Saint Lucia
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You Think Pan Playin’

Inside the comforts of the airconditioned parliament building, the fifteen comrades of the newly formed government in addition to two opposition members, incoherently swung back and forth. Heads bobbing like buoys on the open ocean, the freshly elected parliamentarians sat, sank comfortably into tax payers funded plush brown leather chairs. The males, well shaved, perched beneath florescent lights hung from the ceiling above. The glare of the light created a somewhat dull silhouette on their shiny baldheads. Their female counterparts donned wigs with hair that flowed seamlessly, some concealed by hats that favored an era when English gentlemen escorted their aristocratic femme gentilés into the grand foyer of estate houses. Not to be out done, the two dozen or so party supporters that sat in the gallery to witness the great debate in the island’s legislative chamber were equally cladded with polished opulence.

The government side thunderously thumped on the circular hardwood desks, divinely stained and recently polished; the dark hews reflected the grandeur of high office. The almost 360 degrees seating arrangement of the elected servants of the people was only broken by the seat and desk of the Speaker of the Lower House. An ex-prime minister was being egged on! Verbosely destroying an even more recently axed ex-prime minister, now the newly minted leader of Her Majesty’s Royal Opposition.

You think pan playin!‘ Stephenson King gasped. His deep nasal tone reverberated within the walls of St. Lucia’s House of Assembly, into the simple and crude stand supporting the microphone. His angry tone and demeanor came off television sets, radios and social media platforms filling the homes, business places and vehicles of St. Lucians both here and abroad not to mention a broader global audience. An unhinged and emotional King had kicked out the bottom of the can. Incensed words, easily flew off the lips of the once selected former Prime Minister. He agonizingly chastised the recently defeated former Prime Minister Allan Michael Chastanet and held him in utter contempt. Filled with disdain, Steve was letting go all that he had held back over the many self-declared neglected years while serving in Chastanet’s Administration. And now, like a runaway truck plunging down the seaside cliffs of Morne Sion, King had no brakes. His face contorted, as rage permeated through the artificially induced cooled air within the parliament building. Teeth clinched like a vicious animal, King smelt blood, he was hungry and finally got the opportunity to devour Chastanet’s raw carcass within his now ‘en-rouge’ carnivorous jaw!

King’s left hand weighted deeply into the left pocket of his blue trouser, his patriot color! As if holding unto all or the little that was left of his bruised ego, Steve fought on! Disregarding any prior conventions or courtesies, he mercilessly bereted his former boss. King had bounced back; his newly found voice and vitriolic squabbles blew out every light that once shined on his former leader’s Compton flambeau. His consorts and brand-new party affiliates, were elated, only too happy to lend support to every word that rolled off this recently parted former flambeau maw.

Steve was convinced Allen Chastanet, the white man and bourgeoisie had stolen his mojo. He had stolen the leadership of the United Workers party, snatching it from his grasp during the party convention held some years ago. Steve felt relegated to the dustbins of Lucian and Caribbean politics. And even though Steve had swallowed mounting pride, accumulated hatred as deep and wide as the John Compton dam over these last years, he had chosen to crawl on his ever-expanding pot belly within the party’s yellow grass, much like a venomous snake, waiting for the right moment to prance on his unsuspecting prey with deadly accuracy!

As for the other guy, Guy Joseph, this man had perceivably stripped Steve of his powers, silencing him even though he oversaw one of the most important ministries in government. Try as Steve might, his thunder was always stolen. The carpet was always being pulled from under the heavy roller’s feet. Steve could no longer tolerate being overshadowed by the Indian from Forestiere. Come on! A white man and an Indian? Two minor ethnic groups dominating a black man’s country? How can this be in these modern times?

Outside of the weathered parliament building, the tropical elements had taken its toll. Here and there cracks were visible on the walls. Small plants attached to the wall had grown from seeds brought by birds and rodents, fat from fast food bones. The plants had acclimatized and somehow were thriving off the not so honorable walls. Black algae coated the roof top aided by years of neglect and dead leaves. Choked gutters attached to the roof leaked droplets of rainwater accumulated within, fell sporadically to the ground below from a birdbath as the feathered friends washed off the city’s muck. The building that had seen many seasons was not particularly interesting as the off-white paint was dulled out, accentuated by a fading green on a low border at the base. It always came to mind what reasons exists and why government owned buildings are always left to chance as if they were trees. Able to regenerate much like a broken branch, a fallen leaf or a severed limb from an animal, it would automatically regrow. A good preventative maintenance program is never part of government policy after construction of these buildings. Blue, black, white and yellow paint was still visible on walls and old tree stomps, the paint sheen long gone just like last year’s independence celebrations. Faded and old, buntings that hung overhead fluttered in the city’s stale air as an upside-down national flag hung from a leaning electric pole. There were dated political posters glued to poles and sides of buildings that run amok with the stench of piss and other filth from human and animal excrements. Sarah Flood for Castries Central one poster read, while another asked to vote for Richard Frederick, the Independent, seemingly, Labour Candidate for that same constituency. Political symbols such as torches and stars painted on the road, though faded were still visible. The red, yellow and white paint, stripped bare by the constant treading of vehicle tires. Here and there on the city’s electric and telephone poles, weathered 2016 posters still read “Kenny Must Go!’’

