By Stanford Conway
With music blaring from speakers of Calypso Reggie’s vehicle, hundreds of placard-bearing Kittitians marched through the streets of Basseterre in protest of the recent hike in the fuel surcharge on electricity and taxes imposed on a number of commodities and services.
According to a member of the organising committee, Elsroy Dorset, judging from the public’s response, the march will generate a lot of interest from both the government and citizens alike.
“Now that the protest march is over and judging from the turnout we had, lets us now wait and see what decision the government will make in regards to the fuel surcharge. We will then plan our next move from there,” said Dorset.
Another committee member, Walford Arthurton, expressed his appreciation to the general public for giving support to what he called a peaceful and non-partisan protest march.
“I would like to thank the general public for coming out in such a great number. I was really surprised at the mammoth that turned out…I did not expect to see so many people. I estimated the crowd to be about 5,000 people, including marchers and by-standers.
“I hope that the government gets the message that the people mean business. I hope that the government understands that they have to make a move now by stopping the fuel surcharge,” said Arthurton.
Arthurton noted that the protest march would have ended with a rally. He said among those he invited to address the public was the People’s Action Movement Parliamentary Representative of Constituency Number Three Shawn Richards.
“We expect to have a number of prominent citizens speaking at the rally and I wanted to do something but hope that people will not look at it to some form of political act. This is a non-partisan event but I would like the only Parliamentarian on the opposition bench to make a speech, because I believe he is the one to carry back the message to the government,” Arthurton said.
He was however uncertain if Richards would have taken up the challenge, and up to press time The Observer could not have ascertain his participation because of the late start of the rally.
Among the many placards were some that read, “You have betrayed the people’s trust”; “From modern days back to bore hole, can lamp, tin tin bath from a caring government – Mudoo de poor can’t take it no more”; “Douglas you lie to get in your lies will get you out”; and “Lord ah can’t tek it no more give me back the government I had before – Lord have mercy on us”.
In recent weeks, the organisers complained of not being permitted to launch the protest march. This led to a heated debate on WINN FM’s Voices programme leading to controversy in which Commissioner of Police Robert Jeffers had to clear the air on the Public Meeting and Procession Act 4 of 1969.
The Commissioner, on his return from St. Thomas, USVI issued a letter to the organisers granting them permission to proceed with the protest march.
Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas also addressed the issue of fuel surcharge at a recent press conference with members of the local media houses and stated a task force was charged to review the formula used for billing consumers of electricity.