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Transcript of PM's Interview on WIBDECO - October 2, 1998

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Already the media has quoted Mr. Guy Mayers, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, as suggesting that the Prime Minister of St. Lucia is passing the buck and Parliament should amend the dissolution act to create a level playing field. I have written to Mr. Mayers expressing my concern at his statements and I expect that he should receive a letter from me some time today.

But I have to tell you that, having read the WIBDECOí s letter, I was astounded. Certainly in my view, the statement conveyed by WIBDECO is simply wrong and unacceptable, and the reasoning, particularly the legal reasoning invoked by WIBDECO is misguided and erroneous.

Let me explain and clarify. Prior to the dissolution act, there were several pieces of legislation that governed affairs in the Banana Industry. In the old SLBGA enacted some time in 1967, there was a section in that act that made it mandatory for banana farmers to sell all their bananas to the SLBGA. In other words, it was a form of compulsion. It was compulsory association. Now very clearly once St. Lucia established a bill of rights, and in particular, once it accepted to be governed by an independence constitution, that section would have been rendered null and void because it was patently unconstitutional. In other words, WIBDECO cannot rely on section seven (7) of the old SLBGA act, simply because it is null and void, and a reasoning based on that is at best, very spurious.

Let me put it differently. Section seven of the old SLBGA act falls automatically because it conflicts with the constitution of St. Lucia. Now the argument that is being used by some, is that since the dissolution act speaks of preserving rights and privileges, then the dissolution act preserves the right of the association, meaning the successor the SLBGA, to be the sole agent for all producers of bananas in St. Lucia.

It was never the intention of Parliament and it was not within the contemplation of Parliament when the word "rights" or "privileges" were used in that section to have that meaning and in my view, it does not. Surely if section seven is null and void because it is unconstitutional, how on earth could it be possibly imported into the section when it falls by the wayside. This is very basic common sense, very basic constitutional law. And when the Government enacted section 3 or when Parliament enacted section 3, it did say knowing full well that section seven was unconstitutional and it had fallen by the wayside because of itís unconstitutionality. It is as simple as that.

Now in my own view misguided is the proper word to use in that situation, and really I believe that WIBDECO needs to correct itís posture on this matter as soon as possible. In my own view WIBDECO must move speedily to remove all barriers - artificial or otherwise - to purchasing food from the Tropical Quality Food Company. The Government of St. Lucia will not accept a situation where WIBDECO does not purchase fruit from that company. It is not consistent with the spirit of competition, itís policy of competition and if Tropical Fruits decide to sue WIBDECO on grounds other than the constitutionality of the dissolution act, the Government will have no hesitation in suing Tropical Fruits. So Iím hoping that WIBDECO understands the position fully and that it revisits its position on this matter.

No no no Iím saying that if Tropical Fruits decide to sue WIBDECO for not purchasing his fruits on grounds other the constitutionality of the dissolution act, once you are contesting

 

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