By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate editor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — The national protest march and rally planned by opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) on Sunday, the anniversary of the fire at the ill-fated St Jude Hospital, saw by most indications a record turnout – the largest demonstration held on the island that transcended party affiliation.
A wide cross section of the population turned out, including members of the St Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SMDA) Customs and Excise, civil servants, former parliamentarians from the United Workers Party (UWP) and the SLP, supporters of various political affiliation, teachers, the National Trust and other civil advocates.
There were many national issues to march for – from healthcare, unemployment, no-bid contracts, the prime minister and his administration’s refusal to listen to the concerns of the people, the Desert Star Holdings (DSH) project, the proposed dolphin park, the planned privatization of healthcare, reckless fiscal mismanagement, increasing debt and poor governance of the country in general.
The placards called on government to account for various perceived infractions, including the $24 million Sandals tax waiver, no dolphin park, no DSH, no-bid contracts, and the closure of various state run institutions.
Songs of solidarity and redemption filled the air in opposition to the Allen Chastanet administration to chants of “Chastanet must go”.
“We have crossed the threshold… we can, by our collective will, hand in hand, holding each other, remove Allen Chastanet and his cabinet from the levers of power in this country,” said former prime minister, Kenny Anthony
Opposition MP Dr Ernest Hilaire said, “Yesterday was incredible. Never in my wildest expectation did I anticipate so many Saint Lucians would invoke their patriotism and turn out to register their dissatisfaction and disaffection with the present government.”
Opposition leader, Philip J Pierre, made a concerted effort to message participants:
“You turned out in your thousands from all walks of life to show your disgust with this UWP administration – thank you.”
Pierre reaffirmed his commitment to the Saint Lucia National Trust as a partner in the development of Saint Lucia, promising to return its subvention removed by the current administration upon returning to government.
To the SMDA: “We support your cause and you to will be made a partner in the delivery of affordable health care for all Saint Lucians.”
To the architects and engineers: “We respect you, we will consult you, and heed your advice in community and national projects.”
To teachers, principals and parents: “I want to assure you that the money for school repairs will not be diverted for other use and that the operation of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) will be given the attention it deserves… and we will reintroduce the laptop program to schools.”
To the civil servants and the public servants: “We say to you we will protect the institutions of government and protect you from the present practice of ministerial dictatorship. And to our Customs officers, we will speak the truth to you.”
To nurses and health professionals: “Let me assure you the SLP stands with you in protecting your jobs… we shall not facilitate any move to bring in health workers from outside to replace you in Saint Lucia.”
To the police and the firemen: “The SLP will allow you to function as professionals without political interference.”
Pierre concluded: “What is next is we have to continue to apply maximum pressure on Allen Chastanet till he resigns and call general elections. Very soon, I will be going to parliament to move a vote of no confidence in the government of Allen Chastanet,” adding, “Very soon I will be calling you back on the streets to march to see the back of this government. Chastanet must go!”
Chastanet left the island in the meantime.