By Ian Francis
Political charisma, legal training, wealth and constituency speeches are at times admired and supported by various constituents. However, from time to time, the perceived admiration tends to lack total loyalty and sustainability. Constituents understand that time is limited and their representative(s) must firmly be entrenched in the decision making of the reigning administration so their needs can be addressed in the policy or legislative framework.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Unfortunately, there seems to be emerging in Grenada the politics of rejection and abandonment and the two likely political victims will be Peter David and Joe Gilbert. If they are not given political refuge, these two NDC elected parliamentarians could very well find themselves in the political wilderness and added to the list of failed local and regional elected representatives.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for me not to conclude that both elected officials’ future in Grenada politics seems to be gloomy and uncertain. Why? There is no doubt that David, Gilbert and Thomas have been caught up in an internal party feud that has not been resolved. Recently, David resigned from the Thomas Cabinet, although he remains a member of the governing NDC party; its general secretary and the parliamentary representative for the Town of St George.
In a recent wide and far reaching address to constituents, David indicated that he will relinquish the post of general secretary at this month’s party convention and will not be a candidate for any elected position. However, David is yet to indicate if he will remain as a member of the party.
Gilbert’s position is a bit different. Like David, he was elected on an NDC ticket in the St Patrick West Constituency. He joined the Thomas Cabinet but was later fired for allegedly failing to adhere to Cabinet solidarity in dealing with a casino project. Gilbert was very incensed and threatened to seek re-instatement through the judiciary but this never took place. The Grenada Constitution of 1967 is very clear, as it gives the prime minister the prerogative right to fire and appoint Cabinet ministers as he deems necessary.
Gilbert remains a member of the NDC and representative of St Patrick West. Recently, he was acclaimed as the NDC electoral nominee by his local constituency organization. Following his acclamation, Thomas and other senior NDC members visited the constituency and clearly indicated that, although Gilbert was acclaimed with the support of the constituency group, he might not be the party’s choice and efforts are being made to replace him once a dream candidate is identified. Joe has been waiting for the last few months.
While David’s constituency has not faced the incursion wrath of Thomas, Noel and Burke, the rumours continue that, if and when David is nominated to be the NDC electoral candidate, the likelihood exists that the three party officials might sound a similar warning as they did in St Patrick’s West. Therefore, a careful and detailed analysis of the situation tells me that both members are faced with grave political uncertainty and only time will tell.
Assuming that Thomas pulls the plug against them, they will be forced to run as independents, which will spell further death, as they are both already facing strong NNP candidates.
Given the above, the emerging consensus seems to be that David and Gilbert will be added to the list of local and regional political causalities. A quick scan of the casualty list recorded the following:
• In Grenada, Ralph “RO” Orlando Williams, R.K. Douglas, L.C.J “Jack” Thomas
• In the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Llewellyn John
• In Jamaica, Robert K. Lightbourne
• In Dominica, the Amour brothers and Patrick John
• In St Lucia, the famous Bousquet brothers
• Barbados, Elliott Motley
• St Vincent, Randolph Russell, Levy Latham and Slam Slater
These politicians were all young, intelligent and likeable by their constituents. However, when they made the decision to break from the governing party, they could not be elected as an independent or new party candidate and they withered into the political wilderness. David and Gilbert seem to be heading in this direction and only time will tell us of their ability to avoid the political wilderness.
Fourteen months ago, Thomas exercised his constitutional authority by shuffling his cabinet. Everyone felt that Thomas made a tactical error by removing David from foreign affairs to tourism. Confirmed rumours have indicated that David was incensed with Thomas’s dumb and spiteful decision that forced him to make the decision not to turn up at Government House for a swearing in ceremony. David’s no-show generated further party problems and isolation for himself.
1) The governor general and prime minister were deeply alarmed about David’s refusal to turn up for a swearing ceremony and accused David of gross insubordination;
2) The internal party feud, which started in 2007, was decompressed and exposed to all and sundry, projecting David as the “muck raker”.
3) The Cabinet shuffle was designed as a Thomas strategy to strengthen his hand and gain a firmer grip on the decision making process in key Cabinet decisions. What also evidently resulted from the Thomas strategy was the realignment of forces within the Cabinet that gravitated closer to Thomas. With such gravitation, David became isolated and later made the decision to exit the Cabinet.
After his resignation from Cabinet, he privately conferred with constituents and sympathisers about his difficulties in the administration. However, it must be borne in mind that, although David had resigned and Gilbert fired from the Cabinet, their loyalties and commitment were firmly entrenched in the dying NDC. Their dedication was further demonstrated and confirmed when they stood up in the lower house of parliament to oppose a vote of no confidence tabled by the opposition New National Party (NNP). The excuses and rationale for opposing the motion have not been bought by Grenadians and it is part of the Hansard record.
Many Grenadians at home and in the Diaspora were deeply surprised at David’s conduct in Parliament, which has broadened perceptions and concerns about his political smarts and future in the Grenada political environment.
While there are two other languishing NNP backbenchers in the lower house, it is important to point out that Church, who represents the Constituency of St John, and Karl Hood, who represents South East St George, will not be seeking re-election. Both parliamentarians have displayed excellent political maturity and patriotism.
In my personal view, given the Thomas political wreckage in Grenada, this was the most appropriate time for Gilbert and David to demonstrate to Grenadians at home and in the Diaspora their different approach to Thomas, Burke, Noel and Bernadine. They did not and the conciliatory call never came. As old people would say, “Peter and Joe dug their own grave, let them lie in it.”
In conclusion, the obliteration and obituary of our many local and regional politicians should serve as an indicator to David and Gilbert that it is over. They can’t afford to be “muck rakers” in the governing party and expect to be showered into alternate electoral acceptance. It has never worked in Grenada and will not for Joe and Peter.
The daunting spectacle for David and Gilbert is that they both are unlikely to be re-elected in their respective constituencies. There are growing doubts as to whether it is in the interest of the NNP to accommodate them. Given their passion for electoral politics, one can only encourage them to register a 13th political party, which might not last as long as “Williamson Fire”.
My advice to David and Gilbert, call it a day and return to your individual professional practices.