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COMMENTARY: A cabinet of ill-defined intentions in St Lucia

By Melanius Alphonse

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Former PM Stephenson King sworn in as a cabinet minister.

Former PM Stephenson King sworn in as a cabinet minister.

English poet Robert Browning said, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” In other words, suggesting that, in order to achieve anything worthwhile, we should attempt even those things that may turn out to have been impossible.

The current narrative is the interesting construct to the new cabinet of ministers in Saint Lucia, particularly prime minister Allen Chastanet and minister for just about everything else: finance, economic growth, job creation, external affairs and the public service, apparently suggesting that he is trying to attempt the impossible.

Major stand-alone ministries like finance, external affairs, tourism and the civil service, will therefore be submerged under the leadership of a single senior minister — albeit the first among equals. The scenario is not dissimilar to some African leaders, who attempted to create a dictatorship within a democracy, but look where it got them!

Still, that paradigm is showing signs of life in Saint Lucia by the seemingly haphazard conflation of key government ministries and portfolios in silos within the office of the prime minister, assisted by three other junior ministers: Bradley Felix (with responsibility for commerce, industry, investment, enterprise development and consumer affairs); Dominic Fedee (with responsibility for tourism, information and broadcasting); and Senator Dr Ubaldus Raymond (minister in the ministry of finance).

What is the rationale behind the strategy of keeping major portfolios within a single ministry? Is it even constitutional? Let alone the resulting eight ministries but fifteen ministers. When the attorney general is added, a huge Cabinet of sixteen ministers of government is created.

The danger of this lays in the possible conflict of interest when one minister, let alone the prime minister, is the primary decision maker in matters of finance, external affairs, civil service, commerce and investment, tourism and broadcasting portfolios.

In other words, deal making and decisions that have a very slim to no chance of verification on the domestic front, and subject to personal vagaries, a propensity to embellish data and a questionable astuteness that may circumvent normal checks and balances.

Furthermore, what will other countries and their donor agencies, as well as other international organisations make of the mismatch and consolidation of portfolios that indicates potential pitfalls. Such international partners are well aware of the historically unhappy results when governments have no clear economic, foreign policy, national security or domestic agenda, and sustainable democracy is threatened.

As Caribbean News Now reported before the recent general election, the United States in particular is determined to see real progress in addressing the still unresolved human rights abuses in the shape of alleged extra-judicial killings by members of the Royal St Lucia Police Force that led to suspension of all law enforcement and military aid under the provisions of the so-called Leahy Law.

The US will therefore expect to see bona fide prosecutions of those responsible and any future grants, aid or loans to the Saint Lucia government will be subject to enforcement of strict transparency and accountability requirements.

Any failure or delay in addressing these issues will result in even more stringent application of the Leahy Law by the US along with other relevant sanctions, notwithstanding Chastanet’s bizarre promise, unchallenged by the St Lucia Labour Party during the election campaign, that Saint Lucians will no longer need visas to visit the United States — at a time when even the visa waiver programs between the US and Europe are under renewed scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the case of the United States, such programs, permitting citizens of specific countries to travel to the US for tourism, business, or while in transit for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa, are only extended to high-income economies with a very high human development index that are generally regarded as developed countries.

Given the fact that at least two of the new cabinet ministers have questionable backgrounds (of which more in a later commentary), the US is hardly likely to be impressed by the composition and structure of the new government.

Not only a conspicuous lack of effort to address symptoms, root causes and scrutiny of fraud and corruption, or strengthen governance practices while enhancing the rule of law, but decisions that make matters worse, will therefore certainly place the visa waiver slice of heaven well beyond Chastanet’s grasp and that of the populace at large.

In addition to the considerations of the Leahy Law and other possible sanctions, the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act (HR 4939), recently passed by the US House of Representatives, puts particular emphasis on energy security, countering violence, expanded diplomacy, and other priority areas.

“That’s the aim of this bill, which would prioritize US-Caribbean relations for years to come,” said co-sponsor, Rep. Eliot Engel.

Any outward sign of economic and political deviation from the norm in Saint Lucia is not going to be helpful to the country in this new environment of re-engagement by the United States, or the similar re-engagement promised by Britain last year.

I have to ask, therefore, what was Chastanet thinking when he decided on the allocation of cabinet portfolios. Does his reach exceed his grasp? For the moment, I’ll be charitable and describe his intentions as ill-defined.

Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at: [email protected]

(19)(45)
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16 comments

  1. Whatever happened to the LPM connection? Like logic, that too became a victim of the process? So it would seem to some of us.

