ALLEN Chastanet has to be Saint Lucia’s most worried politician.
First, he had to contend with the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s highly successful 2014 Conference of Delegates held over the past two Sundays. The Open Session on Sunday, 30 November, saw hundreds of red-shirt delegates overwhelm the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School’s auditorium and an even larger number of supporters overflowing the adjoining car park. The following Sunday, at the Closed Session held at Grande Riviere, Dennery, saw a smooth and professional event which culminated in an overwhelming endorsement of Political Leader and Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony’s leadership.
As if the SLP’s massive showing was not worry enough, UWP leader Allen Chastanet and his main crutch, Guy Joseph, who journeyed across to the Commonwealth of Dominica to provide assistance to their namesake opposition party there, got even worse news. There, the UWP was crushed with the Dominica Labour Party not only securing an unprecedented fourth straight term but in the process of doing so maintained a massive two-thirds majority.
In much the same way Prime Minister Anthony has shown up Chastanet’s ineptitude it would appear that his Dominican counterpart Lennox Linton is suffering a similar fate at the hands of Prime Minister Skerritt. The truth is this: Chastanet is not incapable of securing a parliamentary seat but he cannot even settle on a constituency in which to run. Initially, he had considered the constituency of Gros Islet and when that failed he set his sights on Castries South. It would not take long for him to realise the futility of contesting against the formidable Dr. Robert Lewis and without batting an eyelid, Chastanet proceeded to the west coast where he professed his undying love for the “parish of Soufriere.” It was as if Gros Islet and Castries South did not exist and were mere figments of someone’s imagination. Never mind his promises of endless “peh en payan”, however, the Soufriere constituents saw through the charade and soundly rejected Chastanet, in the process returning their favourite son, Harold Dalson, for a second parliamentary term.
Chastanet is a leader without a seat and such is his reputation he has failed to convince even his own supporters that there is no truth to the suggestion that he is in discussions with the Micoud South MP to have the incumbent vacate the seat in his favour.
Like his Saint Lucian counterpart, Lennox Linton was unable to inject enthusiasm and hope into his UWP. But how could Linton inspire hope and confidence when he chose the safe seat vacated by his former party leader Edison James? Clearly Kenny D. Anthony is made of sterner stuff than either Chastanet or Linton!
The fact is that upon becoming leader of the SLP, Anthony was at liberty to have a seat of his choosing, including Labour’s citadel and jewel, Laborie. Instead, Anthony proceeded to Vieux Fort South represented then by Peter Josie, considered by his cronies as invincible. It is now recorded history that not only did Anthony soundly defeat Josie but he relegated Josie to the “never to be elected again” group of politicians. Additionally, Anthony led his party to an historic 16 to 1 victory. That, Mr. Chastanet, is the epitome of superior and quality leadership.
What then was Linton thinking when he invited Chastanet to be part of his campaign? How could someone who, despite his massive spending, was unable to secure a seat in his own territory and is at the stage where he cannot even identify a constituency, be of assistance to a party in Dominica? Wasn’t Linton aware of Chastanet’s spendthrift ways? Didn’t Linton know the Court of Appeal had deemed Chastanet an unreliable witness whose word the Court could not accept? Who knows, Chastanet’s presence may well have convinced Dominicans that based on his association with Linton that Linton too was a money squanderer and someone who spoke the truth economically? So Dominicans did the right thing and remained safe with Labour.
Chastanet now has to return to Saint Lucia, tail between his legs after having overseen another failed electoral campaign. Not only that, he has no choice but to traverse the now open to vehicular traffic, Bois d’Orange Bridge. Now that Saint Lucians have seen first-hand, the impressive structure, the most modern of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, how are the lies spewed by his party going to convince the populace that it was not worth the cost?
Unlike Chastanet’s sidekick, Guy Joseph, Deputy Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre has been as transparent as clear plastic. Each pronouncement by him is accompanied by documentary evidence. Neither Chastanet nor Guy Joseph can hide from the fact that the bridge was designed by FDL Consult Inc, a firm headed by Gilbert Fontenard. They cannot hide from the fact that Mr. Fontenard was the consultant appointed by Guy Joseph and retained by the Deputy Prime Minister Pierre. Guy Joseph cannot deny that the initial plans drawn up under his watch were rejected by the world famous United States Army Corp of Engineers who considered the design as inadequate. Chastanet and his UWP cannot deny that the same US Army Corps of Engineers recommended “bord piling” and that the plans submitted under Labour were approved. The UWP cannot deny that the US Army Corps of Engineers ranked the new design for the bridge to be structurally superior to its predecessor and capable of withstanding a one in one hundred-years flood event. Chastanet and Guy Joseph cannot deny that the costing for the bridge was painstakingly perused and approved by the personnel of the World Bank who thereafter released funds for its construction. These are the facts which no amount of lies can alter!
Instead of their continued untruths what Chastanet and Joseph need to tell the people of Saint Lucia is why the bypass road which was constructed under Joseph’s watch cost more than $3,100,000.0 exclusive of VAT. If VAT were added that short stretch of road would have cost nearly $3,600,000.00 or more than 25% of the cost of the newly opened Bois D’Orange bridge. Chastanet and Joseph should also explain to the country why, after spending so much money on that stretch of road, that it has reverted to the use of the land owner and government has nothing to show for their outlay. So taxpayers’ money has in effect been used for the benefit of a single private land owner.
Saint Lucians should not be surprised at such reckless spending as this is the modus operandi of Chastanet and the UWP. It is exactly what Chastanet did with the Black Bay lands. It is the same Chastanet and UWP who purchased the derelict Daher Mall – the same family benefitting from the bypass I mentioned earlier benefitted from that purchase – for more than $30,000.000.00. The purchase price of the Mall, which is in close proximity to the Bois D’Orange bridge, could have paid for the bridge three times over. The more than $80,000,000.00 now needed to refurbish the Mall could pay for the Bois D’Orange bridge seven times over. And the cost of the Black Bay lands could have paid for the Bois D’Orange bridge six times over. In effect, Chastanet and the UWP’s reckless spending on just the Mall and the Black Bay lands could have paid for fourteen bridges similar to the Bois D’Orange Bridge.
No wonder, like their Dominican counterparts, Saint Lucians too are staying safe with Labour!
By Stephen Lester Prescott