NO incoming government in St Lucia has faced the mountain of issues that the five week old administration of Prime Minister Chastanet is currently confronted with. How it moves about to tackle and resolve them and bring satisfaction and happiness to the people of this country will determine its true mettle.
To begin with there are the issues that remain unresolved under the last government and which contributed to its downfall on June 6: unemployment, economic stagnation, failed systems in the administration of justice, education and health among others which had collectively resulted in sheer hopelessness among the population.
Then there is another tier of issues of wider import which affect our country as a whole and are equally outstanding: IMPACS and the Grynberg matter come easily to mind.
There are other issues of more recent vintage like the Prime Minister’s High Court case of alleged misfeasance and newly negotiated contracts with public officials that we are told occurred just before the elections. There is also the state of the public service that has been widely alluded to in the recent past and which must be addressed urgently lest it threatens the government’s efforts to deliver services to the people.
Fortunately for the new government it has come into office with considerable public goodwill although this will not last forever. It will do well to capitalize on this favourable climate while it lasts. Despite what the critics might say, Chastanet endeared himself to the public in the manner which he handled himself under the barrage of personal criticism from the Labour Party in the months before the elections. When he was placed alongside Dr. Anthony, the other leader, the voters decided that he was the “better” man. There are signs that this policy by the now opposition party is going to continue and we wait to see whether it produces a different result.
The thing is, though, that we have just recently had a dose of Labour Party rule. It is still fresh in the minds of many and it is bound to take some time before that feeling of resentment towards Labour harboured by so many and announced so dramatically on June 6 begins to wear off. The ongoing campaign to paint the prime minister as a liar because of various statements he is alleged to have made will not have the effect of tarnishing his image Labour hopes, simply because as far as St. Lucians are concerned there is no difference between lying and hiding information, or promising and failing to deliver, whether we are talking aboutJuffali, Grynberg or Lambirds or creating job opportunities. Indeed, there is a matter of Labour Party credibility, integrity and honesty in office that can be exploited if one had a mind to.
But the Chastanet government has a tough work agenda. The first telling sign of its capacity to deliver will come when it presents its 100-day report card. The government should not expect any sympathy if it falters in fulfilling the promises it made to the voters especially those that have to do with putting money into their pockets. Of course, it will be distracted all along the way by the Labour Party, and that too will test the character of the government in the way it handles the pressure.
The Labour Party lost power for a number of reasons including the arrogance and defiance of its leadership and its bullying and intimidatory habits on top of its failure to satisfy the desires of the people for jobs and a better standard of living. These are still among the main imperatives in St Lucia at this time and the new governmemt will do well to bear that in mind.