BY STEPHEN LESTER PRESCOTT
FOR years, Allen Chastanet has been telling all and sundry, locally and internationally, that he was a “degreed” economist. Just as often his pronouncements on our country’s economy have left trained economists confused. If he is to be believed, he may have one or two basic courses in economics, but that’s it! Today, however, I will not be debating the authenticity of Chastanets qualifications. That is for another time and place. I make the point only to illustrate that his one solution fits all problems mantra is simply a recipe for disaster and not one any real economist would put forward.
Week after week, Chastanet shows his lack of leadership credentials and last week provided even further proof. Whenever anyone challenges Chastanet, his solution is simple – isolate them even to the point of expulsion. First, it was Richard Frederick who received the ultimate punishment; expulsion. He was followed by Stephenson King who even today remains largely ostracised by the party executive. Spider Montoute is the party’s Grand Old Duke of York – he’s neither in nor out! Lorenzo Rudolph Francis is out there somewhere licking his wounds following the proverbial pulling of the constituency rug from beneath his unsteady feet. Gale Rigobert is Opposition Leader in name only and barely ranks a mention at executive meetings. Indeed, there are suggestions that such meetings are usually convened without her knowledge. As for the Women in Action group, it has now being renamed Women Inaction such is their state of inertia. And what more can we say about poor Jenna whom the party has left out to dry?
Several weeks ago, former Foreign Affairs Minister, Rufus Bousquet, publicly referenced the United Workers Party under Chastanet as a “mongrel organisation.” Though he has never publicly responded to the characterisation, sources within the party advise that Chastanet took personal offence and vowed to definitively deal with Bousquet. And so the assault on Bousquet began. Led by Chastanet’s chief Choiseul acolytes, Jimmy Haynes and Sylvanus Fontenard, the UWP mounted a concerted effort to discredit the former District Representative. Facebook was their initial medium of choice and Bousquet was daily vilified there. Haynes and Fontenard would suggest that Bousquet was unfit to again represent the western constituency. Haynes was last week particularly brutal, chronicling what he claimed was his and Choiseul’s consistent support for Bousquet over the past twenty or so years but enough was enough, he said. In his view, Choiseul was tired of Rufus and his selfish ways and the constituency no longer wanted him either as its representative or as a member of the constituency executive.
If he read their “hate mail” or heard their rants, the wily Bousquet never responded. Instead, much to the chagrin of the aforementioned, he announced he was seeking the chairmanship of the Choiseul branch. Though that announcement caught the Chastanet brigade completely off guard, it was not long before they intensified OSR (Operation Stop Rufus). Again Jimmy Haynes would take the lead not only calling on the party faithful to reject Bousquet but also calling on the former MP to withdraw his bid for the position. Bousquet simply laughed them off and amid talk of large sums of money being spent to thwart his bid, Bousquet emerged victorious securing every single one of the available thirty votes cast. According to several eyewitnesses, members of the national executive who had attended the event hoping to see a Bousquet meltdown left Choiseul confused but infuriated. Party leader Allen Chastanet was among those who beat a hasty retreat.
Rufus Bousquet was back as king of all the UWP surveyed in Choiseul. With the chairmanship of the constituency branch in the bag, this guaranteed him an automatic berth on the party’s national executive. Equally worrisome for the Chastanet clan was the fact that since under the UWP constitution it is the constituency branch which nominates the candidate, it is a near foregone conclusion that there too Bousquet will emerge victorious. Things have certainly gotten from bad to worse for Chastanet.
The beleaguered leader had barely caught his breath; he had barely had time to explain to Daddy Chas what had gone wrong in Choiseul when the following day, Monday, a former chairman of the party took to the airwaves further denouncing his divisive leadership style. Michael Flood, taking no prisoners, predicted that come November when the party’s national convention is scheduled to be held, it would not surprise him if Chastanet is defeated.
Flood may well be on to something as word is that “Ole Man Chas” is having second thoughts about his son’s ability to lead the UWP to victory at the next poll. Having thus far committed a sizeable amount of personal funds to the campaign, it is rumoured that Michael is unable to continue funding what is seemingly a losing campaign. The Bousquet landslide in Choiseul is but the latest in a string of unfavourable results for Allen Chastenet and may well be a harbinger of worse things to come.
Already a new group has emerged, replete with a Facebook page, declaring Bousquet their candidate of choice for the seat. So what does a resurgent Bousquet, with a seat on the party’s national executive, assured of being a delegate at the National Conference of Delegates and the nominee presumptive at the next General elections, mean for the UWP? This is after all the same Rufus Bousquet who in the Town and Village Councils report was accused of being in possession of the Choiseul Council’s used cheque books. According to the Report, the clerk advised that Bousquet “came with someone who appeared to be from the Taiwanese Embassy and he indicated that he needed the cash book and the cheque books to reconcile his accounts.” These have never been returned.
The Report further advised that Bousquet was also in possession of “documents in relation to procurement of construction services to substantiate the several enormous disbursements that were made from the bank account of the Council” and that “several requests to Mr. Bousquet by the Council and the Ministry of Local Government to release the necessary documents proved futile.” (See page 154 of the Report).
This then is the man who will challenge Chastanet for ownership of the “mongrel organisation.”
It must be recalled that Rufus was among the leaders of the gang of nine who masterminded the diplomatic shift of allegiance from mainland China to Taiwan, notwithstanding Sir John’s protestations. There are those who have never forgiven Bousquet as they believe it was this event, more than anything else, which triggered Sir John’s illness and subsequent death.
Will Rufus’ victory breathe new life into Mondesir and cause him to mount another challenge against Dominic Fedee, the party’s favoured candidate in Anse La Raye/Canaries? Will an emerging Bousquet review a Chastanet Micoud South candidacy? Speaking of which, has Arsene James already moved on? Political observers would by now have noted his absence from the last three or four House Sittings? Is there a hidden meaning in there?
Will a weakening Chastanet see a re-emergence of Frederick in Castries Central? And what of Mary Isaac? Is her political career on death row under a Bousquet led UWP? How does Gale Rigobert feature in the new scenario? Does she make a play herself or does she support anyone she considers has the ability to remove Chastanet?
With all of this uncertainty can Allen Chastanet even count on his father’s support? After all, if Michael Chastanet is known for one thing, it is that he does not throw good money after bad. At the moment, his son Allen is akin to toxic assets, the sort you dump at the very first opportunity. Almost thirteen years ago when asked to give an opinion on Allen Chastanet, a leading regional entrepreneur is reputed to have responded that “Allen can do anything until you ask him to do it”. Those words are now reverberating in the elder Chastanet’s ears as his son’s dream of becoming prime minister and his own dream of controlling Saint Lucia’s financial future are seemingly becoming more distant by the day.
Rufus Bousquet is certainly Allen’s Chastanet’s chicken coming home to roost!