By Stephen Lester Prescott
THERE can be little doubting the fact that the United Workers Party under Allen Chastanet has for some time now been running on flat tyres. Now it appears as if the wheels have come off altogether. Nowhere was that decline more greatly manifested than during Chastanet’s appearance last week on, of all places, Newspin. There, on the basis of a simple question from the host, himself among the country’s best known UWP sympathisers, Allen Chastanet unleashed a venomous tirade against the press. Poor Timothy Poleon hardly knew what hit him.
Over the past few weeks, social media has been awash with posts suggesting the UWP leader had hitherto been less than truthful where his academic qualifications were concerned. For years Chastanet had paraded himself as the holder of a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s degree. He also proclaimed himself to be an economist by profession. Of late, however, these credentials have come under publicly scrutiny with callers to the radio stations as well as social media participants, insisting Chastanet make public, copies of his certificates.
On Thursday last, Chastanet was the guest on his party’s favourite talk show when the host asked him whether he would address the issue of his qualifications.
What was a simple request from the friendly Poleon so enraged Chastanet that he even turned on the party loyalist. Poor Timothy was as shell-shocked as the lunch time listeners as Chastanet proceeded to berate and chide him. According to Chastanet, the host was out of place to have asked such a question and he Tim should have instead done the necessary research.
What followed was a broadside against the press in particular and anyone else who dared ask the question, in general. The party leader, who has on several occasions accused Prime Minister Anthony of seeking protection from the courts, was now on the attack threatening to sue anyone who dared to question his academic qualifications. He even called for the resignation of at least two talk show hosts.
All of this following up on a mere request to address the doubters of his academic qualifications. Where is Media Association of St. Lucia President, Clinton Reynolds? Why hasn’t he defended his colleagues from the unwarranted Chastanet assault? Where is the indignation he displays when his comments are directed at either Prime Minister Anthony or Labour Party supporters?
So what exactly has Chastanet so hot under the collar? Why doesn’t he simply call a press conference and present his qualifications?
Ironically, it was his former Cabinet Colleague of five years, Richard Frederick, who set the ball rolling. Chastanet’s response was a threat to sue anyone who challenged his qualifications.
If he was of the view that his threat of litigation would quiet the angry mob, Chastanet was clearly mistaken for it served instead only to strengthen the resolve of those who demanded transparency on “Degree Gate” as the scandal is now known. Rumours now abound with all manner of speculation coming to the fore. So sensitive has the issue become that even Chastanet’s tenure at local high schools is now under scrutiny.
In a failed effort at deflecting attention from himself and his credentials, Chastanet latched on to a report alleging St. Lucia’s economy was among the ten slowest in the world. Again Chastanet miscalculated as his comments only lent more support to those who doubt his academic credentials. Even before Finance Minister Kenny D. Anthony could respond, Chartered Accountant Richard Peterkin would set the record straight. According to Peterkin, anyone who read the report cited by Chastanet would immediately doubt its authenticity as the data relied on was diametrically opposite to the reality in St. Lucia. Where the report stated St. Lucia’s tourism had not recovered from the financial crisis, the reality is that St. Lucia has had record tourist arrivals for three successive years. That alone would have alerted any economist to the flaws in the report but so hell bent was Chastanet on diverting attention from his own troubles he fell for it hook, line and sinker.
Worse was to follow for the beleaguered UWP leader as Michael Flood, a former chairman went public with a claim that a secret poll commissioned by Chastanet had revealed the party would lose the upcoming elections 14 seats to 3. Whilst what Flood revealed was hardly news to those in the know, it would nonetheless mark the very first time that someone with ties to the UWP had publicly acknowledged this. Caught literally with their pants down, the party’s public relations machinery could only issue a statement advising that Flood was not authorised to speak for the UWP. Noteworthy was the fact that whilst heir response was condemnatory of Flood, there was no denial of what Flood had stated. Even Chastenet when questioned simply stated the poll results would remain private.
Sources have, however, advised that in addition to the poll revealing only three possible seats for the UWP, it also showed when Chastanet went head to head with Kenny D. Anthony, the Prime Minister wins that contest of leadership 3 to 1.
What next for Chastanet then? Under siege to come clean on his academic credentials, threats to sue anyone challenging the same, shown to be less than an economist with his misreading of a faulty review and now the results of his secret poll no longer secret, the UWP must be wondering how much longer they can endure his leadership.
Little wonder many call Chastanet Labour’s secret weapon!