City slickers, country bookies, the old and not so young mulled around the square on the grounds of the building. As throngs of people walked through, others simply lingered around. Facing east, the statue of late Prime Minister and Father of the Nation, Sir John George Melvin Compton overshadowed them. His immovable cast iron right hand, stretched up high, his thumb, index, middle, ring and pinky bird poop-stained fingers clasped the solid bronze replica of the 1979 declaration of independence. Sir John motionlessly waves the hard cast documents over the many mindless citizens and foreigners alike, all masked as they crisscrossed the park in the middle of the city of Castries. People were walking, moving from east to west, west to east, some with quickly fading hopes, while other faces, filled with despair, talked angrily into cell phones. Once again, civil servants had failed them! These pathetic public servants, yet again, could not produce the required documents applied for weeks or even months ago because of some simple error deliberately not pointed out during the several trips last week and week before and before that, and before that, when they visited the registry, the treasury, the passport office, etc. many Tuesdays ago.

Why can’t they just do this right at the time of birth! An angry single mother shouted in kweyol! Talking to no one in particular, she complained about the number of times she’d visited the civil status registry and every time, it was something else! As usual, no one paid attention to her plight as the many stragglers sitting there, could care less. Some had sat there all of their lives, in the same place, on the same spot and same position for decades. So much so, their virtual butt cheeks had been carved into the old concrete walls or roots of ancient trees that demarcated and aligned the city’s parliament grounds. They could tell you a thing or two about prime ministers and ministers, as they had seen many come and go. From Sir John to George Charles, Dr. Lewis to Kenny and certainly from Chastanet to Pierre! They had seen all manner of boats and vessels in La Carenage Harbor, from the time when they were loaded with coals, brought on by women dressed with clothes made out of flour bags during past world wars. They had seen small dugout canoes to great cargo boats and mega cruise ships come in and out of the harbor. They had seen the great Castries fire in 1948 to the construction of modern buildings like the Bank of St. Lucia to the unappealing largest Massy Supermarket in the city. They had seen the floods of Castries flowing with tons of garbage, dumping the deluge into the sea from the Marchand River and across to Faux a Chaux bay. They had seen vagrants and dogs, as well as political rallies of the flambeau on the William Peter Boulevard and the star on the old market steps. They had heard from Odlum to Josie and Marius to Morella. They had witnessed the violence, from fist fights to stones, to chopping with machetes, to theft and now in the glorious era of murder by gun violence.

Old men, drunks, beggars as well as the usual cohort of Justices of the Peace, JPs for short, lined the area. Some, retired civil servants, sat on old school chairs and rusted desks, while others held clipboards, doing business with the people. Signing documents, making declarations to things unknown to them but with the power vested, are only too glad and willingly obliged to stamp any and all pieces of paper brought before them. In the process charging a tidy sum for their legal service, a practice that is indeed illegal according to the Justice of the Peace statutory act.

Supporters of the labor party were all decked in their red t-shirts, caps, and bandanas. They had come in full force, to support their newly elected government. Their party was in power, the party of the mal-lay-way. The ‘little black boy’ from Marchand had defeated the white man, pampered and spoiled, he had no right to lead St. Lucia they said. After all, colonial days, Massa days are gone, are long gone and what’s with this aristocrat still doing on our backs?

The speaker of the house, soaked it all in! Decked in a black robe, his stained and canyon like craggy teeth, flashed as often, as he pontificated from the comfort of his chair. Order papers and bills overlay his desk accompanied by the book containing parliamentary rules, regulations and motions. Relishing the red tape and bureaucracy as well as the humiliating blows inflicted on the Leader of the Opposition, a sly squint and satisfactory smile ever so often formed on his face. What passed for legislative debate in St. Lucia’s House of Assembly was no better than silly drunkards, arguing after a fine time from the many cabarets with signs that read License to Sell Intoxicating Liquor that lined the squalid ground floor of the CDC buildings of Central Castries.

While all this hot and entertaining debate was in full swing inside the House, the lives of St. Lucians outside remained the same. None had gotten the promised income support, not one had received the thousand and a half dollars promised. No one inside the cooled chamber really cared about the ordinary fellow men and women. Some who were lucky had a council job of cutting grass or cleaning the towns and village drains in the scotching sun. There was no debate about the illegal monthly fees charged to savings accounts by the commercial banks. There was no talk about solving the water situation in many parts of the island. No word on policies to assist farmers and fisher folks. Not a thing about the costs of and acquiring school books and other educational supplies. No debate on completing St. Jude’s Hospital for the people in the south. Absolutely nothing about creating employment and assisting small businesses. Yet one man, having been voted out overwhelmingly by the electorate was the sole focus of an entire new government. An administration with the two thirds majority that has the power to change or enact countless laws to improve the lives of St. Lucia.

In summary, unfortunately those in charge are too blind to even begin to recognize the great opportunities before them, instead they are hell bent on revenge politics, focused on the undoing of the last administration. They are too busy crafting and perfecting the art of marginalization and division. Fooling the people with an array of dizzying smoke screens and flashing mirrors while the nation continues to suffer with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease better known as COPD, as feet that supposed to be on solid ground are placed in their mouths and smoked. Still hoping, St. Lucians continue to eat off their empty pans and as the pan plays in the afternoon sun, they are dancing to every beat! True to form, the pan is indeed playin’!