Allen Chastanet’s dilemma (commentary)

By Melanius Alphonse

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2016-07-13 09_10_52-Allen Chastanet’s dilemma.docx - Google DocsCOMMENTARY – In the same way that many British voters are regretting their support of Brexit in the recent UK referendum, many Saint Lucians are showing signs of buyer’s remorse following last month’s election of new prime minister Allen Chastanet on substantive matters that impact sovereignty, integrity in public life, security and the rule of law.

First, the rollout of the cabinet of ill-defined intentions, which was said to be intended as a relief from the past on what government ought to be and what the government’s strategic vision is, actually seems to be lost in theory than in practice, similar to the “Five to Stay Alive” and “Five to Thrive” campaign promise initiatives.

Second, on July 4 2016, the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, in a unanimous ruling on all issues except one, reinstated a claim against Chastanet, alleging breach of trust and misfeasance in public office and sent the case back to the Supreme Court to be heard by a different judge and ordered each party to bear its own costs.

It is notable that this ruling by the court of appeal also allows the case against Ezechiel Joseph to proceed to trial. Joseph is now the minister for agriculture, fisheries, physical planning, natural resources and cooperatives.

In both instances, the funds in question were raised by the government of Saint Lucia from the government of Taiwan for specific community projects.

Chastanet’s current dilemma so far rests on his lousy performance last week in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados; his inability to reduce fuel prices and tackle numerous domestic challenges; and now has to face up to the attorney general.

Attorney general, Kim St Rose, is the claimant in the case against Chastanet, alleging breach of trust and misfeasance in public office, and is now a part of his cabinet by default, a civil servant on contract until 2018, appointed by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.

The dilemma gets worse: What will Chastanet do legally and/or what are his options?

Attorney at law Mary Francis told the St Lucia Times this case has created an “absurdity” at the highest level and Chastanet’s press attaché, Nancy Charles, described the situation as being “a little uncomfortable”.
In all probability it comes to rest on the rule of law. And what a majority seems to recognize is that, in this case, lays an opportunity for fairness and to regain credibility, both for the judicial system to earn back the people’s trust and an image of the country’s political leadership that is less than impressive, possibly eccentric and crazy.

2016-07-13 09_22_38-Allen Chastanet's dilemma - slunewsonline@gmail.com - Gmail

Therefore, it is not economically, politically and socially strategic to attempt to discontinue the legal proceedings, cancel funding, replace the attorney general, shield behind tribunals, lean on the proverbial sluggish wheels of justice or let personal ego and ambition outweigh professional ethics in relation to covert actions. These are certainly threatening to prove unhelpful.

This case is momentous and the implications for Saint Lucia loom large beyond its borders, with sweeping effects if anything outside of the ruling of the court is contrived; in addition to dealing with the misfortune of the so-called Leahy Law.

Still, it won’t be a surprise if Chastanet’s top-notch disciples of spinners, consultants and lawyers are studying how Hillary Clinton got a pass and are perhaps strategizing how the same can happen in Saint Lucia’s broken and sluggish justice system.

There is a legitimate concern with regard to double-standards in the judicial system – one system for the political elites and well-connected and another for everyone else. Rigged for those with connections, money and power, while the little people suffer on remand and can hardly get their day in court.

In fact, if Chastanet‘s administration is serious about reform of the justice system, one only has to examine who is incarcerated at the Bordelais correctional facility and the estimated 1,600-plus case backlog.

If credible leadership fails to steer the country, then the impact on sovereignty, integrity in public life, security and rule of law will render the country non-functional and people are going to be really unhappy, with no ching, ching in their pockets.

Disaster doesn’t come unless there’s something that precedes it. That’s why public confidence in the justice system and the importance of choosing leaders with good political vision and socio-economic management skills is essential to the practice of accountability, honesty and integrity in a sustainable democracy.

Clearly change is what the people voted for and change towards timely and fair justice is what the system needs for sustainable democracy to prosper.

No one should be above the law, to deceive and mislead the people with breaches of trust and misfeasance in public office and/or for that matter massive bribery and political kickback schemes that allow the political and economic elites to thrive at the expense of everyone else.

This dilemma explains why I wrote: “A new regulatory framework, far-reaching reform and oversight are vital to challenge the reigning code of silence and to derail fraud, corruption and/or misuse of public funds.”

Strategically, whatever happens next will alter the political and judicial system, the role of the attorney general in the public interest to enforce respect for the rule of law, and offer Saint Lucia’s political, economic well-being and sovereignty a chance for restoration.

