Saturday, May 26, 2012

Another chapter of my manifesto of rebellion

I spent the last week in Grenada, observing first hand some of the political developments – and been too busy going all over the place to put pen to paper until now.

And since Glen Noel has publicly asked me to comment on the rally – let me start there. 
Whether it was a success or not frankly depends on what were the expectations going in. 

I won’t even get into the arguments about numbers. That 2,800 figure is absolutely ridiculous. It was not even half of that.

Whatever the figure was – the New National Party rally at Gouyave on that same day had roughly about three times that size – which will put it at nearly 9,000 – which of course will be equally ridiculous. 

But to more substantive matters – and it is a question I have not received a serious answer from anyone for a long time. 

Is this confidence rally the beginning of a path to any victory? 

Can a divided NDC win a seat – let alone an election? 

Now if Glen Noel and Nazim Burke believe so, e-mail me the information on that grass they are smoking. I need some of it. 

Sunday’s meeting was simply an ego trip into the political wonderland. 

First of all the organizers successfully hoodwinked enough people to make-believe this is some innocent, non-partisan meeting.

It was a decidedly poisonous and disingenuous political rally of a faction of the NDC – using state officials to co-oridnate and run the operation because the Prime Minister could not count on the defacto party machinery.

And I have not heard any of these holier-than-thou acolytes of good governance lift a voice against what was a wanton abuse of the power of the state for a narrow political purpose. 

The declaration that the meeting did not cost the state a thing, is so blatantly not true – that Ray Charles could see through that.

So what's with the invoices generated for various services that have been billed to the state? How will these be settled? 

And what about the GIS van that went around advertising the meeting? 

And even if we conveniently accept the statement that the meeting did not cost the state a thing, it leads to even more troubling questions. 

Those troubling questions were properly captured by an unsolicited e-mail a friend of mines from overseas sent me this past week – and I will borrow the comment as if they are mine. 

She wrote:

Then there is the rally. The man said he is having a rally in his capacity as PM. It is a thanksgiving rally. Well since when can we use state funds to have a rally to promote a PM?  Especially when the entire charade was loaded with party rhetoric; people with their NDC T-Shirts shouting .No Tilly,  No NDC. A senator on the podium talking about (Michael) Church is not an NDC he is an NNP. Now does that sound like a government rally to you? 

But the most crucial thing is, if the rally was deemed a government rally and the government did NOT foot the bill then that's worst. 

How could you have private individuals funding state functions?  Isn't that the beginning of corruption? 
 What will the government subsequently owe these individuals? How influential would they be in the policy and other decisions of the state?  Like Mr Transparency really doesn't understand what good governance means. Worst yet we have so-called journalists that is incapable of analyzing the current situation. 

Those were fair comments and insights. 

The other aspect of Sunday that troubled me was the appearance of two leaders of the NGO community apparently representing their organizations at this venomous political event.

It is their right if they want to participate in their individual capacities – but to do so on behalf of their organizations was a terrible lack of judgment. 

I admire and appreciate the work the two women have done in the community, and I think their hearts (no pun intended) are in the right places. 

However, I would think they’d want to look back on this episode and wish it did not happen.

The development effectively undermined their great work; not enhanced it. (PS: I love them still). 

The other issue making the rounds in Grenada this past week was the reported transfer of $150,000 US to the account of a top government official. 

Now in the face of a lack of regulation on campaign financing, there is nothing inherently wrong with donations – every politician and party badly need them. 

And there has been no outright denial from the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Information about the “donations.”  The only denials have been it was not from Saudi Arabia and it was not underhand.

That may or may not be so. 

But if it was a campaign donation as the Prime Minister alluded to, can he explain why the bank declaration stated “legal fees''? 

Legal fees for what? For the sale-of-passport scheme? 

And if it was a campaign donation, was it for the party? Have the funds been transferred to the party since? 

And while we are at it – who is this donor anyhow? 

(Show me your company and I will show you who you are). 

The other dynamic in this entire issue, is that we have a government and a prime minister that have set themselves up as beyond reproach with matters of integrity.

With lesser mortals maybe we should let this pass.

But for leaders whose biggest claim to fame is some self-declared sainthood, the development should give us a funny feel in the stomach. 

