NOT all his party’s supporters will admit publicly or privately, but more today than ever will tell you that Allen Chastanet is the worst leader the United Workers Party (UWP) has known since its formation in 1964.
The island’s second-oldest political party has been led by Sir John Compton, Sir Vaughan Lewis, Morella Joseph, Stephenson King and Allen Chastanet (in that order) and one thing is clear, the distance between the first and last is not just vast but also wide and deep.
Lewis and Joseph steered the party through migraine-type headaches and tantrums that followed its 16-1 defeat in 1997 by the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) under Dr Kenny D. Anthony and Sir John chose King to lead the party after his fateful heart attack that followed the ‘Super 8’ Cabinet palace coup that saw Saint Lucia break ties with China and return to Taiwan under his very eyes and much-against his wishes.
But King would also suffer his own coup de grace by Chastanet at a fateful UWP National Conference that saw Chastanet inserted as Party Leader even while King served as Prime Minister.
King suffered the unbearable fate of being dictated to on the floor of parliament by an unelected party leader, until such time as the unelected leader found a way to get elected through a bye-election.
Chastanet and King would work together in the party’s name to win the 2016 General Elections, only for King and his Castries Central sidekick MP Richard Frederick to be relegated to the very end of the parliamentary line-up in the House of Assembly – and the farthest from Prime Minister Chastanet as could be.
King would be treated with disdain by his party leader and fellow leaders in the UWP administration, then Economic Development Minister Guy Joseph essentially taking-over decision-making on infrastructural projects like the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) and the St. Jude Hospital rehabilitation projects, which King – as Cabinet Minister with responsibility for Infrastructure and Ports – only visited as minister-in-name only – and only when invited.
That King and Frederick would revolt against Chastanet’s leadership ahead of the 2021 was a long-foregone conclusion that surprised no one, the only surprise being the ease with which they won as independent candidates and the speed with which they agreed to serve in the new SLP Cabinet.
As the SLP approaches its mid-term period (starting January 2024), it’s chalked-up record successes in delivery of its 2021 election promises, from protecting the nation from the food and fuel price increases from the post-COVID era and the sanctions from the Ukraine war and rescuing the HIA and St. Jude projects to appointment of the first local Special Prosecutor to investigate gubernatorial and other violations and abuses of public trust, eliminating ambulance costs for pregnant mothers and padding women from paying too-much for sanitary products.
Philip J. Pierre is approaching two-and-a-half years in office and despite its best and worst efforts, the UWP hasn’t been able to pin a corruption label on him, far-less finger him as having engage in any act of making public monies disappear into thin air.
Here we have a UWP leader who, while in office, was named by the Jamaica-based JIRIE online news agency (covering Caribbean life, politics and economics) among ‘The Top Ten’ richest Prime Ministers and Heads of Government in the wider English-speaking Caribbean’s independent nations and colonies.
Chastanet was obviously unable to apply his personal Midas touch to national finances and after five years as Finance Minister he’d effectively lost the trust of Finance Ministry officers after first outsourcing his first two Budget Preparations to a firm called EY – and gained the outstanding reputation of leaving behind the biggest Billion-dollar debt Saint Lucia has ever owed at home and abroad.
In under two-and-a-half years, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre has gained even more support than that which led him to lead the SLP into the July 26, 2021 victory with 13-4, which magically turned into 15-2 between the Swearing-in of the new Cabinet of Ministers and the First Sitting of the new session of the House of Assembly a couple days later.
With the second-largest parliamentary majority held by the SLP after any election since independence in 1979, Prime Minister Pierre is quietly but purposefully using his over-two-thirds parliamentary majority to easily and quickly deliver much that eluded his predecessors: from withdrawal from the British Privy Council and joining the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), to setting the stage for the island to be the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) and the British Commonwealth’s next republic.
Chastanet led the party Sir John built into its second-worst defeat and is now struggling to remain relevant in the face of continuing internal challenges to his continued leadership, or lack thereof…
Sun-baked on his own deserted island of irrelevancy, Chastanet on Thursday led (another) Amarillo March in Castries that sometimes looked like the beached ‘Yellow Submarine’ that The Beatles definitely didn’t choose to sing about.
But here again, as with every public response to naked and useless politicization of the start of the traditional Season of Peace and Goodwill, the November 30 march was only supported by the usual diehard supporters who have reasons to continue to believe Chastanet will lead them to victory again in 2026.
Halfway through his term as Opposition Leader, Chastanet continues to bewilder locals with his basketball approach to the chessboard patience of party politics that always outplays his ever-faithful political pawns.
Whether or how long he’ll last as leader is as much certain as it’s doubtful – and as uncertain as his definition of ‘a levy’ as ‘not a tax’.
Saint Lucian voters were smart-enough on July 26 to apply their own elections magic and break the four-term cycle (of giving the UWP and SLP the same 11-6 victory) by trusting Philip J. Pierre and the SLP with the first two-thirds majority in government in 20th Century Saint Lucia.
Today, the Castries East MP, who’s never lost an election in six polls (like Dr Anthony in Vieux Fort South), continues to warm the hearts of more UWP supporters who’ve come to honestly accept and admit that he’s a leader who looks beyond his constituency and party, always with the entire country at heart.
Pierre and Chastanet are more than just like chalk versus cheese, more like unlike poles that’ll always repel the forces of political gravity due to their polar-opposite genetics.
And it’s clearer now than ever, as seen in the slogan on a poster making the rounds online that aptly characterizes the hapless UWP leader’s failure to remain relevant outside his fairy island.
The slogan read: ‘We in November and Chastanet in march…’