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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :
Government's Attack on the NHS Bursary:
Health Workers Organising Themselves to Safeguard the Future of the Health Service
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Activists and friends of RCPB(ML) got together in London on January 3 for a New Year meeting and social event with the aim of giving impetus right at the beginning of the year to the work ahead in 2016.
Looking back on 2015, the participants reviewed the momentum that had been built up from the people's struggles. At the same time, the dangers inherent in a situation where political and economic power is concentrated in the hands of the financial oligarchy and the monopolies are very evident.
The situation clearly cries out for change. The people's yearnings and aspirations are not simply for a re-ordering of the old world, not simply for some reforms, but for some fundamental change, for a different kind of world in which the people are at the centre.
In Britain, the reactionary, pro-monopoly and anti-people nature of the anti-social offensive can be grasped simply by reviewing the legislation introduced by the Conservative government. The legislation is bankrupt in the sense that it does not embody the rule of law but is motivated by a vengeful desire to ensure the compliance of the people to the ruling elite and deprive the people of their rights. Whether one takes the counter-terrorism legislation, the hated Trade Union Bill, the attack on the vulnerable and the unemployed through the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, the privatisation of education through the Education and Adoption Bill, the attempt to renew the subjugation of Scotland through the Scotland Bill, or the Hitlerite drafting of the Immigration Bill, this is the case.
Thus arrangements have to be brought into being which favour the people and the exercise of their rights, not the dictate of the financial oligarchy. This is the essence of the aim of the people's movements which matured during 2015. They show how the people are fighting for their interests, but also to provide society with a new direction, indeed for a modern society run to fulfil the claims of all its members and to release the full potential of the human power which a socialised society is capable of. Thus there is the right to be involved in decision-making at every level of society. The anti-war movement and the movement against intervention and aggression abroad seeks to fulfil its aim to bring into being an anti-war government. The fight against privatisation and to safeguard the future of public services, of health and education, has the aim of guaranteeing the right to health care, education and the public good. The struggle against the decimation of the manufacturing base and for a change in the direction of the economy has the aim of achieving a sovereign economy where the potential of a socialised economy for the ever-increasing needs of the people is fulfilled.
The Old is trying to stop the New from coming into being, bringing about the destruction of the productive forces in the process. The issue of human rights, of democracy, of the direction of the economy are all fierce battlegrounds. The ruling elite defends the rights of private property. It imposes a neo-liberal austerity agenda on society. And it refuses to contemplate the renewal of the political process and institutions. At present what unites in action the progressive forces is the rejection and fight against the fraudulent austerity programme of the ruling elite and the fight for a future without war. The pro-austerity Westminster consensus has been challenged, but it is clear that what is going to be decisive in providing a resolution to the deep-seated problems existing in society is the conscious participation of the people. The initiative has to lie with the working class and people, and the developments in the people's resistance to the status quo and the frank injustice of the anti-social onslaught is a cause of much optimism for the future. The readiness of all sections of the people to fight, to endure sacrifice, get organised, investigate how the world is and glimpse the future of society is indeed a cause for optimism.
The people are resisting, and their sentiment and struggle is to put an end to austerity. Their forward-looking perspective is sharpening the vision of what a new society can be. Socialism inBritain cannot just be a phrase, is not just an aspiration some time in the future and in the meantime we engage in the day-to-day struggles. In that respect, the quality of getting together to discuss what is the way forward was what the Party's New Year event provided. The question was raised about an alternative strategy. The alternative strategy is working for the new, it is how step by step to get to where we want to be, how the working class and its allies must build on their own strength, develop their own organisational forms, their own theory and practical politics. The discussion about what constitutes a balanced economy, what constitutes a society where everyone finds their place and cultures flourish, is an essential component in unblocking the forward march of society, in opening the path to progress.
