Uniting the membership of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and engaging the disenchanted will be the major thrust of the top brass of the newly elected executive members of Grenada’s main opposition party.
From the new Political Leader, Nazim Burke, to the Chairman of the party, Dr. George Vincent they have all agreed that unity is the thread to keep the party in focus.
Burke who is an opposition Senator was elected as Political Leader of the NDC during the party’s Convention on February 2 at the Westerhall Secondary School St. David’s.
He replaced former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas who, after being at the helm for 13 years stepped down.
During an appearance on a radio talk show program, Sen. Burke outlined the path he intends to take in charting the way forward for the NDC which lost the rein of power during last year’s General Elections to the New National Party (NNP).
He told the host of the program that one of the things the new executive sees as being important is to maintain and preserve unity of the membership of the party, especially at the leadership level.
He believes that through unity they will be able to rebuild the party structure and ensure that all of the party organs are functioning.
“Our first task, as I see it, is to consolidate unity within the party which has been spoken about on many occasions. We understand that the public perception is that the party is disunited… (but) ….the party is not a fractured organisation at this point at all,’’ he said.
According to Burke, in the lead up to the February 19, 2013 general elections and since then, the NDC has been able to put together a work programme and a team of persons who are truly determined to succeed.
Recruiting and registering new members is also foremost on the mind of Sen. Burke.
He recalled that leading up to the last General Elections there were many persons who did not register to vote.
According to Burke, they believe that many of these people who did not register were disenchanted with politicians, especially with NDC in light of the internal problems they were having.
He said the party will now try to regain the people’s confidence and get them to register for the next elections.
General Elections in Grenada are constitutionally due in 2018.
Sen. Burke spoke of the critical need to beef up the party’s Public Relations.
“We want to strengthen the organisation at all levels. We must establish an effective Public Relations machinery and communication unit. This is extremely important for us. It is an area in which we have suffered over the years, not being able to be sufficiently proactive and even reactive in respect of issues that touch and concern us, the party and the country as a whole,’’ he said.
Sen. Franka Bernadine, the former Education Minister is now serving the NDC as the Public Relations Officer.
The new Political Leader disclosed that the NDC will undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the life, performance and history of the party from its inception in 1987.
Sen. Burke indicated that the people of Grenada are expected to hear much more from the NDC and they want to be ready to be able to do that.
The NDC Political Leader also saw the need for Congress to attract the young people to the party base.
He spoke of plans to develop a proper strategy for the young people so as to enhance the party’s image and attractiveness to the youthful population.
The NDC Political Leader did not lose sight of reaching out to all stakeholders in the country, including the Churches, Trade Unions, Non-Governmental Organisations, and the business community.
He said the NDC holds the view that engaging the stakeholders is very critical in going forward.
Sen. Burke indicated that the country is now hurting as the NNP has failed to live up to the “We will deliver” promises they made to the people of Grenada.
1 Deputy Political leader Joseph Andall who also chimed in on the unity aspect of the NDC indicated that the party is made up of patriotic people.
Andall, a former lecturer at the T. A Marryshow Community College, told the “NDC Heartbeat Program” he represents a generation of “New Blood” in the NDC.
“My presence in a central leadership role in the party shows that the National Democratic Congress is committed to positive change. We do not have a culture of one-manism of personality cult, of entitlement in the Congress. My inclusion in the Team at that level shows that the NDC is open, it is open to change, open to fresh ideas, and I believe I represent all of those things,’’ he said.
Andall contested the last General Elections on an NDC ticket for the constituency of St. Patrick West but lost to current Education Minister, Anthony Boatswain.
The NDC Deputy Political Leader had some encouraging words for disgruntled members of the party.
He assured them that there is no longer any infighting within the party.
“The fight has been over for a long time and some people were trying to create chaos by making it appear that there is a fight,’’ he said.
“All is not lost Sisters and Brothers. You have a strong, vibrant party lead by capable people, people of good character and good standing who are ready, willing and able to pick up the mantle and to drag the country out of (the dirt) that it has been descending into over the past few months,’’ he added.
Ten dissident members including ex-government ministers, Peter David, Glynis Roberts, Karl Hood, Michael Church and Joseph Gilbert, were expelled just over a year ago in a protracted fight for control of the 25-year old party.
NDC’s General Secretary Patrick Simmons who is charged with building the base of the party sees this as prime importance in going forward.
Simmons who is the former Minister of Youth Empowerment and Sports in the Tillman Thomas-led Government said that in building the base of the organisation the party has to ensure that those persons who were not registered for the last general elections are now brought on board and priority has to be given to get them registered.
The new General Secretary indicated that the party would have to spend more time listening to each other, and to be in a position to be more accommodating to each other’s point of view, and “we must always keep in mind to compromise”.
He said with the four and a half years he spent as a Government Minister and being in frontline politics, he believed if the membership of the party had listened some more and tried to meet each other half way probably some of the things that happened would not have taken place.
“It is important that all NDC supporters and those who were probably unhappy with the way things went, it is a good opportunity for them to come back home and assist in the rebuilding of the organisation to make sure that we are well prepared for any eventualities,’’ he remarked.
The new Chairman of Congress, Dr. George Vincent agreed with the General Secretary that building the party structure is the first step for NDC in going forward.
Dr. Vincent indicated that one of the reasons for the demise of the party in the last election is the fact that there was not a very strong party structure in existence.
He said that although the NDC appeared to be very silent in the past year since its massive 15-0 loss at the polls, the party has been working very hard to put things back in place.
According to Dr. Vincent, Congress is committed to listening to the concerns of the people of Grenada through Town Hall Meetings, and the “People’s Parliament” (village meetings).
Since the February 2 Convention, the NDC has already held two People’s Parliaments.
The NDC chairman said the time has come for the party to extend its reach outside of its traditional base and to bring all party members and Grenadians on board.
“What we have planned to do is to reach out to all and sundry, opening arms to all who are willing to join and rejoin the NDC party,’’ he added.