A public lecture by Dr. Tennyson Joseph of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in which he identified Prime Minister Allen Chastanet as unsuitable to the position as Prime Minister on account of being a businessman is generating much traction here.
Two high-profile members of the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) have taken umbrage at the Prime Minister for using the word “racist” to reference articles written by Dr. Joseph, who is Head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados.
Dr. Joseph was speaking at an event in St. Vincent and the Grenadines organized by the UWI Open Campus, and LegalEase SVG Inc. last week when he referenced Chastanet in his lecture.
Dr. Joseph was distinguishing the capabilities of businessmen-turned-politicians and professional politicians, questioning their competence and adeptness in such high positions, citing Chastanet and U.S. President, Donald Trump — both businessmen – as examples.
“There is much evidence in the politics of the U.S.A., the Caribbean and elsewhere that the election of persons with business experience and the election of persons who fail to understand that political leadership requires a specific nobility of character, has compounded, rather than resolved the challenges of governance or development. It is clear that not any cook can govern,” Dr. Joseph said.
The UWI lecturer presented Chastanet as incompetent and unable to find solutions to the problems facing the country.
Chastanet has since hit back, telling reporters at a pre-Cabinet meeting on Monday that he was surprised that Dr. Joseph, given some of the articles he has written in the past, is still a Professor at UWI.
Chastanet said his experience in government is long and deep, touting his stints as Director of Tourism, Minister of Tourism, working with Air Jamaica and as an employee of the government back in the mid-Eighties.
“My understanding of how government works is very substantive and I think my administration has benefitted from that. When you look at what we have achieved in just above one year in government, hopefully, Mr. Joseph himself would have recognized the success of our government,” Chastanet said.
Chastanet said that aside from making allegations, Dr. Joseph could not substantiate what he was saying, adding that some of Dr. Joseph’s articles were prejudiced and that he was surprised that the university had not reprimanded Dr. Joseph.
“You have seen several articles written by Mr. Tennyson (Joseph) which, I think, are racist and I’m really surprised that the University of the West Indies had not called him out on that and that he would continue to be allowed to teach students in that area,” Chastanet said.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre, claiming to be defending UWI as a past graduate, stated that Chastanet should stop using the Prime Minister’s Office as a bullying pulpit where he accuses everyone and says whatever he wants.
“The Prime Minister must understand that universities are not there to do public relations for the government. Universities are there to cause people to think outside the box. Lecturers cannot be people saying the same things as Guy Joseph,” Pierre said.
He added all the Prime Minister had to do was disagree with what Dr. Joseph said but not attack him personally.
Castries South MP, Dr. Ernest Hilaire, also took on the Prime Minister, stating that he did not understand what universities are about and how someone is educated at a university.
“A university teaches you to critically (study) the societies about you and to find solutions to the problems of the societies. What Dr. Joseph did is what lecturers and professors do. They subject the society to analysis. Joseph was making the point of the phenomenon of businessmen becoming political leaders and the belief that business capabilities equate to excellence in leadership, political leadership, in particular,” Dr.Hilaire said.
Dr.Hilaire said that for the Prime Minister to say that some of the articles written by Dr. Joseph were racist means that the Prime Minister was calling Dr. Joseph a racist. He said that while it is alright for the Prime Minister to disagree with what Dr. Joseph wrote, calling him a racist was grossly disrespectful.