Written by G.A. Dwyer Astaphan Posted On: Thursday, 24 May 2012
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Basseterre, St. Kitts, (Thursday, 24th May 2012)-It’s no secret.
For years, the Leader of the incumbent Labour Party, Dr. Denzil Douglas, hasn’t been on the best of terms with the Party’s Deputy Leader, Mr. Sam Condor, and its Chairman, Dr. Timothy Harris.
His complaint has been that their less than committed, supportive, loyal and respectful conduct has hurt the team spirit, the unity and the success of the Cabinet, the Government and the Party.
Especially Mr. Condor who, by his public comments and actions over the last nine months or so has, in the mind of Dr. Douglas, just about reached the point of no return.
Meanwhile, Messrs. Condor and Harris have been complaining for years about a number of governance issues and Dr. Douglas’ leadership style, his imperiousness, his disrespect for them, and so on.
So while Dr. Douglas wanted the two gentlemen to get in line and behave themselves, they wanted him to become more democratic-minded, respectful and transparent in leadership, or to move on. While he felt that their behavior was out of order, they felt that he had run the Labour Party and the Government off course.
Over the years, the issues have been discussed, argued, and quarreled, and a number of meetings and retreats held.
In those meetings and retreats, one fundamental issue kept raising its head: they felt he should change his leadership style and attitude, but he felt that nothing was wrong with what he was doing and the way he was doing it, and that if any adjusting was to be done it was they who would have to adjust to him.
So no progress was ever made. Indeed, the meetings and retreats served only to harden their respective positions to the point where Dr. Douglas wanted the two gentlemen out of the way, and they wanted him out of the way.
But there was a fundamental difference in terms of being “out of the way”.
If Dr. Douglas was to be put out of the way, it meant that he’d no longer be Party Leader and Prime Minister. And neither of the two gentlemen was likely to challenge him in the Party’s Annual Conference, or to line up in a vote of no confidence vote against him in Parliament, so while they could mumble and murmur as much as they wanted, he was safe.
On the other hand, as long as he remained at the helm, he could put the two of them out of the way even while they remained in Cabinet and in the Party’s Executive, by marginalizing, weakening and embarrassing them, and turning his propaganda machine against them to make them look like the bad guys.
He could even tolerate them up to the next general elections, by which time they’d be severely weakened, and he’d advise the Party that on the evidence, it would clearly not be in its best interests for them to be candidates. He could say:”It’s they who’ve been going on, you know. Not I. And you all notice that I didn’ t fire them from the Cabinet”.
And this option would get support from a number of soft Labour supporters and independent voters who, by that time, would’ve come to the conclusion anyway that Messrs. Condor and Harris were weak, and, by that time, perhaps short on credibility too.
So while sacking them as ministers or trying to have them removed from the Party Executive were within his capability, it wasn’t necessary and, in any case, it could backfire badly against him.
Another option available to him would be to make the case discreetly that by the time the next elections come around, Mr. Condor will be a spent force while Dr.Harris is the natural successor as Party Leader and Prime Minister, and that the people of Constituency 7, as well as those of Constituency 3, and, indeed, the rest of the country, ought simply to let nature take its course, by letting Mr. Condor go in peace, with bells and whistles thrown in for good measure, and allowing Dr. Harris to take the top spot, say, one or two years into Labour’s fifth term.
That could inspire some voters, notwithstanding the loss of a good man like Mr. Condor(presuming, of course, he chooses not to fight), to rally around Labour, persuaded and hopeful as they might be, that at long last Dr. Douglas would at last be stepping aside for the young, bright, but experienced Dr. Harris.
Of course, those who might embrace this option would do so with some risk. Because it could be a trick, and by time the Constituency boundaries are adjusted and the elections held, Dr. Harris and the people of Constituency 7 could be left scratching their heads and wondering what the hell just happened, with him either winning his seat but with no allies in the Cabinet, or not even being in Cabinet, or, worse still, not even being in Parliament.
I’m not raising this option because I distrust or disrespect Dr. Harris or his loyalty to Mr. Condor. On the contrary. But, truth be told, I don’t even know if I’d blame him for considering it, because from his perspective, and given the maxim that “politics is the art of the possible”, he might see it as the best available and most realistic way forward for the country, the Party and himself , short of intervention from the Almighty. So it would be hard, even perhaps foolish, to rule out this option.
If Dr. Douglas is to pursue it, he will have to( and maybe he has already started to)look to make peace with Dr. Harris, but it would have to be discreetly done.
Meanwhile, leading up to last week’s Party Conference, on the face of things it seemed that peace was the last thing on some people’s minds.
