Allen Chastanet’s re–election by delegates to the helm of the United Workers Party, at the Sunday convention last weekend, does not automatically transcend into Chastanet’s suitability for the job of prime minister. What this reiteration of their confidence in him does is provoke, as it should, a tidal wave of highly opinionated speculation geared at what the man can actually bring to the table as the opposition’s prime minister-in-waiting; vis-á-vis his colourful track record in elective politics.
The incumbent Labour administration has already cut deeply into the arteries of Chastanet’s track record before, and will surely attempt to shred it to pieces once and for all on the 2016 campaign trail. In early August Prime Minister and Leader of the SLP Kenny Anthony dismissed Chastanet as “nothing but a disaster”. Chastanet, at the time, had been reiterating his own impassioned calls over national media for Dr. Anthony’s resignation owing to the latter’s dismal management of the island’s fiscal situation.
The SLP political leader went into Gladiator mode to deal with this one (step aside Russel Crowe) outlining a long scroll of what he summed up neatly to be Chastanet’s “monumental failures.” Said an unimpressed but clearly irked Anthony, “Everything he has touched has been a disaster. Allen Chastanet was Minister for Tourism for five years and I cannot recall any hotel expansion taking place, or any investment coming into this country.”
Nevertheless there were major blunders of Chastanet that Anthony seemed to find unforgettable recalling the infamous Boxing in Paradise, the Hepple Matter, the Surinam Airways embarrassment, the mass dismissal of tourism hostesses in Soufriere, and the investment in Black Bay which backfired at a cost of about 60 million dollars to the people and government of Saint Lucia to repurchase those lands. The SLP leader insinuated that he would not reel off more of Chastanet’s woefully lengthy record of botches and fiascos but more of that was in his possession, for recall at a more strategic time.
As far as Dr. Anthony is concerned, St. Lucia has had to pay a heavy price for the ideas Allen Chastanet has championed, promoted and implemented in government. Arguably this is the head of the Labour party speaking to a society where traditionally track records are not the yardstick of choice but rather kinship and friendship ties, in–laws, former classmates and so on, may just be the connections that make more in–roads than performance of politicians in this country.
As a society which is quick to train the beams of harsh scrutiny on the effectiveness of new leadership, Chastanet’s work will be cut out for him – particularly against the backdrop of his predecessor Stephenson King, whose bane has been not having the grapefruits to get rid of Frederick (when
he was a strong liability to the party) going into the 2011 elections.
Perhaps successfully ousting Frederick has been Chastanet’s greatest trump card yet. He will be remembered as the one to rally the party and to propel the expulsion. This necessary act, in the eyes of some, is an achievement which is nothing short of precious political mileage for their party leader.
Chastanet’s first order of business, as his challenger Claudius Preville also said, will be to remain true and committed to his victory speech, bringing to reality the unity which has obviously been portrayed via lip service only so far. Chastanet said on Sunday: “But today we have sent a resounding message to the Labour party and a resounding message to the people of St. Lucia that the United Workers Party is a united party and is ready to take the fight to them.”
Chastanet must realize that the electorate does not buy the lip service, made-for-TV handshakes and embraces anymore. The unending wrangling and schisms which have been extensively played out over the media have created a cynical electorate and have characterized the party in an unattractive light.
Chastanet should know by now that as long as the in–fighting and any unfair or corrupt practices persist in the party’s rank and file, disunity will remain a looming obstacle over the fortunes of the UWP. His litmus test as PM material? If not hastily quelled with immediate effect, UWP’s fiery composure will undoubtedly cost the party another
victory at the polls in 2016. Flambeau’s open fires and burning flames were only meant to be symbolic of the party’s fervour and passion but now seem to serve as the combustible means by which it will eventually consume itself into ashes.