By Dr Alphonsus St Rose – Independent candidate – Choiseul/Saltibus
It is with a sense of dismay that I have observed the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) hierarchy and operatives’ attempt to mislead and manipulate the issues surrounding the Choiseul/Saltibus constituency fiasco (created by them) as we prepare for the next general election.
It was interesting to hear the SLP candidate for the Choiseul/Saltibus constituency giving less than full disclosure to the public during her Hot Seat Interview last night (September 2, 2020). Clearly, she had no issues with the process of candidate selection. She claimed that “the first vice [deputy] exempted himself because of issues being discussed on the ground and he felt that if he stayed away that would be the best course of action”.
“I am not sure exactly what the issues were …”, was the candidate response to a direct question about the rift on the ground between the two potential candidates; yet she and the first deputy were at the very heart of this controversy. She professes to be oblivious of the relevant issues, yet she suspects the first deputy stayed away because of propaganda on the ground. This is a wanton distortion of facts, and she knows it.
Let me remind Pauline Antoine, that she is clearly aware of the details of a circulating voice document suggestive of a meeting with some members of leadership over a year ago, with the intention of making her the selected candidate.
The real reason for the first deputy’s recusal was my strong insistence at a December 29, 2019 meeting with the political leader, demanding that he immediately activate Ernest Hilaire’s forced recusal from the Choiseul/Saltibus candidate-screening and interview sessions (to which he was obliged to accede) because he was conflicted, by openly campaigning for Antoine while being a ranking member of leadership as well as a member of the selection panel.
I objected to his participation in the candidate selection process as highly inappropriate and in violation of due process and fairness, which had the real and perceived potential to corrupt the integrity of the said selection process. The political leader made it clear to the Choiseul/Saltibus constituents at a meeting in Sapphire, a few weeks ago, that he demanded and instructed Ernest Hilaire to remove himself from the screening and interview sessions.
Notwithstanding the above recusal, Hilaire was still allowed to participate in and most likely influence, every stage of the process post-interview in arriving at a candidate. Again, a very troubling pattern and irregularity, as his recusal demanded a holistic absence on every and any issue relating to this matter while being prosecuted to its completion.
Pauline Antoine correctly referenced a vote being cast at the end of our interview session. What she omitted to disclose to the public, deliberately or inadvertently, is what actually happened to the ballots cast and the time at which the panel or anyone else finally learnt of the results. For anyone entering the political arena, this is a poignant lesson in how the road to hell is paved with good intentions; it speaks to core issues of honesty, integrity, trust, credibility, transparency and due process.
The constituents know what happened. They are listening, they are watching, and they will be the judges of the character of those who want to lead and represent them. Do not take the constituents for granted.
We, in the Choiseul/Saltibus constituency, remain resolute, on our principled position, that it is not ok for the SLP leadership to feel they can manipulate, corrupt and rig, against the will and choice of the majority of its constituents, the process of candidate selection. When they cannot defend these unseemly actions, leadership calls it democracy at work, sibling rivalry and even become amnesic.
We will speak out against injustices and dishonesty meted out against the constituents to subvert their expressed will and freedom of choice in relation to the issues that matter most to them. We are ready to demonstrate our intolerance for dishonesty, corruption and manipulation from those who want to lead us, and especially when it comes to leveling with the public.
It is these inconvenient truths that I have spoken about in my previous public address that must be dealt with. The spreading of false narratives, alternative facts and lies to influence and mislead public opinion by conflating the presence of an established process of candidate selection with the contrived execution of that process in a corrupt, improper and conflicted manner is simply unacceptable.
The disrespect leadership shows towards the constituents of Choiseul/Saltibus is equally disconcerting especially when they refer to the strongly-worded petition signed by over 700 constituents, handed to Philip Pierre, as emotional and insignificant. How more dismissive and contemptuous can leadership be of the electorate?
The principles of Bread, Justice and Freedom are noble. What is not honorable is to vulgarize and corrupt these principles in pursuit of selfish agendas. We the people of Choiseul/Saltibus are not transactional and our principles of honesty, integrity and transparency must supersede party loyalty. Our principles are not negotiable!
My people have proudly shown a level of political maturity and moral courage, that permits us the ability to go against the views of a party, and comfortably disagree with our leaders, especially when they are wrong. We must never be made to follow our party or its leaders blindly. This is where and how change begins. We must create a more mature political landscape with a re-education of self with purpose and value.
For 41 years since Independence, we have accepted bad behaviour and bad politics from some of our leaders in their quest to acquire political advantage by normalizing lawlessness. This is not the kind of hopeful and inspiring message or culture our citizens, and especially the youth, need at this time.
This, along with unrestrained party loyalty has killed our country. And when you do not support it, they tell you, that you have not understood and embraced “collective responsibility” and as such you are a detractor and not a team player. This is creating a mind-set and a political culture that promotes love of party over and above critical thinking and humility.
The SLP is in need of a course correction, more so for a party evolving out of the guts of the working-class people; they seem to have forgotten that some things do transcend politics and party in public life; that the lack of integrity, honesty, values, principles, and good conscience breeds the antithesis of good governance, progress and democracy.
We are well aware that some supporters and some in leadership are busy weaponizing their vitriolic propaganda machine to attack dissenters, to punish us as it were, for challenging them, speaking out against injustice, standing up for what is right, defending the peoples’ rights and what is in their best interest.
The Choiseul/Saltibus constituents are happy to be a free and independent thinking people rather than be party house slaves. These are the reasons for them soliciting my independent candidacy – in order to position us to adopt the good and necessary fight to provide much needed honest and quality representation for the people of Choiseul/Saltibus, and by extension, Saint Lucia. We have already demonstrated that if needs be, we can transcend “Party”.
Choiseul/Saltibus Team St Rose
(Dr St Rose is a consultant physician (internal medicine), internist and gastroenterologist. He is a member of the American College of Gastroenterology and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)