Grenada's government near collapse
BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 10/4/2012, 2:15 p.m.
This week, the political faction that supports Grenada's embattled Prime Minister Tillman Thomas voted to expel several key members, including former cabinet ministers, from its ranks in a bitter row that has engulfed the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Grenada. The crisis threatens the NDC's continued hold on government just months before general elections are scheduled to be held on the island.
The move at a special sitting of the Congress followed months of political infighting aimed at dislodging Thomas, who many of the more outspoken members of the party believe is not militant enough and could lose the next elections scheduled for next year.
When the Congress met in special session over the weekend, pro-Thomas members voted to expel General Secretary and former Foreign Minister Peter David and ex-cabinet members Joseph Gilbert, Karl Hood, Arley Gill, Glynnis Roberts and former Congress committee member Siddiqui Sylvester, blaming them for bringing the party into public disrepute.
To critics observing the past year of bitter infighting, the move could spell doom for them whenever Thomas decides to call general elections. To opposition supporters, the slow but steady implosion of the NDC represents a chance for the main opposition New National Party (NNP) to return to power after a brief five-year hiatus.
The NNP had run the country for 15 consecutive years before losing out to the NDC, including the 1999 general elections, which then-Prime Minister Keith Mitchell had prevailed in all 15 constituency seats--at that point a record for the island of just over 100,000, situated just north of oil- and gas-rich Trinidad and Tobago.
Recently, David and others had, for the second time in months, pushed for the island's parliament to debate a no-confidence motion against Thomas, as they seek to dislodge him and replace him with a new leader and head of government to face the NNP with a new and, presumably, more "vibrant leader."
To stave off possible defeat, Thomas, an attorney at law, has ordered the dissolution of Parliament to kill off debate about his future as head of government in the clearest sign yet that he will both go down fighting and possibly take the party with him, including rebels like David, and serve out his full term as well.
Americans know a bit about the island, which is known for its magnificent harbor as well as nutmeg and other spices after the Ronald Reagan administration invaded the island back in October 1983 to stave off an alleged communist offensive by the Cubans and Russians in the aftermath of yet another implosion of an island government.
Back then, two factions in the then-New Jewel Movement fought each other to such an extent that one side executed Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and six other cabinet ministers in a row over the political and ideological direction of the government smack in the middle of the U.S. backyard.
That it is happening again though, at the civil, rather than military, level has brought back memories about a government collapsing within itself once again, and some of the same players, though not as politically senior as this time, are involved once again.
Thomas, who has not been saying too much as events play out in public, has been forced to sack or replace several ministers, including one who refused a transfer and demotion to another ministry and to accept criticism about taking his country in the wrong direction.
"The dreams and aspirations of [the] July 08, 2008 [elections] 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," said Roberts.