(MENAFN- Caribbean News Now) Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), Philip Joseph Pierre
By Claudius J. Francis
The following is part of a series from the feature address delivered by Claudius J. Francis on Sunday, July 28, 2019, at the 31st annual general meeting of the Castries East Constituency, represented in the parliament of Saint Lucia by Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), Philip Joseph Pierre.
CASTRIES, St Lucia — Philip Joseph Pierre has been the parliamentary representative for the Castries East Constituency since May 23, 1997. In effect, he has represented the Castries East Constituency as a member of parliament for 22 years and counting. Yet, this is the 31st annual conference.
So, what does this tell you about the man? It speaks volumes, I would suggest. Let me explain.
From May 1982 to May 1997, the late Romanus Lansiquot, who was considered near impossible to defeat, represented the constituency. Not only that, but the Labourites within the constituency had been left demoralised and frustrated by the betrayal of the former incumbent whose name I shall not repeat here. It is clear then that Pierre entered the political arena faced with what is referred to as a double whammy.
On the one hand there was a secured United Workers Party (UWP) candidate and popular minister and on the other hand, a Labour camp where no one believed we could ever succeed, at least not in the near term. That prognosis was further solidified when in 1992 and at the height of Lansiquot's prowess, Pierre was defeated at the polls.
At that point, if Pierre was the typical politician who viewed the profession merely as one where self-enrichment was the be it all, he would have quit. Instead, strong in his conviction that Castries East deserved better, he held firm and, during the ensuing five years, cemented himself in the hearts and minds of the electorate as their man.
So, for nine years overall, he remained in the political wilderness, a wilderness that would have diminished lesser men to pursue a less onerous and a more financially secure career path. In those nine years, he organised the constituency in a way it had never been organised before. He surrounded himself with capable men and women who shared his vision. Meetings and consultations became the order of the day and within short order what was once hopelessness was replaced by cautious optimism.
It is now history what took place on May 23, 1997, and ever since, he and the constituency have never looked back. The marriage between him and the Castries East Constituency has been true to their vows of "for better" being 1997, 2001 and 2011 or "for worse", being 2006 and 2016. During all that time the two have remained blissfully wedded.
Today, [July 28] the Castries East Constituency is the standard by which other constituencies, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and UWP alike judge their level of preparedness. It is the party's template for good governance. So, 31 annual general meetings for someone in office for 22 years speaks volumes of his commitment to you the people of Castries East.
Those first nine years in the wilderness proved to you that this was no regular politician who was willing to be there for you not only in times of prosperity. He proved that he would be there for you through thick and thin, in good times and in bad. And you have returned that love and dedication by electing him on five consecutive occasions. It is a love affair that seems to thrive with age.
It was Winston Churchill who said, "Character may be manifested in the great moments but it is made in the small ones". I daresay Pierre has proved this to be true many times over. During the eight years of opposition 2006 - 2011 and 2016 - 2019 as with every opposition-held constituency, the government has done all it can to punish Castries East Constituency and to punish Pierre.
In 2016, everything, including the kitchen sink, was thrown his way but the people of Castries East stood with Pierre and he prevailed. Pierre is stronger than ever, and the Castries East Constituency is now on the cusp of producing its first-ever prime minister of Saint Lucia.
My first interaction with Pierre would have been at St Mary's College where he was my senior by, I believe, three forms. He was my older brother's contemporary, not mine, but I knew him. It also helped that both our fathers were police officers. That said, and I am sure he will agree with me when I say that nothing in his demeanour then indicated a prime minister in waiting.
He was quiet to the point of being considered shy. He would speak only when spoken to and even then, his answer would be little more than a whisper. That he has morphed into this leader of men and women is not something any of us considered back then. To use a comic book analogy, Pierre back then was Clarke Kent, but the Pierre today is Superman. The caterpillar is now the butterfly ready to soar.
