By Caribbean News Now contributor
MIAMI, USA -- Leader of the parliamentary opposition in Saint Lucia, former prime minister Stephenson King, has denied “passing on the mantle” of leadership to the new political leader of the United Workers Party (UWP), Allen Chastanet.
Questions in this respect have been prompted by a remark by a local television reporter covering an event on November 13, launching a programme of activities to mark the UWP’s Golden Jubilee. The event was intended to outline the party’s plans to host a series of events and projects to be undertaken during the celebratory period, as well as to trace the progress of the party over the last five decades.
However, according to the local reporter covering the occasion, any lingering questions about the support of former UWP leader Stephenson King for new party leader Allen Chastanet were put to rest at the event.
“King introduced the leader saying that, after 32 years of serving the UWP, he is passing on the mantle to Chastanet,” the reporter said.
Leader of the parliamentary opposition in Saint Lucia, former prime minister Stephenson King
Caribbean News Now caught up with King this week during a short break in South Florida and he explained that the UWP finds itself in something of a conundrum, given that the new party leader, Chastanet, does not have an elected seat in the House of Assembly and cannot therefore be appointed the official leader of the parliamentary opposition – a position that King still holds.
According to King, Chastanet’s current position as party leader does not give him any guarantee that that he’ll be the one leading the party into the next election.
“That will be determined by party delegates,” King said.
He explained that last month’s event launching the party’s Golden Jubilee celebrations was designed to reflect the evolution of the party from its birth through to the present day.
“It did not symbolise any handing over of leadership,” King emphasised.
He explained that the current leadership is a combination of the leader of the opposition in parliament (King) and the party’s political leader (Chastanet), saying that he (King) could not hand over the parliamentary opposition leadership even if he wanted to, because Chastanet is not currently a member of parliament.
King also dismissed as “laughable” recent reports that he has been approached to give up his parliamentary seat in Castries North so that Chastanet might contest it in an election, in return for an appointment as the next governor general of Saint Lucia, predicated of course on a UWP victory at the next general election.
“I am not interested. I do not find the prospect at all enticing,” King said.
According to other party insiders, the existence of these misleading reports has given rise to some finger pointing within the UWP and some suspicion as to the real loyalty and motives of former St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) activists that, claiming disaffection with the SLP, have since migrated to the UWP and are taking an active role in party affairs.