At the very least, he must be credited for pulling off what many were openly saying amounted to a small miracle, especially those closely connected with the ruling St. Lucia Labour Party. Which further underscores the fact that an inability to speak Creole better than one can speak English is no big thing, that it certainly has nothing to do with persuading citizens to participate in a protest march against government policies. Among the protesters on Thursday were those who carried aloft posters bearing the image of the UWP and the printed declaration “Allen is our Man!”
By my own estimation, well over a thousand citizens marched in their orange and in yellow to protest against, among other matters, the price of fuel, VAT, unemployment and the cost of living, shouting as they walked the UWP catchphrase “Enough is Enough!” Several placard bearers denounced government’s economic policies and the high level of unemployment.
The march started shortly after 5 pm near the Vigie playing field, proceeded across the Sans Soucis bridge and ended in William Peter Boulevard where the crowd was addressed by leading UWP members, all of whom dared the government to “call elections now!”
While Allen Chastanet may have been the Steven Spielberg of the march, Guy Joseph was undoubtedly the star of their unpredictable movie. On Thursday evening the normally feisty MP for Castries Southeast was on fire. He had a grand time taking apart the government’s priorities in these times of severe economic stress, especially while listing the government’s empty promises, among them “better days.”
“Three years after Labour took office,” he said, “we are yet to experience one day that was not better before the 2011 elections!”
Spider Monotute touched on several issues including the SLP’s promise to revoke the Video Lottery Terminals and the government’s suspension of the controversial Airport Development Tax implemented by the UWP administration.
Dr. Gale Rigobert was at times hard on the ear but she nevertheless added fuel to the occasion. She said she and her party had marched and were speaking on behalf of “every citizen of this country” regardless of party affiliation. She stressed that the economic hardship was having a particularly debilitating effect on the most vulnerable groups—women, children, the poor and the elderly.
The House Opposition leader criticized the government for “its lack of vision” especially when it came to education and the youth. She called for a greater investment in the education system while lamenting that currently “four schools are still on the shift system.”
“If you care about the youth and you care about education and the future of this country, then you need to concentrate less on expensive bridges and build more schools,” she said. Rigobert has persistently pleaded with the government to restore the bus fare subsidy that was in place for school children whose parents could not afford transportation fees. She repeated her plea on Thursday evening, to wild applause.
Speaking on the unemployment issue, Rigobert said: “They are quick to say how many jobs they have created through social programmes but they have failed to address the countless Saint Lucians who have lost their jobs under Labour.”
She also called for more services to be offered to raped and battered women mainly because they had little state protection.
Allen Chastanet, who brought up the rear of the meeting, sounded a little wary and not quite focused. Could it be he was overwhelmed by the day’s turnout? The UWP leader called on citizens to stand up to the Kenny Anthony administration and keep pressing on to return the UWP to office.
“Enough is enough” he shouted, adding that too many Saint Lucians were suffering and that it was time a strong signal was sent to the Kenny Anthony government. No surprise that he revisited the issue of current gas prices. Finally he called on Saint Lucians to prepare for elections although he has yet to say where he plans to contest for a seat in parliament. Then again, in politics timing is everything. Conceivably, that is one thing Allen Chastanet knows well!