By Stephen Lester Prescott
IN an earlier article, I alluded to the fact that under Kenny Anthony, the candidate selection process within the Labour Party, though more transparent, had also become a more rigorous affair. A keen student of history, Anthony was only too well aware of the several betrayals which the Party had undergone since its establishment in the mid 1950’s. John Compton and the Bousquet brothers had begun the process in 1964; George Odlum led another group in 1981; Neville Cenac crossed the floor in 1987; Peter Josie followed suit after the 1992 General Election and George Odlum again took flight in 2001.
Little wonder then that when prior to the 2011 General Elections, a particular candidate expressed an interest in contesting a seat for the Saint Lucia Labour Party in Castries South East. Anthony’s by now finely-tuned nose smelt a rat. His seasoned political senses must have tingled mightily when he considered the request. It is now well documented history that Anthony and the Party said a resounding no.
History has since proved Anthony to have made the correct choice for today that same individual is now a full-fledged member of the United Workers Party. The individual is even an endorsed candidate, notwithstanding months of denial by both her and her party leader, Allen Chastanet.
No one who truly knows her should be surprised by this about turn by Mary Isaac. Her actions over the past four years have exposed her to be no more than someone willing to do almost anything to attain power.
There are suggestions that her volte-face against Labour resulted from certain expectations of hers at the Commerce Ministry which went unfulfilled. Whatever the reasons, it would not be long before she would butt heads with the Anthony administration. So bent on confrontation was Isaac, that where no conflict existed she would manufacture it.
In the course of wage negotiations, never mind her own members who had access to government finances and were telling her that her demands were unrealistic, Isaac would have none of it. She steadfastly refused the government’s 3% offer even when all other unions had accepted this and moved on. Without warning, however, she abruptly reversed course and informed the government that due to the poor state of the economy her members would forego any increase. So the same individual who a week earlier had insisted the government could afford twice as much as it was offering suddenly insisted the government could not even afford what it was offering. Consequently, she would accept no increase.
There was more. In further negotiations the government suggested a 5% reduction in wages across the board from grade 4 upwards. The Trade Union Congress countered by putting forward a proposal of a wage freeze. Only Isaac insisted upon an increase. Never mind that nothing of the sort had taken place, Isaac even went public with an assertion that the government had already legislated the salary reduction. It was a claim that was totally bereft of legal logic. Her followers, led by her acolytes, especially in the Customs Department, swallowed the logic hook, line and sinker. True to form, she provided no evidence of any worker being short-changed on pay day!
She loudly advised that a forum which brought together Public Sector Trade Unions and the Government was not the proper forum to discuss wages and that absent a properly constituted Government Negotiating Team, her union would not proceed. Amazingly, some in the Trade Union fraternity endorsed that view. Prime Minister Anthony agreed and the GNT, under the chairmanship of experienced banker Chester Hinkson, was established. Clearly caught off guard, Isaac resorted to stalling tactics. First, she claimed negotiations could not continue as one of her executive members was ill and another was unavailable. Next, she was adamant that for a meeting to proceed, the government’s 5% reduction of salaries initiative had to be shelved or “de-legislated,” an obviously absurd demand. It did not matter to Isaac that the government had not implemented any such proposal. Finally, she assaulted the GNT’s credibility prompting the usually reserved chairman, Chester Hinkson, to issue a stinging public rebuke.
During all of that time, it was becoming clearer by the day that Isaac was in bed with the UWP. Her loyalty was no longer with the workers who had twice elected her to lead them. She cleverly used them to pursue her twisted ambitions. Now it was all about Mary Isaac. Her re-lection and the publicity which the media gave her went to her head. Her personal ambitions took priority over all else. Secret meetings were held with senior executive members of the UWP including leader Allen Chastanet. One of these meetings resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding where Chastanet, among other things, promised Isaac a Senatorship. The leaked document went viral prompting strong public denials from both Isaac and Chastanet.
At her maiden senate appearance, Isaac was accompanied by Chastanet and Opposition Leader, Gale Rigobert. In a press conference later that afternoon, Isaac and her newly acquired soul mates vehemently denied her appointment was linked to her becoming a member of the party. Another lie that would soon be exposed for it would be only a matter of weeks later that Isaac would express an interest to contest the Castries South seat for her new party.
Caretaker for the seat, former Attorney General, Rudolph Francis, would be Isaac’s next target and he would one morning wake up to the news that the previous night Isaac had been selected to be the party’s candidate for Castries South. Crying foul, Francis took to the airwaves saying he was never informed of the meeting at which Isaac was chosen. He said that at the very time his party leader was stabbing him in the back he was at a public meeting spreading the party’s message. Once again, Chastanet the divider had struck!
Chastanet had of course offered Isaac the Senatorship and seat in return for her “delivering” the public service vote. That backfired with a vengeance. The “pretender” Chastanet had again miscalculated. Isaac’s appointment, rather than calm stormy seas, instead created a firestorm within the storied union. Disgruntled members who had previously supported Isaac were left with egg on their faces and within weeks Isaac was facing a mutinous situation. Having collected the requisite signatures to convene a special meeting, delegates voted for Isaac to quit her post. Spuriously citing “constitutional rights to freedom of association,” Isaac defied her membership and stayed on. That only resulted in even more opposition for where initially just over 100 members had signed a petition for the special meeting, now more than 500 joined up.
Besieged, Isaac would announce that she would temporarily give up the presidency and would instead fill in as General Secretary for the retiring David Demarque. Those who thought the union’s interest was her main priority, were sadly mistaken for Isaac’s attempt to secure the General Secretary’s position had nothing to do with the union and everything to do with her pocket. As president, Isaac collected a small stipend but as General Secretary she would be enriched by nearly $7,000.00 monthly. This from a woman who claimed the workers’ interest was paramount to her. The workers were, however, relentless in their opposition to Isaac and wanted her out at all costs. Finally, sensing defeat, Isaac last month quit the union altogether.
The same Mary Isaac who so wished to contest the 2011 General Election for the Labour Parry against Guy Joseph is now in bed with the very Guy Joseph and is now seeking the approval of the Castries South electorate. Where is her commitment to principle? Is she any different from her constituency-hopping leader who in the space of five years has moved from Gros Islet to Castries South to Soufriere and now to Micoud South? Is Mary Isaac not more interested in power than being in the service of people?
Surely Kenny Anthony was correct to have rejected Mary Isaac in 2011. The civil servants who once championed her leadership now know the real Mary Isaac. They too have rejected her. It is the turn of the electorate in Castries South to discover and reject her.