Tragedy or Farce?

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Prime Minister Allen Chastanet (L) and Governor-General Neville Cenac

Dear Sir

By all indications, Governor-General Sir Neville Cenac is quite a colourful character with many interesting stories to tell. However, what he is best known for is his betrayal of the people of Laborie, thwarting their democratic wishes, and without forewarning crossing the floor to support a weakened United Workers Party (UWP) they were opposed to.

The betrayal stung the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and the people of Laborie. It also left a stain and stench on the political legacy of Neville Cenac. As such, the manner of his appointment to an office which is supposed to rise above partisanship and serve as a balm, unifying the country in an agreed direction, rang hollow and reinjured a barely healed wound.

Based on the recent backroom manoeuvrings of the Governor-General, one need not be a Marxist to be reminded of his refrain that “history repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce”.

Governor-General Cenac has once again betrayed the people of Saint Lucia to provide succour to a UWP government that is on the ropes. An examination of the sequence of events and public statements by some protagonists reveals the farce.

In a seemingly panicked response to the fear of a spread of COVID-19, the Government of Saint Lucia (GOSL) imposed a State of Emergency (SOE). Some were of the belief that the provisions contained in other pieces of legislation should have been invoked instead. The government went to parliament on at least two subsequent occasions to extend the period of the SOE. Many people thought the duration of the SOE was excessive and a ruse for something else.

The government, aware of the unpopularity of the SOE, tried and subsequently legislated its provisions by calling it another name. In their haste, they failed to consult with civic groups. Whilst some are quick to claim that “the Constitution does not recognize political parties”, it is clear that it acknowledges the existence of civic groups. Moreover, it necessitates their consultation before the appointment of Independent Senators.

Yet, when those very civic groups, via their Senators and otherwise, requested the deferral of a piece of legislation that restricted civil liberties to facilitate consultation, the Governor-General Cenac thwarted and muzzled them, to succour the government.

Through the president of the Senate, it is reported that the Governor-General Cenac received letters from the Independent Senators informing of their illness and unavailability to attend the sitting of the Senate.

Therefore, on the assumption that such letters were indeed received, one must ask:

  • On what day did Governor-General Cenac receive such letters?
  • When were those letters dated?
  • Did the letters indicate the period of unavailability of the Senators?
  • When was it determined that the meeting which was cancelled on a Thursday, should be rescheduled for the following day, Friday?
  • Did the president of the Senate give members due notice of the rescheduled meeting?
  • Given the absence of the quorum on Friday morning, did the Governor-General Cenac make any direct attempt to liaise with the Independent Senators to determine their availability?
  • If Governor-General Cenac was so concerned that the business of the State must not be delayed, did he satisfy himself that his new temporary “Independent” Senators would have been given sufficient notice to receive and vet the contents of the Bill?

A Bill that they were able to debate in less than three hours. A Bill that civic groups were demanding consultation on, a Bill that a senior member and former prime minister Stephenson King is only now acknowledging, needed further consultation.

Saint Lucia, it is time we put an end to this farce.

Peter Wongfook Mathew

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