Dear Civil Society Leaders:
I am constrained to address you because of my concern for what is likely to happen to this country if we allow what is currently taking place to continue. I address you because during the period 1981/82, Saint Lucia was in turmoil and the above organisations (maybe not all or more) came together to knock some sense into the political directorate. Mind you, I am not for one moment suggesting that we are anywhere close to what transpired during that period.
But the removal of the subvention from the 2017/18 estimates to The Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) got me thinking, and more particularly the manner in which it was done. I served as permanent secretary to four prime ministers, none of whom displayed any tendency to take such dastardly and vindictive action against an organization created by statute; all because of the organization’s objection to certain aspects of government’s projects.
The Saint Lucia National Trust was established as guardians of our heritage and patrimony and has always objected to aspects of development projects perceived as dangerous to our heritage or environment. According to the mandate prescribed in the National Trust Act, it is expected that it will ensure that our environmental and historical sites are protected and not desecrated. More so, it is expected to do so on behalf of the people of Saint Lucia and not on the whims or fancies of any government of whatever political complexion.
At first, I found the prime minister’s explanation devoid of logic in the context of the provisions of the National Trust Act and the retention of the subvention to all other organisations. But when I heard the National Trust chairperson’s account of a meeting with the prime minister, his actions appear more ludicrous and damming.
I worked with Sir John Compton for a period of 28 years (eight as Comptroller of Customs and 12 as Cabinet Secretary). I will vouch for him that despite all the criticism levelled at him over an extended period, he would never have stooped to such, “the lowest of lows”.
Any leader with such a vindictive trait spells disaster for the organization, which he leads and more so if it is a country.
During my years with Sir John, I witnessed his dialogue with some of his foremost critics even in some instances when help was sought on a personal matter.
The political directorate must develop a culture to listen to our technocrats/professionals, particularly to those who have the interests of this country at heart. Failure to heed their advice has resulted in untold damage to Saint Lucia. One such example which stands out is that of deceased Gabriel “Coco” Charles’ warnings which went unheeded to our detriment.
My missive to you is in the same light of Dr Marie Louise Felix – Marine Biologist, wherein her closing remarks at a talk show, she pleased with the prime minister to consult the many experts which we have locally and utilize their expertise when negotiating with investors.
Victor E. Girard