From the hardly disinterested perspective of social transformation and local government minister Harald Dalsan, Castries is “a beautiful city.” The Soufriere MP made his declaration on Thursday at a swearing-in ceremony for the mayor Shirley Lewis and fellow councillors. The venue was the mayor’s office on Peynier Street.
By several accounts something of a funnyman, Dalson may well have been enjoying a private joke when he said the council had done “tremendous work, though there remains much to be done.” Few would disagree with the last observation.
Nevertheless, he was not altogether out of touch with reality, a fact manifested by his bold acknowledgement that the public’s perception of the Castries Constituencies Council was “negative.” Over the years, a number of disgruntled employees have taken the council to court. One particular pending matter could end with taxpayers having to pay millions of dollars in damages to a former council worker who sued for wrongful dismissal.
“I want us to reach out to the market vendors,” said the politician Dalsan, “to embrace them, because today it feels like they are anti-council . . . talk to them and bring on board their ideas, if we can. Talk to the vendors, staff, caretakers and do as much as we can with our limited resources.”
Harold Dalsan later presented the wooden mace to Mayor Lewis. Her deputy Everistus Jn Marie looked on pridefully. Neither he nor she was elected by the people of “the beautiful city.” Both occupy their lofty positions courtesy of the Kenny Anthony government.
For her part, the mayor described Castries as “a touristic city” by which she meant “an area which heavily relies on visitors to the island; an important city.”
When I later interviewed Mayor Lewis she said: “It’s an honour to be re-appointed. The responsibilities do not change; if anything, they are enlarged. It is something that I suppose goes with the job. We try to educate people in keeping the city clean but then it is not just our responsibility. You have to remember that Castries is a basin. Everything that happens up there comes down into the flat. Everything on the hill comes into the flat. So when you throw garbage out your back door, when it rains, it is coming down for us. The other thing, of course, is we have to exhort other ministries to get involved. For example, we do not clean rivers and large gutters. That aspect of it is put under the charge of people like Solid Waste and Infrastructure. All workers already clean the city itself but there’s a lot more that can be done, you know. A lot, lot more. Hopefully, we will endeavour to do that.”
The last notable speaker at the ceremony was the deputy prime minister Philip J. Pierre. On behalf of the council he pleaded for public respect, firm leadership, as well as fairness. He also appealed to fellow politicians to attend council meetings. He acknowledged the hard-working CCC employees deserved a pay raise. Alas, the tough fiscal climate made that difficult, the minister said. As if to console the alleged underpaid workers, Pierre also reminded them that it had been some time since government ministers gave themselves a pay hike.
“You have to work together,” he advised the councillors.“Unite in the job you are selected to do.” At least, he didn’t say Castries was clean or beautiful or a touristic basin that collects all the waste from the surrounding hills via Marchand, his own constituency!