Does PM Chas­tanet hold the Sir John Code?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Lu­cia H. Best

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.

What words of ad­vice or cau­tion would Sir John of­fer Chas­tanet as this ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks to win over the hearts, and pock­ets of Saint Lu­cians?

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