Does anyone care whether it was Alice or the Energizer Bunny who said things in Wonderland were getting “curiouser and curiouser?”
For all we know, the quoted words may well have bedevilled the mind of Ezechiel Joseph as he took in Thursday’s court proceedings involving the UWP’s top brass, specifically party leader Allen Chastanet and general secretary Oswald Augustin.
On 24 October 2014, lawyers acting for Mark Louis had filed in the high court papers requesting that the expelled former Housing Minister Richard Frederick be reinstated or that tomorrow’s scheduled convention be put on hold.
Yes, yes, dear readers, I can visualize the question marks on your puzzled faces: Mark who? Allow me to assist. Mark Louis is a former career civil servant whose strong connection to the UWP had never been a secret. He retired some years ago as permanent secretary! As for Mr. Louis’s solicitor, surprise, surprise, none other than Lydia Faisal, the earlier-mentioned former Housing Minister’s sister.
But before moving on, let us revisit the back story: Following Allen Chastanet’s 2013 announcement that he would seek to replace then UWP leader and former prime minister Stephenson King, Richard Frederick came out with guns blazing against the former tourism minister.
The way Frederick told it, Chastanet was the worst thing that could befall the party. He was a dictator, a man accustomed to treating others as less than his equal, a man who had spent public money as if the US treasury were his personal bank account. For good measure, Frederick claimed Chastanet the Elder was himself of the view that his son spent money like a child in a candy store.
Despite Frederick’s best efforts, Chastanet prevailed. At last year’s UWP convention Chastanet easily defeated King.
His victory served only to energize Frederick’s campaign. He attacked Chastanet on his talk show, in parliament and in the street. He also quit attending UWP meetings and steadfastly refused to participate in any of the party’s public events.
For his part Chastanet, now empowered and satisfied that the UWP was better off without Frederick, began to accumulate evidence of “Frederick’s disruptive nature” and soon enough a special committee was put together to investigate and report on his charges.
A Disciplinary Committee, it was termed. That committee was headed by long-time UWP activist Linwall James and included, among others, an employee of the Customs & Excise department. So much for the notion that current government employees are by law barred from active political activity.
Frederick was summoned to show cause why the charges against him should not be upheld. The Committee found him liable in absentia and recommended Frederick’s expulsion from the party. The recommendation was formalised at a meeting of the UWP’s National Council Meeting not long afterward.
Reliable sources say at least one member of the Disciplinary Committee had grave misgivings over the Committee’s handling of the matter but that he was overruled by other members who seemed hell-bent on getting Frederick.
It is that decision which Mark Louis, a member of Frederick’s constituency group, is challenging on the basis it was ultra vires the UWP constitution.
For readers who consider the matter an open and shut case—some who say that courts cannot interfere with internal party matters—consider the following. Opposition leader Gale Rigobert came to her position by virtue of Allen Chastanet’s influence on sitting UWP MPs.
In effect, Rigobert is a Chastanet creation. As for Mark Louis, he is employed at the office of the Leader of the Opposition. In other words, he owes his job to Rigobert. So, if Mark Louis owes his job to Rigobert who in turn owes her position in the House to Chastanet, how on earth can Louis be pushing Frederick’s agenda?
Could Louis file a case against Chastanet (spin it as you wish) unless with the support of Gale Rigobert—Chastanet’s handpicked Leader of the Opposition—albeit tacit? Is it that Rigobert herself is secretly seeking to be party leader?
Has she concluded that a wounded Chastanet, whether inflicted by Mark Louis or Claudius Preville, will be considered a liability, which would play right into her manicured hands? Let’s not forget Ms. Rigobert is the MP, not Chastanet. More to the point, Chastanet has yet to identify the constituency for which he plans to contend come the next general elections.
Another interesting question: Who else within the UWP is secretly supporting the Mark Louis move? The informed word is that several of the sitting six UWP members of the House of Assembly are unhappy with Chastanet for wholly personal reasons; the worst kind.
One MP was recently overheard commenting on Chastanet’s habit of attending House meetings and openly summoning MPs to meet with him outside the Chamber for instructions on what to say during debates.
Might this explain the absence of all of the UWP MPs from Thursday’s court proceedings? Didn’t they care that if Louis prevailed it could herald Frederick’s return? What about the chance that tomorrow’s scheduled convention could be derailed?
Only Ezechiel Joseph, second only to the other Joseph in his loyalty to Chastanet, came out in support of his party leader. But is Ezechiel’s support for Chastanet based on loyalty or is it personal survival that motivates him?
Let us not lose sight of the fact that Chastanet’s challenger— initially dismissed by Chastanet as a joke but now worthy of below the belt attacks—is Claudius Preville, who has made no secret of his desire to contest the Babonneau seat at the next general elections. Joseph E lost that seat to current Health minister Alvina Reynolds by a mere two votes and may well be self-convinced he can turn the tables on Reynolds next time around.
But should Preville be elected leader, Joseph E can kiss good-bye all dreams of returning to parliament. If only for purely selfish reasons he has good cause to support Chastanet’s re-election bid.
Then there is the sly mongoose Arsene James who, despite his protestations to the contrary, has failed to contain speculation that he and the party leader have sealed a deal over the Micoud South seat. If Chastanet should fail to emerge party leader, then he too can kiss Micoud South good-bye.
Did I also mention that word on the ground is that Chastanet has also lost the support of the previously unshakeable Petra Nelson and perhaps the whole Women in Action group? Current party vice chairperson, Mary Polius, in a stinging letter earlier this year, had also distanced herself from the party leader. Talk about making dangerous enemies!
As we go to press, word is that Leader of the Opposition, Gale Rigobert is right here in Saint Lucia and not off-island as had earlier been rumored. Apparently, she’s just been keeping her distance from her party leader.
So we return to the Mark Louis/UWP catch-as-catch-can. At the conclusion of the hearing on Thursday the judge reserved judgment. Word is the judge also recommended the two parties attempt to sort things out for themselves and not force him to deliver his own ruling today.
Still one more question remains unanswered: Who will bite the rabbit in this United Workers Pantomime?