By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Allen Chastanet, the embattled political leader of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) in Saint Lucia, has now come under vigorous attack from an apparently newly-formed activist group of disaffected party members.
The group, calling itself “Flambeau Activists Called To Service (FACTS)”, is self-described as comprising a number of persons from various walks of life with a lifelong commitment to the success of the UWP, who have noted an urgent need for reconciliation and sensible reform.
“We remain in very close communication as a group and our growing membership includes a wide array of supporters from diverse disciplines and geographic locations - most notably the established Diaspora that the leader has so desperately sought to engage,” the group said.
FACTS wrote a four-page letter
to Chastanet on Sunday, copied to other senior party officials and branch chairs, setting out an extensive list of complaints concerning Chastanet’s conduct and performance as party leader since being elected to replace former leader Stephenson King at last year’s party convention, in a process the group said was “dangerously flawed”.
However, as Chastanet has no seat in parliament, King has remained the official leader of the parliamentary opposition and the UWP has been struggling for some months to deal with this dichotomy of leadership roles.
According to FACTS, new party members of recent vintage have introduced a new and different ethos that has compromised the party’s bedrock principles of unity, loyalty and cooperation.
“The United Workers Party has morphed into an organization without direction, embroiled as it is in division, materialism, internal wrangling, hierarchical disharmony and a preoccupation by a new cadre of members with position and entitlement. A laundry list of classless public confrontations and internal bullying has essentially stripped the organization of its remaining vestiges of widespread public adoration and support,” the group told Chastanet.
Activities leading up to the party’s annual convention in 2013 and the management of the party’s business in its aftermath have left an untold number of party supporters appalled and disheartened, the group continued, describing the prevailing sentiment as one of outrage.
“A smug and overconfident leadership remains oblivious to the strong undercurrents of disaffection which currently render our party unfocussed and ineffective,” the letter said, providing the following list of what it said were some of the major infractions:
1. The newly introduced American format of island wide campaigning and the disparaging of members by members.
2. The marginalization of long serving, long suffering and loyal delegates of the party in a campaign intended to ensure that the outcome at the convention was favourable to a particular candidate and his team. The damage this has done in fermenting division and loathing amongst our supporters will be difficult to reverse.
3. The non-existence of any hierarchical order within the organization which would allow for a structured ascension to positions of authority and decision making based on service, established loyalty, long term commitment and a proven track record of political and national service.
4. A national convention at which outright hatred accompanied by the most disparaging of comments being leveled at party members to the obvious delight of persons who hold positions of authority within the party.
5. The deepening of divisions within the organization following the convention and the failure of the current leadership to correct this destructive development.
6. There appears to be no clear strategy for governance. The focus remains one of consistent low value attacks on the government accompanied by a slew of often ill-informed references to Sir John by the party leader.
7. No clear strategy for opposition but rather a mish mash of irrelevant and poorly timed political comments which have exposed the soft underbelly of the leadership.
8. Finally, and yet again, an ongoing priority at reorganizing the party with the objective of dismantling established and successful procedures and institutions. As experienced party loyalist, this for us is a poorly disguised effort to cement the current leadership in its current position and establish a stranglehold on the organization. This self-serving process has undermined our values and left many supporters disheartened and confused.
“No true UWP supporter should tolerate this situation; neither can it be allowed to fester for much longer,” the letter went on to say, noting that the party does not control the timing of elections; and events following the UWP convention have left the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) far more confident in its ability to salvage what was until then an unprecedented disaster in office.
“We uncompromisingly see this, not only as a call to serve our party, but also to save our party from remaining indefinitely in the hands of anyone who neither knows, understands or is leading this party in a sustainable way,” the letter said.
The members of FACTS said they accept that there is need for reorganization; but not reorganization that is designed to strip the members of their democratic rights -- including the right of constituency groups to choose their candidates.
In a reference to previously privately expressed concerns that some former SLP members that have migrated to the UWP may not have the purest motives, the FACTS letter points to “a few recently minted ‘UWPs’ with questionable motives and manufactured loyalty”.
“Certainly the fifth columnists in all this will soon be brought under the spotlight of internal and public scrutiny in order to ensure political success and the long term survival of our organization,” the letter said.
The group also referred to “huge gaps in the planning process” which it went on to describe as “not only short sighted; it is immature, neurotic and narcissistic!”
FACTS also dealt with the recent attempts by Chastanet to “compromise the stature and marginalize the authority of the former prime minister and current leader of the opposition”, which it said are unwarranted, ill-advised and unacceptable.
“It is not difficult to understand the insecurities of the political leader given his inexperience and his obvious anxieties about finding a seat that he can win. Again, that’s comprehensible in a narrow self-serving context!” the group said.
The UWP did not respond to a request for comment.