When he permitted one unapologetic honorable member to refer to another honorable member on the opposition side as a poodle, did the Speaker inadvertently confirm the not-so-secret suspicion that our elected representatives are actually suited-up canines in the same cage? After all, the public perception is that one particularly rambunctious MP revels in his reputation as the House Pitbull. So, if indeed our House of Assembly has over the years transmogrified into a House of Dogs, how soon before one of our Black-Opaled politicians in bras is labeled a bitch?
Something especially noteworthy—a rarity dimensionally equal to Haley’s Comet—occurred during last week’s House session: with obvious relish, Poodle had eaten up the seductive honey coating of a bill that purported to be in the best interests of local farmers and exposed it for what it really was. Though it offered some mouth-watering concessions, by Poodle’s reckoning they were way beyond the reach of those most in need of assistance.
By all he said, the proffered concessions amounted to an offer of treasure to a hungry and legless blind man. To be suddenly rich beyond his wildest dreams, all the poor man had to do was locate the gold and diamonds buried near one of the Sulphur Springs’ fumeroles.
So effectively had Poodle exposed the disguised booby traps in the farmers’ way, that when finally he took his seat, the dog catcher in the House was left little choice but to acknowledge, however reluctantly, his bill was less an incentive to farmers than a deterrent. His main concern when he introduced it was that the time had come when something, however radical, had to be done “about our waters.” If that included keeping the farmers and their fertilizer poisons as far away as possible from anything that looked remotely like a stream, then, so be it.
As if he were for the first time acknowledging the hidden aspects of Grynberg, the dog catcher in the prime minister acknowledged with obvious reluctance the Castries harbor was the closest thing to an open sewer, “chockful of fecal matter” as it was. So shocking was the situation, he guffawed, that he dared not state the full degree of contamination for fear of causing island-wide panic attacks.
What he said about the Soufriere Bay was similarly disturbing, but evidently he could not bring himself also to mention the nightmarish Rodney Bay, more polluted with untreated sewerage than the mentioned two sites.
As if further to prove how effete had been our political leadership over the years, the dog catcher in the prime minister desperately confessed that no developer was interested in investing in projects related to the Castries harbor in its current unspeakable condition. He said the government had received several million dollars from French taxpayers to pay for “a feasibility study of the harbor.” But nothing he said amounted to an admission that successive governments, from the banchay days of colonial times to the present, had permitted our rivers, beaches and seductive sea to be used as open cesspools.
North to south, there were to be seen back in the day what residents referred to as pwayvits: small government-constructed shacks over the water that served as community latrines. More recently, even after water toilets had been introduced, certain villagers were left no other choice but to continue daily polluting our waters and beaches. Why? More often than not, water toilets provided at taxpayer expense were either inoperative or inexplicably padlocked for weeks at a time.
Meanwhile, there was the infamous Castries dump, now the site of a theater of sorts, not to mention a tourist resort. Before the dump was relocated to its present site it had been allowed to do untold environmental damage to the Choc Bay. In announcing the closure, the then prime minister revealed that most of the vaginal complaints treated at Victoria Hospital were consequences of bathing in the waters of the highly contaminated bay, thanks to seepage from the dump. He also warned that nothing should be built on the dumpsite for at least 40 years, for fear of possible explosions caused by methane gas. Less than five years later the DCA had permitted the construction in the area of a hotel.
Then there was the warning sign that went up following several STAR articles underscoring the sorry state of the Castries harbor, one of them featuring a picture of the enticing blue sea with the superimposed headline: “This Water Is Deadly!”
Compton would later erect his own warning sign, but it hardly delivered the truth, concerned as he too was about strolling tourists getting the right idea. Compton’s sign read: “Bathing Or Swimming In This Area May Be Hazardous: No Bathing, No Swimming.”
Not the smallest hint about the “over one million gallons of untreated sewerage pumped into the Castries harbor daily” that the prime minister had himself underscored in his 1987 budget address. Chances are most visitors, the majority of today’s residents too, believe swimming in the Castries harbor is “hazardous” only on account of the marine traffic. If only that were the case!
Dr. Naresh Singh, then senior scientist attached to the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute, when I spoke with him 27 years ago about the state of our waters, the Castries harbor in particular, had just returned to Saint Lucia following his attendance at the Caribbean Conservation Association’s annual meeting in Tortola.
“Saint Lucia’s harbors are extremely polluted, presenting a health hazard to swimmers and to people who fish there!” he said. I repeat, that was 27 years ago, dear reader. Moreover, whatever had been responsible for the disaster that Singh had acknowledged, continues unabated to this day. I need also add that the harbor sign earlier mentioned had yet not been erected when I talked with Singh.
As I say, the harbor is only the tip of the iceberg. Our rivers that supply the water we drink have, for as long as anyone can recall, been loaded with killer toxins, whether human-waste or agriculture-related. Lord alone knows how many have perished as a result of ingesting these unregulated poisons over the years. At last week’s House of Dogs meeting, the prime minister would only touch on the fact that possible thousands of men have in consequence been rendered impotent. Conceivably, he has not considered the effects on females of all ages—hardly surprising, since the attendant politicians in bras had themselves nothing to say on the issue, not while they were busy promoting the booby-trapped agriculture incentive bill.
It remains to be said, all politics aside, that this and succeeding prime ministers are in it above their heads, with no idea (forget for the moment about money!) what to do. Do they invent a new kind of farming that will produce cash crops, enough to feed the country while earning vital foreign exchange? The poisons that long ago became synonymous with banana cultivation here are like steroids to professional athletes.
Even if it were possible to move the farmers farther away from what we choose to call our rivers, how will we stop the rain from coming down and carrying the agriculture related killer fertilizers into the rivers that only now concern our leader? Do we do away with farming altogether and import even more of what we eat? Or do we permit the farming to go on as usual, while we import water from Lord knows where?
Do we have in place laws to discourage the dumping of ships’ sewerage into our waters? Why is the Rodney Bay Marina near empty when there are so many yachts anchored outside it? Again the rock and a harder place situation raises its head: are we so scared the yachts might desert us in favor of St Vincent or one of our other sister islands?
As for the waters over Jack Grynberg’s property, how many more misleading signs do we put up? Do we ban swimming altogether? Do we quit bathing and create yet another set of health problems? Undeniably, our leaders have done a fine job turning this ostensible slice of paradise into a haven for soi-disant rabid dogs!