Saint Lucia
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Is PJP a Victim of the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations?

Let me put it simply: Nothing useful is happening in Saint Lucia. And it’s all because of the current government’s hatred for one man.  Isn’t it high time the prime minister and his not-ready-for-prime-time colleagues dealt with their obsession with Allen Chastanet and concentrated instead on delivering some of their countless election promises? I am sick and tired of the rusty standpipe politics, the pettiness, the barely disguised threats of violence, the seemingly endless campaign to keep Saint Lucians preoccupied with each other’s throats. The saddest part is the prime minister’s role in what can only result in the further deterioration of our country.

I am tired of the blatant bullying that has become characteristic of the Labour Party—and may well have inspired the anti-social behavior we see all around us, and which has resulted in a citizenry too worried about its safety to step out alone, especially at night. Who could have imagined the day when funerals would be no-go zones? As I write, the headline news is that another young Vieux Fortian has been fatally shot. There are also unconfirmed announcements that a 16-year-old male earlier reported missing has been found—with his head blown off. A 15-year-old is reportedly in custody helping the police with their inquiries.   

I could hardly believe my ears when recently I heard the SLP leader admonishing party brethren in Soufriere for being “too docile” toward supporters of the opposition party. I tried in vain to convince myself that I may have misheard him. But a clip from the meeting proved my ears were fine, that the SLP leader had actually suggested his followers were too civilized in their reaction to critics. I wondered: Was he advocating that Labour Party “soldiers” should demonstrate greater aggression toward their fellow Saint Lucians in the United Workers Party? How insensitive? Did he not consider the possibility, however remote, that some in his audience might misinterpret their leader’s words as a rallying call to demonstrate their loyalty by any means necessary? Even violence? Is he so unaware of the wall-to-wall hatred that many believe is a consequence of the last election campaign, however unintended?

Even when he speaks as the nation’s Prime Minister, he tends to use the same partisan language often heard from his party platforms. He never misses an opportunity, even at government functions, to remind his audience to “protect our victory.” Often, I’ve asked myself the obvious questions: Against whom? Against what? How?

 Was democracy, along with free speech, tossed out the window the night of July 26, 2021?  How dare our Prime Minister risk the escalation of violence in our country that already is under siege by frustrated, misguided, mentally disturbed and angry young people? Does our prime minister want Saint Lucia to go the way of Haiti, to be ever dependent on him and on his soldiers for their survival? What are the short- or long-term benefits from encouraging Saint Lucians to hate one another?  We are all being led down a slippery slope growing more dangerous by the minute. On Monday this week, I overheard an angry woman grumbling under her breath: “If any of these Labah rats come in my face and tell me shate, I mashing up dere face.” Living proof that violence (or talk of violence) begets more violence!

 We are experiencing an ever-rising number of firearms-related incidents. Never before have we seen as many instances of bullying, on our streets, on social media and yes, even in our parliament. Some citizens, including a particular MP (Major Problem?), now evidently feel emboldened to do and say as they please, when and where they choose. Words matter. And in our unprecedented circumstances words can break spirits, can create fear, destroy reputations—can even result in death—as easily as sticks and stones can break bones. It can be quite disquieting and depressing to be publicly reminded by a minister of government that he has the power to take revenge on citizens critical of his actions. Worse, when the prime minister himself tells the press he attended a controversial court hearing to ensure his colleague was not denied justice. Or justice from his perspective. I was taken aback by the silence of the judiciary. Which reminds me: What happened to the Bar Association that was so up-front and vocal in the weeks before the 2021 elections, when opposition-organized street protests    were commonplace, COVID be damned.

Certain faces were, in one guise or another, seen nightly on TV echoing the “Allen Must Go” election mantra. Where are those oh so familiar faces today? What happened to the angry, self-elected voices of the poor and voiceless? Where are the media workers, the pan beaters, the talking heads? Where have they all gone? By popular account, some have changed work addresses. Others have enlisted in the “putting the people first” army—all at taxpayer expense.

The voices that before July 26, 2021 were associated with what passed for nightly news can still be heard reading the same old familiar scripts—but only from various government departments. I sometimes wonder whether they might be responsible for the embarrassing speeches delivered overseas by the prime minister of this country, the birthplace of Derek Walcott and Sir Arthur Lewis!      

Is our prime minister tortured by his perception of himself? How many more times must he tell us about “this little black boy from Waterworks Road” who became prime minister of Saint Lucia? How many more times must he remind us that the little black boy’s mother was a teacher and his father a policeman?  Did we not place him where he now sits? Why, then, the constant reminders? Without the help of his fellow Saint Lucians, all of us—black, brown and white, poor and not so poor—his circumstances might today be altogether different. So, again I ask: When will he cease talking about “the poorest of the poor?” When will he start working in the interests of ALL the people—regardless of color, economic status, parentage or the land that gave them birth? Must Saint Lucian children be forever punished for having parents of a particular skin tone? Must they pay a life sentence for being born outside of Saint Lucia, regardless of the circumstances?  

Perhaps I should amend my earlier statement: Nothing is happening in Saint Lucia that promises to take us to a better place any time soon. The officially encouraged hatred against Allen Chastanet will have little impact on him, whether or not he chooses to continue doing national service. He does not have to live in Saint Lucia; neither his family. He can do as many others have since the last elections; he can relocate. Can the same be said about the majority of us? Be careful what you perpetuate, fellow sons and daughters of Saint Lucia. Be careful you don’t get caught in the trap you helped set up for others. Almost daily we find ourselves confronted by the soul-destroying consequences of hate.  

Suffice it to say, the victims are seldom the sons and daughters of the prosperous few among us. Mostly they are, to quote our prime minister, “little black boys” and girls that look like you and me and the majority of Saint Lucians—including the prime minister. And yes, sadly, they are among the nation’s most deprived citizens. Our prime minister would do well to take note of this—before the next pack of wolves arrives at his own door, however well protected!

As noted in previous articles, I have taken the precaution of hiding my true identity behind a nom de plume, conscious as I am of the prevailing atmosphere!