It’s 24 months since the National Democratic Congress (NDC) suffered another bruising defeat at the polls losing all 15 seats to the New National Party (NNP) of Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The defeat was brought on by bitter infighting in which a Group of Rebels, led by former Foreign Minister Peter David were trying to take control of the party and government from the then leader and Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas.
Congress held its second convention last Sunday since the defeat in which new Political Leader, Nazim Burke, the former Minister of Finance, sought to allay the fears of supporters about their 25-year old party.
Addressing a public rally at the Grenville Recreation Grounds after the convention, Burke affirmed that the party remains strong and united having passed the stage of internal crisis.
“We can confidently state that we have a strong united party – a team of committed and capable leaders with proven track records in their chosen fields of enterprise and endeavour”, he told supporters.
Burke recalled the “unfortunate selfish political ambitions of a few individuals” who were subsequently expelled from the Party for working “assiduously to undermine the authority of the (then) Prime Minister (Tillman Thomas), trying to form a government within the government and a party within the party,” thereby “rendering the party and its organs largely dysfunctional.”
At the time of the bitter internal feuding, David held the all important post of General Secretary of NDC which placed him in the seat as main party organiser.
Burke conceded that in the wake of the “internal crisis,” the NDC was unable to secure the confidence of the people to manage the country’s affairs for another term and suffered defeat at the 2013 polls.
“Sisters and Brothers, every negative situation, no matter how adverse, contains the possibility for something positive. We are proud to say that while we lost the election, we were able to protect our two most critical assets – the NDC brand and our political base,” he said.
The NDC Political Leader noted that the party has regrouped and forged into a “strong united force capable of providing visionary, mature and responsible leadership that our country and people deserve.”
In providing an analysis of the present state of the country, Burke put forward the idea that “we stand at an important crossroad in the history of our country.”
“Our individual and collective stances will determine whether our country continues to slide down this dangerous slope of economic ruin, failed dreams, increased hopelessness and legal and constitutional bullying; or whether we arrest the decline and place our country on the path of economic, social and moral recovery,” he said.
He noted that “at this time, both our economic livelihoods and our constitutional democracy are under serious threats from within and only the collective weight of resistance by the people will safeguard them”.
He went on to say: “Our country faces a crisis of confidence in those who run our affairs. The genesis of this crisis is to be found in this government’s record of deceit; its gross incompetence in the management of our economic affairs; and the stark inability to find or create any programme or project capable of creating jobs for the tens of thousands of unemployed persons, especially our young people.
“The genesis of this crisis is to be found in the high-handed arrogance with which they have violated and disrespected the Constitution and laws of Grenada; the culture of nepotism and corruption that they have cultivated; the consistent refusal to practice accountability and transparency in government, hiding critical information from the citizens; and the pursuit of a culture of victimisation and petty political spite against its political and journalistic opponents”, he said.
The Congress Leader alleged that for the past 14 months in particular, the NNP government has displayed a callous and criminal neglect of the needs, circumstances, wishes and aspirations of the people while engaging in a wanton abuse of political authority.
“Every policy expression, every project, every programme” undertaken by the NNP he said, “appear to find its justification in the desperate and narrow objective of this moribund group to retain political power at all cost, in spite of, and at the expense of the people.”
Burke noted that NNP increased the Parliamentary Representative Constituency Allowance from “$1, 500 per month to $ 11, 100 per month” while the “youth are drowning in a pool of unemployment, criminal delinquency, over-exposure to sexual activity and a sense of hopelessness.”
Presently, he said more than “18,000 young people” are not benefiting from the IMANI programme, some who “live in despair, are paralysed by a feeling of hopelessness and are driven to illegal and immoral conduct.”
He added that “even for those within, the IMANI programme does not provide our young people with much needed sustainable jobs; education and training opportunities and facilities; career counselling, entrepreneurial guidance and support; counselling, life skills and social skills- which, they badly need.”
Additionally, Burke said the Keith Mitchell-led government has done little or nothing to improve the business climate and Grenada’s international doing business ranking continue to plummet.
“As of today, over 40 businesses, including supermarkets, banks and hardware suppliers have closed their doors sending hundreds of people on the breadline,” he told supporters.
He claimed that to date NNP has done “nothing to seriously engage the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with a view to reaching agreement on the delimitation of our maritime boundaries with that country.”
The NDC leader also alluded to the Oil and Gas agreement entered into with the Russian outfit, Global Petroleum, and the agreement concluded between Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago for “the joint development of non- living marine resources” which he said “has been gathering dust in the office of the Prime Minister.”
Burke also accused the Mitchell government of affecting the disposable incomes of Grenadians with the many taxes imposed through the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
Stating that disposable incomes of Grenadians have been reduced by more than “18 per cent,” under the watch of PM Mitchell, he noted the 24 different taxes, levies, fees, duties and charges on the backs of Grenadians who are being “driven to frustration, despair and professional indifference by the lack of leadership, vision and arrogance of the powers-that-be and their several political cronies padding the ministries.”
“There is a breakdown in the social values in our society with an increase in alcohol consumption, gambling, violent crimes and the incidence of family breakdown and dysfunction,” Burke said, while adding that “many of the weakest and most vulnerable among us, including the elderly, children and the physically and mentally challenged are being forgotten and ignored by those who run our country.”
The former Finance Minister charged that “while paying lip service to “national unity”, the NNP regime has done “all in its power to divide our people and to persecute its perceived political and journalistic opponents,” under the banner of “Project Grenada” with the intention of “making Grenada a one party state,” among other measures aimed at staying in control.
Burke affirmed that if Grenada is to move forward, “every patriot has
to be recognised and accommodated and our people must be made to feel that that they have a stake and we are all in this together.”
“As an alternative government in waiting, we need to address these issues which are affecting our people in a bold and confident way,” the congress leader said as he outlined the NDC’s plan for Grenada.
“A better Grenada is possible,” he declared in outlining the party’s vision for the country which includes in a broader sense maximizing on the following: National Pride, Inclusion and National Reconciliation, Integrity in Public Office, Constitutional Reform, Institutional Development, Rural Development and Local Government, Agriculture, Agro-Industries and Fisheries, Tourism and Hospitality, Information, Communication Technology, Energy development, Export Services, Health Care, Human Resource Development, Youth Development, Social Development, Physical Development and the Environment, Housing, Sports, Cultural Development, National Security, Regional and International Relations, and a Knowledge- based Economy.
“In this vision, I can see Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique being transformed into a dynamic, prosperous and stable democracy, capable of sustaining a high quality of life for all its people.
“It is absolutely important for us to understand and appreciate that our quest for socio-economic progress and sustained prosperity will come to nought if we allow ourselves to be enslaved by a mindset of dependency.
“If we are to succeed, we must unconditionally embrace the philosophy of self- reliance. By self-reliance, Ladies and Gentlemen, I mean the capacity and determination to seek and extract from within our own circumstances and environment, the resources, opportunities and energies that we require to advance as a nation,” he added.
Burke thanked the gathering for their support for the NDC admonishing that “as we depart from this Convention today, we must do so with renewed energy, commitment and determination to lead our country following the next general elections.”
“A better Grenada is possible,” Burke declared to a cheering crowd of supporters.