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PM Repeats Challenge to UWP to Debate Issues Ahead of Elections

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Contact: Prime Minister's Press Secretary

Friday, January 13, 2006 - With General Elections approaching, Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony has again publicly challenged the United Workers Party (UWP) and its Leader, Sir John Compton, to engage in a series of public debates on national issues with the ruling St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP). Through such debates, the Prime Minister says, the parties can discuss issues such as the economy, crime, tourism, bananas, and education.

According to Dr Anthony: “That way, citizens will better understand the positions of the parties on those issues and thus be in a better position than they are now to make informed choices.”

Said the Prime Minister yesterday: “I don't know why the UWP is resisting our invitation to debate. They say they have the candidates and they have the answers, so why are they afraid?

“Now is a good time to debate the issues, as elections are approaching and the UWP continues to criticise the Government on the same issues all the time.”

Dr Anthony said: “Sir John says tourism is a 'mess of pottage', despite the impressive performance of that sector this year. So, let us debate the future and potential of tourism.”

He continued: “Sir John tells the farmers he can bring back the glory days of bananas. But is that possible when protection for bananas has ceased in the UK and Europe?

“This government will later this year provide every primary school child with a place in a secondary school. We will then have introduced Universal Secondary Education. Where do we go from here? What is the future of education? This is an issue we must debate.

“What are their policies and principles to fight crime? It is their favourite issue. They pillory the government and say we can't handle crime, so let's debate to tell the people how they will handle crime, if elected.”

Said the SLP Leader: “We are ready, but it seems they are afraid and I don't know why.”

He said the SLP was “ready and willing to engage the UWP in these debates, beginning with the spokespersons debating various topics first and Sir John and I can then debate the economy nearer the election.”

Dr Anthony said he was aware that the UWP had rejected his party's challenge last year, but he hoped Sir John and the UWP Chairman would take up the challenge this year, “as a General Election is months away and the debates will provide people with the information they need to make choices when the time comes.”

In April 2005, following a recorded in-house televised discussion on the 2005 Budget by Sir John and other leading members of the UWP, the SLP issued a formal challenge to the UWP to begin a series of debates on national issues.

Dr Anthony said then that it was important that the contending parties engage in “a series of debates that will be credible, with participation by representatives of both political parties and participation by journalists who are independent and fair.”

He also proposed that “members of the public should be invited to pose questions to the spokespersons of the contending parties, in much the same way that Presidential Election debates take place in the USA.”

The SLP Leader proposed that the debates could now begin between spokespersons of the parties on the issues, and at some point, the two Party Leaders would engage. He said the SLP was “ready and willing, as soon as the UWP is ready, to name a delegation to meet with the UWP to discuss and advance the proposals.”

In response, UWP Chairman Stephenson King, turned down the invitation to debate.

However, Prime Minister Anthony says: “Now that elections are in the air again, it's a good time to begin the debate.”

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