Mervin Wants Reggie's Cottage
There is little doubt that Reginald Austrie, the MP for Cottage, has the common touch. However, in recent years he has not been able to escape criticism that his life lacks the common feel. Now, he's beginning to feel the squeeze.
"If you go around the constituency and talk to people, they are not happy with Reggie. What they see is he has helped himself," one observer said of the long serving MP. "And Reggie is feeling the pressure."
There can be no doubt that, having been bred in a cottage, he cannot be seen as the scion of privilege. However, in recent times, he has not been able to escape the perception that his simple life has been supplanted by a higher caste and class and that he feels more at home among the "high living" aristocrats. Now the pressure is coming home.
"In this little constituency, when people see that you set up yourself, you build a home, your own children in jobs – all his children have jobs – and their (own) situation remains the same, you have a problem," this observer said. "That is the biggest problem he has there."
The contention is that, as a member of the executive branch, Austrie has been molded into an elitist, and is settling into a small, yet sinister cult of kleptocrats that has been allowed to let rip here, building riches beyond the dreams of avarice. And this, according to the source who requested anonymity because of his position, has left a lot of bitterness among constituents who re-elected Austrie with 86 per cent of the votes in the 2009 general election.
"There's some talk about him down there. A lot of people not happy. The man has built two houses and is building a third. I don't think people can say he didn't do anything for the constituency, but it looks like he set himself up."
In walks Mervin Paul, the head of the Government Information Service (GIS) and an unabashed and unapologetic mouthpiece for the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP), of which Austrie can be considered a stalwart. Paul, according to a person familiar with the situation, "is making moves" to replace Austrie as the DLP flag bearer in Cottage.
"Mervin has seen the opportunity and is making moves to be the candidate. He is definitely going after Reggie," said the person who asked not to be named because of his closeness with Paul.
Paul refused to discuss the matter, telling The Sun it was not the appropriate time.
"I can't comment on that right now. If that is true it will be revealed when the time is right," he said.
When it was pointed out to him that he had not denied that he was planning to challenge the MP, Paul stuck to his position.
"I'm not saying it's true, I'm not saying it's not true. If there's anything to be said it will be said when the time is right."
That Paul is planning to challenge for the Cottage seat appears to be an open secret among the DLP top brass. One of Austrie's senior colleagues laughed heartily and offered a quick response as soon as mention was made of Paul's name.
"I am not touching that. I won't get close to that," this person said even before The Sun asked about the possible run.
Another person, who has seen Paul's "manifesto", told The Sun he had no doubt that the GIS head was going all out to be the candidate.
"I saw a constituency plan of Marvin Pau and the man is very serious. The man drew up a plan, what he is going to do in sports, education, (and so on). The man has it well drawn up. I tell you the man serious. The man going after Reggie."
Despite Paul's sealed lips, the man whose job he covets is fully aware of the developments.
"I've heard that," Austrie said when The Sun asked about the possible challenge.
Citing his record, Austie made it clear what he has achieved for constituency and country were not ghosts of performance blurrily recognised through political ectoplasm. Therefore, he said, he wasn't worried.
"I'm not bothered. I'm very comfortable."
He spoke proudly of involvement in the development of the human resources capacity of the constituency, the creation of employment and his work with the elderly. He also talked about the number of programmes he initiated as a member of the Cabinet. The list includes water and sewerage projects, airport improvement, the airport road project, the so-called "housing revolution," the current water system and PetroCaribe.
"So both on a constituency level and at a national level, I have proved myself, so I have earned the right to contest. I am very confident I have done my work," he told The Sun. "I'll be contesting the Cottage constituency on a Labour Party ticket in the next election. I'll put myself up and let the people decide."