IT cannot be easy being Allen Chastanet in today’s Saint Lucia. Consider that in just eight years he has already been branded by the OECS Court of Appeal as a man whose word cannot be trusted; a man who in concert with others attempted to deprive the State of revenue; and a man who attempted to cover up the criminal activity of defrauding the State. As if that weren’t enough of a negative image to be carrying around, Chastanet orchestrated the expulsion from the United Workers Party, the Castries Central MP, Richard Frederick, the man widely acknowledged as one of the architects of the Party’s rise to government in 2006.
For good measure, Chastanet also oversaw the removal of former Prime Minister Stephenson King from his position as leader of the Parliamentary Opposition. In the process, Chastanet has fractured the UWP in a way no one ever has. Imagine, just recently, his Deputy Leader, Lenard Spider Montoute, convened a political meeting in the town of Gros Islet with no invitation to Chastanet and his loyal poodle, Guy Joseph.
Despite his triumph at the internal party elections, not a single day goes by without a member of the UWP calling for Chastanet’s resignation; the most recent of these being woman’s activist, Catherine Sealy, who accused the party leader of misogynistic behaviour. According to the Women In Action (WIA) executive member, Chastanet’s attitude to the women in the party is nothing short of disrespectful.
So disruptive has been Chastanet’s tenure at the helm, that many have now replaced the “United” in the party’s name with “divided”. So fractured is the party that the discussions around local watering holes now centre on the formation of a new party by extremely disgruntled senior members.
With all that negativity dogging his every move it is easy to understand why Chastanet would daily wish for some good luck to come his way. It mattered not how megre the amount, Chastanet was simply just hoping for a change of fortune. Still, does that give Chastanet the right to attempt to mislead Saint Lucians into thinking his luck has changed for the better? Does lust for power overcome the need to speak truthfully to the people whom he so desperately wants to lead?
True to form, Chastanet was last week busily proclaiming victory in the government’s case against him for the misuse of the funds belonging to the Soufriere Town Council, as it was then called. But did the learned judge really exonerate Allen Chastanet?
The judge dealt first with the legal standing of the Attorney General in whose name the case was filed. Notwithstanding the several authorities cited by attorneys representing the State, the learned judge concluded, somewhat astonishingly, that the Attorney General was not the person to have proceeded with the matter. Interestingly, however, the language of the judge was not the stinging rebuttal expected by Chastanet but was instead most cautiously couched. Citing the case Marin v Attorney General where the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled in favour of the Attorney General’s standing, as “highly persuasive” the learned judge nonetheless wrote; “But this court (meaning his court) is not bound by this decision.” He then stated “I conclude that in spite of Marin there is no binding authority on this court which states the Attorney General has the authority to sue the Applicant for the tort of misfeasance in public office.” Certainly not a ringing endorsement of victory for Allen Chastanet.
Next the judge dealt with the matter of whether the money used at the Soufriere event could be considered as “public funds”. According to the learned judge, it was his considered view that the State’s pleadings “did not make out a case that the funds used . . . were public funds”. It was the judge’s view that because the Council’s account contained funds other than those given by Central Government, a case had not been made that the money used was actually funds placed there by the Central government as opposed to funds raised by the council itself. He was also of the view that once the monies had reached the Council they were no longer “public” funds.
Notwithstanding, the judge at paragraph 61 of his judgment sent a stinging rebuke to Chastanet when he stated: “I also conclude that based on the pleadings the monies were spent as though they were part of what is colloquially referred to as a ‘slush fund’. Consequently the ‘slush fund’ may have been spent as intended. No doubt this is a vulgar and socially destructive way of going about funding community projects and an election campaign . .”
How Allen Chastanet can consider this stinging rebuke as a victory is anyone’s guess.
But there is more. Clearly wishing to have his party reconsider its negative image of him, Chastanet would take to his favourite Talk Show hosts, the UWP flavoured Timothy Poleon and Dave Samuels. On the latter’s show Chastanet would make a most startling and bizarre comment. But first let us return to the court case itself generally and to Allen Chastanet’s affidavit in particular. At paragraph 8 of the affidavit dated 6 January 2014, Chastanet averred to the following: “The Lighting Ceremony was followed by a political event promoted by the United Workers Party (UWP) . . . That event was immediately followed by a free concert featuring the ‘Third World’ band. The ‘Third World’ band performed at the cost of US30,000.00 and ALL COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE CONCERT WERE FUNDED BY MY OWN PERSONAL FUNDS AND CONTRIBUTIONS THAT I HAD RECEIVED FROM SUPOPRTERS. NONE OF THE EXPENSES ASSOCIATED WITH THE POLITICAL RALLY OR THE FREE CONCERT WERE MET BY THE SOUFRIERE TOWN COUNCIL . . .”
The foregoing is what Allen Chastanet presented to the court as being the truth. But what was it?
Basking in what he attempted to show was a victory for him Chastanet as stated earlier took to his twin favourite shows. No doubt buoyed by the protection offered to him by his ever grateful host, Dave Samuels, Chastanet proceeded to make statements which directly contradicted his affidavit. On the show, Allen Chastanet admitted “the fact I, s it is public funds but they are not Crown Funds.”
He added; “So it means that if the Town Council was the entity that was harmed that they feel they lost out on this money, they should have been the ones pursuing.”
Didn’t Allen Chastanet, in his affidavit to the Court, state that ALL COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE CONCERT WERE FUNDED BY MY OWN PERSONAL FUNDS AND CONTRIBUTIONS THAT I HAD RECEIVED FROM SUPOPRTERS. NONE OF THE EXPENSES ASSOCIATED WITH THE POLITICAL RALLY OR THE FREE CONCERT WERE MET BY THE SOUFRIERE TOWN COUNCIL? But there he was on television stating for all to hear that since the Soufriere Town Council was the one which paid then it was the Council and not the Attorney General who should have filed the suit.
Did Allen Chastanet, as he did in the Tuxedo Villas case, also lie to Justice Belle? Did Chastanet mislead the court? Is that who we want as our Prime Minister? Is Chastanet the face we want to promote Saint Lucia?
Pertinent as these questions may be, let us return to the case itself. One thing is certain: the conclusions and comments of Justice Belle makes this case a truly interesting case to appeal!