Holding week-long press conferences for pure political
reasons is not only questionable political strategy, but to my mind it is tantamount
to making a mockery and abuse of the process.
UWP held week-long press conferences last week but to
what end? What were the groundbreaking newsworthy outcomes? What new and
substantive issues/ideas emerged from them? I didn’t get any!
One question therefore is: Was it that the press could
not elicit those issues or that the current “broken” version of the UWP
had no organized position on the
issues? Another question is: Was the historic proliferation of the political
press conferences by the UWP without the emergence of clear policy position
positions on the major issues symptomatic of the divisiveness plaguing them?
I was happy about the idea; but sad about its outcome.
Perhaps, a week-long seminar or retreat to thrash out policy positions on the
economy, education, health etc might have served them better.
Or alternatively, a rebuttal of some of the policies
and projects Kenny articulated on the Market Steps at SLPs last public meeting
or even a projected “neutralization” of the potential gains anticipated from the SLPs
65th Anniversary and annual convention with the dynamic, hard-hitting and
well-respected Owen Arthur as guest speaker.
Arguably, I don’t think the Press conference achieved any
of those. Team Chastanet did not seem to have the firepower to break ground.
Let us juxtapose Kenny’s platform performance on the
University of the market step to Ti Chasse's tragicomedy of so-called press conferences.
Kenny’s "platform" articulated policies on health care, education,
housing, infrastructure, economic growth and development etc. Unfortunately,
the seemingly “narrow-mindedness” and skewed focus of the press did not allow
them to highlight some of those key pronouncements, but chose instead to focus
on an “outlier” pronouncement by the Minister of Housing on the status of the
Town & Village Councils Audit (TVCA) which had been referred to the DPP for
action, which she (incidentally) confused with IMPACS.
Kenny on the SLP political platform was not all fire
and brimstone. He outlined some key policy positions and located his projects
in the context of those pronouncements. He outlined his specific policies on
medical research and the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) and went on to rationalise the appointment of Dr Juffali and the construction of the Gros Islet to Dennery
Highway within the context of the framework of those policies.
On the contrary, Chastanet’s policy on the economy was
a “tabula rasa”. At best, his policies
on VAT and the CIP were nebulous suggesting that he may be in some sort of policy quagmire.
The focal question before us now is : Will a UWP government under Chastanet remove VAT and terminate the CIP? And how will it raise revenue to fund the huge public
service wage bill of ½ billion dollars? What will the UWP wage policy be? How will a
UWP government fund its capital programme which is one of the main drivers for
economic development? What is UWP’s position on the four-lane highway from Gros
Islet to Dennery to be funded by proceeds
from the CIP? What will Mr Chastanet's alternative be? Will it a "ferry service" instead from Gros Islet to down the coast? And how will it be funded? We need hear from him!
How about health? What is UWP’s policy on medical
research? Would it embrace a proposal from Juffali to undertake scientific research designed to make our health better? If not, what would be the alternative? What is the policy on
UHC? Will it expand the current "pilot program" which provide free subsidized medication to diabetics and hypertensives and how would a new UWP
government fund it? What about St. Jude's and the Owen King New National
hospital? What are UWP plans and policies going forward them?
On Education, will a UWP government build and broaden Universal Secondary Education (USE) program and how will it change its scope?
What about employment and vulnerability-reduction? How
will employment be created? What will be the fate of the social protection
programmes like NICE, STEP and public assistance?
These are some of the critical issues confronting St.
Lucia I was expecting the UWP to address at the policy level? Perhaps, they did; perhaps they didn't! It banked on the press to probably to do the rolling out; but did it fail itself or did the press fail it?
Apparently, the UWP week-long press conference didn’t
seem to have a single sputnik moment.
The preponderance of press briefings by the UWP
suggests their comfort level in bourgeois-oriented environment.
Firstly, the party, headed by a leader from a
billionaire family, has marginalize major grassroots elements within its rank. It has
assumed an apparently elitist character which has pushed its "grassroots centre" (like
the “Spider”, Stephenson King, Dr Claudius Preville, Rufus Bousquet, Richard
Frederick and Mary Polius) to the periphery and has replaced with Super J
shareholders, Millionaire publishers, representatives of the Bush Stewart Kingdom
and a host of wealthy families working in the background of the party.
Secondly, the leader apparently has the press in
its back pocket; hence the team's pseudo-comfort level with press conferences.
Thirdly, after two attempts at mass crowd events, the
party has not done well with grassroots mobilization. In fact, even after island-wide
mass mobilization, the second mass crowd event they staged was estimated to be smaller than the
first “Nigger Poster” debacle.
Meanwhile, the SLP seems to gathering massive momentum after
two mass crowd events in South East Castries and the University of the Market
Steps. The 65th Anniversary
and Delegates conference in VF should be another massive sellout.