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ULP leadership without Ralph – Who is next in line?

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Thu, Apr 5. 2012

Editor: Pm Gonsalves is going downhill in terms of his age. In this current innings of his political career, he is showing signs of tiredness, having reached a high score already. This is clearly evident in his continuous calls for continuity of leadership in his ULP Party – and at the 11th anniversary celebrations of that party at Rabbaca on Sunday, April 1, 2012, he reiterated this call, urging younger folks in the party to stay on track, come forward and to improve themselves to take over the reigns of leadership in the ULP.{{more}}

With time, questions about his health would naturally surface as he gets older, as well as increased political pressure from differing political fields – the writing is already starting to show on the wall that an end is coming to Dr Gonsalves’ Innings in the game of competitive politics.

So, if today or tomorrow Dr Gonsalves is to become unable to perform functions as the leader of the ULP, who will take over the reigns of leadership for the medium to long term period?

Lets examine the situation – Mrs Girlyn Miguel, the deputy Prime Minister, is a wonderful lady – but she, too, is doing the last lap of her political innings – having been batting scince 1998, and with uncertainty as to whether she would contest the seat in the next general elections, among other factors. The other senior and experienced Ministers are Montgomery Daniel and Clayton Burgin.

Can we see Burgin or Daniel being Prime Minister of this country?

Even ULP supporters will tell you that it is not impossible, but they might say it is highly unlikely – considering Minister Burgin – he is qualified enough – but might lack the necessary charisma and may not be able to yield enough support to gain leadership of the party – he might be better suited in a position where he is pegged in the spot of a deputy Prime Minister – where the Prime Minister is a proactive and charismatic one and where his task would not be too demanding. With regard to Montgomery Daniel, recent issues may have affected public perception of him – for instance – pressure by the NDP on him to resign or be removed as Minister of Agriculture in relation to the handling of the Black Sigatoka issue, among other things, and the fact that in the last Cabinet reshuffle, he was removed as Minister of Agriculture and replaced by the young energetic Caesar. Political beatings on him for some statements made in parliament – towards the West Kingstown MP Mr Daniel Cummings would be another aggravating factor. Additionally, the public might have it that Daniel has not shown himself up as Prime Ministerial Material.

Who is left of the bunch?

There are four first timers in the business of 1st class competitive politics left – The first is the youngest, but most experienced, having served as both Junior Minister of Agriculture and Housing prior to being an elected member of Parliament. Saboto Ceaser has great potential, and many eyes are fixed on him in hope of taking over the reigns of leadership of the ULP.

In no doubt, he is suitably qualified, and confidence is shown in him by the Prime Minister – having moved a senior Cabinet minister from the Agricultural Ministry and replacing him with a younger, more energetic figure as Saboto is. Saboto has proven himself before in this said ministry, before being the official minister, and has shown brilliance being an island scholar and holding Master’s degrees.

In context – can we see the young Saboto as being the Prime Minister – if the current Prime Minister Dr Gonsalves suddenly becomes unable to continue to lead the party?

For one thing, the young Saboto sounds like the Prime Minister – both in voice and diction, and he seems very confident and sure of himself- but would the masses in the labour party endorse the young Caesar as party leader at this point, and if so, would the country accept him in such a capacity? Has he proven himself enough? Would the party hierarchy digest well, such a decision – given more experienced persons are there in the party?

These questions show concern over a present Saboto leadership, and at a point like this, you need to know defintely who you will put fingers on to be a leader to replace the charismatic Gonsalves if he is to suddenly be missing in action.

Let’s look at the other three – Maxwell Charles is thought of largely as under utilized potential – it was a definite shock that he was not placed as Minister of Foreign Affairs due to his experience in this field, or some other high profile Ministry – being the man, of course- whose lone Leeward Seat of Central Leeward undoubtedly led the ULP to victory in the last General elections. So where is he? Even after a Cabinet reshuffle, he is Minister responsible for National Reconciliation & Ecclesiastical Affairs. This shows that his very Leader does not value him much as a prospective Leader of the ULP anytime soon – and he seems to be the type to take what he gets. That is definitely not the type of characteristic a leader should have to steer a ship in this economical and political landscape.

As for Frederick Stephenson, where his seat is concerned, you know as a leader he is sure to win for the ULP. Having been there as Minister responsible for Social Development for just over a year, however, and with no prior experience, it would be is a definite political gamble at this time to replace Dr Gonsalves with Minister Stephenson. Someone like him could be nurtured as a prospective Deputy Prime Minister – and to stay in that post – even when a leader needs to be replaced. There he can keep things together.

CeCil Mc Kie is best suited where he is and should have been placed there in the first place as Minister of Sports and Culture, as well as Tourism, but as for replacing Ralph Gonsalves as Political Leader and Prime Minister, this writer just does not see it happening – but for whatever it is worth – they say all things are possible.

So in light of the above mentioned factors which are the opinions of this writer, having evaluated the current political standing of the ULP – particulary in the absence of a Dr Gonsalves – where does the ULP stand?

Persons like Rene Baptiste who were clear and confident choices for replacements for Dr Gonsalves are now out of the picture.

Young Luke Browne, Elvis Charles, David Browne and Michele Fyfe are all promising – but out of the picture, as they do not currently hold seats in the Parliament as elected Representatives.

When you examine the situation – you can see clearly why the Prime Minister is constantly pushing for continuity of Leadership within the party and why at Rabacca, he urged young persons to come forward and prepare themselves to take up the reigns of leadership of the party. Could there be someone bypassed who has the halo on their heads?

The appointment of Camillo Gonsalves as this country’s ambassador to the UN in recent years, the absence of a definite pick to replace Gonsalves as Prime Minister and Political Leader, if he is suddenly unable to lead the Party and the country, coupled with this event that has happened relating to the arrest of Ambassador Gonsalves, is creating the birth of a new movement – which will not only raise Ambassador Gonsalves’ political profile on the regional and international scene, but is already starting to sew seeds of support in the hearts of the labour masses – towards Ambassador Gonsalves here. He has growing international experience which a leader needs at this time, and his father’s legacy, along with an easy chance to win his father’s seat (North Central Windward) in a bye election – puts him in the list of picks for Political Leader and Prime Minister, if his father were to suddenly depart the political scene.

The opposition NDP with their communism talks has been trying to stymie the progress of this timeline of events regarding Ambassador Gonsalves’ political maturity and development, which seems to be a plan by the current political leader – but with his father’s support, he will be able to overcome the effects of this. Many different views on this issue will be generated – but only time will tell.

These are the views of “Black Star”

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