THERE is a paradox, wrapped-up in a dilemma the way important government business is kept hidden. Let me explain. Four years is a relatively short time in which to recall impactful experiences. There are persons, including journalists, who agree that the Kenny Anthony government has not delivered better days, neither has it displayed accountability and transparency, both of which it promised. The unkindest cut of all is their refusal to be more factual and truthful. Their sealed lips on crucial issues are a different silence to that of Allen Chastanet – the quiet. .
The image of political leader Anthony of the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and that of his opposite number Allen Chastanet, of the United Workers Party (UWP), needs closer examination.
There is a determined effort on the part of Anthony to pursue silence as a political tactic and to hide behind the failings of his government’s social and economic programmes. Allen Chastanet too, has been criticized for not speaking out sufficiently, hence the reason for a closer look perchance to distinguish between the two silences.
The gut instinct regarding the secretive style and management of the country is negative. People are turned off by the refusal of the government to answer certain questions, and instead try and inveigle Allen Chastanet to speak out against the dirt they throw at him. The government (and the SLP) have mastered the art of speaking loudly and disclosing little. Loud empty words are the new smoke screen – a practiced diversion!
The Prime Minister has not availed himself of the hunger of independent journalists to engage him at a press conference. The man seems hell bent on issuing press releases which often hide more than they reveal. Yet he and his party cronies want Chastanet to speak on ‘issues’ that have nothing to do with jobs and the economy. How very strange, this fixation on Allen Chastanet. But we know why, don’t we? This is failure using politics to hide its vices and its fears.
Of equal interest is the refusal of Allen Chastanet to say more than the bare minimum. He is a quiet man with a different silence. He has been criticized for saying too little. As political leader of the UWP, Chastanet’s silence is well advised. He is not the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition. People want to hear Allen Chastanet’s voice because they hunger for change. Chastanet however, is determined to follow the John Compton formula of speaking little and letting his opponents self-destruct. His opponents chatter does not bother him.
The silences from the two leaders are from two different sources. One is systemic, and goes to the core and character; the other is a temporary protective shield, imitating Compton. Chastanet is the political novice who will not be lured into silly exchanges with his opponents. People of class never answer back. Anthony will engage without provocation to keep the nation (and his opponents), at bay. Chastanet is a businessman accustomed to using words carefully, as he does other resources. Words are like dollars and cents to business people.
The difficulty in correctly diagnosing these two different silences lays in the fact that people place emphasis on the word ‘doctor’ while business (and Allen Chastanet) is yet to be properly defined. There is something intrinsically perverse about a culture or a political system which allows this to happen – and to persist.
The fact remains that Allen Chastanet is not the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia. As leader of the UWP he may comment publicly when he deems it expedient. If the opposition must address the nation on a matter of public interest, the correct person is the Leader of the Opposition, or, someone delegated by that office. Allen Chastanet may speak to the nation on law and order, the criminal justice system, and social and economic issues. He has a duty to present facts and figures which the government and the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP), would prefer to hide from the public.
The era when political leaders ran their mouths before ensuring they were in command of all the facts, must be made a thing of the past. Political leaders, who still slavishly follow the old formula of speaking when there is nothing of value to communicate or to obscure an issue, must be relegated to the dustbin of history. The question is: Who will call out lies and deceit, and set the record straight?
The longer liars persist in politics, the greater the harm to the country and to the nobility of politics. People are comforted by the fact that, nothing lasts forever – certainly not dirty liars. An enlightened people learn to appreciate persons who are friends of business and are unafraid of the word profit. Indeed, more business people are needed in politics, not less. Hopefully, business will defend truth and reject leaders who lie. Businesses loathe persons of dubious character. These would not be allowed near their cash registers or to the nation’s treasury.
It seems pointless to stand on the sideline instead of speaking out on wrongs that need correcting, or the good that needs supporting. Basking in safe silence while politicians in office refuse to answer relevant questions is not the way of freedom and democracy.
Those who profess Christianity will recall that Jesus Christ on whose name their faith is built, never refused to answer questions, except from the Roman official who presided at his trial. He knew that Pilate’s game was to side with those who wanted him dead.
We have had enough brow beating from this government and from the anti-Chastanet caterpillars now re-emerging to further cloud the issues. The self-imposed silence by his former friends or the desperate campaign against Allen Chastanets leadership will succeed. The government has chosen not to answer questions while it entices others to pour scorn on Allen Chastanet. Neither the disgraced Compton (and Chastanet) haters, nor the government which pays and encourages them, can stand closer scrutiny by an angry electorate.
That lot will not be allowed to change the conversation. Politicians who refused to answer back when they were in office share the same traits as the present regime. In the climate of selective silence, Allen Chastanet must not answer back. Instead, he maintains his Compton silence, even when his own turn on him.
To crown it all Allen must remind Saint Lucians that Compton took this island from last and brought it to number one, in the OECS. Kenny Anthony has brought Saint Lucia back down to zero. Empty rhetoric of deceitful liars will not prevail. Someone should remind the people that the King Cobra is a deadly and venomous snake. It is also very silent and can camouflage its presence.