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Prime Minister on the Impending Election of a New SLBC Board - October 20, 1999

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Statement by the Honourable Prime Minister

Dr. Kenny D. Anthony


October 20, 1999

As concerned Saint Lucians we are all aware of the many external challenges facing the Banana Industry at this time. These challenges include: negotiating preferential market access which is WTO compatible, responding to downward price pressures caused by oversupply and meeting market demands for sustainable fruit quality. As long as we are in the banana business, these priorities must remain our principal focus.


In the meantime, however, we also face major challenges at home. I am referring here to the impending election of a new SLBC Board of Directors and the implications this bears for the industry. Let me start by saying that these are issues to be addressed and resolved as productively and peacefully as possible. The purpose of this statement is therefore to clarify Government’s perspective on the SLBC situation and to express our expectations for a peaceful and practical outcome to the current situation.

Kon ou sav, la ni plisye pwoblem ki ka afekte biznis fig-la. Nou vle vann fig nou dewo, nou vle jwen an bon pwi. Me la ni moun dewo ki pas vle zafe nou ale byen.

An memn tan-an, nou ni plisye bagai konsene fig an Sent-Lisi memn. Mwe ka pale di zafe SLBC, ek eleksyon-an yo kai ni pou mete an bod managman en plas. Mwen ka mande yo pou fe tout bagai an lape. Mwen ka pale epi’w jodi-an pou klawifiye posisyon gouvedman asou zafe SLBC.


For the last several weeks Government has kept what may best be described as a respectable distance from the SLBC situation. In fact there has been a deliberate effort on the part of Government not to be drawn into the unfolding SLBC leadership campaign. This should not be interpreted as passive indifference. It is the result of deep, sometimes painful reflection informed by the lessons of the past.

We are aware that many persons expect Government to intervene to bring a hasty conclusion to the current situation. However, that expectation is conditioned by past experience that we do not wish to repeat. This is not the time for heavy-handed Government intervention. Nor will this Government, this Prime Minister, knowingly favour one candidate against the other. This is a matter entirely for shareholder farmers to decide. We are confident that they are sufficiently enlightened and empowered to make such a determination and we have faith in their good judgement.

We say this because we know that successive government interventions merely imposed structures and processes that proved to be politically motivated, undemocratic and unsustainable. In this post-privatisation climate, such intervention by Government in the affairs of a private company would be foolhardy as well as unconstitutional.

We also believe that the current SLBC situation is an inevitable part of a natural transition within any recently restructured industry. While the situation is far from perfect, we can only imagine the magnified impact it would have had on output if there were only one banana exporting company. As the competition between banana companies is healthy, so too is competition for more effective leadership within SLBC.

Kon ou sav, gouvedman pas vlé mele kon’y an zafe SLBC. Gouvedman pas mete ko’y an bagai ki ka konsene ki moun kai kontwole SLBC. Pis ou pas we gouvedman an zafe SLBC, sa pas vle di nou pas konsene.

Nou sav la ni moun ki vle gouvedman antwe zafe SLBC pou ede tout bagai fini vitman. Me nou tout sa chonje le dot gouvedman te fe sa. Nou pas te eme le yo te fe sa, ek nou pa vle fe sa anko. Gouvedman sa la pas kai mete lamen’y asou zafe SLBC.

Kon Pwimye Minis, mwen memn pas kai di mwen la pou yon kandida, ek mwen pas la pou an lot. Sa pas bon pou fe. Se pou fama-an deside ki moun yo vle pou kondwi zafe fig-yo. Nou sav yo sa fe sa, san diweksyon gouvedman.

Mwen ka di sa jodi-an, pis nou sav dot gouvedman te antwe zafe se fama-an, yo mete sa yo te vle asou se moun fig-la, ek le tout bagai fin, fig-la pas te ale pyes kote. Gouvedman sa la te ni pou antwe, ek ede fama-an pou soti an twou-an lot gouvedman-an te kite yo adan. Atjwelman, fama ka kondwi zafe fig, yo memn. Pyeson ni pou mete ko yo an zafe fama-an. Gouvedman kai ni to si yo antwe bagai se moun fig-la.

