No Confidence Motion threatens wobbly Grenada government

By: Rawle Titus

The scathing attack from information minister Glen Noel was targeted directly at some of his cabinet colleagues.

But Noel might not have bargained for the political firestorm his attack ignited within the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) party.

A secret video recording of his charge that his own cabinet colleagues were plotting to remove Prime Minister Tillman Thomas went viral on the internet and escalated simmering tensions.

Since then, a second minister has resigned and a second minister has been fired from the cabinet and now the Thomas administration is potentially four votes away from possible collapse about a year before the next general elections are due.

“It is very clear what we have been seeing that we are facing a very dysfunctional government…a government that lacks leadership and direction” declared former Prime Minister and leader of the main opposition New National Party Dr. Keith Mitchell, who has brought the No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Thomas to be debated in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

 “We would be abdicating our responsibility as leaders of this country in the opposition if we fail to bring to light the plight of the people in this dismal situation of governance that we are now facing,” Dr. Mitchell explained.

His NNP, which controls 4 of the 15 seats in the House of Representatives, needs support from at least 4 Government MPs for the No Confidence Motion to carry.

Already, speculation has shifted to which one of the Government MPs who have fallen out of favor with the Thomas administration is most likely to support the motion.

They include former Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister Peter David who resigned last month after Noel named him among Government ministers allegedly seeking to remove Thomas; and Joseph Gilbert the  Environment Minister who was fired from the cabinet earlier this year for promising American investors a casino license.

“It’s premature to ask me or anyone for that matter how he or she would vote. But my advice would be that this is a very serious motion” said Michael Church, who resigned from the cabinet in 2010 after he was demoted.

“Democracy offers us opportunities at times that must be taken seriously and deep consideration must be given to the motion and decent debate should take place and let us see how the conclusions pan out”.

Another MP seen as likely to support the Opposition’s No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Thomas is Karl Hood the Foreign Affairs Minister who used his contribution in the 2012 National Budget debate to criticize the way the NDC government has operated during its almost four years in office.

Hood says he is still on the job and into the weekend has been denying that he has quit the cabinet amidst swirling rumors about his resignation – a story even reported by one of the local television stations.

Amidst signs that the wobbly Thomas administration faces the specter of implosion because of widespread dissatisfaction among cabinet members, Hood confirmed he visited the island’s Governor General Wednesday.

However he said it was not to discuss his resignation from the cabinet but for what he called a personal matter – without elaborating.

Prime Minister Thomas himself paid a visit to the Governor General Sir Carlisle Glean this week but denied suggestions that it was to discuss proroguing the parliament

“I have absolutely no intentions of doing this” Prime Minister Thomas told a local reporter.

“From time to time as Prime Minister I have a responsibility to meet the Governor General to discuss matters of national importance and I visit him occasionally as normal”.

The raging infighting has included the NDC chairman Stanford Simon and a group of elders of the party in separate statements accusing Prime Minister Thomas of dividing his own party.

The ongoing political drama has been fuelling speculation here over whether the Thomas administration will eventually survive its full term and the prospects of crumbling in a No Confidence Motion has not helped.

“It is a very cheap political manoeuvre which will be exposed for what it is at the sitting of the Parliament and will be defeated” insisted Finance Minister and Deputy Political Leader of the NDC Nazim Burke, the subject of widespread speculation about his role in the current infighting but who has largely avoided political comment.

“We are confident that the motion will not survive”.

The motion is item number 14 on the order paper for Tuesday and Burke is suggesting that Government will take the fight to the opposition by reviving allegations which have haunted the Mitchell administration in the later part of its 13 year rule.

“It will provide in fact a wonderful opportunity for the government to first of all expose the leadership of the former Prime Minister for what it was what it did to Grenada and of course to speak to the achievements of this government”Burke told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

“So we see this as an opportunity and we will deal with it as such,” Burke added.

 At least one Government MP, Social Affairs Minister Sylvester Quarless, has publicly stated his intention to vote against the motion.

“I am an NDC and I will stick with my party and with the Prime Minister and so on. That’s where it is,”said Quarless, the MP for rural St.Andrew’s South West, who was also named by Noel for his alleged involvement in the plot to remove the Prime Minister.

“There is no question as to which way I would vote. I haven’t even given it a second thought. I will be in parliament and I will be on the side of my government”.

Some political observers here believe some out-of-favour Government MPs may abstain since a vote for or against the motion could have adverse political implications for them.

“If the members of the David faction of the NDC decides to support that no confidence motion… I don’t know what they have to gain by supporting it” said Grenadian born Dr.Wendy Grenade who lecturers in political science at the Cave Hill campus at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

“…because then the prime minister could call elections like what happened in 1994 in Barbados. So I think with the no confidence motion we will have to wait to see what will happen”.

Early last year, a poll by local consultant Jude Bernard showed that NDC had lost significant ground and that NNP was leading in every demographic.

In October of last year, a poll conducted by Caribbean pollster Peter Wickham indicated that NDC would not win the next election under the leadership of Tillman Thomas.

Wickham believes the part of the membership of the NDC has lost confidence in Thomas and thinks the Grenadian leader should step down to avoid a humiliating exit from the political arena.

“The best thing for the NDC right now is for Tillman Thomas to go. Go before the vote of no confidence is held simply because I don’t know that the vote of no confidence will help” said Wickham.

“Whether or not he loses the amount of venom that will be spewed on the floor of parliament, whether the David faction abstains or whether they vote in favour of it the NDC has already been destabilized”.

But Prime Minister Thomas has insisted that his government is intact and says he is not worried about political uncertainties.

“If anything happens this is a democratic society. There are processes and procedures we have to follow based on what develops,” the Grenadian leader said.

“So I don’t think I have anything to worry about”.©

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