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Sunday, November 15, 2015



Sam is undeniably a divisive figure and when he walked into the convention, he received a resounding ovation. Was the ovation for Sam's entry symbolic of the "paradigm of Division" on which the UWP is built?

In this brief article, I will argue that the division within the UWP is peripatetic and may be in it to stay, as long as Allen remains leader.

The pronouncements I feared

If Allen’s speech were implicitly divisive, then the Great Man Sir James Mitchell’s keynote address was explicitly abrasive and was perhaps designed - unsuspectingly or otherwise - to fan the flames of division within the UWP. For a moment, I was under the impression that parts of his script were either written or influenced by Guy Joseph. In an apparent direct hit at King, he said a leader who loses an election should resign (suggesting that there was absolutely no place for King in the scheme of things) and in an apparent reference to Sarah, he suggested Johnny-come-latelies must take the line.

Those were the very pronouncements I feared. Even after 3 conventions - and even with Chastanet anticipated thrashing of Sarah Flood-Beaubrun by a historic and humongous margin of 280-55, the deep wounds of division continue to fester as if they were a plague cast on the UWP. It is in this context I argue that there was absolutely no place for abrasive comments - implicit or explicit.

It may therefore be fair to say that the great man was a partial let down. He brought little fire or value to the UWP convention.

Platform for healing

Notwithstanding the non-materialization of the peace talks, the convention could still have become a platform for healing, for unity and for reconciliation. Perhaps the organisers and various speakers didn't take the “potential energy” of the convention in that regard into consideration.

Sarah Flood-Beaubrun deserved ample kudos for her concession speech, which probably represented an embarrassment to the mood of division which prevailed at the convention. She was excellent; but whether she remains true to her word, only time will tell.

Chastanet’s words and deeds

Chastanet’s perennial problem of synchronising "word and deed" came to the fore once again; and it is a matter that he must pay serious attention to, if he wants to resolve his own credibility and believability problems as well as those of the governance of his party. Let’s us look at a couple of scenarios.

Firstly, Chastanet has made the word "Team" a cuss-word in the lexicon of UWP politics. Whereas, a team denotes unity, when it comes to Chastanet, many see it as connoting division and chaos. In the case of loyal and obedient members of the team who fall in line, it is perceived to mean inclusion; but for the outspoken and dissident members, it means exclusion and excoriation! That kind of scenario poses a major dichotomy to be reconciled which in my view is a self-inflicted Herculean task directly proportional to the cleaning of the UWP Augean Stables.

Secondly, the UWP leader does not seem to be able to jump out of his double-standard suit. This was evident in his claim government was practicing discrimination in the NICE programme; yet, (even when opposition) he is accused by his own party of practicing exclusion, marginalization, victimization and even demonization against his own subjects. He kicked out Richard; he marginalized King, Spider, Bousquet, Polius, Flood etc.; he has even caused the neutralization of the Women's and Youth Arms of the party.

In direct contrast to Sarah’s concession speech, Chastanet’s victory speech was still immersed in his divisive "Team" politics; and one can only hope that the magnitude of the margin of victory does not represent the magnitude of the division within the party.

Purge Ahead

Already, there's a loud suggestion that Chastanet should continue the purging his opponents. Guy Joseph is already suggesting that the purge should be voluntary; but we can only wait with baited breath to see the form of the post-convention reconfiguration of the party. What will now be the fate of Stephenson King, Spider Montoute, Rufus Bousquet, Mary Polius, Michael Flood etc?

Team Chastanet in UWP clothing?

Notwithstanding the results, there's hardly anything new inside the UWP.  It is generally the same old pro-Chastanet configuration still dominated by the same old merchants and peddlers and division, chaos and exclusion. I'm not sure that the convention has solved anything - Perhaps, if anything, it may have further alienated and marginalized a key and powerful wing of the UWP. The former Gros Islet MP Lennard “Spider” Montoute may have subtly warned of the potential dangers ahead very well when he said that it is now up to hierarchy of the party to focus on inclusion and healing; but Spider's caveat may not mean a thing to a brand new second-hand executive cast in the old way of doing things.

The new chairman has already given us some insights into the chemistry of the new team and their blueprint for the way forward. Although being a media owner himself, he has signaled the party’s intention to “corral” dissenters by taking away their democratic right to speak to the media. He seemed to more "Ezekielian" than his predecessor Ezekiel when he vowed to wrestle unity using an “ivory tower” approach by twisting the arms of dissidents. Let us hope and pray that he does become another Ezekiel Joseph.

Chastanet echoed the exact sentiments of the chairman: "his way or the highway" approach which characterised the eternal reign of Eddie Seaga in Opposition! He warned that opinions can only be expressed internally and not to the press. Apparently, the chairman and the leader were singing the same dictatorial hymn of which a key component also involved the marginalization or exclusion the press also. Chastanet explained that the party has a new "code of ethics" which precludes members from making comments to the press. The irony was he had no sooner had he cited the new code of ethics when he himself had violated it by spilling information about Stephenson King.

He is still harping on Grynberg even when the Government is winning the case at every turn. Also he either seems misled or is misrepresenting the Sheik Walid Juffali case. He misrepresented the Gas price issue and went on to excoriate LUCELEC - in which the Chastanet Family is one of the biggest shareholders - for hedging. His use of reckless political hyperbole and hate politics was prevalent. One therefore wonders what calculus will facilitate unity and reconciliation in the face of UWP's paradigm of division.  The UWP needs help!
The UWP must be clear on its definition of democracy. It must never be about election of officers and not also extended to members’ fundamental rights and freedoms.

Closing remarks 
In the final analysis, it is the constitution of the land that matters; and if the UWP wishes to have credibility and relevance, then it’s constitution must be consistent with the national constitution. Perhaps, it is precisely that dichotomy that may be the source of the chaos that plagues them.

Unity must be based on the principles of the national constitution; not on any constitution which responds to the whims and fancies of a team or cabal.

Perhaps Stephenson King – by his interview with St. Lucia News Online in respect of the Mary Isaac controversial statement - has provided the first test case for the new UWP code of ethics.

The re-election of Chastanet as Party leader – as one of the learned members of Saint Lucians Aiming for Progress (SLAP) wrote on his Facebook page - was a coronation. I will go further to say it was a “coronation of division”. If there is any doubt this is case, then the Mary Isaac's controversial statement in her Vote of Thanks targeting Stephenson King - and King’s swift fighting back - sealed paradigm of division on which the UWP is built.

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