The St. Lucia Labour Party views with dismay, but not surprise, the latest display of vindictive, punitive and authoritarian behaviour on the part of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet. In responding to a Public Lecture delivered by St. Lucian citizen Dr. Tennyson Joseph to an audience in St. Vincent, instead of seeing it as part of Dr. Joseph’s democratic right and public responsibility to express his views, Prime Minister Chastanet sought instead to express surprise that Dr. Joseph is “actually still a professor at the University of the West Indies”.
In effect, Prime Minister Chastanet was calling for the firing of the lecturer from the University for merely doing his job. Is it not left to conclude that if Chastanet was in charge of or had any influence in the status of Dr. Joseph’s employment that he would have by now been fired. And this, because Dr. Joseph expressed an opinion as it concerns Chastanet, which Chastanet is obviously unhappy with. Is this not victimisation at its most vile and disgusting level, to attack and destroy ones livelihood?
When taken against the background of Prime Minister Chastanet’s firing of the NICE workers, his decision to withhold the subvention from the St. Lucia National Trust for voicing their concerns over the DSH investment, the hostility to members of the clergy for publicly expressing concerns about the investment, and now added to this, his publicly expressed desire of a hard-working St. Lucian from modest backgrounds, what St. Lucia sees emerging in Prime Minister Chastanet is an authoritarian and vindictive figure whose first instinct is to crush the livelihoods and destroy the reputations of persons who express critical views of his leadership and of his policy decisions. This trend is extremely disturbing and the examples and causalities keep mounting.
The St. Lucia Labour Party takes comfort in the fact that the University is a mature institution of higher learning which is built on the principles of academic freedom and intellectual autonomy and its hiring decisions are not made by itinerant, insecure, vindictive politicians. Had it been otherwise, the UWI would long cease to exist. The SLP also takes comfort in the fact that the comments by Prime Minister Chastanet to Dr. Joseph’s lecture is reflective of Mr. Chastanet’s own limited knowledge about the education system and the UWI, and we fully expect that this is how all relevant authorities will receive his comments.
It is instructive that Prime Minister Chastanet has refused to fire Dr Ubaldus Raymond, the Minister in the Ministry of Finance which he has the power to do for his usual behavior, but is calling for the firing of Dr. Tennyson Joseph, which he has no power to do.
The SLP stands committed to a strong, viable and independent regional university and sees open debate and public discussion as an essential ingredient of the democratic society which has been built by our forefathers from their struggles against plantation slavery to the workers struggles of the 1930s, and beyond. The SLP, will do all in its power to ensure that the UWI remains relevant and free from political interference, and will ensure that all its academics, St. Lucian and otherwise, remain free to express their academic opinions, free from harassment and victimization by insecure politicians.