Musical chairs in the Saint Lucia parliament
By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- The first session of parliament in Saint Lucia on Tuesday since Dr Gale Rigobert was appointed new leader of the parliamentary opposition began with an apparent game of musical chairs.
The opposition United Workers Party (UWP) had seemingly rearranged their seating in an effort to separate former opposition leader Stephenson King and dissident UWP member of parliament Richard Frederick, a King loyalist. Other UWP members reportedly came in unusually early and occupied seats designed to have King sit next to Rigobert, with Frederick isolated at the end of the opposition bench.
However, King made a point of taking an extra chair and sat next to Frederick, leaving the new leader of the opposition with an empty chair between her and UWP member Arsene James.
UWP political leader, Allen Chastanet, who does not have a seat in parliament, was nevertheless sitting in the public gallery, apparently attempting in vain to choreograph the seating arrangements.
During the session, Frederick spoke out against what he described as "illegality" in the former UWP government, in which he was housing minster.
"In August 2011, when I was getting ready to be kicked out of Cabinet, there was illegality in the government. A company received $2.443 million of taxpayers’ money before they had a ‘bobcat or wheelbarrow’ on the site and the project, sadly, is yet to be completed. I need to ask those persons, had it been their money, would they have taken it and given it to a contractor before they had a sod turning ceremony?
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. I will not be silenced. No one can fire me, because no one hired me," Frederick, the member for Castries Central, said.
Three brothers of UWP MP Guy Joseph allegedly received over $700,000 in immediate clean up works post hurricane Tomas and at least $2.7 million in restoration works, in addition to $47,000 to clear a shed at the George F. L. Charles Airport for upgrade of terminal, work that allegedly never took place.
Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony took the opportunity for the first time to reveal the timeline and reasoning behind his call to meet with King, then leader of the opposition, immediately after the Christmas storm.
"Because of the nature of the disaster we faced, I had no time to plan and request the leader of the opposition's presence three or four days in advance.
In fact, I had a window available and I called him one hour before to advise him of my plans to meet. He said, ‘Mr Prime Minister, I will try my best to be there,’ and he did.
“I had no secret meeting with him before or after,” Anthony said.
King, in turn, addressed his controversial decision to attend the meeting with Anthony and other government officials.
"When I got that call, I moved. I moved when I thought of that police officer, Calvin Louis, who moved and gave his life to save another. I moved when I thought of these two brothers who perished,” King said.
In welcoming Rigobert as the new opposition leader, Anthony said the office of the leader of the opposition must be respected.
"When I faced the then leader of the opposition, I was always mindful of two things. Yes, he was leader of the opposition but also a former prime minister. Anyone who has served in that position (prime minister) deserves respect.
“When I was leader of the opposition, I knew what it felt like to be treated with scant regard. This why I made it a point of extending courtesies to the office of the leader of the opposition as they too have official business to conduct.
“The current leader of the opposition will get the same respect. We need to make peace with our past," Anthony said.