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Sir James Mitchell made a glorious return to the political platform Sunday when he addressed the 29th Annual Convention of the New Democratic Party (NDP).

The party founder’s appearance was well received by party faithfuls, and his entrance into the NDP’s headquarters, Democrat House, was greeted by cheers. Sir James was mobbed as he was announced, then entered the overflowing hall, smartly dressed in suit and tie. It must have been an emotional moment for the now retired grand old man of Vincentian politics, as he returned to share wisdom with the party he had founded 30 years ago.{{more}}

Rising to speak following presentations by Dr. Linton Lewis and former Trinidad and Tobago Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, he showed that he still maintained the wit, eloquence and picong which had endeared him to the Vincentian electorate over the course of his 34-year political career. This was an occasion when he came to clear the air on several fronts.

He declared that the secret to his “continued good appearance and health” was “a clear conscience and good wine”, which sent his supporters wild.

Sir James gave an explanation of his connection to the man he picked to replace him as Prime Minister and leader of the NDP. He recounted that his mother had lived next door to the Eustace’s at Edinboro when Arnhim Eustace was born, and he was one of the first persons “to pick up the young thing.” Thus, “this thing”, being the relationship with Eustace, had been started by Sir James’ mother “long ago”.

Sir James said he had just completed writing his memoirs which he enjoyed doing “from 4.00 each morning.” This book, he revealed, will be published in London and New York in October. He said he had taken much care with the language and boasted in true Mitchellian bravado that “You will see that once again Son Mitchell did something good.”

Turning back to the state of his health, he reported that he now has “two new knees” that cost US$30,000 which, he noted, was “more than the pension.” He then commented that he suffers each time he sees “someone hobbling along.”

He then moved to what he termed were his visions. They included the construction of the party’s headquarters and passing on the leadership to Arnhim Eustace.

“There are not many political leaders,” he said, “who would put party before themselves and pass on leadership.”

Sir James, who proceeded to dip into his political capital, recalled that he had a vision of a “property owning democracy” and of a country which would promote offshore tourism.

He recalled meeting the son of John Van Geest at a seminar in Oxford and noted that there was a waning interest in continuing the banana trade. He said upon his return, he asked the then Attorney General Carlyle Dougan to draft the articles of association for what became WIBDECO.

His vision included widening the Leeward highway in preparation for eventual hotel development. That process, according to Sir James’ account, was stymied because of the lack of proper airports here “a condition for going forward”.

At that point he took a pot shot at the current government’s plans for developing an airport at Argyle with a loose charge that the airport needs “one airport to land and one to take off'”.

On the subject of the Ottley Hall Inquiry, Sir James expressed confidence that “you can search as long as thy Kingdom you would not find that James Mitchell stole one cent”.

He then touched on the Grand Beach Accord. Sir James offered an explanation of the famous stroll that he and then opposition leader Dr. Ralph Gonsalves took which resulted in the 2001 elections being called constitutionally ahead of time. He declared: “If I give it to him, I’m here to take it back.”

Sir James later explained that he decided to settle the matter just between the two leaders since he wanted to prove to the Organisation for Defence of Democracy (ODD) that they were not important.

“I wanted to trust the people, not to declare a State of Emergency when the police were disloyal!” he echoed.

Sir James declared that the NDP was “the natural party of government. We only lend it to them for a while,” he said to loud applause.

“I take full responsibility for what I was doing in the name of the government,” he said. “People need to have experience of change.” Then, again playing to the crowd he declared: “The biggest mistake was to make government look easy!”

Before he wrapped up his address, he launched into song, though he confessed to not being a singer, which was very evident. His chosen hymn, targeted at the faithful, and maybe those who had wandered apart from supporting the party was “Come Home.”

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