And it is not enough to use as a counter-argument that NNP did worse.

Frankly, the mainstream media have given the Thomas administration a pass on this issue - as on many other issues such as the Sewang matter and how the PM was made to sign an MOU and then rebuked for doing so; and how the passport-selling Grenada Individual Investor Program had begun to be promoted without the approval of cabinet. 

If only this accusation of the $150,000 US was against Keith Mitchell, I would have heard all the pious statements of either concern or condemnation. 

And one final point – and I make it both jokingly and seriously in the same breath. 
Glen Noel and some former comrades of mine have sought to dismiss my writings as a front for an agenda of the “conspirators”. 

To do so is to cheapen my self-authored manifesto of rebellion for which I shall not apologize. 

If they ask you what I want, tell them – less hypocrisy; real accountability and transparency – and a little delivery for ordinary people.

Until that time I will remain unconquered and unbowed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I wish I am wrong this time

THE PRIME MINISTER’s goon squad must forget the demonizing of everyone brave enough to question the lack of direction of this current Grenada government, and come to terms with the reality.  

That reality is that the problem of the ruling National Democratic Congress is it suffers from an acute case of leadership deficit. 

If the truth be told, this government has been badly led for a long time – by a prime minister who, whenever faced with complex situations, resorted to seeing things as black or white, rather than shades of gray. 

Any man, who fails to enhance his nuance, as this current prime minister has done, effectively declares himself unfit to lead a bunch of men and women with varying styles and attitudes. 

The problems of modern-day Grenada has nothing to do with ideology nor power nor ambition. 

It is simply because of failed leadership. 

Tillman Thomas has squandered the many opportunities he had to be a father figure to his cabinet, and in fact chose and sponsored conflict, when he should have been playing the role of healer. 

Even when members openly pleaded for dialog and discussion to address the problems, he quipped there was nothing to talk about – resorting instead to divisive language about good over evil. (Never mind his attempt at back-tracking in parliament this week). 

Thomas’ lack of nuance has had him seeing every question as a challenge; every alternative idea as a rebellion; every bold suggestion as an unholy gamble and every critique as a dangerous element. 

He became a theocratic dictator who believed that by divine ordination his cabinet men and women were the back-up choir who never could mess with the arrangement. 
Rather than reach out, he dug deep; thinking it is the best way to save his prime ministership.

What he has done, in the end, is effectively undermined himself.

There were people who maybe also had the capacity to breathe some sense into him – but instead they fed the beast. They emboldened him, provided him with affirmation, and justified their positions with vacuous arguments of not wanting to get into "dog fights'' with the PM; of being satisfied to field in the slips; and of playing behind the captain even when the team is clearly losing and of continuing to play even when all ten wickets in the innings have fallen. 

And so with Karl Hood’s resignation on Thursday, the chickens continued coming home to roost. 

Two years ago, I predicted this will end like this way; and, oh, how I wish I was wrong. 
The cancer that is now in stage five emerged a year before that; then, a handful of self-appointed acolytes systematically sowed seeds of division, hiding behind pen-names as Stone Crusher to publish epistles direct from the Prime Minister’s Office. 

The weekly manifesto of division was printed weekly in the Today newspaper, and the echo transmitted on the holy Sabbath to an unsuspecting class. 

One of my early editors Leslie Pierre always used to tell me that water consistently dripping on stone finally wears it away. 

If the Prime Minister’s political machinery preaches division for three years – dividing the cabinet into gangs – what end results did they expect? 

And, as you watch the news tonight, in their eager attempt to demonize yet another minister who resigns, they will miss seeking answer to the fundamental question that matters. 

Rather than seek to ask who is Hood and what he wants – the news cycle must instead seek to answer the question – what’s next and how can this end to the benefit of ordinary people? 

Prime Minister Tillman Thomas did not get an endorsement in parliament on Tuesday; he just received a stay of execution. 
What the vote did was give him the breathing room to do something honorable.

Take a page from Bruce Golding – the former Prime Minister of Jamaica – who once he became damaged goods – handed over the leadership of his party and subsequently the Prime Ministership of his country.