Asou an lot kote, nou kwe situasyon-an epi SLBC se an bagai nomal pou moun ki an biznis pou ko yo. La pa ni yon biznis fig an Sent Lisi jodi-an. Sa bon! Memn kon kompitisyon an se kompani-an bon, I bon pou la ni kompitisyon, le moun vle ofe ko yo pou kondwi zafe biznis-la.

DEMOCRacy at work

Let me say also that we are heartened by the maturity of the campaign being mounted. We note that there has been open lobbying, candid public meetings, direct appeals to shareholders and expressed commitment to change. What is more, the issues being debated are non-political. They relate almost entirely to management quality, price policy, accountability, debt management and dividend policy. These are business issues and we are in the banana business. It is on these critical issues that the campaign for leadership should be fought and Government is satisfied that this is democracy at work. This process should not be clouded or complicated by hasty government interference.

Government’s primary interest remains therefore an economic one. We are ultimately concerned that this campaign should restore stability to an industry that is at the heart of the economic wellbeing of our country. To date, our input has taken the form of quiet diplomacy, appeals for reason and creating opportunities for rational dialogue between contending parties. We wish to ensure that the effects of the situation should not destabilise the rest of the industry or the economy. Let me say however I am satisfied that to date the candidates for SLBC leadership have conducted themselves in a reasonably responsible manner. We expect this to continue.

As is their right, St Lucian farmers will on Monday elect a new Board of Directors for their company, the SLBC. That vote should be guided, not by petty or personal conflicts but by what is best for the company and for the industry. It is our hope and our expectation that the election of a new Board will proceed peacefully. It is our hope and expectation that the results will be accepted without rancour or fear of reprisal and that the outcome will be respected as the voice of a majority of shareholders.

Te mwen di’w osi, mwen ple epi manye se moun la ka fe kampain-la. Tout moun ka pale pou nou tout tann. Tout bagai dewo. Yo ka kwiye asou fama-an pou katchile asou sa yo ka di. Si ou koute, ou pa ka tann moun ka pale di politik. Sa yo ka diskite ka konsene kalite, pwi, zafe kompani-an. Tout sa se bagai biznis. Tout sa se bagai biznis fig. Se asou bagai biznis fig pou yo fe kampain yo. Gouvedman ka we demokrasi ka twavai atchwelman an fig-la. Gouvedman pa kai antwe zafe se moun-la.

Sa ka entewese gouvedman se manye finans SLBC kai kouwi. Se pou zafe fig-la weste twankil, si i kai pote lajan an peyi nou. Gouvedman pas kai vle eleksyon SLBC pou pote dezod an peyi-an. Nou pa kai vle eleksyon sa la pote dezod an endistwi-fig-la.

Le fama ale pou elekte moun pou kondwi zafe SLBC, nou ka espewe yo kai vote pou moun ki vle sa ki meye pou endistwi fig-la. Kite tout bagai pase an lape! Le tout moun fini vote, ek ou ni an wesulta, souple Misye ek Madamn Fama, mwen ka mande’w, aksepte vwa majowite-an.


In closing, I wish to remind all our farmers, that we must return as soon as possible to the business of banana production if we are not to lose more of our market share. The world is not waiting for us while we seek new mechanisms to govern our internal affairs. We must remember that there is a greater battle to be won. That battle faces all of us collectively and it is for the very survival of our industry. That battle requires our undivided attention to productivity, efficiency and profitability within an internationally competitive industry. That is the task and the greater challenge. After Monday, let us march quickly, decisively and collectively towards those goals.

Avan mwen ale, mwen ka mande tout fama pou wetoune vitman an biznis fig, si nou pas vle pedi sa nou ni deja. Moun dewo paka espewe nou. Se pou tout moun an biznis-fig fe tout efo pou asiwe kalite, pou asiwe bon pwoduksyon, pou asiwe nou fe lajen. Sa se twavay-la douvan nou. Apwe Lendi annou mache vitman, epi bon desisyon et ansamn, pou acheve sa nou vle.


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