Criticism levelled against Grenada’s Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, is unfair and for the most part insincere, says Nazim Burke, the deputy leader of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) party.
Thomas survived a test of his leadership last month but faced stinging criticism during a sitting in the House of Representatives.
Despite the turmoil and internal wrangling within the party, Burke says he and the vast majority of Grenadians at home hold Thomas in high esteem and are firmly supporting him.
“I believe that the criticism is politically instigated by a few people and we know who they are and we understand their motives,” Burke told Share while in Toronto last week for his son’s graduation. “These people are being exposed as time progresses and we are quite sure that, at the end of the day, people will see those criticisms for what they are. A lot of what you hear in the Diaspora has no currency at home and the vast majority of Grenadians are strongly behind the Prime Minister. The fact of the matter is that I do not see any real basis to level some of the criticism against him.
“The PM is a man who lives by principles and tries to implement them along the way. He’s ‘values-driven’ and he has said from the very outset of his entry into politics and from his leadership of the party in his manifesto and elsewhere that he believes that one of the conditions for prosperity in any society is stability. A condition for that is transparency in government, accountability to those who elected him, integrity in public life, respect for the role of law and respect for the institution of the state. These are not values that are inimical to hypocrisy.”
The NDC has also been in crisis. Three ministers – Peter David, Michael Church and Karl Hood – have resigned while Thomas dismissed Minister of Environment Joseph Gilbert for allegedly promising an American investor a casino gambling license. The cabinet was reshuffled for a fourth time a few weeks ago.
Burke, who taught Economics at George Brown College and maintained a law practice in Toronto in the 1990s before entering politics, has been relatively quiet on the turmoil. He says he has a reason for the silence.
“Internal conflicts within any organization – whether political or religious – ought not to be played out in the public,” said Burke who is the Minister of Finance, Planning, Economy, Energy & Co-operatives. “I think when disputes arise between like-minded persons in any organization, they have to find ways to resolve them without necessarily getting into a blame game. I have tried to live by that principle and as such I do not feel compelled to make any public castigation of anyone or to do anything outside the sense of personal responsibility that I hold. I am the deputy political leader of the party and therefore I owe a duty to the party to act responsibly and maturely and that’s what I try to do.”
Burke holds hope that the party can regroup and be a strong contender to gain constituents’ approval for a second straight term in political office.
“There is always a possibility among people that they can work together,” he said. “People do not have to agree to everything in order to agree to cooperate. I would not be the one pronouncing there is no possibility of the party working together. In fact, it’s my expectation that the party will find a way to rejuvenate itself and to win the next elections.”
Elections are constitutionally due to be held in Grenada before September 2013. The NDC won the last general elections by an 11-4 margin in July 2008.
When asked if he supports the idea of David, Gilbert, Church and Hood as NDC party candidates in the next general elections, Burke said it’s up to them to make that decision.
“It’s not for me to support or not support that idea,” he said. “It’s for them to decide whether they want to offer themselves to the public as candidates. It would be completely arrogant of me to be supporting or not supporting their decision. I believe that, as is consistent with democracy, every person who believes they wish to represent people and the cause is entitled to come forward and say I want to be a representative and it’s for the people to decide whether they so choose to have those persons as their representatives.”
Grenada, like most developing countries, has been hit hard by the worst economic recession in the last six decades.
Unemployment, which stood at 25.9 per cent when the NDP unseated the New National Party in the last general elections, is conservatively estimated now to be at least 35 per cent.
Burke said while Grenadians’ unhappiness with the lack of jobs is understandable, the government should not be solely held responsible for the labour crisis.
“Their position is understandable because in the present economic crisis that the world is facing, Grenada is not exempt from the consequences,” he said. “Obviously, with the slowdown of the world economy, Grenada, as a small open island developing state, is suffering from the consequences of the slowdown. We are not experiencing the level of buoyancy that will generate the type of jobs that people would like to see, so high unemployment is a natural outgrowth of that circumstance as it is in most parts of Europe, the United States and the Caribbean.”
By RON FANFAIR