I found myself reading the press statement issued by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Soufriere/Fond St Jacques Harold Dalson making the case for the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) on the review of the financial operations of town, village and rural councils.
I will refrain from commenting on the contents of the review at this time, until those who are accused of embezzlement have had a chance to defend themselves in the court of public opinion and in a legal courtroom, should that be warranted.
However, the statement issued by MP Harold Dalson, which no doubt requires a certain degree of attention and further scrutiny, reads as follows, “When a people’s trust is betrayed by those in whom they have reposed confidence, no one can be happy. When a country is so badly affected by both a natural disaster in the form Hurricane Tomas and a man-made disaster in the form of the misappropriation of its scarce resources by those charged with safekeeping them, it cannot be a time for us to beat our chests in triumph.”
Isn’t this interesting! Or is it just the regular comedy of smoke screens and flashing mirrors that self-righteous politicians often put on display to hide their own personal failings to the people who elected them into office.
In fact, when it comes to the betrayal of the people’s trust, there is no doubt in the minds of many in our community of Soufriere that MP Harold Dalson fits like an air tight bag in that open space of betrayal. For sure, not only has he not been able to deliver on the promises that were made to the people while in opposition, but many in Soufriere, and the rest of the country by extension, now consider him an accomplice and guilty of misrepresentation.
Instead of fulfilling the promise of ushering, “Better Days”, the SLP administration has forced greater contraction in the economy. The undocumented cases of job losses, and the impending closure of a number of businesses are all part of a litany of betrayal.
In that very press conference of the review of the financial operations of town, village and rural councils, MP Harold Dalson also made a very pointed remark, which almost led me to conclude that he had deluded himself into believing that he was not part of the circle of those who have betrayed the trust of the people of Saint Lucia. He said, “It must instead be a time for solemn reflection of who we are as a people and what it is that we must demand from our leaders.”
From that revelation let me help with some input.
But first, if only MP Harold Dalson was truly in touch with the people whom he claims to be representing, he would have learnt by now that most Soufrierians are really tired of being unrepresented. No kidding!
And to prevent further collapse there is need for the development of a strategic plan to guide the growth and development of Soufriere over the next decade. In this regard, identifying strategic priorities in the areas of economic development, infrastructure (human and physical) management, eco-sustainability, community engagement and the Soufriere experience are identifiers that can help narrow the focus to build the kind of Soufriere we want.
And, therefore, I put the challenge out to the SLP administration to show what measures that have been developed to benefit the residents, business and communities that now feel very alienated from their district representative, and the disappearing future of “Better Days” island wide.
Take, for example, the copra factory, which has closed its doors, maybe indefinitely, leaving hundreds of Soufrierian’s out of gainful employment.
But even more telling is MP Harold Dalson’s lack of interest in consulting the entire community. In fact, when he does, it is often done from a very selective level, which comprises most individuals from the “red club” or what most would consider self-interested SLP supporters. Then tell me, how does MP Harold Dalson propose to reverse the constrains of job loss in Soufriere when, like his own government, they advocate a system of exclusion.
Meanwhile, despite all the talk of local government reform, the Soufriere Town Council/Constituency Council continues to operate like a SLP “red clique”, which imposes a financial burden on the taxpayers of Saint Lucia. To most who have monitored this grouping, their habitual tendencies to do nothing to enhance the community, and have left a sour taste in the mouths of many who had hoped for a difference when MP Harold Dalson and the SLP came to power in 2011.
The Soufriere Regional Development Foundation (SRDF), instead of becoming an independent body, has become an extension of the Saint Lucia Labour Party. The government, just as it is presently doing with Radio Saint Lucia, is ensuring that the SRDF becomes the property of only the “En-Rouge campaign”, by decisively ensuring that those who stand in opposition to this government will never be allowed to benefit or make use of these entities.
Then there are the numerous cases of political patronage that take place on a daily basis at the Soufriere waterfront, and within the SLP strongholds of Soufriere. It is no secret that, if you are not part of that SLP “red clique”, you had better not seek any redress for your sufferings!
To date, the agricultural sector of Soufriere is in shambles, and the poor quality of our roads does not help either. But worst yet is the abrupt closure of the La Dig (Mocha) bridge to vehicular traffic (Friday 24th May 2013), which is just one of the many frail structures throughout Soufriere.
The Soufriere Hospital and Etangs health centre continue to struggle in the shadow of their best days, while the fishers are left to struggle with no additional storage, ramp and dry-dock facility to support their operation and to increase their productivity.
Yet, while MP Harold Dalson seems oblivious to all of that, he has never missed a beat to shamelessly support every government action that enforces more hardships and poverty on the people of Soufriere.
Let’s take a further look!
From October 2012 to June 2013, the SLP administration has increased the price of commodities such as fuel and kerosene, water and sewerage services, LPG, and rice, flour and sugar. The once vibrant town of Soufriere has been rendered dormant, except for the passing sound of vehicular traffic of tour buses, taxi and watercraft en route to our natural resources and, on top of this, a 15% value added tax (VAT) was imposed on goods and services and soon public transportation will increase.
But even more striking is the fact that this is taking place on the watch of an SLP administration that prides itself on Bread, Freedom and Justice!
As it stands, SLP is “killing” Soufriere and by extension Saint Lucia, with steady misguided economic policies and political appointees, who play only to the rules of labour, with more bewilderment than ever!
As a result, the observation is such that the SLP political establishment in Soufriere is growing comfortable in using its political power to enrich themselves and their families with secret (well, not so secret anymore) stakes in companies, and the crafty use of special interest politics.
But isn’t this the very behaviour that the SLP administration and their supporters cried foul of in the most despicable manner possible when they were in opposition?
Oops! Maybe they some have sort repentance, but not absolution from bad habits!
However, most desirable are measures of success and the development of Soufriere. This we can accomplish using a market solution approach made up of partners working in harmony to supply the cash, ideas and programs to alleviate the social and economic problems, with a clear vision, leadership and experience. In areas such as the development of aquaculture, biogas and greenhouses, agro-business, fish production, and in the process increase agricultural exports for foreign exchange earnings and reduce by 30% the food import bill that exceeds $300 million annually.
Additional, the reduction of rural poverty through improved education, health and social services, production and self-reliance on water and electricity; likewise improvements to the much needed infrastructure of feeder roads, drains and flood mitigation, telecommunication connectivity and proper housing development.
Further, the implementation of a tourism enhancement and product development program to assist local business and entrepreneurs to build capacity and to adequately meet the demand of goods and services in the tourism industry would have major long-term benefits.
These are revenue generating enterprises that require commitment at the highest level to promote social and economic development to create sustainable employment, transform livelihoods and households permanently. Unlike “STEP-UP”, “NICE”, and “SMILE”, that siphon borrowed money.
If you do the math, the results would indicate that the cost allocations don’t add up to the end product and services. And perhaps have symptoms of mismanaging taxpayers’ limited resources for partisan advantage.
As a result, there is no difference from what the SLP condemned when in opposition — for waste and mismanagement, high-risk, low-return proposition.
If in doubt, remember that, transparency is the taxpayers’ best friend!
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) http://lpmstlucia.com/index.php critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at [email protected]