022 Annual Conference at the Micoud Secondary School from 3p.m., on the theme: ‘Protecting The Victory, Securing Our Future!’

The Guest Speaker will be Prime Minister of Dominica and Leader of the Dominica Labour Party, Roosevelt Skeritt and the Feature Address will be by Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour, Party Philip J. Pierre.’

As I listened to and watched the well-done video promo for tomorrow’s big SLP do in Micoud, I couldn’t help but remember that once-upon-a-time in the near-distant past, such would have been an oxymoron, a very-laughable political anomaly.

Why? Because back in the third quarter of the last century, it was not a norm to mention ‘Labour’ and ‘Micoud’ in the same breath.

Why? Because the United Workers Party (UWP) had held on to the two Micoud constituencies as sacred home ground from 1951, never losing Micoud South until 1997 to Labour’s Cass Elias and never losing Micoud North until last year, to Labour’s Jeremiah Norbert.

Before Independence, there was no hope of any SLP candidate winning Micoud South against Premier John Compton, but one certainty was that he’d be challenged by one consistently robust and uncompromising Labourite: George Murray.

I grew-up in the 60s and 70s knowing Mr Murray as the only candidate who’d go down to Micoud and campaign throughout the constituency against Compton, fulfil all the requirements for candidacy, pay his own deposit, drive himself to Choiseul, witness the voting at various polling stations and attend the counting of the ballots when voting was over.

Murray would lose badly every time, but each loss strengthened his personal resolve to repeat the same process at the next General Elections – simply to not allow Compton to win the seat uncontested.

In the colonial era between 1951 and 1964, Independents had no hope of winning, but in 1964 the two Bousquet Brothers (JMD and Allan) ran and won as ‘Independent Labour’ on the basis of their prior association with the still-dominant ‘Labour’ Party, enabling to tip the balance in the UWP’s favour by joining a post-election alliance to prevent the SLP from taking office after having won the most seats.

The UWP was therefore considered by the early founders of the SLP to have been born out of political treachery; and Compton, a UK-trained lawyer, was considered and treated as the mastermind.

But clearly, George Charles and the SLP, unable to predict the outcome of the poll and confident Labour would continue to win yet again – hadn’t catered for the sophistry of a post-election alliance to stifle the democratic expression of the majority’s demonstrated will.

Fast forward 15 years and the SLP won the July 2, 1979 General Elections 12-5, five months after Independence, but lost less than halfway through its five-year term due to an internal ‘power struggle’ that saw the UWP return to office in 1982, with all but three of the 17 seats – and holding on to both Micouds, the SLP wining only 2 seats and George Odlum’s PLP one (his brother Jon).

Fast-forward another 15 years and the SLP returned to office with the biggest possible win (outside winning all the seats) in 1997, when, under Dr Kenny D. Anthony, it routed the UWP 16-1 in an election Compton didn’t contest (having read the writing on the national wall…).

The only seat the UWP won in 1997 was Micoud North, with Louis George serving as both MP and Opposition Leader until 2001.

Between 1997 and now, elected Micoud MPs also included Labour’s Cass Elias (Micoud South) and UWP’s Marius Wilson (Micoud North), as well as retired school principal Arsene James (Micoud South), with both Wilson and James also serving as Opposition Leader.

Chastanet’s inheritance of the Micoud South seat from James was said to have been blessed with milk and honey that no one else ever tasted but winning the seat in 2016 (after failing to win Soufriere in 2011) allowed Chastanet control of the party’s parliamentary representatives, unlike the preceding years when he’d been elected Party Leader, but without a seat in the House.

Indeed, Chastanet’s 2011 win, after earlier convincing James to hand over the candidacy, was credited to then-outgoing Prime Minister Stephenson King having thrown his weight behind the well-heeled upstart from Castries.

Chastanet won again in 2021 and is today the UWP’s only hope in Micoud, Labour having won the prized Micoud North seat last year (for the very first time).

But Labour’s tail is very much in the air today, as it basks in the sunshine of tomorrow’s annual conference taking place in the middle of the UWP’s traditional stomping ground.

Yes, times change and everything changes with time, including Climate Change and Regime Change.

But time, like tide, also waits for no man and Regime Change (here last year) left the UWP holding on today to only half-of-Micoud and half-of-Choiseul, while the SLP — with the support of a former UWP Prime Minister among two former senior UWP Cabinet Ministers who won as Independents and have joined the Labour Cabinet — has a 15-2 majority in parliament that allows it to amend the constitution and lead Saint Lucia into the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – and in both cases without a referendum.

If progress in constituency development is to continue to be measured by infrastructural and community development, Micoud will continue to be seen as having been left out of the development loop by its UWP MPs – including two Prime Ministers.

But on the other hand, the still-virgin state of formerly rural parts of both constituencies and in the absence of the haphazard development that’s been foisted on others, there is still much scope for new and planned developments that will augur better for both.

But for now, without any doubt whatsoever, ‘Labour in Micoud’ is no longer an oxymoron!

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