Saturday 16 November, 2019

Pierre calls for citizen protest of 'horse before hospitals' govt

Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre gave the following statement during an SLP press conference earlier today, October 31, 2019:

"In the last few weeks, St. Lucians have witnessed a rush of activity geared towards the imminent opening of a Horse Racing Track in Vieux Fort which is supposed to be the first stage of the so called DSH Project, signed by Allen Chastanet’s Government in 2016 and which is being promoted as the government’s first major foreign investment in their three and a half years in government, notwithstanding the long list of potential investments they have messed up since assuming office. In one case costing the country upwards of $20 million which had to be paid in compensation to one investor.

Following the arrival in St. Lucia two weeks ago of 40 horses under police escort from the USA for the project, the Prime Minister and representatives of DSH, on Wednesday October 23rd, held a Press Launch for a horse racing festival scheduled for 13th December 2019. The zeal with which the Government has supported the launching of this Horse Racing Track sadly contrasts with its indifferent approach to resolving a health crisis in the country, a crisis largely of its own making.

A Government that hails the construction of a horse racing track as a major achievement for the country but at the same time halts the completion and commissioning of the country’s two urgently needed hospitals, is a Government that has prized horses over hospitals and has placed stables before hospital wards. It is a Government that is muddled in its thinking, retrogressive in its priorities and that has run off its tracks. For the welfare of the people of St. Lucia, it is a Government that must be reined in.

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The UWP Government has been attempting to mask the use of tax payers’ funds in the Horse Racing project by claiming that it is the investor who is responsible for all developments to date. The Government cannot hide the fact that in order to facilitate this horse racing venture, it has used public funds for the following: The building of a new road at a cost of $13M to replace the one condemned by the laying of the race track; the closure of the Beausejour Agricultural Station and recent selling off at knock-down prices of the majority of livestock kept there; the displacement of farmers who occupied land now leased to DSH; the decommissioning of the $24 million Meat Processing Plant located at Beausejour which was a gift from the Government of the Republic of China on Taiwan; the borrowing of $11 million from the NIC to purchase lands in Desruisseaux to locate a new Meat Processing plant; the tax payers of Saint Lucia without their knowledge have spent $48M even without valuing the Beausejour livestock farm. By the government’s own admission the tax payers have already invested more in DSH.

On the other hand, the Government stopped the reconstruction of the St. Jude Hospital in 2016 and after three and half years, has discarded that reconstructed facility as being below standard, without any proof of its claims, and is to replace it without any tender with another building to be completed in 18 months. Whatever the route the Government had chosen for the completion of St. Jude, if it had not stopped the project in July 2016, it would have been finished.

During those 42 wasted months, the staff and patients at St. Jude have continued to suffer while others have died in the substandard conditions at the George Odlum Stadium. As for the OKEU hospital, it is a shame that the Director General for International Development and Cooperation at the European Union, which donated the hospital to the people of St. Lucia, gave the Government a failing grade of 2 out of 10 for the non-functionality of the hospital after a visit to St. Lucia in September. This happened simply because once again, the Allen Chastanet government, on assuming office, fired the commissioning team led by Dr Stephen King that the SLP Government had appointed to undertake the move to the new hospital and consequently halted the move to the new facility. What is even more alarming is that all this was the result of Allen Chastanet negotiating with a foreign company, Cayman Health City, to take over the operations of the hospital.

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By its own actions, this UWP government has demonstrated that Health care in St. Lucia is not its priority and that it is more concerned with bringing festivals to the people. First, from 2017 it has been the Soleil Summer Festivals and now it is the Equine Cultural Festival. The Governance of a country is not about entertainment; The Governance of a Country is not a sport… not even for Kings. It is about the serious business of managing issues of life and death. The St. Lucia Labour Party therefore calls upon all good citizens of this island to join the movement in protesting and halting, the foolishness, the callousness, and misguided priorities of this Allen Chastanet led Government."

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