By Denys Springer
Many issues about the government of Saint Lucian raises important questions as to whether the Allen Chastanet-led administration and collective Cabinet government operate as stipulated in the constitution.
Under this government and those in the past Cabinet meets when possible every Monday, however, many are now of the view that Cabinet ceased to be an important forum for discussion, national decision, accurate policy formulation and dispensation.
Arguably, the current Cabinet generally serves to ratify decisions that have been reached elsewhere. A more charitable view holds that Cabinet has become a residual institution that is left with the task of determining the residue of issues; strategic ploys to deceive the unsuspecting and political undertakings that have proved impossible to settle at a lower level.
The Cabot St Lucia issue is a classic example of minister for equity, social justice, local government and empowerment, Lenard “Spider” Montoute (lacking capability and competence of the said listed) seemingly remarked in general terms that – he will have to write and /or request to the developers to gain access to the beach (for locals) and hopes that the developer as a good cooperate citizen will cooperate.
While on Cabot St Lucia, “Spider” attempted to retort on national television, Tuesday morning, that the said Cabinet memo was withdrawn, and that inaccurate information was disseminated to the public. Albeit, it took the incompetent “Spider” over two weeks to research, review and compile his strategy to convey that his friend and former Cabinet colleague, Richard Federick – a lawyer of astute competence – seemingly “communicated information that is deficient of credibility”. The strategic ploy failed in form, in content and plausibility of storytelling.
There is cause for concern with this apparent model of pedantry that showed similar incompetence via the minister for commerce, industry, investment, enterprise development and consumer affairs, Bradley Felix – to seemingly remarked that did not have and/ or understand all the facts or read most the contractual obligation; yet supported and signed-off on the Desert Star Holding (DSH) deal.
In most civilized democracy it would be extremely disconcerting to the point of accountability (resignation) that a Cabinet conclusion that prescribes high-level decision-making and gives authority in parliament authorization is and/or was erroneous.
However, according to “Spider” storytelling, the Cabinet conclusion was withdrawn. The irony is – an amendment is nowhere to be seen, not even in the Saint Lucia government Gazette. Perhaps the printing STAR is stuck – Bringing the truth to light. Which leaves more questions than answers? Furthermore, to reference and or quote a government document is not erroneous. If someone must bear the responsibility it is the government of Saint Lucia.
In the natural course of decision making one anticipates that possible irritants, irregularities, and eventualities should not be an issue of national discussion. But regrettable, administrative matters and legal cleansing by the office of the attorney-general is lacking. Case in point is the Chastanet-led administration method of operation/engagement with the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) pertaining to the demolition of the Royal Gaol, DSH and Cabot St Lucia.
Consequently, if the business of government is loose and frequently handled in this manner in Cabinet; what else is being shaped and determined – carelessly? But before answering that question, Dr Ubaldus Raymond offers the best indication to denote the Cabal Cabinet social and economic compass on two preliminary points.
First, to understand the contemporary significance of Cabinet it is essential to establish the wider systems of organizations which immediately surround it. For the 14 or so members of Cabinet meeting once a week for several hours constitute only one small part of a series of relationships that operate above and beyond government departments. It is through these relationships that policy within the Cabinet system is shaped and determined.
The second preliminary point is that while the formal elements of Cabinet exist there are other participants involved and the exact composition and scope of these elements and the informal aspects of their operation have varied enormously. The operation of the Cabinet system is very much affected by the characters, opinions and prejudices of the people involved. It is also quite compact and self-contained usually only a small number of people are actively engaged in handling each policy issue and their activities are shrouded in secrecy. Characteristically, the Cabinet system is inward-looking, exclusive, and highly flexible in the way it operates. It is more akin to a private club – often unskilled politicians in a specific area of competence.
Recently, prime minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness, said: “They (ministers) must exercise good judgement. Oftentimes, the drive to get things done comes at a trade-off with judgement. We can have no such trade-off in this administration, which is why we stress competence,” the prime minister said. “The ministers must know their subject areas. They must know the legal environment in which they are operating. They must dedicate themselves to getting results; that is the drive. They must keep the public onboard. They must be good advocates and good communicators, but above all else, they must exercise good judgement.”
The Chastanet-led Cabal Cabinet obvious fit the composite that Holness cautioned. Conversely, in Saint Lucia, the Cabal Cabinet that comprises the executive and legislative branch of government is a Cabal decision-making process that serves to dilute the role and function of governance.
The Cabal Cabinet and government of Saint Lucia decision-making is flawed. Their actions are questionable, not in keeping with the statutes of the country, often ignoring the technocrats of the public service to the detriment of all – and at the expense of taxpayers.
To use the phrase popular amongst administrators, the policy is more extensively pre-cooked before it arrives in the kitchen. And to reference the minister for national security while on the campaign trail in 2016 about Federick – “goose is cooked” – Karma is unpleasant.
In sum, the abstract is implicit. The “Spider” web is broken. The Cabal Cabinet is largely pre-determined and disposed of by a few from elsewhere. The prime minister and his government are extensively exposed from – both outsides and within – face a possible fait accompli heading into a general election.