While the move did not guarantee the Jamaica Labour Party victory – it at least saved it from complete annihilation, and gave it a chance to bounce back in five years. 
A similar move by Thomas also won’t guarantee NDC victory in the next general election – but will give it a chance to remain viable and credible.  

To do that will be the essence of good governance. Anything less will be inherently reckless and selfish. 

I am not betting he’d do the right thing.

But oh how I wish I am wrong this time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thomas’ sorry legacy sealed with parliament debate

SOMETIMES in sport, they tell you forget the final score, and remember how the game was played.

That will hold true during Tuesday’s No Confidence motion in the Grenada parliament.

The motion will be duly defeated; but Tillman Thomas will not have won.

In voting against the motion rightly put forward by the opposition New National Party, government MPs have decided to somehow find a way to save their party  -- if in a strange way it gives the Prime Minister more time to seal his increasing sordid legacy.

The 11 government MPs, all caught between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea, will choose the former – because they are sure of what they are getting.

Delving into the deep blue sea will give most cold feet because of not being sure what lies underneath.

In some ways, the debate will end in an unsatisfactory position – where all sides will declare victory – but where everybody really loses.

For those who pay little attention to how the food is made, and rather concentrate on the final product – the bitter taste it all leaves will leave them equally confused.

But politics is a science of both survival and incentive – where people have to individually live to fight another day, while invoking a collective good they themselves cannot properly describe.

And that, in a strange way put all 15 members of the House of Representatives in the same boat.

There are lurking dangers for all sides coming in.

The NNP motion has a point – which ordinary Grenada gets. But in making that point, its four MPs have to be careful against over reach.

People get it – this government is dead. But Grenadians have a sense of proportion and would detest a ravenous feeding on the carcass.

The funeral rites must be measured and respectful.

The eight of the 11 MPs, who like Foreign Minister Karl Hood, have been privately and not-so privately fretting of the wasted years, must not in their fight for collective survival, act as if “all is well with our souls.”

Even in this unenviable dance, being apologists for four years of underachievement and clueless leadership will be unacceptable.

Apologize if you will – for being part of a team that has let people down; throw the leader under the bus where he belongs – because he has already thrown his team the bus with his ineptness; and then speak to a vision to which we can relate.

It won’t guarantee any success at elections – whenever it is called – but will give you some credit in the bank for some future time.

Like couples facing a separation – you may hang on a little longer for the children – but eventually you need to go your separate way.

The other three MPs will no doubt try to use the occasion as if to put the NNP on trial – to accuse it of everything imaginary while it was there.

They may even also try to impute treasonous motives by their own colleagues who have dared to ask questions about their own government which came in promising so much, and delivered so little – except in hate and spite.

The first one had a currency at a certain time and place.

But four years have passed since Mr Thomas and Mr Burke began running things.

We already voted on the NNP years. That’s why there was an 11-4 result on July 8th, 2008.

The people are now ready for a referendum on the time of this current government.

If its strategists should stopped listening to the George Grant-MTV inspired echo chamber and drive out to the real Grenada from whence the PM came, they will find strong opinions on what has turned out to be a sorry legacy.

Or – maybe they should take up their own poll – and start believing what it says.

But even as those figures show that most people are already turned off – the three disciples need to seek to find an opening to defend this government's record and make their case.

Anything different will be disingenuous and vexatious.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Several myths about the Grenada Situation (Part1)

In the coming days, I will write about some of the myths the official lynch-mob media in Grenada deliberately peddle without conversing with established historical and statistical facts.

I start off this time dealing with three areas.

·       (i) NDC won the 2008 election only because of Tillman Thomas

The polling before and after the election, does not bear that out – and I had the privilege to see a lot of those in real time (so I am not trying to be revisionist here). 

What the polling had shown was that Grenada did not have a fundamental problem with him per se, and that even while NNP was collectively in trouble, Keith Mitchell was still scoring higher than him on a leader-to-leader basis. 

Frankly the election results of 2008 had to do more with NNP fatigue in the end that anything decidedly pro-NDC. 

After 13 years of NNP people were decidedly fed-up with the Keith Mitchell administration, and what many felt –rightly or wrongly were – (a) the emerging arrogance and (b) a concern about corruption; those coupled with the fact that the economy was already tightening. 

