Kenny’s defeatist strategy could cost Labour!

It appears I have a fundamentally different view of a political campaigning from those currently advising Dr Kenny Anthony and by extension the St Lucia Labour Party. It is my candid opinion that elections are about the future. The past is instructive in that it helps us avoid making the same mistakes over and over. The pending elections could end in a relatively easy victory for the SLP but it appears the party’s strategists have decided to make things unnecessarily difficult for themselves.
The basic strategy in an election campaign is to draw people to your side, not to isolate and drive people away by adopting a ridiculous stance of slash and burn. The recently expressed silly notion that anyone who disagrees with the party leader’s view on a particular issue is an enemy, a Judas, a traitor hostile to the Labour Party suggests warped thinking. It is a view that points to a superiority complex counter-productive to growth, an authoritarian stance that must trouble those who believe in the true tenets of democracy and democratic institutions. In 2008, Barack Obama proved the genius of his campaign when he weaved together a broad coalition that finally delivered a historic presidential victory when most experts had predicted otherwise.
As a journalist, I’m affronted by anyone who believes the press must be their personal domain. The press’ responsibility is to provide information so that the electorate will be able to make informed decisions based on the facts at their disposal.  In Journalism 101, my professor and I got into a rather heated debate over the role of the media.
He began the class by saying “the role of the press is to set the agenda.” I immediately raised my hand and challenged what I considered a most provocative statement by my professor. It turned out he was pushing what he perceived as a core principle of the American press.  I argued that the role of the media is simply to present the facts and that agenda-setting could not be its role. My professor was adamant. The role of the press was not static, he said, and that the media should conform to changing norms of society if it was to remain relevant.
Then he put to the class this question:  “Is the press biased?” He went on to remind us that we all have our biases and since the press is made up of people and is controlled by entities, it is only to be expected that the press would sometimes be biased. Besides, objective reasoning is often guided by one’s upbringing, ideological leanings and moral underpinnings.
Dr Anthony’s recent description of the STAR as “hostile to the Labour Party” suggested a tactlessness that can hardly be the hallmark of quality leadership. The statement by Dr Anthony that the STAR reporter sought to clarify and about which she hoped to question the party leader was already in the public domain.  Even if he felt the paper has been critical of his involvement in the Gyrnberg Affair, and therefore was of a mind not to be cooperative or generous to the young reporter, Dr Anthony could easily have referred her to his press people.
A leader with a modicum of diplomacy might have used the opportunity to benefit his party by setting the record straight on matters the paper have unsatisfactorily covered. He could have taken the STAR to task by supplying details of the paper’s hostility. He could have seized the moment to present his party’s position about the role of the press in a maturing democracy.
Instead, Dr Anthony underscored a vindictive trait by declaring the STAR his party’s enemy. This latest outburst returns into sharp focus Dr Anthony’s ruthless action in 1999, when he fired three senators after they asked legitimate questions regarding a matter of national interest: the proposed Helenair government guarantee.
There are those who have argued that it was his right to expel the senators, since they were government appointees therefore dutybound to support the administration in all cases. But the Senate, established under the Constitution, was never created as the government’s rubber stamp. It was set up as a higher, deliberative body to act as a check and balance on the lower House. The Saint Lucia Senate has never functioned in line with the Constitution and this is one of the biggest failures of our democracy. If the government’s actions cannot be questioned in the Senate without fear of possible repercussions by the government, then the Senate becomes aberrational.
Like the deceased John Compton who famously dismissed the media as  “the poison poured into the system weekly,” mainly because it was perceived as pro-Labour, so Dr Anthony has revealed a level of anti-press sentiment has again betrayed a dangerous, despotic attitude. This cowboyish, my-way-or-the-highway character trait is not conducive to unity, but is instead very divisive. It has no place in an administration with a social conscience. Indeed Dr Anthony’s verbal slamming of the door in the face of reporter Alisha Ally proves yet again how wrong are those who believed he had learned the lessons of the recent past.
Shortly before the last general elections, from the steps of the Castries market, Dr Anthony recklessly referred to Timothy Poleon as a terrorist—albeit “a media terrorist.”  That level of carelessness in a public pronouncement might have been interpreted as a lapse of judgment, had it not been followed up with the famously anti-press Section 361, subsequently repealed as a result of public pressure. Perhaps more than anything else Section 361 was indicative of a deep-seated disregard for the function of a free press.
Dr Anthony will be well advised not to allow the people’s pending electoral victory to swell his ego. The elections are still months away and the people have not yet voted. It should be kept in mind the power of the ballot box to turn grown men into wailing crybabies.
William Faulkner, more than a half-century ago, wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Dr Anthony and his election strategists are evidently hell-bent on proving him right!

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