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St Lucia’s prime minister of fear: Part 1

By Denys Springer

Nobel Laureate and former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. This is particularly true in Saint Lucia’s United Workers Party (UWP) government. However, the best text that I have aligned for students when trying to view the Allen Chastanet style of leadership is one in tune with Niccolo Machiavelli’s book “The Prince”.

He was of the view that “It is far better to be feared than loved” was his famous advice to those who wished to wield power effectively. He went on to extrapolate that “the bond of love is one which men, wretched creatures that they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so, but fear is strengthened which is always effective.”

The similarity between Machiavelli’s theory on the usefulness of intimidation and the practice of the present prime minister is well set out in his present “State of Emergency”. His distinctive weapon was far more than in the cases of men like Churchill, Macmillan, Abraham Lincoln, Macarthur, Mahatma Gandhi, and that is fear.

Machiavelli observed that if it proves necessary to execute someone, this should be done only when there are proper reasons and manifest justification for it. In my view, all prime ministers, of course, have exercised the right to hire and fire. But few have made use of that power as single-minded as Chastanet, who molded an entire government in his image and likeness. He has not merely been ruthless but reckless in his determination to push his power to the limit. He fits into another of Machiavelli’s maxims and this is “It is better to be impetuous than circumspect”.

The question I now pose is how long things can go on like that?

What I now observe is that Saint Lucia’s democracy is no longer a two-party system the coronavirus should have level-out. But what we have now is a dominant “one-party system” under which the prime minister reigns supreme. As such, there is no challenge within that party or Cabinet. None to be seen, because of the dominant one-man show. He rules Cabinet and party with an iron fist.

However, the danger he faces is hubris — the price of towering over his colleagues and ruling them by fear and very soon you become isolated because no one dares to tell you what you don’t want to hear.

The only way to safeguard yourself against flatterers Machiavelli wrote “is by letting people understand that you are not offended by the truth but if everyone can speak the truth to you then you lose respect” for them.

I believe that former prime minister Stephenson King performs the vital role of the loyal old courtier because he is without ambitions of his own to take over. He appears to have the license to speak the truth — when the fancy takes him. However, I am of the view that there is no one in the government capable of telling the prime minister the truth — even when he is making a mistake. This is because of fear. And as the year’s roll by — this problem has become more acute.

So, at this juncture of bargaining with the unions on 35 – 60 percent salary cut during a ‘State of Emergency’ is strange and dangerous.

Speaking to reporters outside parliament earlier on Tuesday, the prime minister said that the government is committed to honoring its collective agreement on salaries, also said, “There’s no cut that is being proposed. We are paying the civil servants their salaries. We are paying the civil servants part in cash and part in bonds,” most of which have the potential of junk-bond status.

What we have been reading in terms of the proposals by this prime minister and the government is nothing less than what one can term as the source of democratic dictatorship. Why? Because the offer being made is blatant madness and unacceptable as the public sector employees have their bills to pay and have committed themselves based on their salaries.

Therefore, in my view, democracy has been degenerated into a means to obtain power; and that dictatorship is expressed in the urgency the government requires in an extended ‘State of Emergency from the arbitrary use of power. I am now more convinced that when this government gets out of power a lot of work will be needed to put things back on track.

Denys Springer is an educator and freelance writer trained in social sciences, labour studies and industrial relations, education, conflict, resolution, and mediation. His publications include Nature Watch: An Environmental Toolkit for Caribbean Schools and The Birdbook of Saint Lucia. He is in the process of completing another book on Whether the Democracy of Taiwan is a barrier to a One China Principle. He is well versed in Taiwanese and Chinese politics and an advocate on Taiwan’s independent Statehood.

Denys Springer lectures part-time at the Open Campus UWI in Saint Lucia on supervisory management – the psychology of management.

To be continued … Part 2



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