The Mitchell administration had fought all the wrong battles – and lost the NGOs, the trade unions, the religious sector and the media. (It was a hard deficit for them to make up in other areas). 

There was another factor – for the first time in its history under Mitchell, NNP had to confront election campaign machinery that was sleeker, bolder and more disciplined than his was. 

Inspite of all of the above, three weeks before the election, internal polling had also shown that Thomas was losing his own seat – and a decision was taken to divert resources from many areas in an all-out effort that he pulls through.  In the end, he did so, by under 100 votes. 

Without that effort, and a last minute push in St Andrew’s South East as well, NDC would have won nine seats – and the government – without any last minute dash; and without Tillman Thomas. 

It is also instructive as to who was at the forefront of that push to ensure Thomas as leader wins his seat – even when it was known the party could have won “without” him and in that sense his seat was not crucial. 

They are all those who are today referred to, conveniently as “the rebels”. 

In fact there is a firsthand encounter I can relate. I had personally approached a very senior member of the party – who is now a very powerful man in the cabinet – to join this effort to ensure the leader wins his seat. 

I was told by that person, he has his own seat to win (even though everybody else felt he was safe), and don’t have time for that. 

If the media still have their records, they could check within the last month of the campaign which candidates showed up in St Patrick’s East. 

It is even more instructive, who did not show up. 

(But I will say more to that in a detailed forthcoming book). 

At the national level, a concerted effort was made to “hide” him in certain situations from fear he would “bring down” the campaign. In one instance George Prime, the then deputy was selected to give a rebuttal to a national address by the then Prime Minister – and there was a neat spin as to why it was Prime and not the political leader. 

There was a clear instruction to avoid a national debate with NNP leader Keith Mitchell – and the fact that a debate was avoided without looking as if he was running away from a fight – was one of the successes of the 2008 NDC campaign.

·       (ii) No Tilly, No NDC!

Even before this current blow-out, a poll as late as last October showed that 60 percent of NDC members thought the party would perform better with someone else than the current leader. 

At the last general convention, most delegates – including from his own constituency – voted against what was some of his clear wishes.

NDC may not survive in the short term not because it is led or not by Tillman Thomas, but because of how the current crisis has been managed.

In fact if there was a disciplined change, it would have had a positive impact.

(iii) It’s the “revolution boys” causing problems

People who make that argument with a straight face, conveniently leave out some historic facts.

(a)   There is only one member of the RMC who became a member of any cabinet post-revolutionary Grenada - and that is Nazim Burke. No other person was a member of the RMC; and no other government except this one had an ex RMC.

(b)  Tillman’s two advisers and ‘hit-men’ in cabinet – Burke and Glen Noel – are boys of the revolution. (So it’s like two versus one). 

I just make those points for what they are worth – though I am not one of those who jump on this bogey for convenience.

For those who further argue that they have changed – I ask – so is it only those two can change?

But to carry on this argument, is to simplify – in fact distort – the problems facing Grenada right now.

It is not an ideological problem. It is not am ambition problem. It is a leadership problem.

To make any other argument, is to begin not getting to the root of the problem in seeking to find a solution.

(More tomorrow).

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Another opinion on the Grenada situation 

The article below was published today in the Sunday Sun newspaper of Barbados, and felt made interesting reading -- and I thought that I'd share with this audience for what its worth.

by Peter Wickham,
Political Consultant & Pollster

Instability in the NDC administration of PM Tillman Thomas is nothing new since it has been plagued with challenges since its 2008 election.  In many ways, Thomas is unique since he actually won an election and in so doing defeated Dr. Mitchell who is eminently stronger and more charismatic. 

Notwithstanding, Thomas is more comparable to leaders such as the former PM of St. Lucia Stevenson King, Sir Lloyd Sandiford and PM Stuart of Barbados, all of who appear(ed) to be somewhat “unnatural” leaders. 

Generally leaders who fall into this type of classification do not win the types of internal battles within parties that allow them to ascend to the leadership, but take over in situations where a government is handed to them upon someone’s death. 

