A dissident group of ten senior politicians within the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) that included former Tourism & Civil Aviation Minister, Peter David has been thrown out of the 25-year old party.
The decision to expel the prominent members of the group was taken at the high profile NDC annual Convention held last week Sunday at the St. Andrew’s Anglican Secondary School (SAASS) at Telescope and attended by over 450 delegates.
It was the first time in the history of the English-speaking Caribbean that a ruling party has taken a decision to expel five sitting Members of Parliament, and a former Government Senator in one action.
Founding member of the party, Phinsley St. Louis, a former Public Utilities Minister in the 1990-93 Congress government, introduced the motion, which sought to sanction the former members for violating the core values of the party, which includes respect for authority and being committed to the leader.
The list of persons identified in the motion included four other former senior government ministers – Joseph Gilbert (Communication & Works), Glynis Roberts (Labour), Karl Hood (Foreign Affairs) and Michael Church (Foreign Trade & Energy), as well as disgraced NDC Chairman, Kenrick Fullerton, and former Senator, Arley Gill.
The motion was amended by delegates to include the likes of Labour Representative in the Upper House of Parliament, Senator Chester Humphrey, member of the Disciplinary Committee, Siddiqui Sylvester, and Pastor Stanford Simon (Deputy Chairman) for expulsion from the party.
Former party Chairman, Jerome Joseph was also put on the list to be expelled by delegates from the floor but his name was withdrawn with no explanation given.
Speculation is rife that Joseph was spared the humiliation due to the role he played in the formation of Congress along with former Prime Minister, the late George Brizan, Dr. Francis Alexis, St. Louis, Kenny Lalsingh and Michael Andrew in 1987.
Church received the largest chunk of votes that called for his expulsion with 410 of the votes calling for action against him, followed by Gill (408) and Roberts who felt the wrath of 406 delegates.
Three hundred and ninety-seven of the delegates went against Gilbert, and 393 voted for Hood’s removal while 390 delegates went against the once popular and charismatic David..
Fullerton was voted out of Congress membership by 371 delegates, followed by Sen. Humphrey by 360 delegates, Pastor Simon (341) and Sylvester (230).
Pastor Simon who acted as Chairman of Congress following the resignation of Fullerton as Chairman was the first to be bashed by delegates attending the convention.
Fullerton was charged earlier this year by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) with four counts of forgery.
The disgraced NDC Chairman is charged with two counts of forgery and two counts of uttering a false document.
He is accused of forging a letter on December 12, and December 28, 2011, and uttered them to the RBTT Bank on both occasions.
Less than 20 minutes after the Convention was called to order by Simon, the acting Chairman had to deal with a motion that was tabled against him by Vincent Roberts, a member of the St. George North-east Constituency to relieve him from presiding over the proceedings.
Roberts said he feared that Simon would not discharge the functions as Chairman of the convention with impartiality, as well as guaranteeing the smooth progress of the party’s business.
Even before the motion was presented, Simon who had missed a number of recent executive meetings without allegedly submitting a reason for his absence, was jeered by delegates sitting in the convention hall.
Shouts of “traitor, traitor” and “go, go, we don’t want you here,” could have been heard being spewed at Simon when he took to the podium.
When the motion carried, a stunned Pastor Simon thanked the delegates for allowing to serve Congress for the past year, wished the party well in its deliberations for the day and soon vanished from the area.
A motion was also adopted to forego the receipt of the report from the outgoing General Secretary, Peter David, the man regarded to be the leader of the Group of Rebels.
It was felt that with regards to the recent infighting, and the accompanying negative circumstances impacting the state of the NDC, it is reasonable and prudent to consider that the receipt or hearing of a report from David would be of no practical use or constructive value to the NDC at this time, and would not, in any way, contribute towards realising the key objectives of the convention.
The motion read in part: “….the… General Secretary has indicated to the Political Leader and to the public of Grenada that he would not be seeking re-election to that Office, and having resigned as a member of the Cabinet, it would be untenable for him to contest the election under the same Political Leader.”
Deputy Political Leader Nazim Burke who described the convention as being historic was elated over the outcome.
Burke who retained the number two position in the party unopposed told a public meeting hours later that a break was made with the past, and the ruling party now feels liberated.
“Today we were able, finally, to clinically separate ourselves from those within our organisation who, for years were plunging our party,” he said.
“Today… we took a bold (and) a courageous step to rid ourselves of those who were bringing down our party,” he added.
Burke reminded the people that when the NDC took Office four years ago, a promise was made that they would do better than the previous New National Party (NNP) government of Dr. Keith Mitchell, and that everyone understood that they had to work together for the success of the administration.
“When we got into government… we took an oath as Ministers of Government to serve,” he told the large gathering.
The NDC Deputy Political Leader said it is with a sense of deep shame and embarrassment that some of his colleagues had failed the people.
He charged that instead of focusing on their primary responsibility, some of the ministers decided to wrestle with Prime Minister Thomas for control of the government.
Burke who is the Minister of Finance said he is convinced that what the Tillman Thomas-led government was facing was a conspiracy from on the inside to ensure that the local economy failed.
He spoke of constant efforts to prevent the government from securing funds from some friendly countries but instead to force the administration to accept funds from one particular friendly country.
He did not name the country but political pundits have pointed to Venezuela in which leading members of the dissident group have openly criticized Prime Minister Thomas of refusing to enter into the Caracas-funded ALBA arrangement in which loans are given on concessional terms to some impoverished East Caribbean island.
The Prime Minister is said to be unwilling to take out full-fledged membership of ALBA because its constitution makes mention of a commitment to building socialism (communism) and the open hostility often showed to the United States by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
St. George’s and Washington have excellent relations and the United States was largely responsible for Grenada’s return to democracy in a 1983 military intervention to topple a military junta that had seized power in a bloody palace coup in which Marxist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was executed.
Both Burke and David were prominent members of Grenada’s non-elected Marxist regime headed by Bishop who had seized power in an earlier coup on March 13, 1979 against then Prime Minister, the late Eric Matthew Gairy.
The NDC deputy political leader told the public meeting that Congress can now move forward under a single united leader, and respecting the core-values of the party and building a winning team to continue the mission in general elections expected within a matter of months.
During the convention, the party’s leadership was forced to introduce a motion to allow for alternate delegates from the constituencies of St. Patrick’s West (Gilbert) and the Town of St. George (David) to participate in the meeting.
At the commencement of the convention, the seats that were reserved for representatives from both constituencies remained vacant.
THE NEW TODAY Newspaper learnt that although all of the 15 constituencies were notified that they should submit their list of delegates to the former Treasurer, Bernard Isaac, nothing was received from St. Patrick-West.
The Town of St. George submitted a list on Thursday but none of the delegates showed up at the convention.
Both Gilbert and David who fell out of grace with Prime Minister Thomas were widely regarded as the leaders of the rebel faction within the party.