RE­MEM­BER­ING ELEC­TIONS 2016 AND A PEO­PLE’S VIC­TORY

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie

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 re­de­velop 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.

“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.”

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