Many great leaders around the world in many varied fields of endeavor have named some greater men on whose shoulders they are well aware they now stand. As Saint Lucia marked the anniversary of the death of Sir John in September, ironically followed by the anniversary of George Odlum, Saint Lucia’s current Prime Minister Allen M. Chastanet would have inevitably have had cause to reflect upon the possibility, if not the stark truth, that he is one of the last few fortunate Saint Lucian leaders of the now and future generations to have being mentored, strengthened and inspired by Sir John in the flesh and spirit. Future generations of politicians will have to be contented with inspiration from the wellsprings of his legacy and the pages of history. As destiny seems to have deemed it and rightfully so, Allen Chastanet is inarguably Sir John’s last great find.
Well acclaimed for his political acumen and rightfully dubbed “the old fox” by some famous political foes during his peak years in the partisan war room, Sir John was well known by his peers for his knack for picking a good politician as a gem in the rough when apparently no one else could see what only his eyes could see. He may not be the only leader in local history to have had that calling. George Odlum was known to have taken a young trade unionist and teacher under his wing who was nothing but green from head to toe back then. He later morphed into a 16-1 colossal election giant in 1997, taking not only Parliament but the electorate by storm. Of course when power arouses and seduces the senses of many men, they quickly go berserk. But that’s for another day.
Sir John’s influence runs clear and deep in Saint Lucia’s political waters and his influence is more alive and vibrant than many would want to admit, especially amongst those who practice politics on the opposite end of the political spectrum.
After the passing of Sir John the public’s collective jaw dropped when former prime minister Kenny Anthony began to single out Sir John for praise. When Sir John died Dr. Kenny Anthony heaped him with credit and saluted Sir John as a visionary leader who had laid the basis for modernizing the island’s economy. Well wonders never cease do they?
But given his early and impressionable years in politics when Sir John was at the peak of his game, seemingly infallible and in control of the winning formula to stay in power – 1964 until 1996, and again from 2005 to 2007, was Kenny Anthony immune to the man’s infectious charisma, political astuteness and admirable accomplishments? Deep in the recesses of the heart of Dr. Kenny does he fear that Prime Minister Chastanet now holds the secret of the Sir John Code? Has that being his great fear all along?
In 1964, together with another opposition party, the People’s Progressive Party, John Compton and the National Labour Movement formed a new party, the United Workers’ Party (UWP). By the time Sir John got to form his own party he had become adamant about the direction in which his party and his adopted homeland should go. As political leader he was well aware that ideologies would clash as he had experienced several clashes with the Saint Lucia Labour Party. George FL Charles in particular is known to have held a different political ideology than Sir John.
That being said, Allen Chastanet became political leader of the United Workers Party in 2013, at a time when the party was in turmoil. He did not leave the party and run away to seek refuge in Trinidad but took the bull by the horns, showing that he had mettle to ride out the storm. A man not bothered by the scathing attacks of his opponents. Allen Chastanet has blazed a new chapter and path for his political party, together with his team of visionaries who understood that the party was at the juncture of change and needed immediate restructuring and modernization if it were to remain viable. Allen Chastanet stayed the course, took the bad press and all the caustic remarks made by deeply embittered party members who eventually stomped off in anger and disappointment simply because they chose to be resistant to change.
But back to the Sir John Code. As the nation assesses and weighs the Chastanet administration’s first 100 Days in Government there are already many hints that indicate Sir John would be proud of his final Protégé. So is Prime Minister of Saint Lucia Allen Chastanet in possession of the Sir John Code? Let us see. Sir John was a man of guts and grit who said what he meant and did most of it too, much to the chagrin of his detractors who were often stung hard by his stubbornness. Yet he was a man of the people, altruistic with a confidence and ease in the company of ordinary people. Some say it was his magic touch.
The supposedly spoilt and over pampered rich boy Allen Chastanet has oozed lots of “guy next door” charm on the Saint Lucian public and they seem to love him for his big heart and his firm stance when it is necessary. He has so far come across as the empathetic and humble, prudent hardworking leader and family man. Five years down the line is enough time to see the man Sir John would have been proud of, prove that he learnt from the best politician and possibly the best business in local history. Now with such a mix, just what is to come from the new prime minister, should be exciting and different.