There are a few places to capture the essence of what it means to be Saint Lucian. Among the options are cricket matches, funeral wakes, fetes, carnival, the beach on a holiday and Facebook comments during the live stream of the budget debate. The last might also be the place where fellow Saint Lucians are most likely to get into arguments over next to nothing. During and after elections, there is no pause in the “Flambeau-Labour” chants, in or outside the House, not to say Facebook with its edited-to-taste videos.
The real issues from which the people of Saint Lucia suffer are revealed in the form of Facebook comments, I promise. It is a shame that I only recently started using this platform, so this is something of a discovery, however scary. Apparently there is a big problem with the “bookie” accents of some MPs. There is an even bigger problem with those who attempt eloquence. People who voted for a constituency representative are bothered when his statistics are challenged by MPs on the opposite side, to the extent of turning off their TV.
Most of the Facebook comments by Saint Lucians during and following last week’s House debates ended with something along the lines of “las bat tjou zot.” In English, “stop beating your ass!” And by ass I don’t mean “donkey”.But what else would you expect from the people of Saint Lucia besides such impeccable behaviour and the ability to follow the analysis of their tax dollars so closely?
I wish there was an amount allotted to me in the budget for the number of times I heard “the last government”, “my government”, “the Labour Party”, “The UWP”, “the people of Saint Lucia chose me”, “they made the right choice” shouted across the room. Then there were the countless times in a sentence that someone said “Madam Speaker”. I could have really made money for a much-needed partial scholarship; or maybe I could have funded the defunded National Trust.
Sadly, I don’t know if any of the voted members of parliament realize that they are the government in unison, having responsibility for the livelihoods of thousands of people. Judging from their behaviour during the highest order of business, it doesn’t seem so. It doesn’t seem that there is a difference whichever party is in “power” because the budget debate has become a sort of annual reality TV-show, a quarrel accentuated with political jargon.
It’s ironic, too, how ministers seem to start their presentations on a good note, but quickly get into the blame game at the expense of the other side of the room. The ever prepared Guy Joseph, popular for his hit lines “since when dat’s your role” and “they cut the grass behind the grass”, was on top form. His hopeful opening lines included: “We have a budget before us, the future of this country is in our hands, that is why we are here.” But in a flash he turned: “I was made to suffer for five years when these men who are on the opposition today were in government. But you see every time they are in government they sing a different song and when in opposition: “is government of national unity, fairness across the table, let’s be equitable in everything we do’.”
I suppose the Honourable Guy Joseph had to come to the defence of his leader, labelled by the opposite side “a tyrant”. Kenny Anthony, after accusing the government of using “distorted historical facts” and “incorrect economic data”, seemed to be making progress when he began his speech. “I think it becomes unfortunate in a budget debate like this,” he went on, “that time has to be spent on responding to every said statement that runs afoul to every truth of the facts before us . . .” He contented himself with two statements, one of them being: “The rate of unemployment fell to 21.3% in 2016 from 24.1% in 2015 and the information that is publicly available suggests that unemployment is now in the vicinity of 20% and declining.” I was thinking we might, for a change, be getting somewhere. Sadly his next line was: “It would be up for debate as to who should claim credit for that . . .”
So, what really is the difference between citizens’ Facebook comments and a debate in the House? They seem to have many similarities: endless blame, false information, accusations en kweyol. The country has a wonderful example of leadership. Not a government working assiduously to better the country. What we have is two constantly arguing political parties vying to be “teacher’s pet” to the people of Saint Lucia. There’s no better way to do that, it seems, than by creating opportunities for silly gossip and some admittedly catchy phrases!