Friday, November 23, 2012

On the issue of trust

AN ISSUE that appears to light up the online community overnight has been the statement by Deputy Prime Minister Nazim Burke that he was not a member of the hated Revolutionary Military Council that was formed in Grenada in 1983.

Burke at the time, as reported elsewhere, was speaking on the You Decide television programme with host Byron Campbell on Wednesday night.

At the center of the discussion was the issue of trust – the argument Burke was making for the return to power of the NDC, in spite of him presiding over the country’s worst economic times perhaps in recorded history.

Setting off the firestorm was a caller’s assertion that Burke should not be speaking about trust given his political history – dating back to those difficult days of 1983.

I am always one who is careful not to use that old 1983 bogey against anyone – something that frankly has been overused in Grenada’s political context through the years.

But since it was being discussed overnight as an issue regarding trust, it became a relevant discussion again.

Burke was reported as saying: “Your accusation that I was a member of the RMC was false. You know that I was never a member of a military council.”

When host Byron Campbell sought a follow up asking him of his role as the Minister of Finance following the killing of Bishop, Burke said: “It is false.”

Burke said further: “I was never the junior minister of finance under the revolution.”

Here is the fact, as we were best able to ascertain from our research.

When the formation of the RMC was announced following the death of Bishop in 1983, Burke was not listed as a member of the 16 names announced on radio.

Those were mainly of military people, and included by some accounts Vincent Roberts – who is currently among those associated with the current administration.

Burke, from most accounts however, was the defacto Minister of Finance in the six days between the killing of Bishop and the US invasion – though there was no such formal position in the chaos.

His name was also mentioned as a nominee to “a civilian government” that was to have taken over within two weeks.

It has also been established that between the time of Bishop’s death and the US invasion, Burke had joined two military officials in meeting with business leaders in Grenada, to talk about “the economic policy” going forward.

His role was widely publicized at the time – and some historical records listed him as “a Ministry of Finance official” for the new government.

Burke may be technically right per se in that he was not a member of the council, but he was their finance guy, and headed the Ministry of Finance in the aftermath of the killing of Bishop.

He was widely regarded as a member of the inner circle following the death of Bishop.

He was reported by many accounts to be “physically on site organizing things” during the days of the now infamous “shoot-on-sight curfew.”

But after all these years, Burke has still refused to answer exactly where he was on the day Bishop was killed, and what did he do on that day and in the days in the aftermath.

There have been some tantalizing stories, but through the years he has never been one of those to discuss them – not even off the record nor in old talk.

But Naz committed no crime – and he must stop acting as if there is something to run from.

His attempts at denial over the years, that he “never held a gun nor killed a chicken,” have always rung disingenuous.

And those attempts to paint himself as what is he is not – is more troublesome that any “sins” he might have committed – real or imagined.

These are the things that go to the heart of the issue of trust – the very argument he was seeking to make the other night on television.

For me I have long forgiven any role he may have played in 1983 – then he was just an impressionable young man from Carriacou with burning ambitions of any average 20-something-year-old.

 I have been more concerned about the more mature Naz of 2002 – especially since this is the episode that I have more intimate and firsthand knowledge of.

To me and others, he still needs to explain exactly what his role was in 2002 in the plan to unseat Tillman Thomas as the leader of the NDC at the Gouyave convention.

What role did he play in getting the late Teddy Victor to front the push – and who are those in the end that scuttled it?

In understanding that period, we may all come to understand what has transpired in the last four years.

What stands out for me during the lead up to that convention was Burke’s now famous – or maybe infamous -- declaration that (in his words): “Tillman Thomas can’t lead me.”

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