Is Chas­tanet prime min­is­ter ma­te­rial?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Alexis B. Mont­gomery

Allen Chas­tanet’s re– elec­tion by del­e­gates to the helm of the United Work­ers Party, at the Sun­day con­ven­tion last week­end, does not au­to­mat­i­cally tran­scend into Chas­tanet’s suit­abil­ity for the job of prime min­is­ter. What this re­it­er­a­tion of their con­fi­dence in him does is pro­voke, as it should, a tidal wave of highly opin­ion­ated spec­u­la­tion geared at what the man can ac­tu­ally bring to the ta­ble as the op­po­si­tion’s prime min­is­ter-in­wait­ing; vis-á-vis his colour­ful track record in elec­tive pol­i­tics.

The in­cum­bent Labour ad­min­is­tra­tion has al­ready cut deeply into the ar­ter­ies of Chas­tanet’s track record be­fore, and will surely at­tempt to shred it to pieces once and for all on the 2016 cam­paign trail. In early Au­gust Prime Min­is­ter and Leader of the SLP Kenny An­thony dis­missed Chas­tanet as “noth­ing but a dis­as­ter”. Chas­tanet, at the time, had been reit­er­at­ing his own im­pas­sioned calls over na­tional me­dia for Dr. An­thony’s res­ig­na­tion owing to the lat­ter’s dis­mal man­age­ment of the is­land’s fis­cal sit­u­a­tion.

The SLP po­lit­i­cal leader went into Gla­di­a­tor mode to deal with this one (step aside Rus­sel Crowe) out­lin­ing a long scroll of what he summed up neatly to be Chas­tanet’s “mon­u­men­tal fail­ures.” Said an unim­pressed but clearly irked An­thony, “Ev­ery­thing he has touched has been a dis­as­ter. Allen Chas­tanet was Min­is­ter for Tourism for five years and I can­not re­call any ho­tel ex­pan­sion tak­ing place, or any in­vest­ment com­ing into this coun­try.”

Nev­er­the­less there were ma­jor blun­ders of Chas­tanet that An­thony seemed to find un­for­get­table re­call­ing the in­fa­mous Box­ing in Par­adise, the Hep­ple Mat­ter, the Suri­nam Air­ways em­bar­rass­ment, the mass dis­missal of tourism hostesses in Soufriere, and the in­vest­ment in Black Bay which back­fired at a cost of about 60 mil­lion dol­lars to the peo­ple and gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia to re­pur­chase those lands.

The SLP leader in­sin­u­ated that he would not reel off more of Chas­tanet’s woe­fully lengthy record of botches and fi­as­cos but more of that was in his pos­ses­sion, for re­call at a more strate­gic time.

As far as Dr. An­thony is con­cerned, St. Lu­cia has had to pay a heavy price for the ideas Allen Chas­tanet has cham­pi­oned, pro­moted and im­ple­mented in gov­ern­ment. Ar­guably this is the head of the Labour party speak­ing to a so­ci­ety where tra­di­tion­ally track records are not the yard­stick of choice but rather kin­ship and friend­ship ties, in–laws, for­mer class­mates and so on, may just be the con­nec­tions that make more in–roads than per­for­mance of politi­cians in this coun­try.

As a so­ci­ety which is quick to train the beams of harsh scru­tiny on the ef­fec­tive­ness of new lead­er­ship, Chas­tanet’s work will be cut out for him – par­tic­u­larly against the back­drop of his pre­de­ces­sor Stephen­son King, whose bane has been not hav­ing the grape­fruits to get rid of Fred­er­ick (when he was a strong li­a­bil­ity to the party) go­ing into the 2011 elec­tions.

Per­haps suc­cess­fully oust­ing Fred­er­ick has been Chas­tanet’s great­est trump card yet. He will be re­mem­bered as the one to rally the party and to pro­pel the ex­pul­sion. This nec­es­sary act, in the eyes of some, is an achieve­ment which is noth­ing short of pre­cious po­lit­i­cal mileage for their party leader.

Chas­tanet’s first or­der of business, as his chal­lenger Claudius Pre­ville also said, will be to re­main true and com­mit­ted to his vic­tory speech, bring­ing to re­al­ity the unity which has ob­vi­ously been por­trayed via lip ser­vice only so far. Chas­tanet said on Sun­day: “But to­day we have sent a re­sound­ing mes­sage to the Labour party and a re­sound­ing mes­sage to the peo­ple of St. Lu­cia that the United Work­ers Party is a united party and is ready to take the fight to them.”

Chas­tanet must re­al­ize that the elec­torate does not buy the lip ser­vice, made-for-TV hand­shakes and em­braces any­more. The un­end­ing wran­gling and schisms which have been ex­ten­sively played out over the me­dia have cre­ated a cyn­i­cal elec­torate and have char­ac­ter­ized the party in an unattrac­tive light.

Chas­tanet should know by now that as long as the in–fight­ing and any un­fair or cor­rupt prac­tices per­sist in the party’s rank and file, dis­unity will re­main a loom­ing ob­sta­cle over the for­tunes of the UWP. His lit­mus test as PM ma­te­rial? If not hastily quelled with im­me­di­ate ef­fect, UWP’s fiery com­po­sure will un­doubt­edly cost the party another vic­tory at the polls in 2016. Flam­beau’s open fires and burn­ing flames were only meant to be sym­bolic of the party’s fer­vour and pas­sion but now seem to serve as the com­bustible means by which it will even­tu­ally con­sume it­self into ashes.

UWP leader Allen Chas­tanet: Is he ready to lead St. Lu­cia in a new di­rec­tion or will he ac­cel­er­ate the

na­tion’s demise?

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