Letters & Opinion

How Saint Lucia and Guyana share History and Politics

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

GUYANA and Saint Lucia are not alike, yet very much so… 

One is a small island, the other sits big on a continental coast; one is a republic, the other isn’t ,each took different paths to attain and consolidate their independence; both are members of CARICOM; but each share common goals on the global front, as fellow developing nations with shared colonial histories that differ only in time and place.

British Guiana and St. Lucia both elected ‘people’s parties’ after the rebellious working people across the then British West Indies were allowed to vote through ‘Adult Suffrage’ in 1951: St. Lucians elected the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and British Guianese chose the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) – and both overwhelmingly.

The SLP and PPP won every general election under colonialism – SLP from 1951 to 1964 and PPP from 1953 to 1964 – and as if joined-at-the-hips in terms of experiences in office, both ruling parties were engineered out-of-office in the same way.

In 1964, the SLP lost when two independent candidates joined with two losing parties to establish the first United Workers Party (UWP) administration led by former SLP parliamentarian John Compton; that same year, the PPP also lost its long streak of election victories from 1953 through a similar unholy alliance between two opposition parties, the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the United Force (UF).

In both cases, the voters’ collective will, as expressed in the election results were conspiratorially altered through a not-illegal marriage of political convenience between opposition parties that lost, thereby saddling the voting majority with a government comprising candidates they rejected at the polls.

In 1979, Saint Lucia became Independent and in 1980 Guyana became a Republic, in both cases the then ruling parties (UWP and PNC) effectively using forms of constitutional change for advancement of electoral and gubernatorial longevity.

The unpopular UWP had used Saint Lucia’s Independence as a hopeful election promise, but it backfired badly: Independence came from Britain on February 22, 1979 and elections were called five months later on July 2, the SLP winning 12 of the 17 seats.

In Guyana, creation of the Cooperative Republic in 1980 was also shrouded in election cloth, with the introduction of Proportional Representation (PR) to replace the inherited ‘First past the post’ system.

The SLP would remain in opposition for an accumulated 29 years (from 1964 to 1979 and 1983 to 1997) and the PPP only returned to office after 28 years (1964-1992).

The SLP’s 1997 victory was under the leadership of Dr Kenny D. Anthony, who returned home in 1996 from Guyana (where he served as CARICOM’s General Counsel), resulting in a historic 16-1 victory.

The SLP and UWP were in-and-out of office five times between 1997 and 2021, when the SLP again trounced the UWP with a 13-4 victory that increased to 15-2 after two independent winners (side-lined former UWP candidates and Cabinet Ministers) joined the government as Cabinet Ministers (but without joining the SLP).

The PPP/C too has been in-and-out of office since 1992, winning every election thereafter except in 2015, only to win again in March 2020, when the PNC and its allies unashamedly try to hijack the results and gain change the Guyanese voters’ mandate, leading to the PPP/C filing legal cases that ended with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling (albeit five months later in August) that the PPP/C had indeed won.

The SLP’s July 26, 2021 victory (14-3) completely upset the unexplained trend whereby, over four consecutive elections, each party returned to office with the same 11-6 margin: UWP in 2006, SLP in 2011, UWP in 2016 and SLP in 2021.

The PPP/C’s resounding March 13, 2020 victory led to it returning to office at the right time for the nation, the past almost-four years having seen the birth of the new Guyana all Guyanese had prayed for and now enjoy, under an administration that’s husbanded the nation’s new wealth and finances well-enough to have led to the PPP/C receiving an even-more-resounding ‘yes’ mandate in the 2023 Local Government Elections.

The 2023 municipal election was a positive mid-term test for the Dr Irfaan Ali Presidency and for the administration led by Prime Minister Brigadier-General (Ret’d) Mark Phillips – and with Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo as PPP General Secretary.

The SLP crossed its mid-term mark on January 26, 2024, with the Philip J. Pierre administration silently boasting to have restored people’s confidence in governments’ ability to work in the people’s interest, if and when led by a party and leader preoccupied with the national interest, that campaigned and contested on the theme of ‘Putting People First’.

PM Pierre – yet to be accused of corruption by any opponent in his three-decades-long history as a consistently re-elected politician – also describes himself as a ‘Servant Leader’.

The PPP/C and SLP have each spent their respective periods in office since the last elections chalking-up positive results in Guyana and Saint Lucia, each administration working assiduously to change from bad pasts to better futures – and each receiving top billing from citizens increasingly willing to look beyond party colours and judge governments by what they do and deliver, instead of just what they say or promise.

Prime Minister Pierre and President Ali are leading people’s parties and governments and their respective delivery records match-very-well with the way each has restored national confidence in governance by delivering on election promises at every sitting of parliament since 2020 and 2021.

Guyana’s next election is due for 2025 and Saint Lucia’s in 2026 – and given the positive governance routes the two nations have taken since 2020 and 2021, respectively, it’s difficult to see the PPP/C and the SLP losing the next general elections.

Meanwhile, if there was any doubt about the historicity of ties between Saint Lucia and Guyana, just consider that Saint Lucia’s Independence Day is February 22 and Guyana’s Republic Day is February 23.

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