I could have easily called this piece, “How To Lose An Election Under An Incompetent Leader”, but I chose the title above because I wanted the words “crisis, bad and worse” to feature prominently in any effort to explain the abject failure of Mr. Allen Chastanet as Political Leader of the United Workers Party.
Clearly, if the situation in the party weren’t so critical, it would probably pass as comical. Needless to say that the last two years have been the most dramatic in the political history of the Party with Allen Chastanet as Political Leader. But how can one man hold an entire party to ransom? Isn’t the organisation bigger than any individual?
The UWP under Allen Chastanet has gone without political leadership for so long, with an endless catalogue of mistakes that it has made political dysfunction look almost like a well-practised art. Mr. Chastanet has shamefully dragged the party into political turmoil, ostracizing key members in the process. He has single-handedly orchestrated the prevailing political impasse and has gained notoriety for his non-strategic and misguided approach to party management and leadership. If Sir John were alive today, he would be devastated to see prominent party members who participated in the struggle for many years decimated and replaced with late comers, opportunists and navel-gazers.
Through his recent feckless pronouncements on Hon. Stephenson King, Mr. Chastanet has expanded the frontiers of political mischief and incompetence. I was appalled at statements made by him to the effect that the Hon. Stephenson King must decide soon whether he wants to continue representing the party at the next general elections.
Mr. Chastanet just doesn’t get it that Mr King is still hugely popular and well trusted among the UWP base. Why haven’t we stopped his sinister plan to turn the party into his personal fiefdom? Is it that our people are so gullible for some presumed gratification from the money that his father purportedly has? What with all the widespread allegations of bribery as his way to win the last convention against his hugely popular opponent Dr. Claudius Preville? Also, what of his widely rumoured attempt to bribe Arsene James to run the Micoud South seat?
Sadly, we have allowed a true champion of the party, the Hon Stephenson King to be humiliated by a political leader who doesn’t understand and appreciate the internal dynamics and consensual nature of party politics. I am convinced that the party’s internal differences can never be reconciled under the present leadership in the party (or what passes for leadership).
How do you explain Mr. Chastanet’s pathological crusade to rid the party of a man who has consistently delivered at the polls and has been a pillar of strength for the party throughout? If one looks at the Electoral statistics for 2011, it is evident that the Hon. Stephenson King was the only UWP candidate to have won a seat by a handsome margin of more than 1000 votes. Mr. Chastanet by the way lost in Soufriere by more than 300 votes despite his reported widespread bribery of voters there. On the SLP side, only the country’s Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony was able to deliver a similar victory in his constituency.
Most of the other candidates from both parties won their seats by relatively small margins. Therefore it defies all logic why a leader would choose to make such immature and unwise comments in the media about King’s candidacy. Why on earth would you want to get rid of your most reliable team winner or question his ability to win his seat? Mr King has proven himself to be an honourable man who has been a faithful and dedicated soldier even when the top lieutenants and captains abandoned the political ship a long time ago.
The late American war general Norman Schwarzkopf once remarked that “leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character; but if you must be without one, be without strategy.” Mr. Chastanet needs to understand that money does not make a man or leader, character does. Mr King was the most down-to earth Prime minister we have had other than the Hon Sir John Compton. No wonder the late PM chose him to lead because he knew his heart and motivations.
The recent negative press coverage has been devastating for Mr. Chastanet. In a press release, the Castries North Constituency group admonished, “We are urging the political leader to concentrate his efforts at the reunification of the party instead of engaging in cheap and out of place talk in the media, which only serves to further erode cohesion within the UWP.” As if his current political travails weren’t serious enough, now he has to grapple with the issue of the treatment of women within the party executive. Furthermore, Mr. Chastanet’s decisions and approach have not been consistent with the party’s constitution.
A case in point is the run-off in Babonneau. The Chairman of the Party should not have been involved in a “run off” with a member of the party for the position of candidate whilst still holding the position of Chairman of the party. Through his silence and intransigence on the matter, Mr. Chastanet has in effect aided and abetted a practice that defied good governance and cannot be regarded as best organizational practice. Yet, despite Mr. Chastanet’s claim that the Chairman would not be involved in political issues both the Chairman and Mr. Chastanet are now busily interviewing potential candidates for several constituencies including Castries South and Choiseul/Saltibus, contrary to what he preached during the Babonneau debacle. Clearly the Babonneau debacle was orchestrated and designed by Chastanet to weaken Dr. Claudius Preville even though it is well known that the people of Babonneau do not want Ezechikel Joseph as their representative.
Another violation of the constitution involves the appointment of Mary Isaac as a senator in December last year. If the constitution states that only members can become senators, why was Ms. Mary Isaac first appointed as a senator in December and then made a member at the end of January more than a month later? Clearly her appointment is unconstitutional and she too should be removed from the Senate on that basis.
We have to realize that the business of government entails enforcing rules and following procedures. If as political leader of the opposition you can’t get those basic governance issues sorted out, how on earth do you expect to practice good governance when you’re in government? An organization under a visionless leader who doesn’t understand party governance and due process isn’t fit for national governance. If, simply put, democracy means ‘fair play by set rules’, who, in the present party set up is expected to propagate democracy? Once “elected”, Mr. Chastanet became intent on fulfilling personal ambition oblivious of his obligations to the electorate and forgetting that his actions must be guided by laid down rules.
But in case you didn’t realize, Mr. Chastanet’s political career has been over for a while now given all the gaffes he has committed. He will be remembered as the man who ruptured the party’s relationship with its core base. When he is finally gone, we’ll need to act quickly to save the United Workers Party from further disintegrating. Thank God that Stephenson King is now as committed as ever and Dr. Claudius Preville, the party’s rising star, will step up to elevate the organization once again.
The time has come for the party base to unleash some righteous anger on a leader that has let them down and systematically squandered the social and political capital of a venerable and formidable political organization.
NOTE: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the management and staff of Andrews Media Services Corp./St Lucia News Online.