By Stephen Lester Prescott
HAVING treated Stephenson King, a former Prime Minister no less, with such gross disrespect, it was only a matter of time before Gale, the neophyte, would be another casualty. The fact is that during his time in politics, even prior to becoming leader, Allen Chastanet’s ambitions were always way ahead of his abilities. How much King must now rue the day when rather than dumping Chastanet he allowed his then principal media advisor to coax him to dump Ausbertd’Auvergne.
There are those who conveniently forget history, more so, when their current political circumstances demand expediency. Only today is remembered. Presumably, any look backwards would serve only to remind of misbehaviour best forgotten.
It is to be recalled that following the UWP’s election victory in 2006, Ausbertd’Auvergne was assigned among the most significant portfolios by then Prime Minister Sir John Compton. If they harboured any misgivings about this slight, the elected MPs kept their peace, at least whilst Sir John was alive. They didn’t dare cross the old man, especially after Sir John, even when television images showed him too frail to hold a pen, had supposedly, miraculously mustered sufficient energy and presence of mind to have signed Rufus Bousquet’s dismissal letter. (Now here’s a story worth writing). Whatever anger they may have felt, that an unelected d’Auvergne was the one calling the shots, they were kept in check.
All that changed with Sir John’s death and King was appointed his successor. Richard Frederick and the aforementioned Bousquet would thereafter publicly call on King to remove not just d’Auvergne but all of the Senators who held major ministerial portfolios. That included National Security Minister, Guy Mayers and Tourism Minister, Allen Chastanet. Some elected Members went so far as to threaten to take their case to the Governor General. It is of course true that the then opposition Labour Party clamoured for d’Auvergne’s blood knowing full well that he had powerful enemies in the Cabinet.
King was in a bind. On the one hand, he needed the support of the elected members to maintain his Prime Ministership, whilst on the other hand, he was literally a fish out of water without d’Auvergne’s guiding hand. According to those in the know, King was all set to cut the three senators loose until Guy Joseph intervened. It is further rumoured that Joseph informed King that whilst he had no special love for d’Auvergne and Mayers, he would not stand idly by and allow Chastanet to be sacrificed. A few days later and in the midst of a regional meeting held here, d’Auvergne announced his resignation. Did he jump or was he pushed? Regardless, the master/poodle marriage of Chastanet and Joseph was sealed and it would be a combination that years later would spell disaster for King.
Fast forward to 2013 where King is replaced by Chastenet as party leader. In the forefront of that move was Guy Joseph. Months later, came the unkindest cut of all when mere days after publicly announcing there were no plans to remove King as Leader of the Opposition precisely that occurred with all but Frederick on the opposition benches voting against King in favour of Gale Rigobert. Sadly, the Micoud North MP, basking in her newly minted leadership position was not sufficiently astute to have understood the machinations of her leader. She did not understand that she was chosen not for any skills she may have possessed; not because Chastanet considered her best suited for the position but simply because as an unelected individual he Chastanet could not himself be awarded the position. If Dr.Rigobert did not know then she certainly does now for not just her leadership position is on the line but her very constituency seat is under threat.
Some weeks ago, it was reported that the UWP’s Micoud North constituency group had nominated Dr.Rigobert to contest the seat at the next General Elections. If she thought all was well she soon had reason to think otherwise as it has now come to light that the endorsement may not have found favour with the party’s national executive. The Opposition Leader now has a fight on her hands with the emergence of a businessman contender who has the support of the national executive. Is there nothing the UWP can get right under Chastanet? I will expand on Rigobert’s problems in another article.
It is now common knowledge that under Chastanet, all that matters is what he wants. Under his watch all manner of humiliation is heaped on those whom he does not favour!
First, none other than the Party Chairman Ezechiel Joseph did a number on political hopeful and party leader aspirant, Claudius Preville. According to Preville, upon arriving at the hall designated for the Babonneau “run off” he was told that the previously agreed secret ballot type vote was scrapped and instead each member of the executive would cast their vote in the open. His protestations that the delegates would be intimidated into voting for the party chairman would be brushed aside and as he feared he was barely able to muster a vote. Poor Preville is yet to recover.
Second, there was the supposed run-off between the Sandals-backed Dominic Fedee and former Deputy Police Commissioner, Hermangild Francis. The latter’s community credentials would prove no match for the well-connected Fedee and Francis was soundly defeated. Reportedly, several mobile phones and lots of cash changed hands that night. Months later the Anse La Raye/Canaries grouping remains sour over the results. Meanwhile, former constituency representative, Keith Mondesir, daily assaults Allen Chastanet as a man who cannot lead a party far less a nation. On Tuesday, he ratcheted up the volume in effect accusing Chastanet of having no clue on managing an economy. More on that next week!
Next on the hit list would be Lorenzo Doddy Francis. At a farcical attempt at a run-off where he was absent, Mary Isaac was announced the party’s endorsed candidate. The former Attorney General would take to the public airwaves denouncing what he considered a sham saying he was not even made aware of the event. Like Preville, Doddycontinues to privately lick his wounds.
Things would next move to the ridiculous when a junior public servant would take to the airwaves and announce her intentions to topple established candidate and the UWP’s Deputy Leader, Spider Montoute. Let me go on the record and state that I am no fan of Spider Montoute and consider him among the most spineless of politicians ever to contest General Elections. This is after all a man who was Deputy Leader to Sir John and who allowed his seniority to be overtaken by all and sundry simply because he had no conviction about anything. Even today, one minute he is the fiery anti Chastanet crusader who wishes to stop a dictator and the very next minute he is assuring the entire world of Chastanet’s credentials to be leader of the pack.
So Jenna Corneille, the Public Service’s Staff orders be damned, announces on public media that she would petition for the Gros Islet seat. From his reaction, or perhaps lack of it, it would not be far-fetched to suggest Chastenet welcomed the challenge to his deputy. One more obstacle out of the way was how he perhaps saw it. Without warning, however, an announcement emerged from the Gros Islet constituency group that Spider had been chosen to be the standard bearer come next election. A stunned Corneille, already burdened with having to respond to the Public Service Commission, would accuse Spider of “hijacking the constituency.” Her party chairman would add further insult to her injured persona by declaring that Corneille had never formally advised the party of her interest in the seat. Imagine that.
Then there is Dr. Andre Mathew who, simultaneously with Corneille, on Poleon’s Hot Button Issue, also announced his political aspirations to be the UWP candidate for the Castries Central seat. The duo announced that they were partners. This was a first for electoral politics in Saint Lucia, a joint appearance by two lovers that they were vying to become candidates for a political party. Little wonder that they are now described as the “Romeo and Juliet” of local politics. This is real political theatre!
A virtual unknown, the goodly doctor’s pronouncements were anything but helpful to himself. Against all of the available evidence, he would pronounce that the US embargo on supporting our police was based not on alleged extra judicial killings but instead on our ALBA connections. Of course he could not explain why not one of the numerous other Caribbean territories who are ALBA aligned had suffered similarly. This good doctor is an interesting phenomenon. Apparently, neither his parentage nor his training in Cuba, has tempered his ideological excesses. We watch as he soldiers on, no doubt to face a fate similar to his companion Corneille.
And then this week came news of the mother of all horrors as the UWP leader and senior executive members of his party ventured west to the village of Choiseul. There they hoped to pull the rug under Rufus Bousquet who was apparently still the constituency group’s favoured candidate. According to well-placed sources, Chastenet and company were met with open hostility and were literally chased out of the meeting.
Clearly, under Chastanet’s leadership, political mass confusion within the United Workers Party is the order of the day!