A debate has started among some leading political activist within the governing New National Party (NNP) over who should succeed the ageing 70-year old leader, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Former Revolutionary soldier, Kennedy (KB) Budhlall, along with Insurance Executive, Stan Phillip, and radio station owner, Andre Donald expressed their views on the issue during a radio programme last Sunday.
Budhlall threw his support behind Works Minister, Gregory Bowen or former General Secretary of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Senator Peter David as the best candidates to be considered for the top position.
David, a former Foreign Affairs Minister in the 2008-13 Congress government of Tillman Thomas became a full-fledged member of NNP in 2015 after his expulsion from Congress in September 2012.
According to Budhlall, both David and Bowen can compliment each other with their strengths and weaknesses but feared that the latter is not capable of winning an election.
“This is why I want Dr. Mitchell, after one year, pack it up and give Gregory Bowen (the leadership of the country). Let Gregory prove himself in that four years… Ah don’t sure Gregory could win an election on his own”, he said.
The ex-army officer indicated that even if David could win an election on his own “I don’t sure he has the skills like Bowen to run the country, that is why I’m saying they must compliment one another”.
The NNP Activist stressed that should Dr. Mitchell die without ordaining someone to take over the leadership of the party, history will be unkind to him.
Phillip who is from St. Mark’s, considered as a garrison constituency for the ruling party, told the programme it is very uncomfortable for the current crop of Government Ministers to offer themselves up to take over the party leadership from PM Mitchell.
“The fact that Dr. Mitchell said that he is almost ready to go, now begs the question, are there any takers, and people have been looking through the party and trying to identify possible persons, and I think we all agree that’s one shoe that will be very difficult to fill, and whoever is aspiring to be there would have to ensure that he makes serious alliances within the party before he puts himself up,” he said.
Phillip indicated that apart from the existing cadre of NNP stalwarts, there is a “new breed of supporters joining the New National Party” due to the presence of David, a former member of the ill-fated 1979-83 Grenada Revolution.
“You would have heard that there are two… NNP’s. The Keith Mitchell NNP and the Peter David NNP. I heard that at one point, where people would say I’m into the party because of Peter, people are saying I have now joined the ranks (of the NNP) because of Peter,” he said.
Noting that the Leader of the country is usually the person who is leading the governing party, Phillip said that as a result of this the first major hurdle a potential leader faces is to garner the support of the delegates at a convention.
Phillip stated that one of the critical things that must be in place is for a Political Leader to have the ability to attract funds for the party.
“Whoever is that person aspiring to be there (as Political Leader) he has to ensure that he has connections in terms of raising funds for the party,” he said.
However, he remarked that he does not think the NNP is ready for a radical change but will be more comfortable with a transition in terms of succession.
Donald who moderated the programme supported the choices of Bowen and David as put forward by Budhlall.
However, Donald who is a card-bearing member of the NNP feels Bowen is the better person to succeed Dr. Mitchell.
He expressed the belief that Bowen has served the party “faithfully for a long time.”
“Gregory Bowen has been a faithful servant of the New National Party.
He has been a close friend, a bonafide, a brethren, a brother to Keith Mitchell. They have been through a lot together. He would have gained certain experiences from Keith Mitchell as they would have worked together over the years. At one point in time he was even Deputy Prime Minister… he was Deputy Leader of the Party, he was Chairman of the Party, so I think that Gregory has in him to be a Grenadian Leader, however, like Dr. Mitchell, Greg has been around for a long time,” he said.
Donald stressed that if Bowen succeeds Dr. Mitchell at the helm, it should serve as a transition period during which someone else is groomed to eventually take over the NNP leadership.
“So someone who has the New National Party at heart, someone who persons would look to and say yes, that person is a loyalist should be close to Greg to understudy Greg… Can it be Peter David? A number of the NNP stalwarts may still be looking at Peter and wondering whether or not Peter is a loyalist,” he said.
Donald added that Sen. David should not be seen as “fighting for any position in relation to leadership.”
“Don’t be greedy and wanting the ball because if he does, that could spell political disaster for him,” he warned.
“At this particular time I will not give Peter the reigns of the country because the transition will be a very difficult one,” he said.
Sen. David is currently NNP’s Deputy General Secretary.
During his12 year stint with NDC, David along with a number of close supporters were at the centre of some of the bitter infighting within the party.