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Sunday, December 6, 2015


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.

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