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Commentary: Can Franca Bernadine make her own political road?
Published on January 27, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jerry Edwin

The tar of the people's disdain is painted squarely on the forehead of the NDC top leadership who catapulted the government of Grenada and the very party into oblivion from 2008 - 2013.

Now it seems that an otherwise good man, Mr Burke, the former finance minister and a current senator in the Upper House, is being elevated to the helm of the party's leadership and, as Hamlet Mark, the island’s best journalist and columnist, has predicted, Senator Burke’s coronation is a fait accompli come early February when the NDC’s convention meets.

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Jerry Edwin is an attorney practicing in Grenada and in the United Sates. He is also an anti-money laundering compliance policy expert and investigator who regularly consults with global and smaller financial institutions, government agencies and represents companies and individuals in areas of consumer banking and white collar crime.
Great for Mr Burke, and kudos are deserving for nearing the end of the long road begun at the turn of the century or thereabouts that will likely culminate in the achievement by a tremendously disciplined individual who squarely focused on his political goals and objectives and effectively used the resources, human and otherwise, including shrewd, unyielding mercenary calculus to reach the brink of leadership of the other major political organization in Grenada.

Is this, however, good for the National Democratic Congress? (It will be unwise, as his backers are doing, to link one man's political aspirations with the country's destiny, for one politician's gain is not always to a nation's positive benefit, as history constantly reminds us).

It is highly probable that the split in the NDC that was the false alarm raised by Mr Burke's backers during the internecine implosion of the NDC government (2008-2013) will now emerge unharnessed by propaganda and for purely practical reasons.

For it is undisputed that a significant portion of the current NDC supporters (i.e. the 11,000 who did not participate in the last poll) desire only to see the back of Mr Burke, wise as they were to the real machinations of his supporters in their ruthless drive for leadership. These independents are the real power brokers in the party and it’s not too far a stretch for them to embrace Ms Bernadine’s alternative leadership.

But to take this group and others with her, Ms Bernadine cannot remain in the NDC, for that group is stricken with the disease of inertia, infighting, immaturity -- debilitating ailments for the party’s future dominance in the island’s politics since it has so ably demonstrated the fatalism of those illnesses.

Indeed, Franca Bernadine, too, is marked with that tar that was so effective in camouflaging the NDC from the Grenadian voters last February but in her case, significantly less so.

Ms Bernadine has two things going for her that are a force to be reckoned with.

The first is obvious: gender. Grenadians will embrace a female head of government if only for the change it represents in the projection of the country's politics. No small thing this. Our CARICOM fellow electorates in Jamaica and Trinidad sensed a new mood and that zeitgeist is marking the end of male-dominated political leadership. St Lucia’s UWP has recognized this too. Is Franca Bernadine, like her political sisters, bold and ready to walk her own political road?

Secondly, Ms Bernadine, alone so far, carries a message for the future in the insistent manner she has elaborated a vision of real hope for the young people of the country through educational reform. She has proposed an upheaval of the educational structure that has and will continue to gain traction with the Grenadian public. Like its evil cousin, crime prevention, an educational reform platform could elevate Mr Bernadine far above the stunted vision of her fellow political combatants.

Ms Bernadine must depart the NDC and continue to articulate her own aspirations and desires for improved education standards through smaller classrooms, qualified teachers, better education tools and methods.

Thus far, she alone can occupy this space, which is free from silly political bickering and small marble squabbles and trite barbs that Mr Burke and the current PM have become expert in trading across the political floor and which is simply boring.

But Ms Bernadine cannot achieve these ends as a surrogate for Mr Burke's agenda, for he is sharply focused on his own goals and agenda, as he has brilliantly shone a light that has led him to the brink of personal political triumph.

Perhaps Ms Bernadine should take a page from the shrewdest of them all, Prime Minister Mitchell, who boldly took over the NNP from former Prime Minister Herbert Blaize and forged his own political path. Ironically, Mr Burke and his nemesis made the decision in 2000 to hitch a ride on the NDC and chose the long tortuous journey of shape-shrinking, in the process destroying friendships, creating lasting enmity, ruined reputation and goodwill and, worse, emitted a dank political atmosphere around them in which any specter of good governance is impossible and public policy is subject to narrow political interests.

Ms Bernadine should reject this path. She is blessed with the advantage of timing in that the silly season has not yet commenced and her portfolio of sustainable and new direction education could very well resonate among the majority of Grenadian mothers and ambitious families and, in the process, even transcend the narrow political space where the current crop of minor and sinister political aspirants flourish.

Can Ms Bernadine seize this moment, or will she continue to join the madding crowd inside the NDC? There is a wildly successful political future at stake. Can Franca Bernadine recognize it may be her time and Grenada’s first real chance of a woman to lead our tri-island state in 2018?
 
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