By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia – Last year, the National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) applauded repairs to some of the island’s hazardous roads; albeit, the competence of senior minister and minister for infrastructure, ports, transport, physical development and urban renewal, Stephenson King; and skillset of his ministry “We cannot fix roads during the rainy season,” unable to prioritize a comprehensive road maintenance program, Saint Lucia’s approximate 500 miles of roads are now exceptionally deplorable to that of a “Pothole King” raising the outcry of nationals and motorists.
Earlier this month, the NCOPT’s public relations officer, Spencer Mc Phee complaint about poor road conditions – and as previously carved by NCOPT president Godfrey Ferdinand: “We need to ensure that these road improvements are not just quick fixes but part of a broader, ongoing strategy to maintain the integrity of our transportation infrastructure.”
To the surprise of many, former prime minister and senior minister King retort was haughty.
“I also would like the National Transportation Council to address the issues pertaining to minibus operators who are violating the laws, the laws which govern the operation of public transportation in Saint Lucia and others who are violating the rights of other people – the rights of young women and other people.”~ Stephenson King.
“I wish he would take back his words – apologise to the council,” NCOPT president Godfrey Ferdinand. “I think the minister should apologise publicly. I was shocked, taken aback by this.”
In the wake of the uncomfortable; is there a common thread of unlawful acts in the ministry of transportation that intercepts bad roads, potholes, and minibus operators, of alarming concerns to minister King and that is deep concern, and escapes the action and deliberation of law enforcement?
Are these so-called business people, persons of influence politically and religiously masked in full view of the undiscerning?
The recent disclosure of youthful exuberance and entanglements concerning government ministers and parliamentarians, add to the delinquency and convenience deeply rooted in Saint Lucian society.
In thriving democracies, ministers of government with low efficiency, poor decorum, and swaggers are disposed to the relics of history, except for the fragility of the government of Saint Lucia, men and women of low backbone, the only desire to hold on to power.
Moreover, the quenching of government bureaucracy buried in the dilemma between potholes and bus drivers are unable to realize the transportation sector.
According to the ministry of infrastructure, May 20, 2022 press release, “prime minister Philip J Pierre, the ministry of infrastructure, ports and transport, and permanent secretary Ivor Daniel, staged another round of discussions with the NCOPT.
Following the open, amicable and successful round of talks, the government of Saint Lucia and the NCOPT agreed in principle to the following:
1. Finalization of the 2013 bus fare review with a view of adoption of the new rates in July, 2022.
2. Continuation of existing duty-free concessions on vehicles for minibus operators.
3. Continuation of the waiver of route permit fees for another term.
4. Establishment of a disciplinary committee.
In addition, the department of infrastructure, ports and transport, along with the Road Transport Board are in the process of implementing the Sustainable Road Based Transport Study, funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
There are five objectives:
1. Review the policy, institutional and regulatory structures for operating public transport;
2. Identify operational measures to improve the efficiency and quality of public transport;
3. Develop recommendations for improved public transport infrastructure;
4. Provide support to government’s work on E Mobility consistent with the Framework of the Regional Electric Vehicle Transition Strategy;
5. Promote the use of public transport, noting the numerous social benefits.
“What do potholes have to do with disciplinary matters?”, NCOPT president Ferdinand inquired. “It’s the minister, within his ministry, that can discipline in terms of suspending a permit or revoking a permit.”
“We are only asking for the roads to be fixed,” NCOPT Council president Godfrey Ferdinand.
Trading potholes with disciplinary matters is not a single moment of weakness to mask ineptitude. In the current circumstance of “The Pothole King” (once referenced in political discourse as ‘the heavy roller’ vs the new quintessence ‘lazy roller’) it may have seemed an ideal getaway to discuss the shortcomings of his ministry and at least calm down concerns over the country’s bad roads in an endeavour to “putting the people first” on infrastructural development.
But abstract to main factors and prerequisites for intensive economic development, former prime minister and senior minister King may have advertised his sins and further quantified his shortcomings while demonising bus drivers.
It is extraordinary that the NCOPT and complaints from various sectors of society over bad roads were swapped into accusations of predatory behaviour. And, it is likewise instructive that former prime minister and currently senior minister King, is plausible knowledgeable to unlawful acts that law enforcement should be privy to – in the protection of minors, commuters and the public.
The underbelly of Saint Lucia’s reality points to the acceptance of unethical behaviour and disregard for the rule of law as a weapon of political correctness and vengeance.
The moral evolution and progressiveness that has stalled Saint Lucia’s development also point to the core behaviour embodied in Saint Lucia’s parliament and governance, subject to the oath of allegiance, the oath of office and the oath of secrecy – predisposed.
It is all well and good to use a “Heavy Roller” as a strategic advantage to win political favouritism, but when the “Heavy Roller” becomes a “ Lazy Roller” it is doomed to convenience, the comfort of hypocrisy and the reward of fracas.