PRIME Minister Allen Chastanet’s rejection of Jeannine Compton-Antoine as Director of the Saint Lucia National Trust has been widely discussed in the public domain, with the Trust, just about 10 days ago, challenging the prime minister about certain comments he made on a radio programme about that appointment.
Enter the New Year and the matter simply refuses to go away emerging at this week’s pre-Cabinet press briefing where the prime minister again put down Compton-Antoine saying the National Trust Act does not call on him to give a reason for his decision to reject her for the position of Director of the National Trust.
“First of all, the Act of the National Trust is very clear, it requires my approval and nowhere in the Act does it say I have to give a reason for it, but I was very clear and transparent and accountable to everybody in giving you several reasons,” Prime Minister Chastanet told reporters, adding that they were the ones who brought politics into the picture.
“I just don’t believe that Jeannine Compton is the best person suited for that job. And what I surely am not going to encourage or be happy with is any attempt to breach the spirit of what the Act is,” Chastanet said.
But it is the Rules of the Trust and not the Act that gives the prime minister the authority to speak as he does regarding the appointment of a Director for the Trust.
The Rules are contained in Statutory Instruments Number 27 of 1984 and speak directly to the appointment of a Director for the Trust.
According to part six of the Rules, the Council, which administers the affairs of the Trust, “shall, subject to the approval of the minister and upon such terms and conditions as it may determine, appoint a Director. The Director shall be the chief executive officer of the Council and shall exercise all the functions entrusted to him by the Council and shall be present at all meetings of the Council unless he/she has obtained leave of absence from attending the meetings.”
The Rules further state that in the absence of a Director, “the Council may, with the approval of the minister by instrument in writing appoint any person to act as Director during the period of absence upon such terms and conditions as it may determine. The person so appointed may exercise all the powers and all duties exercisable or to be performed by the Director or such powers and duties may be specified in such instrument.”
Prime Minister Chastanet believes there will always be difficulties between organizations like the National Trust and governments but such difficulties can always be resolved through dialogue and mutual respect.
“That’s why I took the initiative to go and have a presentation with the National trust in order for them to see that… I have no animosity. I get it that this is a difficult thing and that we would have to work through it,” he said.
The presentation the prime minister spoke of took place at the 43rd AGM of the Saint Lucia National Trust on November 16 of last year.
However, his reasons for rejecting Compton-Antoine as Director were given during a telephone call he made to Radio 100.1 Helen FM’s ‘Out Goes In’ programme on Wednesday December 11, 2019.
The Trust said that the prime minister highlighted political differences between himself and Compton-Antoine as one of three reasons he denied her the Director’s position.
According to the Trust, the prime minister on the radio programme stated that “Jeannine chose to resign from our party, and she decided to run independent. In addition to that at the last elections, there were certain allegations that Jeannine made towards my Government and so I say too, publicly, that the relationship between myself and Jeannine has not been a good one. This is not a person that when we meet in public that we even shake hands and therefore to have someone who has made it clear in public, her opinion about my party, how does that person now come into an already difficult situation and resolve it?”
The prime minister, on the same radio programme, also questioned Jeannine’s ability to perform in the post of Director.
Said the prime minister: “Now these are difficult times and I am not going to take away the responsibility of the Trust but it means that you have somebody who can follow the rule of law, follow the processes, hold their ground in a responsible way and I just don’t think Ms Compton is going to be that person.
“I don’t think that she has the skill set to be able to develop the Trust commercially and to marry the commercial part with the conservation. Is she a good conservationist? Has she done a great job in the marine area? We had her in the SMMA. She is also, as you know, someone we appointed in the use of the whaling institute,” Chastanet said.
The Trust, in its response to the prime minister on the Compton-Antoine appointment as Director said it was at a loss to understand the basis on which Chastanet concluded that Compton-Antoine was not business-oriented because he was not involved in the recruitment process.
“And we are not aware of any other opportunity he has had to assess her skills in this area. The Trust has a job description and assessment criteria which were carefully followed throughout the recruitment process. Our decisions were not subjective. They were guided by the results of a four-step screening process, including a psychometric evaluation. It was rigorous and considered all the critical requirements for the job,” stated the Trust.