Letters & Opinion

A Question of Leadership

By Anthony Serieux

Watching and listening to Prime Minister Pierre, one would not be faulted for coming to the conclusion that despite his massive mandate in last year’s general election, he is woefully short of leadership talent and skills, and nowhere has this been more obvious than in his responses to the crime situation facing our country at this time.

Earlier this month, the United Workers Party put out a statement, suggesting that it was time the Prime Minister addressed the nation on crime. Now, although we know how insulted Mr. Pierre must have felt being given advice by a political party led by Allen Chastanet, many would concur with the notion that it was long past time for a forceful statement from the Prime Minister on the matter, to comfort and assure St Lucians that there were new initiatives being contemplated or to be rolled out to bring this troubling matter under some kind of control.

With four shooting fatalities this week, St Lucia has recorded 113 homicides in the 16 months Mr. Pierre’s party has been in power.

Fighting crime is no easy matter and I don’t think St Lucians are of the opinion that it is. However, they want to see that there is recognition of the problem at the highest levels of the administration and that there are steps being taken to curb it. They want to see evidence that their concerns are shared by those in authority and are being taken on board.

We do not expect to hear from our leader, our “commander in chief” so to speak that we the people are behaving as though the sky is falling, or that it is the Prime Minister’s father who was a policeman and not him.  We the people do not want to hear suggestions that other   countries in our region are going through the same problem with crime or that crime is a worldwide phenomenon. We want to hear and see our leader, doing something about it. That’s why we elected him to office.

I must invoke Allen Chastanet’s name here again, despite how unpalatable it might be to our Prime Minister. Imagine what our situation would have been if at the time when Covid broke, Chastanet had taken the position that the disease was everywhere else so what was the big deal. Or that nothing could be done about it.

No such luck. Chastanet went to the frontline and led the fight against Covid. In fact, when he felt sick in March of 2020—the early days of the pandemic in St Lucia—he wasted no time in quarantining himself and taking the vaccine. That’s what leadership is about. Chastanet also got out there and took the lead in sourcing assistance for St Lucia from overseas so that St Lucia became a leader in the fight against Covid. He has never been properly acknowledged for the role he personally played in getting St Lucia Covid-ready, and in fact never sought any such recognition. Chastanet simply went out there and did what he knew needed to be done.

Also, early in 2020, Chastanet imposed a state of emergency in the country in an effort to fight off the spread of the virus. Only certain businesses were given permission to operate. The police were given the power to arrest persons who were non-compliant and warned that those who violated their orders could face a fine, be arrested, or both. This was a clear example of the government’s determination to fight the virus. These measures ought to have received the support of Mr. Pierre’s party, then in opposition, but did not. Instead like little children, not recognizing the serious nature of the health threat, they publicly rebuked the government complaining about people ‘s rights being infringed.

By July 2021 when Pierre’s party came to power, it quickly dismantled the control measures then in place, even quashing charges against those who had broken the law during the pandemic, one of its earliest acts of irresponsibility and crass stupidity. The result?  Covid numbers then on the decline and down to single digits,  began to rise again and while St Lucia recorded 89 Covid deaths over a 16 month period under the UWP,  there were 217 over the same period under Mr Pierre’s watch.

Allen Chastanet is constantly being mentioned in the same vein as Sir John  Compton and not without reason. From George Charles to Kenny Anthony, no one in the Labour Party has been shown to possess the leadership qualities that had propelled St Lucia forward under successive UWP administrations. Compton fought off the criticisms and attacks of the Labour Party over such issues as social security for workers, development of Rodney Bay, deepening the Castries harbour, the building of highways and other infrastructure. Chastanet came into office in 2016 and promised to build a new St Lucia. To many it sounded like pie in the sky until we began to see the changes that had taken place in several towns and villages and many began to conclude that a new St Lucia was actually quite possible.

In both cases, it was leadership that was at play. Leadership demands vision.  It includes the ability of an individual, group or organization to “lead”, influence or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. It is about taking risks and challenging the status quo. Leaders motivate others to achieve something new and better. And herein is what separates the United Workers Party from the St Lucia Labour Party.

Mr. Pierre stood in the House of Assembly and boasted for all to hear that he considered himself the most prepared person ever to become Prime Minister of St Lucia. He bragged that he was following in the footsteps of so many outstanding regional leaders: Williams, the Manleys, Adams, Barrow and others, but even in his days on the opposition benches, it was clear as daylight that Mr. Pierre did not have the right stuff.

To have served as Minister of Tourism and to admit later that he never quite appreciated the sheer impact of tourism on St Lucia’s economy, to have foolishly and without any evidence spouted the foolishness that Chastanet was the only one who believed that tourism would have recovered after Covid, spoke to the intellectual inadequacy of Mr. Pierre both in and out of office.

Which brings us back to the crime situation. It is time for the Prime Minister to recognize that as leader, denial in the face of problems facing this country is not an option. Neither is blaming someone else. No one should expect Mr. Pierre to be physically out there like Chastanet did with Covid, fighting crime, but we must demand that he at least be inspirational and be seen to be taking steps to control it.

St Lucians also deserve a leader who is both emotional and empathetic, qualities that will help him address problems, complaints, and aspirations of his people. Promising to put people first and then turning your back on them on every given opportunity is downright dishonest and questions your real motive for seeking a leadership role.

Leaders should possess integrity. Mr. Pierre has never told us why, for instance, with 13 out of 17 seats won on election day, he still found it necessary to recruit two other baggage-carrying winners into his Cabinet? Was he repaying them for something? If so, what was it?

Some experts believe that leaders should rely on intuition for making hard decisions mainly because intuition heavily relies on existing knowledge and life learnings, which proves to be more useful in complex situations. But what if your life’s learnings were like those of Mr. Pierre as described by none other than himself on one occasion, and in the House of Assembly too, and broadcast for the world to hear?

It was the day when many St Lucians, reflecting on the massive mandate that thrust him into the Prime Minister’s chair, might have quietly asked themselves: “What have we done?”

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