Letters & Opinion

Why Is Labour So Afraid of Allen Chastanet?

A Column by The United Workers Party

What is it about Allen Chastanet that has the Saint Lucia Labour Party, especially its leadership, so spooked?

Why is it that even with a thumping 15-2 majority in the House of Assembly –that includes some of the biggest loudmouths in the political history of Saint Lucia–Labour still detects a clear and present danger in Chastanet even opening his mouth to speak?

Prime Minister Pierre and his merry band of misfits and bullies will no doubt be gloating over last Thursday’s developments in the House when they surreptitiously ended debate on the Estimates of Expenditure to deprive Chastanet the opportunity of making his contribution. However, in the court of public opinion which is beginning to become more and more relevant in the prevailing circumstances, the Labour Party will be seen as a bunch of scared men and women, low on confidence, but yet vicious, dangerous and a threat to our democracy.

Why would 15 men and women, still boasting of their collective prowess in winning the July 26, 2021 election, be running scared of one man? One would have thought that given the overwhelming advantage in the disposition of seats in the House, it would matter little to the government whether Chastanet spoke, first, seventh, twelfth or last. But alas, Labour continues to run scared at the very sight of the Leader of the Opposition who continues to maintain his cool and show the stuff that he is made of, even under the barrage of abuse that is hurled at him in the House.

The fact that Labour has boldly declared that Chastanet should not be allowed to dictate how the debate should be conducted is clear indication that the Prime Minister’s action in terminating the debate was “personal” and for good reason too.

Were Pierre and his government embarrassed by the fact that the majority of the plans and programmes in the budget were started by the last Chastanet-UWP government?

Were they embarrassed by the fact that having bitterly criticized government borrowing and promising not to follow the same path, they now find themselves in the embarrassing position of planning to borrow a massive $505 million in only their first year in office?

Were they afraid that Chastanet would have pointed out the hypocrisy and lies that they peddled whilst in opposition and expose them using the figures and plans contained in their own budget?

Were they embarrassed that contrary to the lies that the Prime Minister told about inheriting an economic mess, Saint Lucia’s economy is in fact moving in a positive direction?  It is no secret that Pierre’s budget statement exposed for all to see the litany of lies, distortions, and half-truths that Pierre and company peddled to give them the election victory.

Were they embarrassed by the fact that Saint Lucia’s economy which suffered the largest contraction in 2020 by virtue of being the largest economy in the subregion, is now experiencing one of the largest recoveries? This recovery is a direct result of the policies implemented by the Chastanet-UWP government, where they tried successfully to balance the trade-off between saving lives and livelihoods.

Was Labour embarrassed by the fact the strong GDP performance in 2021, is now forming the basis on which the SLP administration can develop its budget for the fiscal year 2022/23?

So rather than confess their sins and admit their lies, rather than try to explain their hypocrisy and double standards and tell the people of Saint Lucia how the millions of dollars some of his ministries will be spending in the 2022-23 fiscal year, Pierre chooses to shut down Chastanet and yet he continues to call others vindictive.

But Pierre’s behaviour is not coincidental. It is taken from the SLP playbook, especially since 1997: that what they cannot have they will seek to destroy; that they will never give credit where it is due; never admit their own mistakes; that they would continue to deflect blame, refuse to accept responsibility and pin their own dirty practices on others.

Before he became Prime Minister Allen Chastanet had the distinction of winning three consecutive contests for the leadership of his party, amassing twice as many votes as his opponent on each occasion. Immediately we began to hear the personal attacks on his character. One SLP loudmouth even wanted to find out whether Chastanet had achieved an academic qualification as he claimed while others questioned whether he had indeed played basketball on the national team. How puerile of Labour!

Around the same time we started to hear the racist remarks from within the Labour Party which had itself in 1969 embraced a white Barbadian, John Goddard (father of Paula Calderon) to contest the Castries Northwest/Gros Islet seat against Allan Bousquet.

In 2016, the leader of the SLP boldly announced that the election contest of that year would be a “war”, but not between the UWP and the SLP but rather between the SLP and the Chastanets. The campaign of vilification of Chastanet was so intense and persistent that in quick time the SLP minions began to take up the chant. It has never stopped.

Today, even while the acting governor general tells us that this is not a time for fighting among ourselves and calls for an end to “the self-hate of political tribalism, and insularity” and the Prime Minister speaks of unity and ridding ourselves of “selfish behaviour”, the seeds of racism, hatred, lies and distortions sowed by the SLP over the past nine years in the effort to demonize Chastanet have not only taken root but are being fertilized.

We are seeing first hand that all the accusations by Labour against Chastanet and the UWP, made without even a shred of evidence, are even now being committed by Labour itself—the lies, vindictiveness, victimization, corruption, abuse of power, lack of accountability and transparency etc. Traitors have become patriots, the prime minister himself can intimidate the courts in real time, our Cabinet can contain persons of questionable character and law breakers with their misdeeds unaccounted for, yet the prime minister speaks boldly about his abhorrence of corruption and seeks to portray himself as a crusader against crime.

Without apology, Pierre has broken several promises to the people of Saint Lucia in the past eight months. Criminal charges against offenders have been expunged, his ministers have ran afoul of the law without penalty and the prime minister exhibits his total lack of  class and decorum by telling Saint Lucians that written suggestions made by Chastanet for his (Pierre’s) government to implement for the benefit of our people belong in the garbage. How low!

Thanks to a complacent public, Pierre believes he is on a high. He struts around with an ego that he believes cannot be deflated. To him, as long as Chastanet is around he will have someone to beat on. But quietly Pierre knows full well that Chastanet’s are big shoes to fill. The achievements of his 2016-21 administration were clear indication that Chastanet has the right stuff to lead Saint Lucia. He is not perfect, as none of us is perfect, but he has shown Pierre what having a vision and the capacity to pursue it can produce. He has ideas where Pierre seems to have none; he is articulate and easily understood while Pierre is usually incoherent and mostly spouts gibberish. Above all, we have seen Chastanet and his UWP produce good results for the constituencies they represent and also for the country.

Imagine Chastanet’s last three years in office—most of it with Covid 19 raging—being better for Saint Lucia than Kenny Anthony’s horror show of 2011-16 that left Saint Lucia with record unemployment, among other lows, and it is easy to understand the jealous rage that currently consumes the Labour Party and the fear that Chastanet’s mere name conjures up. We should not be surprised if Chastanet causes some of them sleepless nights as well.

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