Monday, October 05, 2015

An Overview Of The Leadership Of Allen Chastanet by Eustus Richardson Henry

Standing Firm at the Helm
Much has been said about the leadership style of Allen Chastanet and his perceived lack of organizational skills that renders him ineffective to lead the United Workers Party to victory at the upcoming general elections. As a concerned citizen who takes a keen interest in political developments, I feel a sense of national obligation to offer my perspective on the issues at hand. In my attempt to make a meaningful contribution to the debate and to offer some measure of objectivity, it is incumbent upon me to state on the onset that I am not a registered member of any political party but have in the past voted for both UWP and SLP candidates.
Notwithstanding the widely held views of the dysfunctional management practices of the preceding prime minister and allegations of corruption by his ministers, the UWP barely lost the 2011 general election. An aggregate of 142 votes (Gros Islet 6, Babonneau 2 and Anse LA Raye/Canaries 134) in effect changed the government from UWP to SLP. It was not a decisive win for the SLP; many believe that the UWP gave away the elections as many of its supporters had earlier expressed disappointment and stayed away from the polls. The SLP to this day remains uneasy with its margin of victory and is more aware of its vulnerability at the upcoming election as the economy continues to shrink. The two years that followed the UWP defeat, the party under the leadership of
Hon. Stephenson King, was comatose, almost non-existent. The period was marked with an ineffective opposition during house sittings, no public meetings and no demonstrations were organized to lead the charge on several public grievances.
Fast forward to the 2013 national convention of the UWP, delegates were task with the responsibility to set the party on a new path with a breath of fresh air and accordingly elected Allen Chastanet as new leader. That decision was not an easy one to arrive at, taking into consideration that King had been a long standing member of the party, had served as a model team player and proved beyond expectations as a good minister of health, sports, youth and community development. Notwithstanding the forgoing attributes, his Achilles heel has been and continues to be his inability to manage people effectively and is seen as one who is easily manipulated thus public perception of his ability to lead has been severely compromised.
With Allen taking on the mantle of leadership, a strategic approach was adopted to rebuild the party’s image and to rekindle public confidence in a reformed UWP. In an attempt to lead the charge to implement change, Allen’s efforts have been hindered by certain elements within the party creating many obstacles that are aimed to derail the reform processes. Some operatives within the party are of the view that these reforms will undermine their influential role they once enjoyed and their future remains uncertain. That feeling of uneasiness has become more acute as the party is now in a better position to win the next general election and operatives would like to be at the right place at the right time to reap the potential benefits that comes with the "territory", so to speak.
The Furious Four
All this uneasiness is really because of selfish reasons and is counter productive in pursuance to political unity or for the national good. A key question that needs to be asked: where were the dissenting voices of King, Spider, Mary, Mondesir et al when a protest march was called for the adjustment of fair fuel prices and to revamp the existing pass through mechanism system from three months to three weeks. They were unavailable for whatever reason but were indeed surprised at the turnout and eventual results achieved. Today, the dissenting voices are unwittingly partnering with the SLP for Allen to go but what comes after his removal is uncertain. I sometimes ponder that If they cannot have their wish, would they prefer to have the SLP win instead of Allen and an organized UWP winning without them? Remember Eric Williams' phrase "one from ten is naught". (removing the 1 from the 10 the zero stands alone).
If the UWP is to succeed it must remain steadfast in the reform process and remain focus on the overall objectives, irrespective of how loud the dissenting voices may grow. It is naive to think that changes will come at little or no cost; often times it can be destructive process as is currently being played out within the rank and file of the UWP. At the upcoming national convention of the UWP in November, the SLP which prefers a face off against King rather than Allen as leader is hoping that Hon. King continues his quest for the party’s political leadership and is certain to present a formidable challenge to Allen. If the election for party leader is limited to just these two gentlemen, the delegates will most certainly re-elect Allen as leader of the UWP.

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