By Stephen Lester Prescot
WHEN first I heard he had penned a letter to the President of the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, I must confess to have been nonplussed. The fact is that his lack of business acumen notwithstanding, Allen Chastanet does claim to manage a hotel. Consequently, I immediately considered the letter to have been written in that capacity. Was I ever wrong! It turns out that he had actually written in his capacity as UWP Leader and his letter had absolutely nothing to do with our vital tourism industry. On the contrary, if he had his way, it is likely Chastanet would not care less if the industry buckled under so long as it did so whilst Kenny Anthony was Prime Minister.
To say Chastanet’s desperation for power knows no bounds would be an understatement. Moreover, in his quest for that power, Chastanet is prepared to show little or no loyalty to principle. Let us for a moment rewind to his time as Tourism Minister. As the General Election of 2011 approached, Chastanet first showed an interest in the Gros Islet seat as Spider’s ability to hold on to it had long ago slipped. Losing or not, however, Spider would not yield. It would not be too long after that then Prime Minister King publicly announced Chastanet as the Party’s caretaker candidate for the Castries South seat held by Dr. Robert Lewis. Even the not so astute Chastanet soon realized that any venture against Dr. Lewis was a ride to nowhere and without even batting an eye lid he would announce a love for the western town of Soufriere. His first love, he called her. If so, what were Gros Islet and Castries South? Concubines?
It is now history that “hurricane” Harold set the wind under him and blew him right back to his Rodney Bay residence. Quite a ride that must have been!
Chastanet would two years later emerge as leader of the United Workers Party and boy did he flex those muscles. Just ask Richard Frederick (expelled), Claudius Preville (humiliated) and Stephenson King (ostracized) I am aware there are those who would remind me of King’s appearance at last weekend’s Babonneau fiasco but I would caution that King hasn’t lasted this long in politics without having a trick or two up his sleeve. Using the bully pulpit of his leadership position Chastanet would appropriate for himself, the UWP’s prize jewel, Micoud South, currently held by three-time winner Arsene James.
Is that how leaders behave? Isn’t it the job of a leader to provide example for the troops? How can ensconcing oneself is a supposedly safe seat be considered inspired leadership? Compare Chastanet’s cowardice to Kenny Anthony’s bravery. Where he could have opted for Laborie – Labour has never lost this seat – or his hometown Choiseul, Anthony would instead opt for the seat which was then held by Peter Josie. By the way, does anyone recall him?
At the time Josie was considered the “bad john” of local politics. “Unbeatable”, was the word Josie had ascribed to himself. It is now history that so soundly did Anthony defeat him that more than two decades later Josie remains a spent force. And to think there are those who dare compare Chastanet to Anthony.
His naked ambition and lack of courage laid bare for all to see. Let us return to Chastanet’s letter. In his letter, Chastanet accused the government of all manner of things without even a single shred of evidence. In fact, in a response Prime Minister referred to the letter as “defamatory” and an “obvious attempt to damage the ongoing efforts of the Government of Saint Lucia to attract investment to our country.” That letter also showed Chastanet’s penchant for disregarding established protocols. Surely, the concerns which Chastanet sought to raise in his letter to the SLHTA could have easily been submitted to the Prime Minister via the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. But no, Chastanet once more disregarded Gale Rigobert – when will she learn? – and as usual sought to put the spotlight on and claim credit for himself. Just as usual he has made a mess of it.
In his letter Chastanet attempted to make suggestions which he claimed would strengthen the Citizen by Investment programme. Among them, that annual financials be submitted to Parliament and that monies from the fund be used for debt reduction and not recurrent expenditure.
When will Allen Chastanet learn to read and understand before he speaks? The fact is that the existing legislation already mandates the Finance Minister to lay the report of the (CIP) Board in Parliament. What then is the use of Chastanet’s suggestion when the law already provides for this? The existing Act also requires the Finance Minister to “lay before Parliament every financial year for its approval the purposes to which the fund would will be allocated.” Does Chastanet not speak with his opposition leader? Could she not have spared him the embarrassment by informing him that his attempts at showing up the government only proved what many are already aware of? That he simply speaks without thinking?
Not surprisingly, Chastanet’s letter attempted to raise the already settled issue of the appointment of Dr.Juffali as Saint Lucia’s Ambassador to the IMO. He claims that the appointment has damaged Saint Lucia’s reputation. Wasn’t it Chastanet and his party who politicized the appointment? Wasn’t it Chastanet and his party who, as Prime Minister Anthony stated in his response, “fed the domestic and external media with falsehoods and untruths for the sole purpose of discrediting the Government of Saint Lucia.” Clearly, and again to quote the Prime Minister, if there is any damage to our reputation it is consequent upon Chastanet’s unvarnished attempts to tarnish the integrity of the Government of Saint Lucia.
In his haste to bring Prime Minister Anthony into disrepute, Chastanet would listen to no reason. Surely, the lawyers in his party could have told him that the UK Court of Appeal was soon to rule on that matter and he ought, therefore, to have left it alone. Didn’t he recall his own experience in Tuxedogate when the Court of Appeal strengthened a High Court ruling by including the decision that he Chastanet was not a credible witness? As usual Chastanet would rush headfirst into the precipice only to make contact with the UK Court of Appeal ruling which vindicated the posture adopted by Prime Minister Anthony. The court ruled that Juffali’s appointment had been properly executed and the Government of Saint Lucia had done no wrong. Another blow to Chastanet’s ego.
Even worse for Chastanet was that Prime Minister Anthony’s decision to remain firm on Dr.Juffali’s appointment won him international praise for standing on enshrined principles of international law.
Chastanet’s headache has been further compounded with the Labour Party’s announcement of Guibion Ferdinand to contest the Micoud South seat. But that is for another article. For now, Chastanet can do himself a world of good by simply conceding. To allow Guibion to trounce him at the upcoming poll is after all a far worse fate!