DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH GRENADA’S PPs
By Sandra C. A. Ferguson (c)
A feature in the Spice Isle Review issue of December 15th, 2005, “Economics reaches the street: They are posturing” made the following comments/comparisons about the opposition NDC:
- NNP and NDC are “both corrupt and mirror each other exactly”.
- The NDC was not able to deliver stability and progress and “by fulfilling one (stability) without the other, they were removed.
- Both the incumbent government and the official opposition were similar in their approach and not willing to work together in the interest of the nation and both parties are riddled with inept and dishonest individuals who are interested in their own self aggrandizement ………
- Consensus is that the people would not like to see NNP replaced by the NDC group because of their history and penchant for social and communist reform.
- NNP and NDC are posturing.
I found these comments on the opposition NDC to be somewhat unbalanced. So once again, stricken by the ”intellectualitis disorder” triggered by exposure to this article, I have decided to go down memory lane, reminiscing about the evolution of Grenada’s current political parties. .
My first observation is that the current Political Leaders of the NNP, NDC and PLM have been “cut from the same khaki cloth” since they were all once part of the leadership of the original New National Party. (Please note that I did NOT suggest that each wore the SAME khaki pants!!) We, the people recall that each of these three parties had its genesis in the original New National Party that was put together by external forces in Union Island in 1984 for the express purpose of ensuring the defeat of Sir Eric Gairy’s Grenada United Labour Party in the first elections following the demise of the People’s Revolutionary Government. The original NNP was an amalgamation of three parties:
- The Grenada National Party led by veteran Herbert Blaize
- The National Democratic Party led by George Brizan
- The Grenada Democratic Movement led by Dr. Francis Alexis
The party swept the polls in the 1984 elections 14-1 and the late Herbert Blaize became Prime Minister. Sometime during that tenure, Mr.George Brizan, Mr. Tillman Thomas and Dr. Francis Alexis broke with the NNP and formed the National Democratic Congress. Then in 1989, Herbert Blaize was deposed as Political Leader of the party by Dr. Keith Mitchell and the remaining party ranks were divided. A rather peculiar and unprecedented situation ensued as the government led by Prime Minister Blaize broke away from the party to form a new party, The National Party (TNP). This move occasioned the resignation of a number of ministers. To frustrate a vote of no confidence, Prime Minister Blaize prorogued Parliament. We the people, having voted the NNP into office, ended up with a TNP government without having any say in the matter!! And we had been told that DEMOCRACY had been RESTORED to Grenada!!??
Following the March 1990 elections, the NDC, led by Sir Nicholas Braithwaite, came into office. Sir Nicholas, former Prime Minister in the Interim Government (following the demise of the People’s Revolutionary Government) had been wooed by the NDC and offered the leadership of the party. Both Mr.George Brizan and Dr. Francis Alexis became Deputy Political Leaders of the party. Dr. Francis Alexis served as Attorney- General and Mr. Tillman Thomas was a minister of government. It is also of interest to recall that Mr. Edzel Thomas of GULP “crossed the floor” to become a minister in the NDC government.
It was during this election campaign that Sir Eric and the GULP lost the grip on the South St. George seat. It is alleged that someone or some group “set up” an airline ticket in the name of Sir Eric. The existence of this ticket was made public, thus triggering speculation that Sir Eric was not contesting. By the time that matter was clarified the damage had been done. (Coming to think of it, something similar seemed to have happened during the 2003 election campaign when “talk” went out from unknown sources suggesting that Ms. Joan Purcell and Mr. Tillman Thomas had resigned from the NDC and would not be contesting the elections!!)
We the people recall these significant events/incidents during the tenure of the NDC:
- There was a self-imposed structural adjustment programmeto address Grenada’s lack of credit worthiness and massive Public Debt. We the people “ketch real hell”.But we the people must be fair to the NDC. The administration inherited a BANKRUPT country brought about by the reckless spending of the previous NNP administration. This situation was exacerbated by the COLLAPSE of world prices for nutmegs and resulted in what came to be known as the “collapse of the rural economy”. The administration took difficult, unpopular but necessary action to restore fiscal discipline and credit worthiness to Grenada – the platform for economic development – to the benefit of the succeeding NNP administration.
- It was during this time that one saw real attempts to upgrade the capacity of the Ministry of Finance and many of the returned graduates who had studied Economics and related disciplines in Cuba were welcomed into the Ministry and formed the core of a cadre of competent technocrats who saw Grenada through this difficult period.