It was stressed a number of times during the discussion that the initiative must lie with the people. Holding the government to account does not mean putting pressure on them to solve the problems of society themselves. They are not going to change and operate in a pro-social fashion. This is one of the strengths of the anti-war movement, when the slogan is put forward for an anti-war government. It is not saying: Westminster, you should be an anti-war government. If they are held to account they should be tried for their war crimes, like Blair should be tried for his war crimes. That is what holding the government to account means.
One of the crucial questions to consider in bringing about change is the question of What Kind of Party? It is something we think is open for discussion, something which everyone should be discussing. These things are not cut-and-dried, that there are old types of parties and new types of parties. Yes, we are a Party of a new type. But what does that mean? The meeting encouraged everyone to join that discussion, as part of getting organised, as part of implementing the independent programme of the working class, of basing ourselves on a modern definition of rights.
The participants in the New Year event concluded that 2016 is going to be a very exciting year. The Party said that 2015 was going to be a year of change and the people's movement has proved itself. Now we must organise so that the torrent of the people's movement must gather strength to break these blocks, to turn the tide of history. This is the challenge that is facing us all, and this is what we call on everyone, the whole people to take up.
The New Year event continued with a lively and militant social, with great spirit. It included an inspiring cultural programme, in which as well as music of taking stock, new music written for ongoing struggles was performed. The whole gathering joined in songs taking up aspects of the people's struggles and of what is best in the people's culture.
The whole event was assessed as one which captured the momentum built up during 2015 and over many years, and one which inspired the participants to take up the challenges of 2016, to go all out to defeat the austerity agenda, work to bring into being an anti-war government and organise the working class and people for change.
2015 was a significant year regarding the space for change developing around the necessity for democratic renewal, a year that has in certain respects changed the situation.
Beginning with the general election in May, this was an election that had the feel of a battleground. The key election issue was to defeat austerity, expressed through a defeat of the Conservative-Liberal coalition. In Scotland, the issue was also sovereignty in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum the previous year.
The general background was growing frustration with the decision-making process and the party-dominated system of representative democracy – what has become termed the cartel party system – and the lack of any say over the direction of the economy. In other words, people were sick and tired of the big Westminster parties and their common and constant mantra of cuts. These parties were suffering a serious crisis of legitimacy and there was a growing search for alternatives.
In this context, the intervention of parties other than the big parties, which took a stand against austerity, became the prominent feature of the election. These parties started taking the agenda away from how the establishment, the ruling circles, big parties and media acting in their service, wanted it to be set, and a clear line of demarcation formed in the election over the issue of austerity between these parties and the parties of the establishment.
The election revealed the extent to which the cartel party system itself is in crisis. When the cartel party system was in its heyday, the role of elections had become the staging of electoral coups d’état to resolve who would be the champion of the interests of the monopolies and to establish a parliamentary consensus around those interests, setting the terms within which the major parties collude and compete for power. A classic example was the victory in 1997 of Tony Blair, who championed the interests of the monopolies under the slogan “Make Britain Great Again” and created a consensus under his “Third Way”, which finally rendered obsolete the old political theory of party in power and party in opposition as one that reasonably accommodates various interests and social bases.
However, the 2015 election resolved neither a champion nor a consensus. Instead, an unstable situation has resulted in which the pro-austerity and anti-austerity agendas are in collision. In Scottish constituencies, the consistent stand of the SNP and the repercussions of the referendum resulted in an historic landslide victory for the SNP, which has changed the balance of forces in Westminster. The coalition itself was rejected, with the Liberal Democrats all but obliterated. Small-party candidates that represented the alternative in various ways achieved an unprecedented share of the vote.
A sentiment for something new had taken hold of the electorate, while the election was marked by a lack of predictability, with fear-mongering, hysteria and incoherence characterising the negative campaign of the incumbent parties. The Conservatives managed to steal a majority out of the situation through their own negative campaign as well as the lack of a coherent alternative by the Labour Party. The election therefore showed that the modus operandi remains the staging of electoral coups through campaigns of disinformation, and increasingly, of fear.