Thomas is therefore unique in this regard and this raises the obvious question regarding the reasons why he has prevailed over several more likely candidates in the NDC.

This article will not attempt to answer that question, but instead seeks to make comparisons with the Sandiford administration of 1991-94 which ultimately went-under due to a successful no-confidence vote. 

Although the date for the Grenada vote is yet to be scheduled, there are already several curious similarities between the two scenarios, not least of which is the leadership style of the two Prime Ministers which did/does little to help sustain these fragile administrations. 

Like the Sandiford administration, the Thomas administration faces major economic challenges brought about by a global recession and like Sandiford, Thomas also faced internal challenges from party members who were uncomfortable with his leadership style.

A leader can confront challenges from within by using the proverbial carrot or the stick and it is significant that both leaders resorted to the stick with consequences that were (are) devastating for their political parties.  In both instances the political “stick” is only useful in the political short-term when wielded by this type of leader.  In the case of Sandiford, he forced his point until three senior Ministers had enough and resigned.  Shortly thereafter these gentlemen helped to bring him down in a vote of no-confidence and even after this; Sandiford used his political stick to call an election, thereby inflicting an obvious defeat on his own party and a somewhat extended sojourn in the political wilderness.

It could be argued that like Sandiford, Thomas’ political stocks at the constituency level were anything but impressive, since he won his seat in the 2003 election by only 45 votes and his party fell one seat short of winning that election which is a political sin that would have ended the career of most Caribbean leaders. 

Thomas could be classified as a political “lightweight” who could easily fall victim to internal attacks, the first of which came within a year when he reshuffled his cabinet and prompted the resignation of Environment Minister Michael Church.  Church has now been followed by Tourism Minister Peter David and Thomas has himself sacked former Minister Joseph Gilbert.

In all of this, PM Thomas has been resolute that he is fighting a battle between “good and evil” which leads one to assume that he represents the good and his opponents (within) the evil that he fights. 

This battle has now led the opposition to bring a vote of no confidence which again presents the PM with several options to use his “carrot” or “stick”.  There is no doubt in the mind of this author that PM Thomas will resort to the “stick” and hold his ground as he proceeds towards this vote in the same way that Sandiford did in 1994. He is clearly intoxicated by his mission in politics to fight evil and has presumably enlisted the assistance of the almighty in this battle.  He has therefore already replaced Minister David and in so-doing taxed the Grenadian treasury by creating a new Ambassadorial post.

The matter of what Thomas “ought” to do is an entirely different matter, since his actions are likely to do little to help the image of the NDC in the medium to long term.  

The Sandiford era demonstrated this clearly as Sandiford’s skilful use of the PM’s power to maintain his grip, did little to resolve the more fundamental issue of his own political stability.  He therefore triumphed with small victories in the short term, but the DLP paid the ultimate price when the matter was finally put to the voters in 1994.

In like manner, Thomas has met his challengers three times and it is entirely possible that he could survive this vote of no-confidence whenever it is called and continue in office until 2013.  His mission of “good” thereafter is likely to be considerably more challenging simply because his weakness are well-known and evidenced by his inability to keep a government with a 7 seat majority together. 

In comparison, Grenadians are acutely aware of the last five years of PM Mitchell who existed with the most tenuous single seat majority without a hint of instability.  If therefore Thomas is able to “purge” his cabinet and enjoin fresh recruits on his mission of “good”, it will perhaps not be long before a similar situation occurs since he will forever be the same person with the same weaknesses.

Against this background, the most recent poll of public opinion in Grenada is useful since it demonstrated that there was in November 2011 a -2% swing away from the NDC which is 1% shy of a defeat.

Moreover, a majority of Grenadians nationally indicated that they would be MORE likely to support the NDC if Thomas were NOT leading it into the next election. 

These statistics are compelling evidence that PM Thomas is anything but an asset to the NDC at this time and buttresses the opinion that by continuing to force his mission of “good” upon the country he is merely doing the NDC a disservice. 

In a perfect world, PM Thomas would take the moral high-road and exit gracefully while giving his party the opportunity to re-capture government in 2013; however he seems anxious instead to preside over an NDC defeat and a potentially long sojourn in the political wilderness.

Peter W. Wickham ( is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).