Letters & Opinion

Allen Chastanet Under Siege

By Anthony Serieux

It will do us St Lucians a world of good if we began to take serious note of ongoing developments in our country that have the potential of leading us all into anarchy.

In democratic countries, there are institutions that are considered sacred because of the important role that they play in serving people, while maintaining order. Parliament is one of these institutions, with its three main roles: representing the people of the country, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries.

Although houses of parliament can be either elected (The House of Assembly) or appointed (the Senate), their roles are similar for those who sit in either Chamber. In the past, we have witnessed here in St Lucia, several occasions when our House of Assembly has been brought into serious disrepute through the actions and antics of its members.

During the infamous 1979-82 turmoil within the St Lucia Labour Party government, we saw an amazing act of vandalism when the mace, the symbol of the authority of the Speaker of the House, was vandalized by one of its members. We have also seen misbehaviour in varying degrees of severity by MPs in the form of verbal abuse, threatening and obscene language, the use of derogatory comments, etc.

The composition of the present House of Assembly has raised the eyebrows of St Lucians at home and abroad and with good reason. Many are asking: how did we get to that stage with some of the characters that occupy seats in these august chambers? Is that the best St Lucia can do, they ask. Others wonder aloud how is it possible that the country of two Nobel Laureates and countless other outstanding sons and daughters that have made their marks all over the world, could today be electing to parliament so many people of low integrity and esteem.

A roll call of the current members of parliament to discover those who have been fingered for breaches of the law or acts of criminality that involved police intervention will turn out an unprecedented high percentage of lawbreakers or perceived lawbreakers that should make us all shake in our shoes. Not even those who preside over these two chambers would have been spared this cursory investigation.

Our houses of parliament have now lost whatever sheen they still possessed after all the misbehaviour and name calling, the walkouts, veiled or overt threats etc. We have now graduated into full scale bullying and attempts to drive the Leader of the Opposition into the ground by any means necessary including the misuse of power.

You look at the television coverage of meetings of the House and serious questions emerge about the impartial role expected of the present Speaker who comes over as a willing accomplice in the suppression of the opposition, especially its leader.

Put that alongside the verbal abuse and harassment the Leader of the Opposition faces at every meeting from some usual suspects and a pattern of intimidation emerges that simply cannot be ignored. Allen Chastanet is constantly under siege from the Labour Party members of the House. The fact that he has remained tall and strong under this barrage of attacks is no comfort. The role of the parliament is being systematically usurped when it is used as a battleground to perpetuate selfish motives that have nothing to do with the people’s business.

Some months ago, when an issue arose over the absence of Allen Chastanet from House meetings, the Speaker threatened to deny him his pay, and insulted us by claiming to be running a tight ship.

The fact that the Labour Party has found it necessary to resort to this kind of agenda even with an overwhelming 15 to 2 majority in the House means that the governing party is nothing but a bully that is prepared to use its numbers to crush any kind of opposition or dissent.

The latest ruse by two well-known Labour Party adversaries of the Opposition Leader to have him brought before the House’s Privileges Committee for things he is alleged to have said, is nothing but an abuse of that process considering that members of the ruling party, have repeatedly crossed the line in behaviour and utterances at meetings without sanction.

So Chastanet must go up against Richard Frederick and Ernest Hilaire–both of whom have issues with him—with a Speaker in the chair who has not been able to show one bit of consideration for the Opposition Leader in the past 15 months. The lopsided nature of the so-called hearing on Tuesday does not seem to faze the Speaker any.

The Labour Party is clearly on a witch hunt and vendetta against Chastanet but it must know that St Lucians are well aware of what is taking place before their very eyes. They understand the reality of the anti-Chastanet terror campaign that has been ongoing ever since his entry into the island’s politics. The fact that Labour’s governance and performance continue to fall short of expectations and pales in comparison to that of Chastanet’s recent UWP will soon begin to produce a political backlash and groundswell of popular opposition to the government in which many factors will be brought into the mix.

Labour is beginning to push the people into a corner with its high handedness and acts of suppression, where some significant push back will become necessary.

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