The fact that Jeannine Compton came from the belly of the United Workers Party (UWP) “wrapped in a yellow blanket” does not necessarily mean she has the fire in her bosom that Saint Lucian politics demands. It has nothing to do with her gender, but everything to do with the messy political process that in Fair Helen passes for democracy.
Whether or not she realized it in 2007, when Jeannine inherited her late father’s Micoud North parliamentary seat, she also endorsed the existence of the creature he left—a fractured United Workers Party with a hurriedly assembled group of men good enough to win an election but not necessarily the competence, efficiency and moral underpinning to govern a developing nation in the 21st Century.
From its inception the UWP adopted the notion of the paramount leader. Her deceased father, Sir John Compton, was the maximum head of the party and ruled with singular focus on what he perceived was best for the country. It was always his way or the highway. While the party appeared then and now to mimic a democratic institution with annual conventions and the election of officers, the results were always predictable: Compton always emerged boss of his plantation. There were muted complaints about his leadership style but the complainers were too timid, too pusillanimous to openly challenge him. To cross Compton was to ensure your isolation from the party.
A similar sensibility exists in the St. Lucia Labour Party. Truth be told, conventions and leadership selection in the Saint Lucian political context are always fait accompli. The political parties convene conferences knowing well in advance the outcome. It is a form of democracy but with no real substance. This explains why the St. Lucia Labour Party is saddled with a leader whose governance of the country was deemed badly wanting and who, an inquiry determined, grossly mismanaged the nation’s meager financial resources.
So, Jeannine Compton, nearing four years into her parliamentary term, has come to the realization that the bed her father made and covered with leopard-skin comforters was not designed with her in mind. Not if she took seriously the principles implanted in her by Daddy Compton. In her resignation letter Mrs. Compton-Antoine made it clear that her frustration had reached the height of Gros Piton. She accused her former colleagues of cold-shouldering her and of even being downright disrespectful. Her many complaints fell on the deaf ears of Prime Minister King whose ministers, by Jeannine measure, acted with impunity.
She let out steam: “Therefore, it shows me that we are willing to promote illegality and ignore what is right and legal. I cannot say if this lack of action is out of fear but it is definitely not out of ignorance.” With this statement, Mrs. Compton-Antoine seems to suggest the government knowingly allows and participates in acts of illegality.
If we are to take Mrs. Compton’s allegations seriously, she has a responsibility as a Member of Parliament to outline to nation the illegal actions of her former colleagues and by extension the government. She must also tell us why she was willing to stay with a government for four years knowing about their illegal conduct. Her failing to provide evidence of such illegality, will be leave the people free to conclude she has merely been spewing sour grapes from a disgruntled Member of Parliament. Some may see her as a female replica of her father who insisted on his way or the highway.
Having said that, one cannot ignore Mrs. Compton-Antoine’s allegations. What her resignation indeed highlights is the lack of proper governance, competent and efficient leadership in the country. It also points to a government seemingly on autopilot, in which individual ministers are allowed to do whatever they deem to be in their own interest. Her comments suggest the leadership of the country is in indecisive hands, for which the prime minister must bear the responsibility. Of course, there are those in both parties who are rejoicing at Jeannine’s departure and her independent posture in Parliament, as if that were anything new. Some in the United Workers Party who never trusted her will try to pass it off her resignation as a good thing.
In any event, Jeannine did the principled thing. However, one wonders if she has improved her standing with this nation that consistently rewards mediocrity and refuses to accept courage as a badge of honor and a patriotic act. Finally, there will always be those who hold the cynical view that this is indeed politics as usual.