A member of the ruling Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) constituency council in South Leeward is demanding a runoff to choose the party’s candidate for the next general elections, constitutionally due in December 2015.
“I am one of the persons who is not satisfied with the process, because the constitution of the ULP states that when you are electing a representative you have to have a runoff. And nobody is going to send anybody down here for me to support. They are not going to do that,” Edgar Cruickshank told I-Witness News on Sunday.
Political Leader of the ULP, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said that the leading contenders for the party’s nod in South Leeward – ULP senator, Jomo Thomas, and Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Grenville Williams, both of whom are lawyers — had agreed that a poll be used to decide which of their names will be forwarded to the party’s central executive.
Williams told I-Witness News in May that Thomas had been “declared” the candidate.
Since then, however, there have been talk in South Leeward and in the media about the outcome of the poll, with one newspaper reporting that the votes in favour of Thomas and former candidate for South Leeward, David Browne, were merged.
But Cruickshank, who is also known as “Cookie” and “The Man in Red” said that he doubts that a poll was conducted.
“I do not believe there was a poll taken, because nobody came to me and asked my opinion; nobody went to bottom Questelles; nobody went to Clare Valley. I believe this poll is a fictitious poll, not a genuine poll,” he told I-Witness News, adding that he has not met any resident of South Leeward who said they were polled.
Thomas, speaking on his radio programme, “Voices”, on Wednesday, said he and Williams agreed that they would abide by the results of the poll.
The poll was done in May, he said. “Every trending area that the party polled, I came out ahead. It is my understanding that Grenville Williams came in third in the poll,” Thomas said.
Thomas, however, said that since then, there have been statements on social media, that a new poll will be conducted.
Williams said on Facebook last week that a poll will be conducted in July.
(“Voices” last Wednesday’s was co-hosted by Kenton X. Chance, executive editor of I-Witness News)
Gonsalves did not comment on the details of the polls during an interview last month. Cruickshank, however, told I-Witness News that ULP General Secretary Sen. Julian Francis had told him (Cruickshank) that 30 per cent of the persons polled supported Browne, 29 per cent were in favour of Thomas, and 28 per cent wanted Williams to represent the ULP in South Leeward.
“I told the general secretary, well if David got 30 per cent, then let him run,” Cruickshank said. “They want to keep out Grenville. They want to keep out the best candidate we have,” he further said.
He said that in the past, runoffs were always used to select ULP candidates.
“Not only in South Leeward but all over the country. Even the Prime Minister, when he wants to run again, he usually has a runoff. So why change it now? Is our party becoming a dictator party? Our party is not a dictator party!
“Maybe they want to give Nature back the seat,” Cruickshank said in reference to South Leeward representative, Nigel “Nature” Stephenson, an opposition MP, who defeated Browne in the 2010 general elections.
Cruickshank said he believes Williams had “a hundred per cent” greater chance of winning than Thomas.
“Grenville is a better and a stronger candidate,” Cruickshank said, but added that he will support whoever emerges winner after a runoff.
“If we have a runoff and Jomo wins by a half a point, I am going to support him. No runoff; nothing.
“Even the NDP (New Democratic Party), who they say [is] not democratic [is] having runoffs. The ULP, who is democratic, behaving like they are dictators?”
Cruickshank said he encouraged Thomas, who is a founder member of the non-partisan pressure group People’s Movement for Change (PMC) to join the ULP, but was also upfront with him about his support for Williams as the party’s man in South Leeward.
“And he (Thomas) met me at the [ULP] convention [in February] and he said Cookie, “I have my eyes on South Leeward.’ I said, ‘Wha’ yo’ have yo’ eyes on South Leeward for? South Leeward done have somebody already.’ I say, ‘You live in West Kingstown. Why you don’t have your eyes on West Kingstown? Me say, ‘You are a town man; stay in town.’ He say he is not a town man he is a Vincentian. I say, ‘Well Grenville is a Vincentian and a South Leeward man’,” Cruickshank said, recounting his conversation with Thomas.
Thomas has said he has been living in South Leeward since returning to St. Vincent from the United States a decade ago, but a closer examination of the constituency boundaries suggests that he in fact lives in West Kingstown.
“Greenville born down Bottom Questelles down there; Jomo born Murray’s Village,” Cruickshank said and suggested that Thomas seeks to be a candidate in Central or West Kingstown.
Cruickshank was also displeased with comments that Thomas, who is also a newspaper columnist, made about Williams in a television programme on June 22.
“Jomo said on ‘Unrendered’ Sunday night that if he wasn’t a member of the ULP and Grenville was the candidate to run, he would have opposed Grenville because Grenville is the Director of the FIU. But the Prime Minister [,who is a lawyer,] deafened murderers and drugs men, and the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister. Why should Jomo go on ‘Unrendered’ and say that?” Cruickshank said.
He further said Williams began campaigning one week after the 2010 general elections.
“All the time, you (Thomas) have your own party say the party name PMC,” Cruickshank said.
“It’s a pressure group?” he responded when reminded that the PMC is not a political party.
“So he eased off the pressure? We continue to put on the pressure on Ralph,” Cruickshank added.
He further said he is convinced that ULP supporters in South Leeward will not vote in the next general elections if the candidate selection process is not seen as open and transparent.
“People not voting party again; people voting individuals. Just like how we say support the comrade; they never say support the ULP you know…
Cruickshank said when constituents went to see then MP for South Leeward, Dr. Douglas Slater “he used to say he can’t and come back later.
“I gave him name Dr. Later and Dr. Can’t and he had to go. … Slater was a complete failure,” he said of ULP member who represented South Leeward from 2001 to 2010.
“It is individuals, not party. I want you to put that in inverted commas. Me say people nah support party again, is individuals. The Prime Minister must send somebody down here to we selected from behind an iron curtain?” Cruickshank said.
“You must remember that they took many polls in East Kingstown saying that Luke Browne will win. And after, the election, what happened? [Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace won] big. We want the poll in the runoff,” he further said.
“The Prime Minister used to call me the ancient warrior. Now he forget that I am the ancient warrior now; he thinks that I throw way my spear? I ain’t throw away my spear,” Cruickshank said.
“All we want in South Leeward is a runoff. If Jomo wins the runoff, I will be supporting him one hundred and fifty per cent.
“The thing has to be settled. You can’t tell Grenville if he wins the poll down here, Grenville must support Jomo. No! That can’t happen…
“I registered over 100 persons who will support Grenville to be members of the party. I have the names of all of them, and when the time comes to vote, I am going to call them,” said Cruickshank, who told I-Witness News that he is a political heavyweight in the constituency.
He said it seems that Gonsalves is avoiding him, but he had told the political leader in January that he supports Williams as the candidate.
“I said if David backs down I am going to support Grenville; so he knows that,” Cruickshank said.
But Cruickshank seems to have since been convinced that Browne “couldn’t win again”.
“David throw himself under the bus. … David let us down. When David didn’t come to convention was the biggest mistake,” he said.