The Conservative majority could not in any way be said to represent the popular will. It only sharpened further their crisis of legitimacy and the crisis of representative democracy in general. It simply raises the question: What can people do about an electoral system that does not represent the popular will?
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party in September has taken these developments yet further. Corbyn has said that a fuse has been lit for a new kind of politics. With this outcome, his campaign stressed, it is clear that a fundamental change of approach to politics is long overdue.
The question is: what is the essence of this new politics that is required? These events have seriously upset the cartel party system, but that system still operates. The entire establishment has been against Corbyn, making even opposition very difficult. One can see how an uncompromised anti-austerity government simply would not be permitted, as can be seen in other countries across Europe at this time, such as Greece.
The in-power/in-opposition model is itself no longer a guarantee of democracy and is actually a block to empowerment. Progress can only be made when people start making material demands about what kind of democracy is needed, from their own standpoint. Democracy is not an abstract concept: it has a content and must represent their interests. Its forms must reflect the aim of representing the popular will, an aim that is not even recognised at present. It has to be constitutionally based on the sovereignty of the people, with the executive held subordinate to the legislature and the legislature subordinate to the people as a whole. With this aim and constitutional basis, the role of political parties needs to be addressed.
In this sense, it could be said that the significance of 2015 actually began in 2014 with the Scottish referendum. In that referendum, the proposed new written Scottish constitution opened with the declaration that, in Scotland, the people are sovereign. Even to put that on the agenda was very significant and goes to the heart of the historical constitutional contradictions of the British state.
The British government has sought to occupy the space that this has opened up in the interests of the ruling elite, as well as their own narrow interests as the Conservative Party. Therefore, in constitutional changes that were railroaded through parliament, the Commons approved in October the proposed new Standing Orders of the House of Commons known as “English Votes for English Laws”, as a means to marginalise the now potentially powerful Scottish voice in Westminster.
2015 changed the political reality in ways that are still unfolding. Whatever the outcome of these developments, the issue is to develop the initiative of the people and the independent politics of the working class in this situation. The characteristic of the new politics is the conscious participation of the population. The space for change has widened, putting even more emphasis on the need for people to occupy this space in favour of democratic renewal.
Government's Attack on the NHS Bursary:
On November 25, 2015, changes in the government's Spending Review will mean that from 2017/18 (August 1, 2017) new students on nursing, midwifery and Associated Health Professional (AHP) pre-registration courses which lead on to qualification with one of the health professional regulators in England will take out maintenance and tuition loans like other students rather than getting an NHS grant, known as a nurse training bursary. This latest move by the government has been met by universal condemnation. The Scottish government, the Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly are refusing to implement the changes with Scotland continuing to uphold non-repayable grants for all students at Scottish universities. The measures are also opposed by trade unions and professional bodies representing health workers, and opposition from student nurses and health workers is building. On January 9, mass protests were organised in London, Manchester, Newcastle and other cities. More than 150,000 people have signed an online petition against the cuts to these student grants which forced the government to debate the issue in Parliament. In this debate on January 11, Shadow Secretary of State for Health Heidi Alexander said that she served notice on the Minister and that “the Opposition will oppose the plans every step of the way”.
With this latest attack on the livelihood of working people, the government intends to plunge student nurses, midwives, paramedics and those studying radiography, radiotherapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, chiropody and speech and language therapy into massive debt before they even qualify. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health Ben Gummer in the January 11 Commons debate admitted that the limit on government funded NHS nurse places was the cause of the crisis in nursing numbers. The Minister, with the usual perverse thinking with which the government implements all its fraudulent austerity programmes, then went on to say that the solution is to cut the bursary and replace it with a student loan. Rather than increase the number of training places on the NHS bursary he said that “we want to expand the number of places so that people get the chance to become a nurse, but within the current spending envelope”!
