Is there a St Lucian who doesn’t know English?


So much for everybody being for King! Finally the day belonged to Allen Chastanet.

For me Sunday was all balls. At Arnos Vale in St Vincent there were balls so magical they took your breath away, lifted you from your seat and pelted wickets to kingdom come. And of course there were contentious no-balls, questions which demanded even more balls.

At our own luscious Marigot, more balls, albeit of another family connected with solutions to the world economic crisis, who was to blame, what brought it about it. Trust me, you never heard more balls. Thank Helen Television Service for a merciful respite every now and again. I even got to see a pyknic roly-poly kinda bat-faced guy in a cowboy hat being pushed like a wheelbarrow around the field by a feely-feely attendant.

I couldn’t get over how much the monster ball reminded me of St Vincent’s current most famous citizen. I wondered: Was our own health minister correct when she advised several weeks ago “you are what you eat?”
Could this be the reason the person I saw on HTS reminded me so much of the Goodyear Blimp?

As I listened to Stephenson King addressing his Marigot audience of mostly yellow- shirted men and women of all ages, I mused: What a load of bollocks! Don’t understand
me too quickly, dear reader, what got me thinking you know what wasn’t so much the content of the former prime minister and party leader’s speech.

Nor even the way he tossed it like cut grass at the crowd. What made me think of balls again and again was the earlier hot air from certain quarters that seemed to say you cannot possibly aspire to leadership in Saint Lucia if you are not fluent in the people’s language, which UWI savants refer to as langue mama nous. Which is to say, our mother tongue.

Of course, the mission impossible line was usually heard during addresses derogatory of Allen Chastanet, who in a 2011 pre-election promise of “bread in every basket,” garbled something that sounded like penipaniere. His detractors have never permitted him to get past that.

Allen Chastanet has also been chastised by the usual suspects for the color of his skin and for his accent, which admittedly does not immediately bring Saltibus to mind. But then neither does Kenny’s skin tone. Or his sound, even though no one ever mentions such matters.

The local analysts have concluded that Chastanet’s sound is Canadian and therefore cannot possibly be worthy of the office of prime minister of Saint Lucia. As if indeed our most popular prime minister was native born. Evidently the way we sound in some ears is more important than how we handle our nation’s meager finances and how casually we dispose of our national heritage, even such as have the potential to tell some folks where to stick ALBA. In any event it seems to send his supporters into paroxysms of delight just to hear him holler Mammai Flambeau once or twice during his English deliveries!

As I say, King, who speaks Standard English better than some with degrees in economics and law, chose to deliver chunks of his address in the native Creole. Conceivably, he had two reasons; three, if you include his evident belief in the SLP propaganda: in the first
instance he wanted to be understood by his Creole audience. Secondly, he imagined it made him seem, you know, rootsy, not posh like the Stephen Harper sound-alike that was his opponent in the day’s fight for control  of a party some say died with its inventor!

What threw me for a loop was the way King switched to English whenever he referred to stuff like the economy, unemployment and other related issues. I couldn’t help wondering if he was deliberately keeping certain important information from the Creole horses.

If all of this sounds a little bit confusing, maybe that’s because it is. After all, I doubt there is a Saint Lucian less than a hundred years alive who does not understand what
is said to him or her in English, lies or no lies. It may well be that fewer of us  understand Creole as well as we do English—even while some are rendering  the language near unrecognizable, as often happens during Budget Day presentations.

Indeed, Sunday’s election result may be all the proof we need!


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