By Stephen Lester Prescott
LAST WEEK, while watching excerpts from the UWP Press Conference on television, I was levitating between laughter and liberality at the cheap political opportunism of Dominic Fedee and Guy Joseph, when Allen Chastanet dropped his “bombshell revelation” about the “Bruceville mother” who reportedly could only send two of her four children to school at a time.
As my truth alarm screamed LIAR! LIAR! at Allen Chastanet, I could not help but wonder how many St. Lucians would be lured into believing Chastanet’s calculated falsehood. In an obviously coached public relations performance (do I detect Accela Marketing and his former colleague, Agnes Francis, in the background?), Allen Chastanet feigned concern for the obviously fabricated but seemingly real “Bruceville Mother.” The breaking voice was good by Hollywood standards, but where were the flowing tears or the concerned look in his eyes? Instead Chastanet’s eyes showed a smile of satisfaction that he was pulling off to plan his scripted acting performance, or so he thought. Those who may want to doubt the veracity of this assertion, please check the video again and confirm for yourself.
Psychologists tell us that “the eyes are the window to the heart.” When a woman or man wants to know if her/his partner is genuine, she/he looks into his/her eyes. We are told by the experts that “the eyes don’t lie” and Allen Chastanet’s eyes exposed the deception and dishonesty in his PR-scripted performance on TV.
The insincerity in Allen Chastanet’s eyes is even more glaring when you compare his optical expressions with that of the SLP Political Leader – Dr. Kenny D. Anthony – who wears thick glasses. Even through the thick lenses, Dr. Anthony’s genuine concern, sincerity and love for the Saint Lucian people shines through like a beacon of light. Allen Chastanet should therefore go back to the drawing board and reconsider his ill-conceived and deceptive approach of trying to fool the people with feigned concern for the poor, based on fictitious PR-scripted characters. Worse yet, he made a fatal mistake with his choice of character.
For those who may still be tempted to believe Allen Chastanet’s fabricated case, let us be clear, that the community he has picked and in which he has placed his fictitious character, is in the heart of Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony’s constituency – that is part of the PR plot. Bruceville is an inner city community to which Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony has brought previously denied amenities, facilities and opportunities, to the great annoyance of Allen Chastanet and his privileged class. We can all clearly remember, that it was only last year just before Jounen Kweyol celebrations in Vieux Fort, that Allen Chastanet and his UWP criticized the construction by the Kenny Anthony Government of a concrete road to Bruceville, as if the community did not deserve a road of such quality. Who can forget the jibe from Mary Issac when she questioned the expenditure for the road by saying she saw only stray dogs on the road. The Vieux Fortians that I know will not forget!
Maybe if it wasn’t for Jounen Kweyol and if he wasn’t leader of the UWP, Allen Chastanet would not even know of the existence of Bruceville. His arrogance in believing that good things should only be given to Rodney Bay, Cap Estate and other enclaves of the economic elite, is deeply offensive to the ordinary people of St. Lucia. When Chastanet and his band of plunderers of the public purse were in office between December 12, 2006 and November 28, 2011, it was Kenny Anthony and the SLP in opposition, which drew attention to the then real (not fictitious) plight of parents in being unable to send their children to school.
Since returning to office in 2011, the Kenny D. Anthony administration has sought to cure all the ills and inequalities inherited from Chastanet’s toxic policies, and most times, with vociferous opposition from Chastanet and his UWP colleagues. The Short Term Employment Programme (STEP) has been criticized by Chastanet and his colleagues; the National Initiative for the Creation of Employment (NICE) has been vilified, and any pro-poor programmes have been resisted by the UWP; so from where is Chastanet suddenly getting his concern for the poor?
Up until his PR-scripted televised performance last week, almost every Allen Chastanet action or utterance has advertised loudly his elitist inclinations and entitlements. Chastanet and his economic cabal believe that they are the engine of the economy and that the spoils of the public purse should be spent on them. They have very little regard for workers or the public service and place minimal value on their utility. To them, the hotel owner who uses our savings in the banks to fund his hotel and sometimes doesn’t pay back is more important than the hotel worker who provides the quality service that the guest appreciates. And it does not matter to them that Government should first and foremost be about helping those who need it most, and not those who demand it loudest but need it least.
So while successive UWP governments have given more and more to the rich at the expense of the poor, the record of the Labour government has been one of balanced development and providing a more equitable St. Lucia for the poor and the powerless. The record of Kenny D.Anthony and the SLP in providing opportunities for both the business class and the workers of this country is clear to see, in contrast with the pro-business and anti-worker posture of Allen Chastanet and the UWP. When he was Tourism Minister, Chastanet gave all concessions and opportunities to hoteliers and friends while seeking to squeeze taxi drivers and other local beneficiaries of the cruise ship business. He even dismissed the poor hostesses.
Wasn’t it also Allen Chastanet as a hotelier and as Minister of Tourism who opposed the Labour Code and its protection of young mothers and children from the socially destructive split-shift system? The Labour Code was passed in Parliament by the Kenny Anthony administration on the eve of the 2006 General Elections which the UWP won, and it was promptly put on the back burner by Chastanet and his colleagues. It was only upon the return of Kenny Anthony to power that the Labour Code was finally given legal effect on Emancipation Day, 2013.
So where was Chastanet’s concern for the “Bruceville mother” when his anti-mother policy prevented her from getting a job at Sandals because she couldn’t afford to work on split-shift? And for those who may not be aware of what a split-shift is: it is a system which splits the eight hour work day into two separate sections which virtually takes away any contact time of parents with their children, and requires them to make two trips to and from work every day, incurring double stress and transportation costs. So for example, a mother would have to work from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and leave home before her children are up, return home between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. and leave again to work from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., to return home after 11:00 p.m. when her children are already asleep.
Kenny D. Anthony is a caring, conscientious and compassionate Parliamentary Representative who takes every opportunity, every Wednesday and at other times to ground with his people, listen to their concerns, empathize with them and address their needs. There is therefore no way that any real mother in Bruceville can honestly make the claim that Allen Chastanet’s “Bruceville mother” is reported to have made! There is now no need to challenge Allen Chastanet and his PR people to bring the mother herself and her four children to make the claim on television and let the people of Bruceville, (not Kenny Anthony and the SLP), tell us whether this is a matter of truth or fiction. She has spoken loudly and clearly, branding Chastanet “a liar” and pointing out that he has exploited her for cheap political purposes.