In this way the government engages in an even worse anti-social measure as a solution to a previous anti-social measure that is now in crisis. The crisis of the supply of nurses and nurse training is deepened just as it is in every other field, or sector of the economy. It is this anti-social, pro-austerity consensus direction of successive governments that is causing the destruction of any semblance of coherence in public services and the economy. This is affecting the livelihoods and social well being of all except the minority who stand to increase their wealth through the interest on student loans, nurse agencies and other private monopolies, and so on.
The fact is that the start of this most serious crisis in nurse training and the supply of trained nurses for the NHS can be traced back to the Labour government and Project 2000. Project 2000 shifted the training from teaching hospital based schools to University based training, in one stroke reducing the numbers of new nurses trained. Hospital and community services no longer had direct control of the numbers required to provide the NHS services at their hospitals. At the same time, theNHS salary to student nurses was replaced by a lower paid NHS bursary. In 2010, with the coming to power of the Coalition government, even these inadequate nurse training places were reduced. Government cut the number of places in England from 20,829 in 2009/10 to 17,219 in 2012/13 with 19,206 in 2013/14. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had estimated that there are around 100,000 applicants a year for theses 20,000 training places in Britain and that this was storing up a huge crisis of the nursing numbers required by the NHS. In this climate, hospitals and community services are now forced to rely more and more on recruitment from overseas, or use expensive nurse agency companies. For example, hospitals now recruit from poorer countries that can ill afford to lose their health workers such as the Philippines, India and Spain. In 2014, hospitals recruited some 5,778 nurses from abroad.
The problem is that successive governments do not represent the interests of society and the public good but represent the monopolies, with their privatising capital centred interests. Many MPsi particularly on the government benches are directly involved in private health companies, including nurse agencies, and drug companies all profiting from the NHS. Yet cynically the government wants to saddle student nurses with £30-50,000 debt and £900 taken out of their annual salary as soon as they start work. How does that improve the health care system and how can such a vicious attack on the livelihood of student nurses, midwives and other health professionals be passed off as a solution to expanding nurse training in England?
Health care is a right and not a privilege and can only be provided a guarantee if the government sets a pro-social direction to meet those needs in full. What must be upheld is that government and health authorities are responsible to undertake the training and nurturing of the next generation of health workers so that they can perform at the highest level in serving the needs of the people.
The issue facing health workers is that in fighting to defeat this latest attack on trainee nurses, midwives and other AHP health professionals the challenge that has to be accepted is that none of these problems facing society are going to be sorted out unless the people who provide health care are also involved in arriving at the decisions. The government has shown that in spite of significant victories of the people to safeguard the NHS the government just comes back with more attacks. In other words health workers must organise to empower themselves to make the decisions. All these questions of the best way to train nurses, doctors and provide the health services and so on can then be properly sorted out in a coherent way. The challenge is for the health workers' movement and the working class generally to build the opposition to these latest cuts and start to turn things around with their own programme and organisation to provide the alternative solutions to all the problems facing health workers and society.
i225 parliamentarians have recent or present
financial private healthcare connections
Among the many meetings held to meet with and express solidarity with the junior doctors in their struggle and defend the student nurse bursaries was one on Saturday, January 23, called by Waltham Forest Save Our NHS.
The organisers pointed out that despite the junior doctors re-entering talks in good faith, the government has failed to provide them with reassurances on key areas around contractual safeguards and anti-social hours. The stand of the junior doctors is to prevent a contract being imposed which would be unfair for the doctors and unsafe for patients. This stand is one of fighting to safeguard the future of the NHS.
The removal of safeguards on hours would risk exposing patients to doctors working dangerously long hours. It is the case that the junior doctors must win their battle also to prevent the government then imposing contracts on nurses and other NHS staff.
The government has also widened its assault on the NHS by threatening to cut student nurse bursaries. The conclusion which is being drawn is that all the attacks on pay and conditions are a component part of paving the way for further privatisation of the NHS.
junior doctors, healthcare students and all NHS staff!
Safeguard the future of the NHS!
