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Friday, June 28, 2013


This article is reproduced from the Voice of St. Lucia (June 27, 2013)

By Stan Bishop - VOICE OF ST. LUCIA
The man seeking to unseat Stephenson King as party leader at the United Workers’ Party convention next month says his bid is nothing personal. What, he says he is offering, is what the opposition party needs badly at present: change.

In an interview with The VOICE last Tuesday afternoon, former minister for tourism, Allen Chastanet, said discussions regarding his current bid for the UWP leadership commenced soon after the party’s 11-6 loss to the Saint Lucia Labour Party in November 2011. A group of party members, he said, met to analyze the causes of the party’s loss, he explained, and felt that a complete restructuring of the party was necessary. That restructuring focussed not just on the party building a campaign to recapture the reins of government, but one that would take Saint Lucia to the next level, Chastanet told The VOICE.

“As those discussions continued to evolve, we realized that we needed to put a team together to contest not only for the political leadership but also the leadership of the executive of the party,” Chastanet said. “We focussed on bringing in like-minded people who share a common vision in terms of how the party ought to be structured and, also more importantly, once we’re presented with the platform of being in power how do we utilize that to deliver on the vision of the United Workers Party.”

Chastanet said that based on the group’s short-listing of candidates for the leadership of the party, his name was chosen as being the most-favoured this time around to take up that task. He said the benchmarks used were choosing someone who had the capability of being the party’s leader and someone who would be able to get the support from everyone else.

Ever since announcing his bid for the leadership of the UWP, Chastanet has come under fire from many who argue that he has no business being in politics. Such criticism has come from within the UWP itself. Despite that, Chastanet says he brings to the party the change the party currently needs.

“(My focus) is to help in terms of reestablishing the mission and the vision of the party. With the death of Sir John (Compton), that died with him. We keep on saying that there was a tremendous amount of loyalty for Sir John, an almost blind loyalty because people had so much faith in this man. Unfortunately, when he died, it all died with him. And so it’s about rebuilding and that’s my expertise. My entire life has been either about starting up a new company or taking a company that’s not working well and revamping it… The UWP needs structure, it needs to be modernized to take us to the next level,” Chastanet said.

Part of his vision for the party, he added, will be (1) to help in defining a mission and vision for the party, (2) to help write a manifesto for the party, and (3) differentiating the ideals between the United Workers Party and the Saint Lucia Labour Party.

Chastanet said affordable health care, world-class education, job creation and a general development programme for the island – especially its tourism industry are some of the key priorities on his agenda. His track record in business and tourism, he said, speaks for itself. That track record, as well as his new plan for the future of the country, works in his favour, he added.

One of the criticisms levelled at Chastanet has to do with his failed bid to capture the Soufriere seat in December 2011. Chastanet admitted that Soufriere was a “tough seat” for the UWP to win. Nevertheless, he said there are some lessons and positives that came out in the process, including the UWP increasing its voter base in that west coast constituency. Despite that loss, Chastanet says he remains confident that he will be victorious when the UWP holds its party’s convention scheduled for Sunday, July 28 at the Marigot Secondary School. But what if things went the other way?

“I’m committed to the United Workers Party,” Chastanet said. “I will be willing to support the party in any way possible, even to the extent that I’m willing to put myself up for leadership. Certainly, were I to win and the team that we’ve presented wins the campaign, we would (still) have the greatest respect for Stephenson King. We believe that he still has a great contribution to make towards the party and we’ll work with him to achieve that. On the other hand, he’s indicated that if he won he’s willing to work with me. So I’m not really worried about it one way or the other.”

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