Allen Chastanet and Rick Wayne disagree with me strongly when it comes to our take on the St Lucian attitude to race. Chastanet, for his part, shuns any notion that tourism erodes our pride and dignity and brings us closer for the worst reasons— never mind the fact that St Lucia’s Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott has lambasted all-inclusive hotels in the Caribbean as modern day slave plantations.
Wayne, for his part, insists we blacks are our own worst enemies.
But I could not help but wonder how much of an impact the colour of politics was having on the minds of both individuals as I weighed in on Allen Chastanet’s victory from a couch somewhere in Port of Spain, Trinidad. That, as I prepared to follow closely the results of the by-elections in Trinidad and Tobago for the Chaguanas West seat, which from my earlier observances the weekend prior would be swept away by Jack Warner who had resigned from Kamla Persad’s partnership government and as representative of said constituency, thereby forcing the need for an election.
The indefatigable Warner (a black man) later that evening was declared winner of the seat with more than 12,000 votes. His closet rival, the UNC’s Khadija Ameen, an East Indian, could only muster about 5,000 of the 27, 000 plus registered voters, of which it is estimated more than eighty percent are of Indian decent. It should be noted, that the UNC was founded by Basdeo Panday from the Trinidad sugar belt plantations that included Caroni and Chaguanas where East Indians worked as indentured slaves.
Monday’s by-election in Trinidad was ran very much like a general election reminiscent of the Castries Central by- election starring Richard Frederick some years ago.
Warner, despite numerous allegations of bribery and corruption charges, rose to victory. He won on the ticket of his barely two months old ILP, against four other opponents, all of East Indian decent, cutting across race, class, sex and religion with some pundits calling his victory an anomaly. Did Jack Warner use his immense wealth to win the election? Was it the fact that as a representative many of his constituents attested to his always being there for them and serving them well? Has he risen as some have
put it as the Dudus Coke of Trinidad, some sort of Robin Hood whom his people
will defend to death if any international agency seeks an extradition to answer any charges? Sound familiar?
For Warner’s part, will he see his victory as a paradigm shift in a situation where
for the younger generation, race issues seem to be eroding Trinidad, and what
really matters now is basic human services and the provision of basic amenities? Can he serve as the beacon of hope for the multi-ethnic society or will his quest for power, inevitably, to be Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago overshadow that?
As far as Allen Chastanet is concerned his ascension to the UWP’s helm was quietly filled with race notions as well as class issues as well. But as I mentioned in a previous
article, we have been afraid to even discuss these matters openly because we are a
“loving people.” When was the last time you heard that one?
If that is the case, perhaps we can truthfully answer this question. Why is it that besides Allen Louisy as Prime Minister, voted into office on an SLP ticket in 1979 with a short political lifespan as leader, when was the last time we voted a black Prime Minister into office? Both Vaughn Lewis and Stephenson King were selected leaders, and both lost when it came to people voting their parties back to office. Now that we have two choices, Kenny Anthony (the son of a former slave plantation owner) and Allen Chastanet, married into the Duboulay family that has quietly controlled economic wealth in Soufriere, are we still not prepared to at least have a discussion? Are westill not prepared to discuss why one of the largest constituencies, Choiseul seems to still be paying back-pay to former plantation owners for their revolts much like Soufriere? There too, while boasting the “best hotels in the world” black people languish in poverty.
Recently Rick Wayne regurgitated excerpts from an article by Pat Brown entitled The Perceived Right to Rule, which began with this statement: “It is a historical fact that after the abolition of slavery it was the slave owners who were compensated for their loss of slave labor, not their slaves after countless years in bondage. In effect actual slavery had been transformed into low-wage slavery. Among the early maps of St Lucia is the La Fort De Latoor, which identified estates by their owners who, upon their departure, handed their estates to their descendants—who continued to employ the
ex-slaves and other blacks as expendable beasts of burden.”
The article then went into the background of some twenty seven slave plantations here including Marquis, in the north, which was originally the domain of an English gentleman named Purchase. “A man of French origins owned Cap. Floissac was his name, and he subsequently sold his estate to a Colonel Harrison, a horse breeder. Choc Estate’s original owners were also from England, a family known as the Bascombes. They sold their property to “a former employee named JQ Charles, a St Lucian,” as was the owner of Corinth estate Balboa Edwards,” the writer/researcher pointed out.
We are informed that another Frenchman whose surname was Devaux owned Goodlands, Cul-de-Sac and Roseau estates while the DuBoulays owned most of the town of Soufriere and its environs, including Anse Chastanet. Another Englishman owned Jalousie and Beau estates, while a Monsieur Delieu laid claim to Fondu and Chateaubelair. The area of Saltibus known as Morne Lizard belonged to Englishman George Barnard and his close relative David Barnard owned East Balembouche, while Dennis owned estates from Dennery to La Caye.
This is Kenny Anthony’s lineage.
Fourteen sugarcane estates were granted to English slave owners, nine to the French, while four were acquired by St Lucians we are told by the writer.
While Wayne avoided the inevitable race card the article seemed to draw, he indicated this: “it seemed to me that the main purpose of the article was to expose as traitors
to our nation those despicable hagfish that had sought to devour the Labour Party
from within . . . from John Compton and the Bousquet brothers to Neville Cenac
and Mikey Pilgrim—George Odlum being the last of the horrid breed. ‘Each time the gain has gone to the United Workers Party of the bourgeoisie that insists on regaining its perceived right to rule Saint Lucia,’ ” Wayne quotes the writer as stating.
But within that bourgeois syndrome is there a matter of a lighter pigmentation than Pat Brown, Stephenson King, Allen Louisy and even Vaughn Lewis just do not possess? And can Allen Chastanet turn that perception around by not just simply burying his head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, but allowing for some real discussions on the matter?
Or will it be another case of Kenny and Allen mem bête, mem pwel? Happy Emancipation Day to you Saint Lucia.