ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- The demise of Grenada’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) started under the nose of party leader Tillman Thomas at the NDC's very first convention after winning the 2008 general elections, a former minister has charged.
Joseph Gilbert, a former NDC deputy chairman who also served as minister of works, said what unfolded at the 2009 convention was “the beginning of the end” for the party and government.
Gilbert was expelled from the National Democratic Congress along with nine other NDC activists on September 30, 2012.
Five months later, the governing NDC was defeated 15 – 0 in general elections by the New National Party (NNP) led by current prime minister, Dr Keith Mitchell.
Gilbert told reporters that, at the NDC’s 2009 convention, he witnessed the “first expulsion with the manipulated ousting of long-standing party chairman, Collin La Barrie, and the then deputy political leader, George Prime.”
“These two committed comrades were unceremoniously discarded from the party's top leadership within months after they helped steer the party to victory in general elections,” Gilbert said.
What many people failed to notice, added Gilbert, was the motive of Nazim Burke, who succeeded Prime as deputy leader, and Glen Noel, who became party chairman in place of La Barrie.
Gilbert, referring to the last NDC executive meeting before the 2009 convention, said he spoke at length, warning about what he perceived to be “certain behind-the-scenes moves to suddenly ditch well-established party procedures that ensured that the national executive agreed to a nominated slate of officers to take to the convention floor.”
However, he recalled Noel and Burke objecting to the procedures on the grounds that they were “undemocratic”.
“There should be no preconceived slate, they argued. Foolishly, Tillman agreed,” Gilbert said, adding that the actions of Burke, Noel and their supporters, “played out even on the convention floor, right under the nose of party leader Tillman Thomas, who then was so obsessed with his newly bestowed constitutional power as prime minister that he took no notice of who was targeting his seat of power.”
The “sinister move” at the 2009 convention “marked the beginning of the end of the party's reign in government,” said Gilbert, former St Patrick West MP.
“So, ultimately, the power hacks succeeded at that first convention after the 2008 victory in ousting Prime and La Barrie.”