TOMORROW United Workers Party (UWP) delegates ought to reach beyond the squabbles and the attacks against their leader and cast a vote for integrity, hard work and vision by re-electing Allen Chastanet, political leader. A vote for Integrity will signal a return to honesty, wholeness and soundness of the UWP. These qualities have been on the decline in public life and the UWP delegates have a duty to revive and uphold them. These were the foundations on which their great party was built. UWP delegates must therefore show moral courage and foresight by returning integrity to the heart and soul of the party.
Conscientious and patriotic Saint Lucians have longed for a peaceful settlement of the squabbles within the UWP in office, and in opposition. Recent egotistic jostling by ‘little men’ is unprecedented in the long history of the party. Since its founding over fifty years ago that party has largely lived up to its name. The party has demonstrated a united approach to internal party matters and to nation building. There were reported hiccups between former party chairman Henry Giraudy, and political leader John Compton, over a proposed alliance with George Odlum’s Progressive Labour Party (PLP), in 1982. Giraudy would have none of it. In the end the mistrust by party chairman of Odlum and his clique, prevailed. During that centre tempts not a word, not a word, not a word was heard from either UWP leaders, or the executive committee. Oh my! How times have changed.
Let me quickly correct myself. Time has not changed. True, seasons seem to fly past more quickly these days than they once did, but a day is still 24 hours. It is the quality and character of the people – their integrity – that has changed. Those who sit where political icons once did are clearly not of the calibre of past leaders. The new has changed for worse. One recalls Sir John Compton’s reluctance to welcome certain characters as candidates in the elections of 2006, in which he last led his UWP to victory. Sir John may have had more than ample evidence to mistrust those eager hopefuls, having known their parents and their history. He took a calculated risk that soon backfired.
Notwithstanding greed and the lack of integrity that surrounded him, Sir John’s final budget speech had clearly defined a road map for a new social and economic development thrust for the island. It must have been his hope that future UWP leaders would carry on from there. UWP supporters and long-suffering citizens pray and hope that the party, which is at a crucial crossroad, will emerge tomorrow with new hope and stronger bonding. The squabble and childish attacks on the political leader must end. The convention must decide once and for all who is best suited to lead the UWP to victory at the next general elections. This is the choice facing delegates. The challenge is therefore clear and simple – return a strong leader of integrity who Labour is most afraid to face at the polls. That person is none other than Allen Chastanet.
The UWP convention is therefore much more than an internal partisan political issue – it is a crucial national issue. The results will surely determine the outcome of the next general elections. And no one knows this better than the leader of the St. Lucia Labour Party. That is why he has relentlessly attacked Allen Chastanet. His recent alliances with former enemies who he has ridiculed and for whom he has no respect, says it all. Desperation! Fakery! He will sleep with his worst ‘you know what I mean’ enemy, if that will help him. But it won’t. The game is over. Persons of integrity and business acumen frighten the SLP more than any other. It is precisely such a person who must lead the UWP to battle.
The government can count itself lucky that there is no thirty-year old Peter Josie or a thirty-seven year old George Odlum to put ‘fire in their wire’ for shaming the island and bringing its people to such ridicule by their latest selection of total strangers as the island’s representatives in the international arena. Oh Lord, what a mess … but that’s for another page.
Allen Chastanet has remoulded the UWP into an organization of which its deceased leaders Giraudy, Compton and Mallet would be proud. He has invited former stalwarts of the party to help guide him and his team as they march forward to victory. The choice for those stalwarts for a political leader, who will continue in the party’s tradition, seems clear to those who wish to see.
Immediately after the convention Allen Chastanet must quickly turn to candidates’ selection and the preparation of his party manifesto. He must consult as widely as possible with constituencies and stalwarts, while observing the rules of the party.
In his candidates’ selection, the political leader should be guided by history. New Labour had first organized ‘run offs’ to choose candidates for general elections. They soon abandoned the practice when it created more confusion. The UWP past leaders, Compton and Giraudy understood that allowing a free-for-all in candidate selection would cause as much confusion and possibly fracture the party. Instead, they consulted constituency groups and spoke to a wide a cross section from each constituency and stalwarts, before their final selection. This probably explains the many victories of the UWP at the polls.
Another lesson which the leader of the UWP must bear in mind is that of Allan Louisy and his SLP government. A political leader should not venture into a general election unless he is certain that he has the full and unswerving support of each and every candidate. If he is uncertain, the method adopted by former Prime Minister Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago, should help.
It bears repeating that this UWP conference is more than an internal contest to choose a leader. It is selecting men and women of integrity – honesty and soundness to form the next government of Saint Lucia. Interestingly, it was Allen Chastanet who helped develop the new moral guidelines of the UWP, insisting that ‘honesty’ should be number one. The UWP must realize that the failed SLP will not fold its tent and humbly retire. If there was any integrity left in them that’s what they would do. But no, these shameless people lacking in integrity and dignity prefer to be pushed out of office.
The misery which the SLP has deposited upon the heads of the people of Saint Lucia is too large and too hurtful to be enumerated here. The peoples’ prayer is that every UWP delegate remembers that his or her vote for a political leader is a first step towards a vote for a new UWP Government. The vote for political leader is also to carry-on where Sir John left off. One can only pray and humbly ask God to cause UWP delegates tomorrow, to re-elect Allen Chastanet, political leader.
There comes a moment in everyone’s life when selfishness, avarice and greed must be set aside, if only temporarily, and to strike a blow for integrity, hard work and fair play.
My personal prayer is that the convention will be orderly and peaceful and that every genuine UWP member and supporter will unite behind the new leader and other elected officials of the party. Saint Lucia is waiting patiently; don’t let her down.