Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has taken a major step towards finding a replacement candidate for former Communication & Works Minister, Joseph Gilbert in the St. Patrick West constituency.
Informed sources told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that the Prime Minister met with constituents on Tuesday night and informed them of the need to identify a new candidate.
According to a well-placed source, PM Thomas instructed the gathering of about 35 persons to come up with a new candidate since he could not see Gilbert being included on a ticket of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the upcoming general elections.
The source said that neither Gilbert nor his close associates were in attendance at the meeting held at the St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic School.
The meeting of the NDC St. Patrick West Constituency branch was scheduled for last week Thursday but had to be postponed due to the ceremony held at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) to welcome home Olympic champion, Kirani James.
Speculation is rife that Educator Joseph Andall is tipped to replace Gilbert as the NDC candidate for the constituency in the next general election.
Andall, a lecturer at the T.A Marryshow Community College, is originally from Chantimelle, an important area of the constituency that can determine the outcome of the battle.
The embattled Gilbert is considered to be a key member of the so-called Peter David faction, which has been engaged in a battle with the Prime Minister for control of Congress.
The source said that the current Chairman of the constituency who is believed to be an ally of the former government minister was contacted to plan for Tuesday night’s meeting but was also noticeable absent.
He spoke of pro-Tillman Thomas supporters in the constituency doing their own mobilization and bringing out the gathering “to hear from the leader the plans for forging ahead”.
“We will do what we have to do. Joe (Gilbert) is not in charge of the constituency. He might have a few friends here and there but he is not in control of St. Patrick West – far from that”, he said.
The source said that a key activist of the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) attended the meeting and offered to support Prime Minister Thomas to gain re-election for another term in office.
He said the labour supporter reminded the Prime Minister that he had warned him a few years ago to stay away from certain elements of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution since they were considered to be dangerous to the democratic process.
The source indicated that the plan of Prime Minister Thomas is to take back full control of NDC at the September 30 annual convention including the removal of David from the key post of General Secretary of the party.
Two names have surfaced as possible successors – Livingston Nelson, a former holder of the post and Bernard Isaac, the current Treasurer of the party.
The leader of the rival faction within NDC, ex-Tourism Minister David had scheduled a meeting of his St. George Constituency branch last night (Thursday) to discuss his political future.
A release put out on behalf of the MP said that the meeting to be held at Hindsey School on Church Street is aimed at “getting feedback” from constituents “on their recommendations on his future in politics, in general, and the upcoming general election, in particular”.
“At Thursday’s meeting, I intend to comment on pressing national issues and offer suggestions on solving those issues,” David was quoted as saying in the release.
One week earlier, David had called in a few of his key supporters in the constituency to hear from them first hand “on the information they were picking up on the ground” at a session held at the party’s head office on Lucas Street.
An attorney-at-law by profession, David quit the Thomas-led government as Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation and publicly cited differences with the Prime Minister and the fiscal and economic policies being pursued by the Congress administration.
There are unconfirmed reports that Education Minister, Franka Bernadine is being considered as the choice of PM Thomas to contest the Town of St. George seat for Congress in the election.
The NDC is said to be committed to having internal elections to re-organise its various constituency branches in time for the Convention.
Several of the Chairpersons of the branches are believed to be loyal to General Secretary David.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Thomas engaged in what is dubbed as “Solidarity Sunday” with members of the St. George South-east constituency at Marian and gave instructions to party members to start the process to hold new elections for all positions on the branch.
The meeting was not attended by the Chairman, Pastor Stanford Simon who is identified as a member of the David wing of the party.
Congress supporters in the constituency will soon have to nominate a new candidate to replace another Pastor, Karl Hood, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs who is under fire for filing a motion of No-confidence in Parliament against PM Thomas and the government.
The two contenders for the position are said to be trade unionist, Elliot Bishop of Marian and Randall Robinson from Creighton.
Prime Minister Thomas is said to be committed to putting a newlook team in place by the September 30 Convention that will form the nucleus of the candidates to be selected to contest the national poll against the main opposition New National Party (NNP).
The newlook team is expected to see new faces in the line-up for St. John, St. Mark, St. Patrick West, St. Andrew North-east, St. David, St. George South, St. George South-east, The Town of St. George and St. George North-west.
General elections are constitutionally due in Grenada by the middle of 2013.