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]

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13 comments

  1. Is that what you say about the case Melanius? Which is more important to you as a person and the fundamental principle of the rule of law? Is it the precedence which may be set in a case or the functioning working of the government? In fact the principles of rule of law and officious governance takes precedence over any personal or group rights to justice. Because the situation of one arm of the government involved in a civil case against another arm is untenable in law. The AG is a member of both Houses and the Cabinet the PM is also a member of all three arms of government. The AG is not suing in her personal capacity, neither can the PM be ostensibly appear in a personal capacity, matter of fact he was never in a personal capacity, he was Minister of Tourism at the time the alleged act took place and consequently a member of Cabinet. I think that all you people who do not understand the principles of administrative law should refrain from making certain comments about this case. Even the PM himself has made a somewhat bashful statement saying that he will excuse himself from Cabinet. The PM is the leader of Cabinet and can never be seen whether in legal circles or other to be ostracized from Cabinet or its decisions. This is why the Constitution makes provision for elections, which is the highest decision making mechanism within our Constitution. In fact when elections are called it acts as an implied repeal of all what went on before it. Hence one Cabinet cannot be bound by the decisions of a predecessor Cabinet. The decision to go after Chastanet was not an exclusive act of the AG, in fact, the statement of claim and the Claimant in the matter was amended several times. The PM at the time made several pronouncements which can all be taken to mean that it was a decision of the previous Cabinet to go after Chastanet at the time.

    The framers of our Constitution were very knowledgeable people, this is why it amounts to an absurdity in law in the manner in which the probe was launched. If it were a Commission of Inquiry then the outcome would have been different. Let us take for example if the matter was referred in a criminal case. A criminal case which premise is based on evidence is much harder to prove because of the requirement that the act would have to be committed in bad faith which amounts to malfeasance. However the former PM recognized this and choose the route which required a leaner threshold to prove, which was by way of civil action to prove misfeasance. Now misfeasance can be attributed to someone who may have did something which was procedurally wrong but without intention. The core of this case seems to be the requirement that the judge make a declaration to the effect of making the defendant "corrupt person." My question is whether someone who does something procedurally or unintentionally wrong deserves being declared to be "corrupt?" In fact, taking what I have just explained into consideration, it may very well be that the party seeking that such a declaration be made is acting in bad faith. What say you?

    ca

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  2. I, for one, never regretted. Give the man a chance..geez

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  3. Long, long, drawn out commentary. The writer would like us to be regretful. People with a false sense of superiority think they can dictate to others how to feel, even to go as far as to give reasons we should feel a certain way. Too many words without substance. Save your energy and move on. Pray for the prosperity of St. Lucia even if your preferred party is not in power. Boring....

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  4. Alphonse wrote: "In the same way that many British voters are regretting their support of Brexit in the recent UK referendum."

    Stop, Melanius! When you can show that you're not blatantly lying, then you may proceed with your assertions; otherwise, lass bat jell-ou!

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  5. Okay. But why is it that so many people seem against this piece?

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  6. Now that the LPM gig has evaporated, it appears that this writer has joined the weirdos group. Those weirdos thoughtlessly believe that any one administration can implement all the changes promised at election time, in just one month.

    The new PM did not create the local judicial system. He found it as it is now. The cases levelled at the ministers were pre-existing before the election. The court system moves as quickly as a glacier. Let the process take its course. Let the courts decide. The rule of law will prevail.

    Yet again, because the appointments do not mirror the writer's expectations, this does mean that they are wrong. Far from it.

    Maybe, the second or first parliament in the British Commonwealth of Nations has something to teach us here. Barring Bermuda, the use of ministers within the prime minister's office is a long well-established practice in the very oldest parliament in our CARICOM community, namely, the next-door nation state of Barbados.

    Perhaps, that is one of the things that Ms Mia Motley was probably having conversations with UWP about, before the last elections.

    Now because this practice perhaps does not occur as frequently in the writer's domain in Canada, this does not necessarily mean that the practice is, all by itself, flawed. I hold no brief for the PM. However, I believe that the new PM deserves the benefit of the doubt here.

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    • Don't try that. The man is not a member of the LPM so don't try that. From what I am told the views expressed are not that of the LPM.

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  7. What about Mr. Chastanet you all are scared of? It appears to be the change he is making. Doing thing different to the nom. There is that saying the people are fearful of CHANGE. I hope with all your consultant accolade you are not one of them, as it appears.

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    • A consultant who does not advocate change is in the wrong type of business. There is something wrong with this column since the elections. It is difficult to pinpoint what it is exactly. It is just a feeling that something has gone awry somewhere.

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  8. Lol wonder y there are no comments. It's been 43 days since the election and u want to tell us lucians regret ? Try harder slp hack with these so called sorry ass reasons. I suspect slp will be sendING all sorts of articles under all different names. But fail to realise if there was election tomorrow they'd still lose again. Good luck .

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    • Are you a hack? Can you read the passage on its merit and agree or disagree without seeing colours? I too think like the second comment that it is pre mature but... slp hack...smh I suppose if the article praised the UWP administration then props would be given to the writer for "getting it right" but otherwise it must be an SLP hack....

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    • Ignorant ppl like you are the ones who would let your house burn completely and then look for water to out it. Your comment says alot of the majority of my fellow students lucians who ate still to be educated. This same snol gave the then slp very much the same criticism so I think to me it's pretty much a no color balanced website.

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