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Press statement by Hon. Alva Baptiste, regarding the Chastanet-led UWP Government’s appointment of Neville Cenac as Governor General of Saint Lucia.
I agree fully with the Leader of the Opposition that the UWP Government has hit a new low.
After several low points by Allen Chastanet and his Government in their 19-month stint in Government, including the manner in which Dame Pearlette’s tenure, as Governor General, was brought to an end, Chastanet and his bunch have appointed to the high office of Governor General of Saint Lucia a man of no merit and no credit and one whose political actions have left a pungent smell in the body politic of St Lucia.
Apart from his act of crossing the floor, Neville Cenac was best known in the politics of St Lucia as a political clown who was typically dressed on the platform in a white pants, a bright red shirt and a white turban and who said ridiculous things, like calling Heraldine Rock – “Ma Rock tiki tok”; calling George Mallet – “Mallet malonette”; saying of JMD Bousquet – “Bousquet anset”; his brother Allan as “lot la pas konet”; John Compton as “Compton pa ka tan”; and Bristol as “Bristol tro dwol”. Then there was his contribution to the dialogue on the tourism industry, translated from the kweyol language – “why are we fussing about tourism, tourists are just people painted in white”.
The office of Governor General in the Commonwealth countries which still retain this office, is officially the representative of the country’s Head of State, Her Majesty the Queen of England, but unofficially the personification of the best of the country. With two exceptions, when first the Labour Party in 1980 and then the UWP in 1996 appointed partisans to the office of Governor General which did nothing to maintain the integrity of the office, the U8JIKGovernors General of St Lucia have represented the best that is in us as a people.
The first holder of the office (then entitled Governor) was Sir Frederick Clarke, a distinguished Medical Doctor; he was followed by Sir Ira Simmons, a distinguished educator who had been the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education; then came Sir Allen Lewis, the first Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean and the Chancellor at the time of the University of the West Indies; Sir Allen was temporarily displaced in the office by Boswell Williams, a partisan of the St. Lucia Labour Party, and was returned to the office of Governor General after the UWP returned to the seat of Government; then came Sir Stanislaus James, a highly regarded former Permanent Secretary; followed by a partisan of the United Workers Party, Sir George Mallet; and then finally the distinguished educator, Dame Pearlette Louisy; the first woman to achieve this distinction.
She is a person of superior standing; an intellectual giant who has always encouraged strong scholarship. She is a woman of integrity and has a dignity, high sense of self-identity and love for her country. She represents the best in us as a people. She inspired Saint Lucians to admire the value of our independence and freedom and respect for national symbols, our cultural values and Kweyol language. Under her leadership, she played her part in ensuring that the foundation of national reconciliation as a grounding idea in Saint Lucia was strengthening day by day, irrespective of which party occupied the corridors of power.
Hence, naturally one would expect that her successor would have been, at the very least, a Saint Lucian of some repute, to continue her efforts at uniting all segments of society in order to secure peace, which will continue setting the stage for sustainable development in all areas of life of our Saint Lucian society.
Therefore, the question, which stares us in the face and calls for an appropriate response is:
What it is about Neville Cenac, a man of no integrity or ability, who never held a job outside of political office since he left his job in 1974 as a clerk in his brother’s law office to go to England to study law that would recommend him to the office of Governor General? He returned to St Lucia from England in 1981, never having passed his law exams, and – with no qualification or experience in broadcasting or management – was appointed Manager of Radio St. Lucia by his brother, Winston Cenac, who was then the Prime Minister. Neville Cenac’s next job was as Leader of the Opposition, after he persuaded Sir Allen Louisy to hand him the Labour Party’s safe Laborie seat.
In 1985, Julian Hunte took over the leadership of the Labour Party and led the party in April 1987 to within one seat of forming the Government and became Leader of the Opposition. John Compton called a second election in April 1987 on the basis that he could not run the Government on a one-seat majority, and when the second election produced the same 9 – 8 result, Neville Cenac, crossed the floor to give Compton the parliamentary majority he desired, and Compton rewarded Cenac with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Never was such an act of political treachery perpetrated on the people of St Lucia and it (along with its perpetrator) will live on in infamy in the political history of this country. So will the appointment of Neville Cenac as the Governor General of St. Lucia.
I reiterate that Prime Minister Chastanet’s appointment of Neville Cenac to the position of Governor General is to desecrate the inner sanctum of this high office.