Last Sunday, the Saint Lucia Labour Party, with much fanfare and dazzling and “flashing mirrors” – to quote one of its own – launched the SLP’s Dennery South candidate for the next general elections. The event was not altogether humourless. There could not have been a straight face among the crowd as health minister Alvina Reynolds underscored the newcomer’s physical fitness seemingly oblivious to the girth of some in her Cabinet. What was not so funny was the party leader and prime minister’s declaration for at least the second time that the upcoming elections would be between his party and Michael Chastanet and his son Allen, who also happens to lead the opposition United Workers Party. Interestingly enough, Kenny Anthony had made his way fresh from Government House that day.
It may be worth mentioning that a short time earlier last Sunday Vaughan Lewis was knighted at Government House, in the presence of the same prime minister, in whose book At the Rainbow’s Edge Lewis was anything but worthy of admiration, let alone to be among the first citizens to be knighted on Saint Lucia soil. The prime minister had also successfully sued Lewis in a libel court.
In another time too, the same prime minister had bestowed on Michael Chastanet the title “Goodwill Ambassador” and handed him an OBE for his contributions to Commerce. But oh, how his view of the Chastanets – father and son – had changed. Now he had new friends, worthier by far of special awards: the Lebanese Gilbert Chagoury, for one, who had received by the prime minister’s special command, the highest honour Saint Lucia can bestow. Was Saint Michael less forthcoming with greasing the hands that feed, than the latest ambassadorial Saviours? Sounding more than ever before like a mob leader firing up his troops, Kenny Anthony told Labour Party supporters on Sunday: “I want you to give me the tools to finish this job. This means that this country must never ever be placed in the hands of Allen Chastanet and his father Michael Chastanet. That is our mission.”
He went on: “I said to you before that this is not a battle between the Labour Party and the United Workers Party. I will repeat what I have said: this election is more than that. The people of Saint Lucia must never allow their government to operate by remote control in secret bedrooms and backrooms; that must never happen.”
Backrooms and bedroom deals?
In 2014, at his party’s 64th conference of delegates, the SLP leader had informed his audience that the SLP party came “from the struggles of our workers against colonialism and the plantocracy” which brought to mind that Michael Chastanet had once laboured on a plantation operated by the current prime minister’s father David Barnard.
Back in 2014 he had this warning: “If Chastanet remains as leader until the next general elections, then I can tell you one thing: this election will not be one between supporters of the Saint Lucia Labour Party and the United Workers Party; it will be an election between the Chastanets and the Saint Lucia Labour Party.”
On Sunday he explained what he meant by “one hundred percent Saint Lucian,” which has evidently replaced the last election’s “en-rouge”.
“We are all authentic Saint Lucians,” he said, “because we come from the bosom of our country. That is why we can speak the language of compassion, because we understand what it is for the poor people of this country.” Of course that did not cover the several foreigners, Arabs in particular, whose nationality is listed in official documents here as “Saint Lucian”.
On Wednesday evening, during an episode of Hot Button Issue on Choice TV, Michael Chastanet put it to viewers whether, by Dr. Anthony’s reasoning, he and his son were more powerful and important than the 30,000 or so voters the UWP represents. “To me, if it is not insanity I don’t want to say what else it could be. But the fact that Dr. Anthony . . . can come out so blatantly and say those things is very worrisome,” Michael Chastanet stated.
“As a business person in Saint Lucia, I think Dr. Anthony should recognise that it is business people who drive an economy. I listen to him and his party supporters talking about how he delivered jobs. When Dr. Anthony gives a job, it is thanks to business people and their tax money. It is the successful businessmen in this country who really provide the funds for job creation,” Chastanet added.
He went on to explain that as a Saint Lucian he was worried about the crippling effects of Dr. Anthony’s policies, especially how he had implemented VAT. In the unprejudiced eye, Michael Chastanet is a businessman; he talks like a businessman and not as a politician. Should he then be made a target for demolition, just because his son has decided to challenge the administration headed by his one-time friend and promoter Kenny Anthony?
So sad that Jerome Gideon’s attempt on Sunday at pushing a youth agenda and addressing some of the issues was derailed by Kenny Anthony’s Chastanet obsession. Sad too that on Sunday, instead of declaring a war on the Chastanets, the SLP leader had not declared a war on crime and lawlessness, an improved justice system, poverty, youth unemployment and growing apathy among Saint Lucians.
Maybe it was a case of simply ducking the issues!