- Grenada delayed its return to the constitutional OECS Supreme Court. We the people were informed that closure/settlement of the matter involving the Grenada 17 was a condition set by the OECS Heads of Government for Grenada’s return to the fold of the OECS Supreme Court. Apparently, they did not want any “revolutionary baggage”. Or was it a condition/move calculated to deny the Grenada 17 the possibility of appeal of their death sentence to the Privy Council? Was it a condition/move calculated to legally liquidate the Grenada 17? So much for the return of DEMOCRACY and RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS!!
- The nation was again “torn apart” and “on edge” as all was set in motion for the execution of the Grenada 17. At the eleventh hour, Ms. Joan Purcell, minister of government and Chairperson of the Mercy Committee, granted clemency resulting in the stay of execution. Their death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
- A Minister of Health was fired and re-instated. A Minister of Works was disgraced.
- There was a public “cuss-out” between senior members of Cabinet. We the people listened in apathetic disbelief as ministers hurled insults at one another. We particularly remember an exchange during which a lady minister described a male colleague as “sleazy”!!
- Towards the end of the NDC tenure in office, Sir Nicholas Braithwaite demitted office as Prime Minister and Political Leader of the NDC. Party leadership was up for grabs!!
The New National Party led by Dr. Keith Mitchell came into office in June 1995 by the slimmest of majorities, 8-7. Among the successful candidates on the NNP slate was Dr. Raphael Fletcher, formerly of the Grenada United Labour Party. He had fallen out of grace with Sir Eric when it seemed that he might have challenged Sir Eric for the leadership of the GULP. Mr. Michael Baptiste of the GULP was persuaded to “cross the floor” and the NNP was installed as the government with a 9-6 majority.
The NNP administration prematurely collapsed in November 1998 with the resignation of Dr. Fletcher over disagreement in respect of the re-appointment of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Dr. Fletcher also hinted at tales of corruption, prophesying that much would be revealed, ALL IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME, and indicated that he would be rejoining the fold of the GULP. Prior Dr. Fletcher’s resignation, Hon. Grace Duncan had fallen out with the Political Leader and had been fired from her position as Minister of Health. She began flirting with the GULP.
In the meantime, Dr. Francis Alexis had broken with the NDC and formed the Democratic Labour Party while the GULP was also experiencing internal wrangling over party leadership following the death of Sir Eric in August 1997.
Of course, we have not forgotten those might be considered part of the “support cast” to the “the lead actors” in all of this political theatre. For example, it seemed as if persons like Winston Fleary, Raymond Anthony and Bert La Touche could not make up their minds as to whether or not they were NNP or GULP. For a time, it seemed as if they were playing IN THE NNP! OUT THE NNP! In the GULP! OUT THE GULP! We the people surmised that, possibly, they were confused by the talk that Sir Eric had given his blessings to the NNP and bequeathed the GULP support.
Amidst allegations of dealings with crooks and conmen, the NNP mesmerized Grenadians with a glitzy campaign, the like of which had never been seen before in the country. We the people later learnt that the international CONMAN, Van Brink of First International Bank notoriety, had BANKROLLED the party’s campaign which was managed by that controversial Jamaican lady, Ms. Joan Webley.
The other political parties were in a state of disarray. They seemed unable to “get off the blocks” in preparation for the January 1999 elections. We the people despaired as the NDC and GULP (each beset by unresolved leadership issues) talked about “FRONT DOOR, BACK DOOR AND WINDOW” coalitions. But we the people were wary and weary of coalitions. They did not seem to work in Grenada. Would coalition arrangements work with parties which could not even resolve their own internal leadership issues? Eventually, it seemed that both parties came to some arrangement and supported each other’s candidates. A legacy of that campaign was the expression LITTLE BOY, coined by Hon. Grace Duncan on the GULP platform – an expression that is now particularly favoured by the NNP and has become part of that party’s political “lingo”.
It was around this time too, that we the people noted that a founding member of the MBPM, the Comrade Senator, seemed to have “jumped ship” to the NNP. We the people also noted how a number of former revolutionaries, many of whom like to consider themselves THE GOOD GUYS, have found COMFORTABLE accommodation within the ranks of the NNP. We the people shake our heads in puzzlement and WITH THE WISDOM OF HINDSIGHT we have acknowledged that if THAT is what supported the revolution, no wonder it fell like “Humpty Dumpty”!!
