Indications are that the opposition party is straining to remain relevant under a leader who was soundly rejected by a heavy swing of voters eight months ago.
This is not a UWP political advice column, but an appeal must be made to its members who, despite the electoral debacle of July 26, 2021, still maintain their patriotic spirit and, more importantly, their sense of reason to stand against the lack of reason, reckless distortions and untruths emanating from their channels of information.
This column would totally ignore, even encourage, the UWP’s self-inflicted wounds of arrogance and indifference, if the economic and social health of the nation were not indirectly or directly impacted as a result of the negativity in the content of their press conferences, media releases and online platforms.
Take for instance, the opposition March 18 press release headlined, “SLP Government Still Putting Russians First?” This has the net effect of trivializing the horrors of the war between Russia and Ukraine to score cheap political points in Saint Lucia, knowing that the government here has re-emphasised its commitment to due diligence in the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) as an effective, protective screen against corruption and money laundering by elements of all nationalities.
In recent days, there has been a flurry of media activity in the opposition, a sudden energy, all of it intended to portray the SLP Administration as having run its course. If you have not been closely following political events in Saint Lucia for the last six years, you would think that the term of office of this government is almost at an end. The content of the communication coming from the opposition – officials and surrogates – is framed to leave the impression that we are at the worst levels of “Dante’s inferno”. According to UWP expectation, eight months is more than enough time for the SLP Administration to have delivered on all of, and perhaps more than, its manifesto promises.
Didn’t Mr Allen Chastanet, as Prime Minister, set a minimum timeline of three years by which the people would begin to realise the actual benefits of his manifesto programme, which he had presented to voters in 2016 under the theme, ‘Building a New Saint Lucia’?
Now, in opposition, he wants the SLP Administration to do in eight months what he never did in more than five years.
This is not politics. This is turning Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition into an unscripted pantomime.
On-by one, members of the failed leadership of the UWP administration are dragging themselves out of a prolonged election defeat slumber, not to perform the act of political contrition desired by their supporters and the public at large, but to hand the new government a laundry basket of stuff they found achievable.
Last week, Mr Lenard Montoute, former Minister for Equity and Social Justice (if only nice sounding ministerial titles could stop the criminals), and Mr Hermangild Francis, former Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, hobbled back into the limelight giving instructions to the new government. Mr Montoute commanded the government to move things from “campaign bluff to reality” and to “take advantage of the foundation already set” (by UWP?) as a means of fighting crime. It is plain to see that his “foundation” could not stop the record levels of violence under the administration of which he was part.
Mr. Hermangild Francis, introduced to the press conference as “ a former member of the hierarchy of the police force”, used some words and phrases, like “missteps” and “blunders at the policy level”, to back-up his perspective on “failed leadership” on crime. The verbiage continued with seven “pleas to help overcome this matter, which has reached crisis proportions.”
Again, you would have to remind yourself that he was the minister before the elections, just eight months ago. Did he act on his own “pleas” for reducing the flow of illegal firearms through our borders and onto our streets?
Mr. Hermangild Francis is a terrible advocate in his own cause, for he is living proof of why academic qualifications and career reputation do not automatically create a crime-fighting magic wand in the hands of any person who is assigned the Home Affairs and National Security Ministry. The police violent crime reports between June 2016 and July 2021 were at record levels on his watch. The people would be better served if Mr. Francis, in the interest of a peaceful and prosperous nation, enlightens his successor on the challenges and responsibilities of the Home Affairs Ministry.
With all his clout as a former top cop and crime fighter, it would appear that Mr. Francis could not even persuade his prime minister and party leader to attend a national crime symposium (the brainchild of then leader of the opposition Philip J. Pierre) convened on November 24, 2017. Where was the then Prime Minister? He was attending the 74th Annual Conference of the Jamaica Labour Party. How turbulent did Hermangild Francis rate this one on his Richter Scale of “failed leadership”?
Two days after the opposition’s performance at the March 24 press conference, their own propagandists were unable to continue with their months of pretence that the Party had gotten its groove back, after the humiliation of July 26, 2021. Therold Prudent, a political wanderer mistrusted by all sides of the political spectrum, posted a cryptic notice of the suspension of his online UWP cheerleading radio show. That same day another sycophant, Sohria Alexander, was left with no choice but to turn her attention to the failed politicians and ideas, which the UWP Party is continuing to present in new kits at press conferences. She aimed her “lies and deceit” verbal catapult at Mr Montoute and Mr Francis who, according to her, “went into hiding for eight months”.
Much earlier, on March 18, the opposition leader falsely accused the SLP Administration of prioritizing the improvement of Hewanorra Airport over St. Jude Hospital. Yes, the same Party Leader that promised to deliver St. Jude to the people of the south before the last elections, but instead reduced the project to a hollow box of colourful cladding that benefitted mainly the middlemen with ties to the Party bosses who contracted them.
Defections from one party to the other would, at the very least, evoke some questions among the public about the strength of cohesion in the leadership. The affected party would immediately communicate messages of reassurance through open discussion of the grievances of the departing stalwart and the consequences (or gain) of the move on leadership, rank-and-file and country.
One senses that the UWP has yet to properly address, during Mr Chastanet’s ongoing tenure, the non-performance or defections of party members of significant standing, culminating in the election eve ‘Blue Wave’ on which Mr Stephenson King surfed to become a popular independent MP. In the UWP national political leviathan, Mr. King isn’t small fry. Using party longevity and discipline, public service experience, strength of political base, and likability as basic measurements, Mr. Stephenson King out-performs his closest competitor in the UWP (whoever that is) by a long way.
Mr Chastanet’s loss of Mr. Stephenson King as a political asset speaks volumes about his political immaturity.