Lewisham Luton and Dunstable
South Tyneside Scotland
Prime Minister David Cameron must be condemned for the outrageous comments made last week in The Times and elsewhere in which he claimed that a lack of ability to speak English was connected with what he referred to as an “alarming picture” of isolation facing some Muslim women. He even announced plans to deport some new migrants if they subsequently failed language tests two and a half years after entering Britain on a spousal visa, and announced £20m for the provision of English classes for “women who are isolated”. The Prime Minister then went on to claim that an inability to speak good English and what he called “separate development” and the “development of parallel communities” was not only responsible for “aiding men” who hold a “damaging control” over women in some communities but might also “help a young person’s slide towards radicalisation”.
Cameron’s provocative comments were presented in the context of upholding the rights of women, building “One Nation”, upholding “our liberal values”, and ending what he referred to as the strategy of “passive tolerance”. However, his efforts did nothing to hide the openly racist nature of the article which singled out “migrants”,Muslim women and people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin in particular. Cameron’s comments, which were repeated in subsequent interviews, were immediately and widely condemned. Baroness Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative Party, asked why proficiency in English was being linked with “terrorism” and why Muslim women were being singled out. Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was amongst many who pointed out that the Conservative government as part of its austerity agenda had already cut the budget for English language classes by over £45m, as part of over £400m in cuts to the adult skills budget. The National Association for Teaching Community Languages to Adults pointed out that these swingeing cuts have already led to a 42% drop in the number of migrants, nearly 40,000 people, unable to take English classes.
The Prime Minister's comments point to the openly racist nature of the British state and the fact that it refuses to treat all citizens equally, solely on the basis that all are human and belong to the same polity. Cameron’s comments seek to perpetuate the Eurocentric notion that there are first and second class citizens on the basis of language, nationality, religion or some other consideration. What is more, Cameron wishes to find new means by which to deprive certain section of the population of citizenship. How is it possible to speak of the need for “integration” in such circumstances? What is exposed is the fact that Cameron’s “liberal values” are based on those of his 19th century predecessors who also spoke of “liberty, equality and mutual tolerance” while engaged in the bloodthirsty task of establishing the Empire and oppressing its inhabitants. Cameron writes of the alleged dilemma of some young people who are “struggling to identify with western culture” in an openly Eurocentric way that infersthat their national culture and language is backward and inferior. What is required and must be fought for by all is rather a modern society that defends the equality of all cultures and languages in Britain, that guarantees citizenship rights solely on the basis that we are all human.
Of course, there is also the need for the renewal in all national cultures to combat harmful notions and practices but this must be carried out by the people themselves not based on the Eurocentric diktat of others. What is clearly required is the renewal of the entire political process in Britain as part and parcel of the people empowering themselves and becoming the decision makers. As some commentators have pointed out this week if there is “isolation” it is perpetuated by a political system which disempowers the people, while accommodating and rewarding those who defend its Eurocentric values. What is required is the building of a new society which guarantees the rights of women, youth, workers, the national rights of all people and the rights of all to determine their own futures.
The Prime Minister made much of the “liberal values” which he claimed to be upholding but it cannot be denied that these are the same 19th century “values” which provide the justification for state terrorism, for military and economic interference throughout the world and even the invasion of other sovereign countries. It is the also upholding of such values which has created the unstable conditions and poverty which have led to an exodus of millions ofrefugees and migrants as well as the destabilisation of entire regions. Such values attempt to justify the austerity measures which are based on the principle of paying the rich and giving them first claim on the national wealth which has been created by the workers of Britain and other countries. These “liberal values” which the government and their allies wish to speak of as “universal values” only represent the interests of the financial institutions and monopolies. The Prime Minister cannot claim that these are values that are upheld by the majority of people in Britain, nor can the government demand that anyone adheres to its values, since all have the right of conscience.