Dr. Douglas had set up a series of meetings with Constituency groups. He was apprehensive about meeting with the groups from Constituencies 3 and 7 on his own, so a plan was devised to meet with two groups at a time, Constituencies 5 and 6 at first, I think, then 1 and 2, then 7 and 8, and finally 3 and 4.
The plan was to put pressure on Mr. Condor and Dr. Harris, further to the propaganda that was already floating around the street and the internet, and to build support in all Constituencies for what was to come at the Party’s Conference on Sunday, May 20th.
Also attending the meeting of Constituencies 3 and 4 were a number of persons from elsewhere, apparently for Dr. Douglas. Two of them, curiously, were high-ranking individuals in our country’s security agencies
Now as the Conference date approached, Constituency Groups decided who they would support in the elections for posts on the Party’s Executive. And despite the intense efforts made to the contrary, Constituencies 1,2,3,4 and 7 chose to support Mr. Condor as Deputy Leader and Dr. Harris as Party Chairman. And the Party Executive and the Party Leader ought to have known that, and before the Conference Program was printed.
Nevertheless, the efforts continued. And on Saturday, May 19th, when the news started to flow on the internal grapevine that Dr. Asim Martin’s name was to be put on the Conference program to go against Mr. Condor and Mr. Cedric Liburd’s to challenge Dr. Harris, the Chairman of one Constituency Executive went ballistic.
After all, with five Constituencies indicating their support for Mr. Condor and Dr. Harris, there’d be no need for an election. Unless someone was looking to embarrass Messrs. Condor and Harris.
So who gave the order? Who chose to disrespect, defy, undercut and bypass the Executives of five different Constituencies? Whatever happened to democracy in an organization which, more than any other in the nation, and probably the entire region, can boast of such a proud record in the struggle for the right to vote and for social justice?
But it gets even uglier.
The age-old practice had been for each Constituency to have 35 delegates at the Conference.
Last year, at least two Constituencies were allowed to bring over 100 delegates each, ready to vote and ready to intimidate. A number of the delegates weren’t financial, and their dues were brought up to date by generous individuals.
One such generous individual who resides in the Caribbean had been the main financier in both 2011 and 2010. Maybe the only one.
Likewise this year, a number of attendees had their dues paid by someone else, although I don’t think that that particular individual was tapped for money, or at least, not yet.
Also, persons who hadn’t attended Conference for a number of years, and some who’d never attended at all, were given invitations, and when they reached the Marriott they learned that their dues had been paid up.
In addition, persons who were neither part of Constituency delegations nor the Party Executive were very much present and ready to do their thing.
The evidence leads me to believe that if the votes had been put to the floor, Mr. Condor and Dr. Harris might’ve been defeated, and, in any event they would’ve been embarrassed. For sure, chaos would’ve ensued.
Dr. Douglas knew that. And he didn’t want the chaos and the fallout that would’ve followed on a larger scale. Indeed, from the political-strategic perspective, he didn’t necessarily want or need the two gentlemen to be out of their posts, or even out of Cabinet, because (i) he holds the high cards, (ii) they’re already marginalized in the Cabinet anyway, and (iii) time is in his side.
But they had to be put in their places.
Now, they all went to the Conference on Sunday morning under much stress and tension. Something was going to happen, one way or the other. They all felt it. They knew it. So right after the public session in the morning, there was a top-level meeting.
A very heated and long one. And it wasn’t until about 6 p.m. that the Conference was able to resume. Meanwhile, the rank and file were also gripped in tension as they waited. Tempers flared, and people were agitated.
The persons who attended the top-level meeting agreed that in an effort to save the venerable 80-year old organization, there’d have to be an all-round effort to heal, to reconcile, and to foster unity.
On the basis of that, it decided that Dr. Martin and Mr. Liburd would stand down, and that Mr. Condor and Dr. Harris would remain in their posts, unopposed.
I’m all for the healing, the reconciling and the unity. Very much so. But if healing, reconciliation and unity are to come, certain persons will have to change their attitudes and their ways. And that’s going to be the real challenge.
I say this because, in my opinion, Dr. Douglas gathers his strength by dividing people, not by uniting them, and by manipulating and controlling people, not by freeing them up.
And as I’ve said before, in my honest and respectful opinion, he doesn’t possess the philosophical and attitudinal attributes of a true leader of the Labour Party. In my opinion, he’s simply a man who was in a rush to become Prime Minister of this country. And when he returned home from his studies in the 1980’s, I believe he came to the conclusion that the road was easier through Lee Moore than it was through Kennedy Simmonds. So he chose to ride Labour’s back to his destination.
That’s how I see it.
Meanwhile, as we watch and wait, he remains large ( figuratively, of course) and in charge. And in every other way, the status quo stands. Plus, time is on his side, by God’s grace.
Not surprisingly, the question is being asked : Who won?
For me, the question is : Who lost? And the answer is: We all did.