PEOPLE meet me and say ‘ha…..ah Peter, if those were the days of Brother George and yourself demfellars out already’. I take this to mean that Odlum and I would have mobilized public protests against these tough economic times and the political misfits who brought ‘bitter-vatisation’ bitter days. The people would rightly be demanding a change of government and not just the Minister of Finance. I accept such talk for what it is and I add the rejoinder that John Compton at age eighty-something had returned in 2006 to mobilize the discontented electorate and take power from the SLP after their dirty campaign following their poor management.
Since Allen Chastanet became political leader of the UWP he has had to establish himself as the preferred choice of the rank and file. His mandate was recently renewed by an equally wide margin at the party’s Gros-Islet convention. In his first year as leader Chastanet focussed on training, firming–up constituency groups, revising the constitution of the party and most importantly developing a vision, mission and values for the party. The latter should become the guiding ideological principles and credo of the reformed UWP.
During the challenging process of change Chastanet has had some disgruntled and failed party members snapping at his heels even as he attempted to defend himself against the vicious attacks of the SLP opposition. His willingness to build a more inclusive and national democratic political party and to welcome those who do not support him is reason for his opponents to like and admire him.
His determination to modernize the UWP and prepare it for office means that he has not had the time which a George Odlum or a John Compton would have devoted to dismantle this lost and corrupt SLP government. It is another reason the SLP should like Chastanet. He has not focussed on attacking the SLP. Instead he is preparing to give every citizen, including his SLP opponents; a better social and economic deal using tried and tested business principles. The man is clearly focussed on the long term good of his party and country knowing well that a government can only change Saint Lucia for better if it is surrounded by better trained and practical personnel who are ready to put country before self.
It is unfortunate that the SLP has demonstrated a propensity for attacking a man who has made hardly a negative comment about them. Many persons are aware that the SLP attacks Chastanet and other perceived opponents out of fear. Why they should fear him rather than like him says more about their state of mind than about the man. It reminds one of criminals who have not been caught and in their hearts know of their wrong doing. Perhaps his opponents don’t feel adequate to speak to him man-to-man even when they are quick to remind us that they are humans too.
Those who have willfully mismanaged the economy are fearful that Prime Minister Chastanet will expose the lies and corruption, once he assumes office. The SLP finds itself in a situation where it fears Chastanet not for anything he has done to them but because of the hardships they have inflicted on the people of Saint Lucia. Why should those who have squandered Taiwanese aid funds and the peoples’ taxes be afraid to pay for any wrongdoing?
It appears that Chastanet’s opponents believe that the best form of defence is attack. With their constant harping and rude verbal attacks it has become obvious they have no answers to his press statements on the performance of the economy. Interestingly, the attacks on Chastanet continue even when the man has allowed new Labour to run the country as they please. Chastanet has only asked that the Minister of Finance be changed. Chastanet has fingered him as the main culprit in the island’s economic decline. They like him so much they want him to run in daddy Compton’s former seat and leave Soufriere for Emma.
Please note that the leader of the UWP has not called for the ouster of the entire SLP Government or for the arrest of anyone as Odlum and company might have done in their day. He has not even focussed on the secret deals and mischief such as the Grynberg oil deal, Frenwell or the more recent purchase and distribution of computers through a questionable third party in Trinidad. Allen Chastanet has largely left the Government of Kenny Anthony to hang with its own rope.
What Chastanet has consistently done is to call for the resignation of the Minister of Finance. In so doing he has not commented unfavourably on any other Ministry, save that of Health. He has left the duplicitous Ministry of Works to his friend and colleague Guy Joseph, a former Minister of the government in that Ministry. And even when he has asked for a change of the Minister of Finance, Chastanet has not gone as far as Odlum and Josie and Compton would have gone in suggesting who would be the best interim Minister of Finance, until the next general elections.
So in every respect Chastanet has behaved like a gentleman and conservative politician who understands how fragile the bough on which the island’s economy is perched and how painful it would be to exacerbate the situation by calling for strikes and demonstrations. But does the SLP care about Chastanet’s cautious approach to politics and governance? Do they care whether a more suitable SLP candidate could manage the Ministry of Finance to right the island’s economic woes? With such hardened stubborn attitude is there any doubt that SLP don’t give one damn? Do the people not see that the purpose of the SLP is to massage the ego of one individual who believes that the island is his personal estate to do as he pleases?
One other reason the SLP should like Allen Chastanet is that he is a born Lucian. It does not matter whether one is male or female, black or white, catholic or protestant. The only consideration is that he is qualified to do the job of elevating the economy and the people of Saint Lucia. This surely, is the best reason for SLP to like and admire him. In addition he speaks Spanish, the preferred foreign tongue of newly arrived Labourites. He should therefore be at home among those who entered the Cuban doors opened by Josie and Odlum without a ‘thank you.’
Finally, Allen Chastanet has shown that he has a mature and measured approach to politics and governance and is more respectful of the island’s institutions than his detractors. Such respect for the country’s institutions is one more reason the SLP should like and respect Allen Chastanet. It will reflect well on them!