But don't let my Clarke Kent/Superman analogy suggest that leadership is about being loud and aggressive, for it is not. Leadership is thoughtful and reflective as epitomised by Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama. Great leaders don't see just what is immediately before them for their benefit. Instead, they see around corners and they seek to shape the future for the betterment of those they wish to lead. Good leaders are proactive and don't simply react to situations.
From his first stint in government in 1997, Pierre proved he was no reactionary leader, which is why, 22 years after being tasked with the ministry of tourism, much of the industry's growth today can be traced to the foundation he laid back then. Little wonder that one of the industry's most successful leaders publicly proclaimed him the best tourism minister in Saint Lucia's history.
A good leader must have the capacity to interact at all levels. A good leader understands that he or she must listen as well as they speak. A good leader must have the ability to live among the common folk yet be able to sit and negotiate as an equal with world leaders. Pierre has proved time and again, he is that sort of individual. Even as he has remained true to his roots, being that little Marchand boy who never abandoned his community for more palatial surroundings; he has nonetheless sat with world leaders as an equal.
Look how 21 years ago he negotiated with one of the world's wealthiest individuals, to have Virgin Atlantic to include Saint Lucia in its destinations; and considering what was announced just a few days ago with Virgin Atlantic's statement regarding its cessation of business from June 8, 2020.
Now I am by no means suggesting Virgin Atlantic's decision is premised on who is in government. No, that's not it. But there can be little doubt that if the government had a Philip Pierre on board, negotiations would have continued until a mutually favourable outcome was arrived at. As they say, Pierre has been there and done that. We can only hope elections are called soonest to allow the SLP to regain the reins of government and return the country to sound governance.
A good leader must exhibit courage and be prepared to take on the problematic issues which confront us. When in 2011, prime minister Kenny Anthony assigned Pierre the then problematic ministry of infrastructure there were some who, considering what he had inherited, thought it was a career-breaking move. But Anthony knew precisely what he was doing. He knew Pierre's capability.
Pierre proved Anthony right and the detractors wrong by transforming that ministry into one of the most efficient within the government. Where previously there were allegations of corruption, the ministry gained a reputation of propriety. Where previously the ministry's operations had been shrouded in secrecy, under Pierre openness and transparency became the order of the day. Where before it was a ministry to be avoided, today it is a ministry much sought after.
That, comrades, is not just leadership but good leadership.
A good leader must exhibit humility. He must never be of the view that all wisdom resides only in him. He must be prepared to accept that, good ideas also come from other sources. And, yes, Pierre has shown these qualities. He has shown he is prepared to listen and go against even his own previously held views if what is now before him is sensible and workable.
Every leader will be inundated with proposals from all and sundry. His duty is not to dismiss any but instead to sift through them all and decide on the way forward. He cannot be hindered by "what ifs". He does not have the luxury of second-guessing. His obligation is to act and to act decisively. Vacillation is not an option.
A good leader must also be willing to accept responsibility when things go wrong as sometimes, they do. A good leader does this even when the negative result may not have been his fault or his fault alone. A good leader does not seek to deflect criticism whilst seeking only praise.
A good leader must inspire and must understand and appreciate that people aren't interested simply in what the leader does. Instead, people are inspired by why the leader does what he does. Simon Sinek explains it this way. If a leader talks about what he believes, that leader will attract people who believe what he believes. Sinek calls it the law of diffusion of innovation. According to him, the majority of those who have touch screen phones have them not because they believe in them but only because no one makes rotary phones anymore.
So, these people buy the phone, not because they like it, not because they think it is better, but only because they have no choice.
Consequently, a good leader does not inspire confidence because his followers have no choice but to follow him. No. Instead, they must follow him because he inspires confidence, which in turn cause the people to believe in him. He must cause them to genuinely believe he is better than the competition.
In effect, he must get people to buy into his philosophy. A good leader is not one who succeeds because his opponent is failing. Instead, a good leader is one who succeeds even when his opponent is doing well. A good leader simply does better.
To be continued… Part 2