When Dr. Kenny Anthony took over the leadership of the Saint Lucia Labour Party in 1997, he was a colossus of a politician, meaning he commanded respect from both sides of the political aisle. The people in his chosen constituency, Vieux Fort South, gave him an enthusiastic welcome. When he won the seat that year, handsomely to say the least, he began a love affair with constituents that has not deteriorated into a divorce, nor a separation, irrespective of what has gone on in the constituency in the past, or the present.
This year will make it 26 unbroken years the former prime minister has been giving political representation to the people of Vieux Fort South. This can be translated to mean that Dr. Anthony, as the political leader of that constituency, has been looking out for constituents while carrying out the duties of his office as a minister of government. It can also mean that over the years, Dr. Anthony represented his constituents’ preferences.
The question arising is, how could the constituency be in the state of criminality that it is in today if Dr Anthony was and continues to do the above?
Could it be that Dr. Anthony’s representation diverged significantly from his constituents’ preferences, over the years, and that the end result is what we are experiencing in Vieux Fort South today?
These are serious questions worthy of discussion, in light of what is happening in the constituency today. Lest it be said that the questions are unfair to the former prime minister’s stewardship of his constituency, it must be remembered that at some point parliamentary representatives will find themselves at odds with their constituents’ preferences. This happens all the time.
Hence another question: What important factor/s could have driven such a divergence if indeed such is the case and what can be done to improve congruence?
We are also aware of the possibility that there may be no conflict of preferences between Dr Anthony and his constituents and he, over the years, has been giving and continues to give genuine and authentic, representation to the people of Vieux Fort South.
This raises yet another question: Assuming Vieux Fort South had and continues to have strong political and community leadership over the years, how then could it have fallen into the state of criminality it is in today?
Are we to assume that the political and community leaders over the past 25 years dropped the ball on their watch?
Prime Minister Philip J Pierre, at a press conference this week, spoke of targeting the constituency with more social intervention programmes, in an effort to create a more conducive and productive environment for residents.
We are not privy to the type of social intervention programmes the prime minister is referring to, however, we are skeptical of the impact of these programmes, because this is not the first time a prime minister has spoken of social, economic and other programmes for the southern part of the island.
Government after government has given the people an expectation that Vieux Fort would take an economic leap under their watch. Despite being home to an international airport, an industrial freezone and other economic activities, Vieux Fort, sadly, never took that leap.
Twenty-six unbroken years of being the parliamentary representative of a constituency in a country that is highly politically divided, is no small feat. It is a big deal. With the current state of affairs in Vieux Fort South, can anyone be faulted for saying that there could very well be an absence of committed leadership in the constituency?