David Cameron’s comments were clearly designed as an attempt to attack certain sections of the population as the basis for attacking the right of all, to promote racism and Eurocentric notions, to create confusion as to the nature of “extremism” as well as presenting his government as the defenders of enlightened values. Rather it has exposed the fact that it is the government and its values that are increasingly isolated and the need for people of all nationalities to step up their struggle in the defence of the rights of all.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced on January 6 that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Immediately there was an anti-communist hue and cry that that country had dared to join the nuclear-weapon-bearing states. Turning truth on its head, the DPRK is painted as the country threatening others. This counterfeit “outrage” is designed to cover up the crimes being committed by the US-led imperialist system of states, including Britain, who are the threat to the sovereignty and integrity of so many countries across the globe, and who openly speak of regime change and take steps to carry out that threat.
The DPRK has drawn the legitimate conclusion that in these circumstances it must develop nuclear weapons to defend itself, stymie all the plans of the Anglo-US imperialists for regime change, and maintain the peace. It is not legitimate of the US and its allies, not to mention the UN Security Council under their domination, to absolve themselves of responsibility, play the thread-bare human rights card, and seek to isolate the DPRK and other countries that will not bow to their dictate. The United Nations has the responsibility to take a stand against international aggression. But it has long since abandoned this and in these circumstances the DPRK cannot be condemned for taking the measures that it has done to deter aggression and prevent regime change.
The facts of the matter are that it is the development and criminal use of nuclear weapons by the US imperialists that have led to a nuclear arms race in the first place. The US imperialists are the ones threatening to wipe out humankind. They are the only ones who have taken the criminal step of using nuclear bombs in warfare which they did against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to attempt to establish their global hegemony at the end of the Second World War. They will never be forgiven for this crime, nor for that matter for the crimes they committed on the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War of 1950-1953 when the use of nuclear weapons was also considered when the US was facing imminent defeat. These monstrous acts of the US imperialists have demonstrated to the Korean people of the DPRK that there is a serious threat of nuclear annihilation and that they must take decisive steps. Neither has the DPRK got its eyes shut to the imperialists' strategic plans for East Asia, the increasing concentration of US military forces in the South China Sea, and the Obama administration's conception of a “Pivot to Asia”.
And it is the US who today is the one carrying out nuclear blackmail against the DPRK, threatening it with pre-emptive nuclear strikes. It is the US which is carrying out annual warmongering manoeuvres off the shore of the Korean Peninsula with south Korea and Japan, which has its troops and nuclear weapons stationed in the south, which carries out exercises simulating regime change in the north, including the use of B-52 bombers. It is any wonder that the DPRK takes seriously the threats to its sovereignty and independence, and responds with its own nuclear deterrent?
The nuclear hysteria of the US and its allies aimed at the DPRK should be opposed. It is the countries with the biggest nuclear stockpiles which must disarm their nuclear arsenals and remove all their weapons and troops from foreign soil. This is the pre-condition for a nuclear-free world which is the demand of all humanity. When the US and all other nuclear weapons states give up their nuclear weapons, there will be no need for the DPRK to develop a nuclear weapons programme either.
The government of the DPRK pointed out in its January 6 statement that the hydrogen bomb test “is a measure for self-defence the DPRK has taken to firmly protect its sovereignty [...] from the ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the U.S.-led hostile forces and to reliably safeguard peace on the Korean peninsula [...]” The statement also affirmed that the DPRK is a “genuine peace-loving state which has made all efforts to protect peace on the Korean peninsula” and that it would not use its nuclear weapons to commit aggression against another country nor would it suspend its nuclear weapons programme unless the “US rolled back its vicious hostile policy” towards it. It is quite clear that the US must end its hostile policy towards the DPRK, remove its 28,000 troops from the Korean Peninsula and sign a peace treaty with the DPRK to draw a line under the Korean War. This would ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and permit the people of Korea and East Asia to live in peace. When that is done there would be no necessity for the DPRK to develop its nuclear weapons in self-defence. And until that is done, in the face of nuclear blackmail and the most egregious hypocrisy of the Anglo-American imperialists, the DPRK has the right to develop and test the H-bomb.
