I am a (once proud) daughter of Saint Lucia. I am 29 years old, and I want my voice to be heard. What I want to say right away is that I will not be voting in this upcoming election and will do my utmost to convince my friends and relatives to follow my example. For those who will say I have the right to vote and should use that right, understand this: I have voted at every election since I reached voting age. I was full of hope that something good would come of it. Nothing has. I now feel that by voting I am helping the enemies of democracy to hurt me more; to hurt my family, to hurt my friends.
Besides, as a free Saint Lucian woman, I also have the right not to vote. And here are some of the reasons this time around that I will not vote.
First of all, I will feel better knowing I took a stand against the politicians who always forget about their promises to the people the minute they are elected. I will feel better for having protested such disgusting behaviour.
I feel now that I spat on my constitutional rights every time I voted in the past for people who did not deserve my vote. I feel I made a fool of myself when I imagined things would be better. I know now that all politicians know is how to make false promises.
When I look at my country I see so many things going wrong, getting worse year after year, regardless of which party is in office; regardless who is prime minister. I love my country and it hurts me to see our people being abused over and over; taken for granted; taken for fools.
I’ve finally decided to do something, beginning with this article. For a long time I have had questions. Now I want answers: Why do we, the people, have to wait hours, sometimes as long as ten hours, to see a doctor at Victoria Hospital?
Why is everything in the supermarket becoming more and more expensive? Why do so many people have to depend on STEP, or on STEP salaries, no matter where they are employed?
How does the government expect unemployed single parents to feed and send their children to school; to keep them healthy?
Why does the price of schoolbooks have to be higher every other year? What are school leavers supposed to say when business owners tell them they need experience to get a job?
How can you have job experience when you’ve never had a job? When no employer has given you the opportunity to show what you can do?
Earlier I spoke about my constitutional rights. But it seems we must fight the authorities for our rights. People have to take whatever abuses are dished out to them and keep their mouths shut, all because most of us are too poor to do anything about it. If you raise your voice to an abusive police officer he will either beat you up—or shoot you. Or he will lock you up at the famous custody suites or in a nasty police cell for hours. He doesn’t care about your young child at home without its mother or father.
Why is Bordelais so over-crowded? Most of the people there are on remand. Our justice system has gone crazy. Females get raped here every day, no matter what else you might hear. No female, regardless of age, is safe. Why are so many rape cases never solved? Why are so many people on remand without a trial date?
If I should ever get raped, I can tell you right now, I would not report it to the police. But that does not mean I would sit at home feeling sorry for myself. If the law refuses to protect women, if the authorities refuse to see justice done after a woman has been raped, then I will do whatever I need to do for myself.
One way or another, I would take my own revenge. If I cannot get the animal that raped me, then I will get someone he cares about. If I am forced to live in a jungle, then I will survive by the law of the jungle. One way or another, I would have my revenge on anyone who rapes or tries to rape me. Same thing, if he rapes or tries to rape my kid.
It doesn’t make sense putting your trust in the law when you already know there is no law. Neither does it make sense trusting politicians you know cannot be trusted. I have come to believe now in my own eye for an eye justice system!
I ask myself: Who’s in charge of the justice system, anyway? The justice system did not break itself. It was broken by the people we pay to keep it operating. It was broken by years of neglect. Our law-makers are our worst law breakers.
Why do so many young Saint Lucians have to run away from home to some foreign country in the hope of finding a better life? I have friends who left Saint Lucia at age twenty to exist as illegals in the U.S. or in the UK. Most of them make a living in ways they would never consider at home; but they earn enough to eat; and they can clothe themselves. They can send a few dollars home to the kids they left behind with unemployed grandparents and aunties.
Many want to return home one day. They love the land that gave them birth. But the land that gave them birth now offers them only death. No work; no money; no rights; no healthcare, not even when you pay for it. No justice.
I know some people are lazy. Some refuse to work even when there is work in Saint Lucia. But far more people want to work and cannot find employment. All they get are more empty promises. Especially as election time comes closer. What about those of us who want to do something about learning a useful occupation? What help do we get from our government?
I will not vote again until I am convinced the candidates really care about the leaders of tomorrow, and about our poor parents who want to work but must pay a high price for the privilege of getting a job. Too often it is the very politician they voted for who is first in line for his pound of flesh. This is disgusting; it is another gross violation of human rights.
I will never vote again. Not until I can see we, the people of this country, are actually enjoying the rights given us by our constitution. I will not vote again until I see elderly, poor people treated with respect by our government. I will not vote again until I see young people who worked hard in school given the opportunity to choose the work they want to do. Most of us don’t want to work on cruise ships while our kids stay at home. My friends on the STEP programme actually hate the STEP programme. It’s like begging in the street for a couple of dollars when you are capable of doing a regular job.
Why can’t all these smart people in the government do more to help parents get school books? Don’t ask me how. A good government would not ask the poor and deprived and helpless to solve their own problems. We elect politicians to make it possible for us to help ourselves. Some of them even blame the rape victims for allowing themselves to be raped!
My final question, for now – and those of you who will be voting regardless, please answer my question – Why are you voting? In other parts of the world people can tell you why they vote. They can also tell you what they will do when politicians steal from the people and keep everything for themselves and their friends. Voters in America, Canada and the UK can talk like that; they can tell you what they will do when politicians fool the people or steal from them. You know why? It’s because they have all the things we don’t have. Beginning with a modern constitution and a functioning justice system!