In the January 1999 elections, the NNP achieved a “clean sweep” winning all 15 seats. Shortly after the election, we the people heard of continuing internal bickering within the NDC. We the people shook our heads and wondered WHAT WOULDA HAPPEN IF WE DID VOTE DEM INTO OFFICE?! The NDC seemed to have faded into oblivion while Dr. Francis Alexis and the DLP, which appeared to be one and the same, was often the lone dissenting voice in the political wilderness. We the people congratulated him on “having guts like bolie”!
Then sometime in 2000-2001, the Hon. Michael Baptiste fell out of grace with the NNP. He resigned/was fired and became the valiant voice of opposition in Parliament. But he was estranged from the GULP. So he became leader of a GrenadaWorkers’ Party. And while this was happening, Sis. Grace and the Little Boy “kissed and made up”. She was rewarded with the title of “Her Excellency, Ambassador” (to CARICOM and Venezuela, I think). We the people had never before heard of ambassadorial postings to CARICOM by Member states. Another FIRST, maybe?
Sometime in 2001-2002 a courtship began between the Democratic Labour Party and the Grenada Workers’ Party and resulted in the United Labour Party. That broadened to include flirting with former NDC elements (whom we the people recently learnt had been expelled from the party after the 1999 elections) and former revolutionaries in the Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement. We the people were advised of a loose grouping called The Platform. We the people were bemused, amused, confused!! We the people even speculated as to whether these Political Leaders were in this same state of mind as we were!!
In 2003, as elections were in the air, The Platform undid itself and the Hon. Michael Baptiste wound his way back into the fold of the Grenada United Labour Party ( as we the people had anticipated) to become one of its Deputy Political Leaders. Former members of the NNP’s famous A-Team migrated into the fold of the GULP and became key players in the continuing leadership wrangle which seemed to have dogged the party since Sir Eric’s death. .
The Democratic Labour Party and the Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement announced their merger to become the People’s Labour Movement (PLM). We the people reminded ourselves that politics indeed does make for strange bed-fellows and we speculated as to whether the shared interest cementing these two unlikely partners was a passionate dislike(to put it mildly) for the Grenada 17. We the people certainly cannot recall ANY enthusiasm on the part of the Political Leader of the DLP for the Revo while the former Political Leader of the MPBM, now amalgamated into the PLM, remains an unapologetic apostle of the Revo.
We also heard that the NDC had resurrected itself. Celebrated counter –revolutionary, (jailed during the period of the People’s Revolutionary Government) and former minister of government in both the original NNP and the NDC administrations, Tillman Thomas, had accepted the challenge of being Political Leader. Former revolutionaries, thought to be sympathetic to the Grenada 17, had also been welcomed into the party, breathing new life into it. Some suggested “hidden agenda” while the NDC observed that this development exemplified healing and reconciliation at work.
The 2003 election campaign and results are now history. The NDC had a slow start but gathered momentum as the NNP outdid itself with its SLEAZE campaign and a mere six votes now separate the two parties as the incumbent NNP won a narrow 8-7 majority. The other parties failed to get off the blocks with most candidates losing their deposits. We the people have noted that one of the PLM’s “also-ran”( who incidentally belonged to the original NNP and was a minister in the NDC administration) is openly flirting with the NNP.
The anti-NDC sleaze campaign has continued and intensified even as Dr. Fletcher’s “all in the fullness of time” prophesy seemed to be coming to pass as scandals of various sorts have rocked the country during the last two years – not least among them the BRIEFCASE AFFAIR involving the holder of the Office of Prime Minister.
It is also significant that certain individuals of the other opposition parties seem to think that they/their party have the answers and that the best way to serve the country is to support the NNP sleaze campaign against the official opposition, NDC. It is ironic, even amusing, that a few of these “also-ran” chant down the official opposition, even wondering out loud “what the opposition is doing or saying”, seemingly unaware that this is a question that all persons who presented themselves to hold office should first address to himself/herself!! It is also clear that certain of the “also-ran”, like the NNP, are content to also perpetrate the politics of HATE and DIVISIVENESS.
We the people are certain about one thing – THERE ARE MANY POTS CALLING KETTLE BAM-BAM BLACK!!
P.S. In case readers are wondering about “intellectualitis disorder”, I was so diagnosed with this “malady” by Dr. BJ of SIR sometime last year!!