CASTRIES, St Lucia -- The decision by the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) to abolish local government elections throughout the island in 1979 and to replace elected representatives with handpicked party loyalists may have contributed to much of the social degradation and the polarization of local communities that exists in Saint Lucia today, according to the Lucian People's Movement (LPM).
Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) leader Therold Prudent
The LPM leader Therold Prudent said, “The current system of local government shows a blatant disregard for the democratic process. It has created a dysfunctional and unproductive bureaucracy consisting largely of political zealots who lack the will to advance a progressive agenda to help transform their communities. Moreover, since the only requirement for becoming a councillor is an affirmation of loyalty to the ruling party, it is not at all difficult to understand why those appointed may not feel that they are answerable to the people whom they purport to serve.”
Prudent added, “The SLP should be chastised for its reckless actions in 1979. These have contributed to the destruction of the authority, structure, independence, and progressive dynamism with which local governments had previously operated. Much of the blame should also be shouldered by the United Workers Party, which upon resuming office in 1982, and for the next 20 years, failed to correct the dangerous precedent set by the SLP.”
Saint Lucia's system of local government, as currently instituted, said the LPM, does not lend itself to attracting quality persons with a deep commitment to community development.
Prudent stated, “Since the narrow focus of the ruling party is to extend its political dominance and control, even in communities where parliamentary representatives from their side were not elected, those who may possess the qualities required to help develop their respective communities are systematically overlooked or may decide against offering themselves to serve because of the selection process.”
The LPM said that all communities on the island could be revitalized if the SLP were serious about fulfilling its electoral promise of holding local government elections. This would be a progressive move that would return the island to its former status as a fully-fledged democracy that reflects the will of all the people at all levels of governance. All persons who desire to serve as councillors would then be able to present the reasons to the people that they should be elected, and once elected, they would have the legitimacy that comes with the approval and support of the voters. These representatives would have the opportunity to openly debate and present their plans for community development.
Prudent said, “Given the serious social erosion of the people's community spirit, the LPM is firmly of the view that it is incumbent upon Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony and the minister responsible for local government, the Hon. Harold Dalson, to provide the nation with a timetable for restoring elected local governments throughout the island.”
The LPM said it believes that the two years since the narrow return of the SLP to office is more than sufficient time for the government to have drafted a credible proposal for holding elections. It should also provide a blueprint for how much power will be transferred from the central government in Castries to the local town and village councils, including the structure and operational framework of these public bodies.
Democracy, insisted Prudent, is about getting the people involved in the governance of the country so that a national consensus for its progressive development can be achieved.