As the campaign to win the support of the electorate in the upcoming elections constitutionally due in 2013, the parties are putting strategies in place to ensure they are victorious. In this letter, it’s my intention to look at the strategies of the two major parties – the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New National Party (NNP).
To fully understand where we are, it’s important to look back at where we came from. A cursory look at the 2008 campaign reveals several interesting lessons that will be a guide as we move forward.
The incumbent NNP centered its campaign on the achievement/success they enjoyed in the development of the economy and rallied the people around the theme “let the progress continue.” They had all right to their claim/boast for the economy was strong and many infrastructural improvements – roads, bridges, sea defense, Cruise Port and Terminal, Bruce Street and Esplanade Malls, Bus Terminus, the new General Hospital, fish plants, agricultural support to farmers, including fertilizer distribution, and so on, were the evidence we had knowledge of.
The NDC, on the other hand, centered their campaign accusing the NNP leadership of corruption, mismanagement of the economy and huge debt and promoted their leader as a good Christian man. The electorate accepted the campaign promises of the NDC and voted ‘Uncle Tilly’ on his perceived anti-corrupt personality and the intended benefits for the young and elderly.
Today, as the nation witnesses the destruction of the NDC government and party under the weak leadership of the Prime Minister Hon. Tillman Thomas and the collapse of the economy; the electorate is called upon to take a long hard look at the issues which motivated them to vote the way they did in 2008 and to determine if they made the best decision.
At the prime minister’s anniversary rally in Gouyave, which he said was to give an account to the nation of his stewardship of the economy for the past four years in government, he admitted that his government has failed to deliver on their election promises to the nation. In his words, “We are challenged to fulfill our commitment to the citizen, particularly in the area of employment for our young people.” He is honest on that one, for the unemployment rate is estimated to be close to the 50 percent mark. He also gave his version of the reason for the infightings within his cabinet: “political immaturity, personal selfish ambitions, individual agendas, lack of core principles and serious infringements”.
Well, it’s about time Thomas stops blaming his foot soldiers and admits he is responsible for the total breakdown in his government and party. For a successful leader knows why being accountable is important to credibility and trust; why openness and truthfulness are the surest ways to build relationships of the highest integrity; why values are important to anchoring the organization and its people to a strong unshakable foundation and why humility builds strong authentic relationships and it kills the presence of ego or arrogance. Prime Minister Thomas must be aware that he has failed his party, the government and the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique.
It is quite evident that both parties are fine-tuning their strategies to win over the hearts of the electorate. Already, we are seeing the re-branding of their leadership to be more appealing to an electorate that has shown signs that they are more sophisticated than in 2008.
The NNP is presenting its leader as a changed man. Changed from what or to what? In his response to the 2012 budget debate, he remarked that he is a free man for he has forgiven all those who have said and done things to hurt him in the name of politics. “From a biblical perspective, we know the bible strongly admonishes us to forgive those who have wrongfully hurt us. Matt. 6:14.” We can say all that we want about the former prime minister, but this is a noble act. It speaks of maturity and soundness of mind and character. But don’t be fooled, as the bible says, “Our adversary the devil as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” Therefore, the enemy will work overtime to ensure that the change we often confess doesn’t become reality.
However, this writer hopes that Dr Mitchell will not change from being there for the young people who look up to him as a role model, or from opening his doors to the needy families who always find assistance to cope with the challenges to provide for their household, or from reaching out and finding opportunities in education for our young people and one could always recognize that he finds a place in his heart and yes, from being this caring and loving man, the entire nation has fallen in love with him as a man for the people.
His message seems to be resonating with most Grenadians, as we listen to their comments on radio and television call-in programmes. Also, we notice there’s an outpouring of love from the market vendors as he tours the facilities, and yes, he hears the cries for help from the business community, the farmers; the fisher folks and the list goes on and on. Everyone seems united under the banner, “NNP the only united party – working for the people.”
The NDC, however, has to dig deep to find the best message that will present Uncle Tilly as they did in 2008. Unfortunately, the transparency, accountability and good governance ticket is hardly likely to work this time around for there are too many instances where he did not adhere to these principles. Instances such as the Tempo National Stadium fiasco when the former Minister of Culture gave the use of the stadium for free for a few years but when asked for a comment Uncle Tilly told the reporter it was a “private matter”. Also, the financial donation he received in his private bank account unknowing to the executive of the party but when exposed some five months later he claimed it was for the party. And, yes, in his own public declaration of the said donation, he concealed the name and address of the donor. Yet he claims transparency!
So, the move is on to discredit the leader of the NNP to give Uncle Tilly an outside chance of victory at the next polls. It will be interesting to see who the main players will be this time around. It is quite interesting when we retrace the comment from the labour Senator Chester Humphrey, the president general of the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union, on a television program, “The NDC did not win the election on their own but because of the assistance of the social partners.”
The nation will remember the role of the trade unions, some of the churches and the ‘watch dog civil society committee’. The latter had as members Senators Franka Bernadine and Glen Noel. Part of their role was the setting up of an election ‘Code of Conduct’ which Dr Mitchell said he was not prepared to sign for this was a political group and not a civic group as they promoted themselves to be. His claims were denied. Dr Mitchell later rescinded his decision after he was advised by his bishop, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, that it was okay for him to sign the document. But as time revealed, Dr Mitchell was right, the watch dog committee was a political group.
We are seeing an emergence of a movement that seems to indicate that forces are regrouping to make their attack. And the movement seems to be coming from a most unlikely source. There is a regular female caller to every radio and television call-in program who attacks Dr Mitchell every time he is on. She acts as if Uncle Tilly is the only good politician in Grenada and demonizes all who dare speak against him. In her latest attack on Dr Mitchell on the recent GBN ‘To the Point’ program it seems to me that she is deliberate and purposeful in her approach to him. I was surprised that the exchange she and Dr Mitchell had on the program was the subject of the GBN ‘I Think’ program later in the week. Then it became clearer to me, for it appears that she is a part of an organized plan to harass Dr Mitchell so that they will have a basis to discredit him. GBN has to be careful that they don’t get drawn into that plot.
Your guess is as good as mine who else will join in the plot. But rest assured we will be there to expose them.