It was with the sound of disappointment that the SLP’s former health minister observed during an exclusive STAR interview last September that “our parties throughout Saint Lucia and the region have not developed an ethic relating to the nurturing of talent. Whenever it’s time for our leaders to make an exit we encounter problems.” Although he used the plural, I suspected the always ebullient Greaves was primarily concerned about one party: his own.
For several years now a lecturer at Grenada’s St. Georges University, Greaves told me last September that the SLP under Kenny Anthony offered him little opportunity for upward mobility.
“There was never a conscious and deliberate effort to nurture whatever leadership skills I may have,” he said. Reminded that the SLP had, in 2005, modified its constitution to accommodate its leader’s ambitions, Greaves acknowledged he had endorsed the motion but had since had a change of heart.
“Today I would not support the change of the clause,” he said nearly a decade later. I am wedded now to the idea that people should not be prime minister for more than ten years. I would like our country’s constitution to say so.”
On Tuesday this week Greaves called Newsspin, ostensibly to congratulate the SLP on its 65th anniversary, to be observed this Sunday (tomorrow). “But I also want to suggest we begin to go through some quiet introspection with our people, with our supporters and well-wishers, to see what we have done. Also to see some of the things we may cut out of our DNA. I think it’s time we begin to engage in some strategic foresight because I believe that in some ways we are losing our way.”
He added: “I am speaking about people like myself, people like Felix Finistiere, Ferguson John, Cyprian Lansiquot and others who may not be active in the party but are working behind the scenes. Still we are left on the sidelines.”
Among the things he would like to see change: “Our philosophy . . . how we choose people to fill positions . . . the party needs to look inward, to make changes to meet the future.”
He said if the party is to remain relevant the “current crop” must engage the “old guard.”
Referencing the party’s leadership he said: “Going forward we need to look at our constitution and how we do business in terms of the selection of election candidates. One of the things we must change is how we engage people, especially the younger people.”
On Thursday it was Timothy Mangal’s turn to call Newsspin about the incumbent SLP, on behalf of which he had contended unsuccessfully in 2011 for the Castries South East seat. He said he concurred with much of what Damian Greaves had told Poleon.
“Let us look at the case of Cyprian Lansiquot,” he said. “Yes, we are told Cyprian Lansiquot is the chairperson of the Anse La Raye/Canaries Constituency group but his is a decision that may not necessarily be influenced by the executive of the party. That position is elected by the person on that particular council or constituency group.”
He cited the case of former government minister Ferguson John: “He has been sick for over a year. I ask the question: Has anyone from the Labour Party visited Ferguson John? Has anyone from the executive of the SLP assisted him in any way?” Then there were others such as Lydia Harracksing and Ubaldus Raymond who Mangal said appear to have been forgotten by their party.
He seemed to drop another bombshell when he asked: “Is everything well between the Labour Party and Dr. Long, the MP for Anse La Raye/Canaries?”
As for his own personal relationship within the party, he said it was only this week, after four years of next to no contact, that he was asked if he continued to be interested in battling for the SLP against the UWP’s Guy Joseph. Mangal claimed he and many other soldiers of the SLP were also denied invitations to government functions.
“In relation to this anniversary,” Mangal went on, “I would ask the SLP to reflect, just as Damian has suggested, on all these persons who have served; whether there is good communication between them and the party; whether there are support systems for them . . .”
When Poleon asked if Mangal had given up on elective politics, he suddenly waxed diplomatic. In these harsh economic times, he replied, he needed to focus on the survival of his business. As for the government’s performance over the last four years, Mangal said they had done a “relatively good job” with tourism and the infrastructure, following Hurricane Tomas and the Christmas Eve trough. However the government “could have done better in the areas of healthcare and housing.”