By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- A call by the political leader of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP), Allen Chastanet, for party supporters to dress in party colours and attire at this weekend’s unveiling in Saint Lucia of a statue of Sir John Compton, founder of the UWP and widely regarded as the father of the nation, has prompted considerable backlash.
The Lucian Peoples Movement (LPM) said it is appalled at the request.
“As Saint Lucians, we must always remember that Sir John Compton (in death) has transcended petty party politics and should be given the respect he deserves as a national icon. To trivialize such an important moment is nothing short but a desecration of the national contribution of Sir John Compton,” the LPM said in a statement.
The party described the move by Chastanet as not only divisive, but served to undermine the very spirit of national unity that should have existed during this very special celebration of the country’s 35th anniversary of independence.
Compton, the LPM noted, would never have approved of such low and divisive conduct, and would have insisted, especially on this historic occasion, that the interest of the country should be placed before any political organization.
“These were the national ideals for which he fought, and which today should serve as a testimony to his greatness as a leader. We therefore, appeal to the supporters of both parties to restrain themselves and avoid turning this into a partisan event,” the LPM said, calling on Saint Lucians to celebrate the occasion as one people with one common destiny.
Chastanet’s comments drew almost instant reaction on social media, with one Facebook user saying, “This is not the language of a leader trying to bring unity to a national event.”
Another user pointed out that the party’s current colour (yellow) had nothing to do with Compton, adding, “The UWP had four colours associated with it up till 1997. It was during the revision of the constitution that the colour gold was selected. Prior to that it had been red, green, yellow and black. It was even referred to as the 'Rasta Party' for these colours. The t-shirts were always white. He (Compton) was not even involved in the party at the time that decision was taken.”
Comparisons have been made with an incident that occurred in August 2013 at the opening of a reconstructed bridge in the Soufriere district of Saint Lucia, an event that should have been a non-partisan celebration but turned into a heated verbal fracas between supporters of the two main political parties.
Caught up in the altercation were current district parliamentary representative Harold Dalson and Chastanet, the opponent he defeated in the last general election.