RARELY have we seen the ruling St Lucia Labour Party flustered, almost to the point of panic, as we have seen this January. In fact, in much the same way we had urged on the demise of 2014 in these columns a few issues ago, we now wish that the first month of the new year still had a way to go because it appeared to be defining the character of the two main political parties as we head towards general elections which can be as much as two years away.
Political developments here this January have been both interesting and revealing. For one, we have had the privilege of watching leaders of the two main political parties address the issues facing the country, and how contrasting were the two addresses, both in content and presentation.
We have also seen the demeanour of the ruling party change during the month from its usual self-assurance and supreme confidence to one of panic. Everyone now realizes that the government badly mishandled the matter of gas prices when this should not have been the case. A practical demonstration of its frequently touted passion for transparency, in which ALL the issues were laid bare before the public, could have taken care of the perception that emerged that it was benefitting from the prices of fuel more than it should.
In the end, the Prime Minister was forced to make a damage control statement to the effect that prices will drop again sometime soon, an indication, some said, that he was fully aware (1) that the decreases in rates his government had announced on January 12, were not enough, (2) that the public was not buying any suggestion that the new prices were fair in the circumstances and (3) that the issue was taking its toll on his party’s popularity.
Then there were the contrasting addresses by the two leaders. You will not hear any frontline Labourites agreeing that Dr. Anthony’s New Year’s address was well below par. At the beginning of the year, people want to hear what’s in store for them and their country in the months ahead. They need hope, inspiration, positive signs and confidence in the immediate future.
We will say simply that Dr. Anthony’s address fell below expectations for its failure to address the critical issues facing the country—apart from again letting us know what these issues are — and propose solutions. It also failed to inspire confidence. Allen Chastanet still makes mistakes—he can’t even get the names of some government-appointed organizations right, but he seemed to have experienced something of a reincarnation within a rather short space of time, and impressed. He also used his opportunity to give the public a peek into some of the policies a UWP government would pursue.
The immediate reaction of the SLP was predictable: that Chastanet had served up “another mixture of empty statements, diatribe and outrageous claims”. The ruling party still believes that by continuing to target Chastanet for criticism and ridicule, by making him out to be inept and incapable of leading the country, its next mandate to rule would be assured. However if the people of St Lucia are hurting, economically and socially, that approach would simply not work on election day.