Last Sunday, July 31, the governing Unity Labour Party (ULP) held its national Convention at the Campden Park Secondary School.
Given the proximity of the Convention to Emancipation Day, the Party’s stated commitment to matters concerning Emancipation, Reparations and the forging of a progressive anti-colonial society, one would have expected that decisions of that august body would have been in tune with this background.
Interest in the Convention by both Party members and the general public was further heightened by speculation that after years of mere talk, the ULP was at last about to take a bold step in regard to the succession issue. Both Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and his deputy Montgomery Daniel have held Ministerial portfolios since 2001.
The speculation had been heightened by frequent comments by the Prime Minister himself that the Convention would at last take a decision in naming a new Deputy Political Leader with a view towards settling the succession issue.
But having made those pronouncements, Dr Gonsalves made an about-face in the weeks leading up to the Convention, saying that consensus had been reached within the party that its two leaders would continue in their posts.
Whatever the reasoning within the party, and in spite of the deafening silence from other members of the party leadership, the announcement that contrary to his earlier statements, there would be no new Deputy Political leader and that the present leadership would soldier on until the next general elections, literally pulled the rug from under the party’s Convention.
It was supposed to indicate a unified consensus on the part of the ULP, but from all reports, last Sunday’s Convention raised questions about this consensus. While we are not privy to the internal discussions of the Convention, it was clear in the open session that all were not in sync with this position. How, for instance, are we to interpret the shouts from the floor of “Caesar, Caesar” on the entrance of the Prime Minister? Did they refer to succession claims in favour of Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar, who along with Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves, son of the Prime Minister had been identified as probable successors?
Whatever the situation, the ULP cannot sweep the disquiet under the carpet. It cannot dismiss requests for frank and open discussions and a democratic resolution of the issue as being only inspired by opponents, not only of the party, but of progressive change itself.
The party and Prime Minister Gonsalves have a lot to their credit in terms of the economic and social development of our country. They cannot afford to kick the bucket down. Our country’s future comes before any personal or partisan consideration.