By my reckoning it’s now one year since the Allen Chastanet government first met in a new session of parliament, declared opened by the Governor General. June 6, 2016, merely marked the electorate’s disaffection with the former regime, nothing more. It took another month or so for the elected (and selected) to be sworn in and for parliament to begin its work. That time lapse from elections to swearing-in may explain the constitutional provision of a three-month ‘grace period’ at the end of the 5-year term of office before calling the next elections. This may therefore be an appropriate time to review how the island has fared since July 2016.
Allen Chastanet, political leader of the United Workers Party (UWP), withstood more criticisms, challenges and blatant lies than any previous politician in Saint Lucia, save perhaps the long–serving John Compton, now deceased. Chastanet’s patience, tolerance and strength of character were tested to their limits. He did not break or wilt under pressure. He stood firm, often refusing to answer his critics. This is a mark of a confident person, comfortable in his skin. His troops seemed equally endowed.
The UWP and the people of Saint Lucia needed such a leader. Chastanet’s continuous search for excellence, his fiscally conservative agenda and his international connections are attributes that can help achieve his government’s policy for more jobs and progress. He is the person most likely to continue the good work started by Sir John Compton, the island’s first prime minister. Those who know their history will have little difficulty allowing Chastanet the opportunity to follow in Compton’s footsteps. Honest politicians put the needs of the country before themselves.
Allen Chastanet has proven that he belongs to that group. His efforts at rebuilding the UWP and preparing it for elections 2016 have been favourably commented on by others. In anticipation of his party’s victory I presented an eight-point manifesto for his and his UWP consideration some eight weeks before the last elections. I suggested that the watchwords of his government ought to be ‘Pursuit of Excellence’ in honour of the island’s two Nobel laureates – Lewis and Walcott. The idea was to rebrand Saint Lucia and lift its image internationally. For a more detailed vision, the reader is advised to study the UWP elections manifesto, 2016.
The following is my suggested manifesto:
1. Abolish VAT and find a simple, suitable and equitable replacement tax.
2. Revamp the justice system, including new offices for staff and justices.
3. Remodel agriculture and seek out new production systems and markets.
4. Make training, discipline, punctuality and excellence a centrepiece.
5. Demand excellence and professionalism at work, sports and national security.
6. Re-introduce the departure tax at Hewanorra International Airport (HIA), and use it to re-develop the airport.
7. Fully investigate IMPACS Report, the Grynberg Oil deal, the abuse of the Consolidated Fund Act and the failed offshore (Nepalese?) school.
8. Build a rapid rail linking Castries and Gros Islet to Dennery, Micoud, Vieux Fort and Laborie. A four lane highway with suitable overhead interchanges and roundabouts to better serve the public, should suffice.
As political leader and prime minister, Chastanet must place within his government and party persons who are willing to serve Saint Lucia honourably. He must embrace senior UWP stalwarts who have distanced themselves from the party since the passing of Sir John Compton. He must consult these seniors in framing a new national development agenda for the island, especially in matters that impact their communities.
The government must diligently pursue meaningful social, economic and political change (new constitution) for Saint Lucia. The time for cheap politics and deceiving the electorate has passed. The present economic situation demands new thinking. If his government is to secure international assistance to help lift his people from their morass of joblessness, he must act speedily and with clear purpose.
Saint Lucia needs a strong political leadership to right the wrongs that need redressing, while giving citizens an opportunity to succeed in business. The heavy tax burden imposed by the former regime must be carefully and deliberately lifted to allow business and workers some breathing space.
The hateful, emotional diatribe against Chastanet comes from a heart devoid of love and a mind that shuns humility. Comparisons can seem conjectural but for those who dare fathom the observation of the prophet Jeremiah in Holy Writ I posit the following observation from Odlum’s Crusader, regarding a deceitful heart.
The Crusader once likened John Compton’s face, which it found unattractive, to the heart of Kenny Anthony. The paper then likened Anthony’s somewhat handsome face, to John Compton’s heart, which it found kind and compassionate. By its comparison the paper had lifted Compton to the Valhalla of the gods, capturing, for all time, the essence of the man. It had also exposed Anthony as Compton’s opposite. The Crusader’s pin point accuracy was uncanny: a mean visage with a loving heart (Compton); and a loveless heart with an ok visage (Anthony).
It must be the hope of every patriotic Saint Lucian that behind Allen Chastanet’s handsome face beats a heart as genuine as that of John Compton. Heaven knows, Saint Lucia needs a strong and compassionate leader at this time. Prime Minister Chastanet must not disappoint.