By Stephen Lester Prescott
IT has been just over 52 years ago that the UWP was born. Some say it had its origins in a marriage of convenience whilst the less charitable consider its birth the result of a betrayal of Labour’s core principles by a greedy few. From its inception until his death in 2007, its founder, Sir John Compton, led the party. Ever since his passing, the party has lurched from one crisis to the next; from one scandal to another. Today, under Allen Chastanet the party appears to have reached rock bottom. From Frederick’s expulsion to King’s humiliation, Chastanet has simply bulldozed his way clearing all in his path who dare stand against him. At Labour’s launch of its Castries North Candidate last week Sunday, Alva Baptiste opined that that the UWP died with Sir John. Is Labour’s second deputy leader on to something? In fact, is the UWP under Chastanet’s leadership, even still relevant in today’s politics?
Thanks to the marvels of technology, I was able to listen in on the UWP’s Grand Riviere meeting even whilst I was attending Labour’s glorious launch of John Charlery at the La Clery playing field. By mid-meeting, I could only shake my head and wonder what on earth the UWP was up to? Surely, they could not be serious about some of the utterances from the platform speakers! Their social media advertisements had promised their faithful that they would hear the truth about the “IMPACTS” (they must have meant IMPACS) report commissioned by the Labour government. Political Leader Kenny D. Anthony would launch a preemptive assault by warning his political opposite not to play with the country’s future by revealing the contents of the hitherto top-secret document. Dr. Anthony also warned of the consequences of fractured relations with the United States and that the prosecution of those mentioned in the report could be negatively affected to the point where no prosecution may be possible.
Imagine my surprise then when two days later Allen Chastanet would deny that he and his party ever had plans to discuss the IMPACS report. Who posted the advertisement then? Wasn’t the advertisement on the party’s official page?
According to the UWP upon assuming office the party would actively discuss the decriminalization of marijuana. Has the UWP being afflicted with the Rip Van Winkle syndrome rendering them asleep these past five years? The stark truth is that the Labour government has been engaged in a marijuana decriminalization debate for the past two years at the Caribbean heads level. A committee has been established and its report awaited. So what’s new in the UWP proposal? Is that what they hope to use as they attempt to appeal to the Rastafarian community? Never mind, that they have never been fond of the Rastafari Community.
Curiously, the same UWP that dangled the carrot of decriminalization had its leader say, days later, that marijuana would only be decriminalized after a referendum in favour of decriminalization. Back to square one!
Next, the UWP stated it would consider a sex offenders’ registry. Wasn’t it earlier this year Health Minister Alvina Reynolds accepted a petition in that regard? Didn’t Prime Minister Anthony, at the Labour Party’s Gros Islet meeting nearly two months ago, indicate his government’s resolve to consider the registry? Again nothing new in the UWP proposal.
The UWP also stated the party would construct a Hall of Justice. What is original about this Mr. Chastanet? Has Prime Minister Anthony not been in contact with the Chief Justice and other members of the judiciary discussing exactly that over the past few years? At the opening of the newly established Commercial Court, Prime Minister Anthony again restated his government’s position on the construction of the Hall of Justice. That intent was confirmed in the recently delivered Throne Speech. The Governor General announced that a site had already been identified and in the process of acquisition. Couldn’t Leone Theodore, a member of the Bar Association, have told Chastanet that?
Clearly wishing to tug at the heart strings of single mothers – perhaps Chastanet forgot the Soufriere Hostesses were also single mothers when he summarily dismissed them – the UWP announced it would increase the amounts payable for child maintenance. Join the line Chastanet for Prime Minister Anthony several months ago announced his government’s plans to do just that.
Imagine, too, the UWP had the gall to indicate the idea of fixed election dates which they also announced at the meeting was theirs. What a tangled web they weave . . . Let us rewind to October 19, 2015 when Prime Minister Anthony was Jadia Jn. Pierre’s guest on the Choice TV special “In Touch with Jadia Jn. Pierre”. On that show the Prime Minister announced for the world to hear that he was considering fixed dates for elections. He went further and gave reasons why he was, as he put it, “warming to the idea”. How on earth then can the UWP claim an announcement made by them more than seven months later is an original idea?
Next the UWP tackled the vexing issue of remands at the Bordelais Correctional Facility. Clearly the UWP has no new ideas. The fact is Kenny Anthony has gone beyond talk on this issue. His government actually funded an additional temporary judge whose sole responsibility was to deal with the Prison’s remand population. Come and wheel again, Mr. Chastanet.
In what can only be described as desperation personified the UWP indicated they would allow British police officers to investigate the Gobat murder. Inherent in that statement is a suggestion that somehow Kenny Anthony and his Labour government have denied the British permission to carry out enquiries. In a recent letter to the SLHTA – which was in response to one written by Chastanet – the Prime Minister had chided Chastanet for raising in the public domain matters which he could so easily have asked about either directly or via the official Leader of the Opposition. But Chastanet and cohorts are nothing if not misguided. Had Chastanet and his UWP simply asked the Prime Minister or National Security minister, they would have been told that whereas there was the initial request by the British to waive the death penalty, that aspect was no longer a sticking point and the British have been given the green light. In fact, the British Police are actively engaged in the investigation. What then is the UWP speaking about?
Still, the most egregious of the UWP’s pronouncements related to the IMPACS report. According to the UWP, the Prime Minister, contrary to proper procedure, had allowed his Cabinet of Ministers to view the report. Were this not such a serious matter it would be easy to dismiss the comment as simply platform mischief. This, however, is a serious matter, a deadly serious one indeed. Is the UWP determined to poison the minds of potential jurors? Is the UWP of the view that its own handling of Operation Restore Confidence can be buried if the report is deemed not acceptable as its contents have been compromised by their utterances?
The amendment to the Police Complaints Act provides for the report to be handed to the Minister and any evidence to the DPP. That is what happened. To this date, the entire Cabinet has not seen the report and no member of Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, has seen the statements taken by the investigators, in effect the actual evidence. These, as the Prime Minister has several times stated, remain with the investigators for onward transmission to the DPP whenever the same is requested. That is what the law says and that is what was done.
Irrelevant as it is proving to be in our local politics, the UWP will not be allowed to muddy the judicial waters in an attempt at protecting itself and the key architects of “Operation Restore Confidence.”
What is clear, however, is that the UWP has ceased to be relevant to politics and to the development of Saint Lucia and its citizens. All their ideas have one source, pronouncements made by the Saint Lucia Labour Party and its leader from time to time.