The peace-loving people of the world must direct their anger and outrage against the US and its allies, including Britain, who are the ones bringing the world to the edge of a nuclear catastrophe. The working class and people must take up in all earnest their own quest for an anti-war government to act as a block to aggression, nuclear blackmail, the use of force to settle international affairs and the most unjust plans to topple sovereign governments. The democratic forces should take a stand to further develop friendship and solidarity with the DPRK in its heroic path of defending its sovereignty and independence in the face of all the threats to this sovereignty and independence by the US imperialists and the big powers.
Workers' Weekly Correspondent in the Caribbean
On January 12, the US embassy to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean issued a statement in which it called on the government of St Lucia to act with regard to the alleged extra-judicial killings carried out by members of the Royal St Lucia Police Force in the period 2010-2011. It also demanded action on the findings of the Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) investigation into these killings which were issued in March 2015. The US embassy declared that it was urging the government of St Lucia to uphold the rule of law and further stated that the measures taken so far by both the St Lucian government and police force were insufficient to demonstrate St Lucia’s “commitment to the rule of law”.
Two days later, an EU delegation led by Mikael Barford, the EU ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean Countries, and including the British High Commissioner based in Barbados and the French ambassador based in St Lucia met with St Lucia’s Prime Minister, Kenny Anthony, to further address this issue. Speaking to a press conference following this meeting, Barford declared that the St Lucia government has to take action on the IMPACS report in order to demonstrate that it upholds the principle of the rule of law. He demanded that the vacant positions of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and their deputy be quickly filled and that the government make available resources for these to carry out their work. He added that the EU delegation had plans to meet with the opposition to discuss this matter and stated that failure of the St Lucia government to act in the ways stipulated by the EU would have a negative effect on St Lucia’s tourism industry which is the mainstay of the country’s economy.
The US embassy statement and the EU delegation’s meeting with Kenny Anthony represent a gross interference by these big powers into St Lucia’s internal affairs. It is of course also rather ironic that those who are today lecturing St Lucia on upholding the “rule of law” and defending human rights have themselves abandoned the rule of law with their own sordid history of extra-judicial killings, torture and gross human rights violations. From the destruction of Iraq and Libya, through to the assassination of numerous individuals both with drones and other means and their well-publicised torture chambers in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Camp Bastion and elsewhere, the US, British, French and other EU governments have disqualified themselves from lecturing anyone, including St Lucians, on upholding the rule of law and defending human rights. It is rather ironic that while the US government is demanding that St Lucia demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law by prosecuting those police officers accused of extra-judicial killings, in the US itself police officers are routinely killing black people and walking free without any sign of a prosecution. It would not be surprising if St Lucia and other Caribbean governments were to turn round and call on the US government itself to “demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law”.
The colonialist arrogance of both the US and EU and their gross interference in the region’s affairs highlights for the people of the Caribbean the urgent need to change their political and social reality so that their formal independence becomes something real. There is no justification for the extra-judicial killing of citizens by the law enforcement agencies but this problem has to be addressed at its roots. The reality is that the modern Caribbean, established on the basis of genocide, slavery and colonialism, has never been geared to meeting the needs of the Caribbean people. In fact, it is precisely the old and new colonial powers of Europe and North America which have done immense damage to the region, by plundering its human and natural resources. The extent of this damage can be seen that there has always been a steady stream of Caribbean emigration from what are some of the most beautiful islands on the planet.
Today the situation is being worsened by the blind application of the neo-liberal economic dogmas which are being demanded by the US and EU and the organisations they control like the World Bank and IMF. These dogmas are not providing employment for the youth, who are becoming increasingly desperate. Inherited colonial structures are out of kilter with the need for justice. In many Caribbean countries, including St Lucia, the old colonial judicial system has proved itself unfit for purpose. It is clear that St Lucians, like other Caribbean people, have to remake their societies based on their own needs and experience, rejecting high-handed interference which blocks the renewal of their societies.
The US and the EU must end their interference in the affairs of the Caribbean peoples forthwith.
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