If there is one thing I’ve have learned about ghetto people it’s this: they will proudly beat their chest and shout out from the top of Mount Gimie about where they are from, especially if they’ve somehow made their way out of the ghetto. It’s very much like black American males who refer to each other as “niggas”. But let some white dude address them that way and see what happens. Unless, of course, the white dude’s name is Eminem.
This much I gathered at the United Worker’s Party meeting in Vieux Fort a couple weeks ago, when the party leader ended his delivery with this question: “Where do you want to be? From the ghetto or from the Pearl of the Caribbean?”
I could hardly wait for the fall-out, especially from those who, for decades, had perpetuated the wall-to-wall poverty evident in most of Vieux Fort. At the rally I spoke with some of the residents, perchance to get a hint of their reaction to Allen Chastanet’s offer. One or two said they felt slightly offended but sometimes truth can offend. One young man put it this way: “When I look around is like de ghetto just getting bigger and bigger and is only one set of people getting work. De ghetto youth just want work to feed their families.”
A 22-year-old female said she and her friends were “tired of just waiting and waiting and hearing about development for Vieux Fort that never happens”.
Several people told me they were “very confused” by the DSH stories coming from all quarters but what preoccupied them was the bottom line. “Dem fellers promised us jobs, job, job,” a 19-year-old male recalled “but gassa Kenny eh do nothing for Vieux Fort.” I heard that line repeated over and over at the UWP rally. Among the young people who attended, it seemed the consensus was “Kenny failed us and now he playin’ more politics with our heads”. They also made it clear that they had no special love for politicians, red or yellow coated.
It wasn’t difficult to discern why: since 1997 Kenny Anthony has been the MP for Vieux Fort South and, for a long while, acted as island’s prime minister. He served two straight terms without interruption. He lost in 2006 and was re-elected in 2011 for another five-year term, only to be kicked out again in 2016.
Like other MPs before him, Kenny Anthony has always touted Vieux Fort as the “new frontier”. Alas, there have been no signs of change for the better. The folks from Castries who once shopped for better deals in Vieux Fort no longer have reason to do so. The once popular fish restaurants have vanished, including Kimatri and Il Pirata.
Promises by Kenny Anthony of a new fisheries port, hotels and call centres have not materialized. St. Jude’s hospital remains incomplete and clouded with suspicion. The airport redevelopment never got off the ground. Several small businesses have closed down. Housing and living conditions in Bruceville and Bacadere, frequently visited by Dr. Anthony, remain in deplorable conditions.
It is also interesting to note that a past SLP administration led by Dr. Anthony had sourced funding for a boardwalk project inclusive of vending stalls, restaurants and an entertainment area for Sandy Beach—the same beach now caught up in the DSH quagmire. Maybe the Vieux Fort South MP can explain what happened to this project that was supposed to bring relief and hope to the people of Vieux Fort. What Kenny Anthony famously delivered to Bruceville was a promenade that really is a concrete road to a garbage dump.
His party’s reaction to Allen Chastanet’s ghetto reference came a few days following the Vieux Fort rally. “Allen Chastanet must apologise to the people of Vieux Fort South for his degrading utterances at the public meeting of the United Workers Party, held on May 17, 2017, at the Vieux Fort Square,” said a Labour press release that so far the prime minister has ignored. (Actually the meeting was on Clarke Street, not in the Vieux Fort Square.)
According to the press release the Vieux Fort representative held the view that the UWP leader had insulted his constituents when he said Vieux Fortians would be great at taking care of horses related to the proposed DSH horse racing track. The Vieux Fort MP also resented the prime minister’s likening of Vieux Fort to a ghetto. “These statements are insulting, degrading and dehumanizing. I want Chastanet to know that the people of Vieux Fort are not specially ordained to look after horses. They are capable of much more than looking after horses. Vieux Fortians are as good as any Saint Lucian elsewhere in this island.”
No truer words have been uttered by Anthony. And so I could not help but wonder why, after representing Vieux Fortians for more than twenty years in parliament, he had not found for them employment more suited to their special talents. As one gentleman told me during a recent discussion about the former PM’s reaction to his successor’s statement: “If anyone needs to extend apologies to the people of
Vieux Fort, it’s the parliamentary rep.”