    (9)(0)
    • Why is us enh? What does LPM have to do with the views expressed in this article? I heard my leader speak loud and clear and the views expressed are not ours. The people win and they free to do what they want with their cabinet. We are smart enough to watch and wait and not jump to premature conclusion.

      (6)(1)
  2. A load of crap talk, this man is suffering from Allen Chastanet as Pm. Take your pill from the Ministers and CHILL

    (4)(15)
  3. Sounds like a one man show to me....not a democracy!!!

    (5)(1)
  4. None of you idiots addressed the substantive points made by the writer. The writer took his time to give an analytical perspective of the Chastenet Cabinet. No counter substantive point. Typical of UWP supporters who don't care about reasoned analysis just give them a few points to keep them alive. They don't need much, five is their maximum.

    (36)(5)
  5. melanius please take a seat

    (4)(10)
    • Damn if you do damn if you don't!!!

      @ Reps ...I am sure he will be sat comfortably and saying I told you so when the lies of your PM will come back to hunt him.

      (10)(1)
  6. god is still on the throne

    Lord send an anointed rain to wash all negativity off this beautiful island of St. Lucia . I pray a special anointing over the lives of Lucians. May we surrender our trust only in you and your will and not in the ways and hands of evil men. #lordhavemercy

    (2)(2)
  7. nonsense Alphonse regarding some African leaders.Africa is aeons ahead of us here.If I may say so in my not so humble opioion.She is our Father and Our Mother,and the little I have learnt about us humans ,sometimes a dictatorship is just what the Doctor ordered.You think you are living in a democracy? and you write a from a position of silly intelligence and comfortable indulgence? you just wait a few years more see what will transpire.
    Africa is the natural resource and spiritual resource capital of the world and Africa will still be around long after other races have melted from the earth,just like in days gone by.Africans know more about the human condition than any westernized person could ever learn by studying words on a piece of paper called books.
    Do yourself a favour and honour you Mother and Father Africa so you may live long on the earth as the command says to you.

    (1)(15)
  8. Garbage garbage and more garbage. Everything u mentioned in ur article were echos of the desperate words from the slp candidates on their political campaign. As you have already seen it didn't work. So try to come up with new material.

    The former admin used this "extra judicial" killing as a tool to take take down the then king admin when slp was in opp. They and u failed to mention slp was so keen on getting back in power by ANY means necessary. They were very much entangled in that impac mess and we're the ones screaming wolf.

    But everyone is entitled to thier opinion as well as to excercise it in a vote. They did it. We did not have faith in slp to lead the country so putting dobut in our mind about a gov who haven't even began working is ridiculous.

    (17)(39)
  9. Armchair theorist Melanius first Kenny was wrong now chastanet is wrong so it's time to get off your rocking chair form a party and put your theories and hands into the rough and tough real world of politics. Not politics behind a computer screen and keyboard.

    Come show Sr. Lucia your moves.

    (14)(5)
  10. Compensated*

    (0)(2)
  11. To cut through all that bull-shit Allen did what the public was clamoring for: Control and accountability of their moneys and interests. We never voted for Ministers we voted for representation in Parliament. The only person which the Constitution recognizes as being accountable to the Parliament is the PM. Meanwhile the PM is responsible for Cabinet which has collective responsibility to adhere to the agreed contract of faith with the public. No longer will there be misguided and splintered accountability as we know who is to accountable to us. If a Minister is not performing well it is also the responsibility of the PM to take action not left up to moumou Ministers.

    I think your criticisms reflect only the negative which may or may not present itself. IT also comes at a time when we have not even tested the method. Stop politics for now, let us see how this plays out.

    (36)(16)
  12. LOOK, ALL THESE GUYS JUST LIKE TO CRITICIZE AND ACT LIKE THEY HAVE THE ANSWER!! We had a Prime Minister who raise taxes on St.lucians IN A RECESSION, created no jobs well after the recession was over. not one of you WHOEVER THE HELL YOU ARE, CAME OUT AND CRITICIZE AND TALK ABOUT THAT!

    It was the St.lucian people who spread the word on social media and else where to get rid of this craziness in the country OK

    New government come in with a different approach to how the country is run. A wise person will wait, see what happens, analyze the current situation and if the government is not working then CRITICIZE. But instead, a SMART ASS WANT FRONT LIKE HE KNOWS...

    BUT WHAT WILL WE DO WITH THESE DOCTORS? The last doctor we had could not cure none of the nation's ills.

    (206)(82)
  13. Mate is just a clown. I bet u he did not write this article.His prior styke of writing and this one is totally different. This pile up of words can never be writren by a non st lucian who is disconnected about what rhe Americans want or does not wish to see in St Lucia.
    And if i have a bet to give they would careless about Kenny losing in St Lucia.

    (9)(14)

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