The split within the four-year-old National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has opened wider with the resignation last Thursday of Foreign Trade and Environment Minister, Glynis Roberts as a member of the Cabinet.
Roberts presented her resignation letter to Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean and virtually brought an end to her association with Congress under whose platform she was twice elected as a Member of Parliament in the South St. George constituency in 2003 and 2008.
Her exit came as no surprise and was against the backdrop of moves by Prime Minister Thomas to look for a new candidate in the South as Roberts is known to be aligned to a rival faction within Congress led by former Tourism Minister, Peter David.
The NDC is due to hold a crucial convention on Sunday in St. Andrew’s in which the Grenadian leader is widely expected to take back full control of the party’s National Executive and leave David and his supporters in the political wilderness.
Roberts’ impending resignation was the talk of the country as early as last week Monday but when asked to confirm the reports, the female MP branded the allegations as a “rumour” only to publicly inform the nation days later that she had quit the Cabinet.
Roberts had joined with David in November 2010 to engage in a stand-off with Prime Minister Thomas on accepting their new portfolios from Governor-General, Sir Carlyle Glean in the wake of a Cabinet reshuffle.
Her resignation also comes against the backdrop of a document being circulated in the country about a possible new political party comprised mainly of dissident members of the Congress administration.
According to reports the alleged party will include the likes of a St. George’s University Lecturer, some former government ministers and a few well-known local journalists.
When contacted for comment, former Minister of State for Information & Culture, Senator Arley Gill told The New Today newspaper that he knows nothing about a new party in the making and denied that he was involved in such activities.
However, close associates of the ex-government ministers have been dropping hints about a party in the making and are predicting that an announcement to this effect could be made in a matter of days.
The dissatisfied MPs’ have publicly expressed their commitments to contest the upcoming general elections but remain mum under which political banner or if they will run as independent candidates.
In a “Town Hall style” meeting Thursday night at the Woburn R.C. School, Roberts told a small gathering that she remains a proud Member of Parliament and that she was not influenced by anyone to resign from the Congress Cabinet.
“In politics the final decision to go or to stay has to be mine. And I want people to respect that because I do not want to leave politics without my integrity”, she said.
The new female backbencher warned the Government of Prime Minister Thomas that to govern the country by decree in a time of crisis was a mistake.
Roberts who often remained silent at parliamentary sittings called for the resumption of Parliament following its recent prorogation, saying a number of serious issues needed to be dealt with.
“We need the views and opinions of everybody, particularly those elected by the people to represent them”, she said.
A date for the commencement of the 5th Session of the 8th Parliament is yet to be announced.
According to Roberts, the current political construct under the Thomas-led government has not worked well and the country needs a new one based on love not ridicule and commitment to people and not cunning politics.
“After weeks of consultation and after months of urging by you the supporters and with the understanding of my parliamentary colleagues, I handed in my resignation from the Cabinet of Grenada to the Governor General”, she told the Woburn meeting.
“I explained that I was grateful to have served and I left with all my love and all my respect to all parties intact. I never questioned the Prime Minister’s character only his leadership choices,” she said.
The St George South MP noted that attacks directed in her direction have been coming fast and furious and from quarters least expected, but she said the hard knocks over the past four years have only made her better and not bitter.
She said her resignation from the Cabinet of Ministers now allows her to give 100% of her time to representing the people of South St George with aggressiveness and daring.
Roberts assured constituents that she was looking forward to renewing her contract with them within the next nine months when the general elections is expected to be called.
“The dreams and aspirations of July 08, 2008 have not been undermined by those who stand up and ask questions about whether we are on the right track, they have been undermined by arrogance and contempt. The real spoilers threaten when we trade building bridges for building barriers, when instead of pinning hopes we pin labels” she said.
“I am proud to declare myself among the coalition of the willing that is determined to move forward and I invite all of you to join us,” she added.
According to Roberts, her major regret in politics is seeing people she knows who would have once said a lovely hello to her, now looking at her as if she is a devil.
She also rebuked her constituents who never defended the constant ridicules against her in the newspapers on a weekly basis.
This is obvious reference to a series of articles written by “The Stone Crusher” which often lambasted the Group of Rebels who were seeking to undermine Prime Minister Thomas and his Congress government.
Since the July 2008 general elections, Prime Minister Thomas has been forced to take actions against a few members.
The first was Energy Minister, Michael Church who refused to accept his demotion to the post of Minister of State for Works in 2010 after he was sanctioned for misleading the Prime Minister on a trip he had undertaken to Switzerland in the company of Dr. Patrick Antoine, the former Trade Advisor to the previous Keith Mitchell government.
The Prime Minister was annoyed because Church had asked him for permission to travel to the U.S to visit a sick family member and not to Geneva alongside Dr. Antoine.
PM Thomas was forced to sack Foreign Trade and Environment Minister, Joseph Gilbert in January when he caught him misleading Cabinet on a controversial casino issue.
Tourism Minister Peter David and Karl Hood (Minister of Foreign Affairs) departed the Cabinet in May citing differences with the Prime Minister’s leadership style.
Prime Minister Thomas is known to be at loggerheads with David who is known to be supportive of Grenada taking out full-fledged membership of the Venezuela-promoted ALBA financing arrangement.