WHAT WOULD ALICE DO?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Humpty Dumpty

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 pan­tomime. 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?

Gale Rigob­ert: What’s re­ally tick­ing inside her shaved

head?

Claudius Pre­ville: Will he prove can­non fod­der for

Chas­tanet?

Allen Chas­tanet: Is he feelin’ de feelin’ as King felt it?

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