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HomeEditorialIdolizing party leaders – a seemingly dangerous practice!

Idolizing party leaders – a seemingly dangerous practice!

This week we ask the question ‘Is it prudent to idolize party leaders?’ As we follow Grenadian politics, time seems to be telling us that that is a dangerous practice. However, this seems to have taken root even while it has all to do with the downfall of political parties. We should have learnt from the past the negative effects it brings to the parties. Most people are of the opinion that the leader of the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) Sir Eric Gairy ran the party as his own private property. So according to a soca artiste – Black Wizard in song, the party was Gairy and Gairy was the party which is buried with him in the St George’s Centre cemetery.

The main opposition during the reign of Sir Eric, was led by a group of learned men, some of them were young lawyers. We followed how MAP and the Jewel Movement merged to form the New Jewel Movement to play a key role in the overthrow of the GULP which they referred to as Gairy’s party. They chose a day when Sir Eric was out of Grenada attending a United Nations meeting, to oust him with a coup d’état in 1979. They knew that it was a prudent move to get rid of him as the leader, in order to quash the GULP party since Gairy was hard to beat at the polls. Many attempts were made to revive it after Gairy’s death; but, they all failed. People may remember Gloria Payne-Banfield being elected as the leader at one point. Then there were the efforts of Mr Hayes who ended up in tears on GBN.

The Revolutionary government (PRG) in its vision then, selected Maurice Bishop as the prime minister (de facto). But unfortunately for him, his amicable style quickly made him the favourite with the masses. As time went by, in a similar manner to what happened during the GULP government, Maurice became the Revolution and the Revolution became Maurice which did not work well for him as it seemed to have led to an eerie kind of jealousy which caused trouble in their camp. We have deduced that from a book written by a one-time comrade- Teddy Victor and another by High court judge – Godfrey Smith. However, notes released from meetings from the last months of the Revolution seem to suggest that Bishop also was too slow in getting on board with the communist system they wanted to introduce to Grenada. This is still seen by many, as the reason for the fiasco in October 1983. Unseating him was certainly not a quiet feat; many people lost their lives along with him on that fateful day at Fort George which seems to have brought an end to the New Jewel Movement.

When Grenada settled down after the US intervention, there were definitely some efforts to revive the revolutionary spirit. Close friends of Maurice started the Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement (MBPM) 1984 on African Liberation Day. That move was led by George Louison and Kenrick Radix (both now deceased). It was during the incarceration of Bernard Coard and the others who were found guilty for the October 19 event. MBPM even ventured into the general elections and received a few votes. However, where is that movement today? Followers of the Revolution who are still alive, have formed themselves into two main factions; those who are still supporting Bernard Coard and those who will never stop idolizing Maurice Bishop. At events in October, one can hear little references being made of the NJM, but that seems to be it for now. The Revolution remains Maurice Bishop to date.

With all that said and done, what is happening at this time with the New National Party (NNP) is no surprise. The party has simply followed the old unofficial rule as in the past, and according to utterances by former member of Parliament Anthony Boatswain, it has allowed the leader-Dr Mitchell, to spend too much of his personal monies to finance the party. So, in essence, he has bought the NNP- or so it seems as he holds on to the leadership role with no signs of backing down despite strong calls for him to do so.

There are some people who are of the opinion that the leadership should be passed on to Peter David – a member of the NNP as a result of being expelled from the old National Democratic Congress (NDC) under Tillman Thomas. As one time captain in the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) and the son of a prominent member of the business community, Peter seems to be very popular in certain circles. Truth be told, he is a likeable person, but will his popularity cause him to overshadow the rest of the people who work hard behind the scenes should he become the leader of the NNP?

Today there is a new NDC party in government. It is led by Hon Dickon Mitchell who seems to be the ‘people’s choice,’ He seemingly is commanding a great level of popularity and love. In fact he seems to be idolized by the masses in a similar manner to Maurice Bishop. What have we learnt from the past? When will we get it that hero-worshipping the leader of a political party can cause it to be precariously perched on the shoulders of one man and stands to be easily blown away into oblivion with him?

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