Chair of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Dr. Linton Lewis, speaks at the party’s convention on Sunday. (IWN photo)

Chair of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Linton Lewis, has criticised party members who say that they only joined the NDP because of the leader.

In a speech that some NDP supporters dismissed as axe-grinding and blaming others for his four electoral defeats, Lewis told the NDP’s extraordinary convention on Sunday that the party’s constitution, rather than the leader is “supreme”.

“There are times when we have heard some people say, ‘Because of Arnhim Eustace I joined the party.’ Those who make that statement always invoke concerns about their sincerity and intentions and for the most part they demonstrate by their conduct little or no commitment to the New Democratic Party,” Lewis said.

The convention was called to elect a new leader, after Arnhim Eustace, MP for East Kingstown, stepped down as NDP president and Leader of the Opposition earlier this month, after 16 years.

MP for the Northern Grenadines, Godwin Friday, until his elevation, one of the NDP’s two vice-presidents, became leader of the NDP on Sunday after the other candidate, St. Clair Leacock, the other NDP vice-president withdrew at the last minute.

Some delegates showed some displeasure at Lewis' speech. (IWN photo) Some delegates showed some displeasure at Lewis’ speech. (IWN photo)

Lewis noted to the gathering at the NDP’s headquarters, Democrat House, in Kingstown that it was the NDP’s constitution that gives delegates the power to choose the party’s leader.

“Therefore, it is the constitution and not the leader who is supreme,” Lewis said.

His comments came among mutterings among some delegates that the speech was a campaign delivery ahead of next year’s convention, should Lewis choose to stand for re-election as the party’s chair.

If Lewis seeks another term as the NDP’s chairman, he will face at least one challenger, Daniel Cummings, MP for West Kingstown, who has already signalled that he will make his third attempt to become the party’s chairperson.

Lewis had narrowly retained the chairmanship of the nation’s oldest party in a three-way challenge that included then NDP member Anesia Baptiste, who has since left the NDP and founded the Democratic Republican Party, and MP for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings.

When faced another challenge from Cummings at the NDP’s last convention, the vote ended in a tie and Cummings withdrew, saying that since Lewis was the incumbent and wasn’t defeated, he should continue in the role.

MP for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings, left, listens to the speech by Lewis (not seen) at Sunday's convention. (IWN photo)
MP for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings, left, listens to the speech by Lewis (not seen) at Sunday’s convention. (IWN photo)

Some NDP supporters believe that some of Lewis’ comments on Sunday were aimed at Cummings, who has repeatedly said publicly that he joined the NDP because of Eustace.

Sources in the know tell iWitness News that NDP supporters are displeased with Lewis’ performance and are likely to vote against him en masse in next year’s general convention, should he stand for any position.

Among other things, they say that he has failed to attend important party events, including one last week in East St. George, where he made his last three attempts to win a seat.

Further, party insiders say Lewis is yet to travel around the constituency and use a public address system to thank those constituents who voted for him in the December 2016 general elections.

Leacock, the NDP vice-president, told a recent NDP press conference that Lewis had asked for some time off from party matters to focus on personal matters.

Lewis, a lawyer and accountant, had said earlier this year that his future in politics is now uncertain and hinted at this again on Sunday, saying he was preparing “to open another important chapter in my life”.

East Kingstown MP, Arnhim Eustace, left, reacts to Lewis speech ahead of Sunday's vote to choose Eustace's successor. (IWN photo)
East Kingstown MP, Arnhim Eustace, left, reacts to Lewis speech ahead of Sunday’s vote to choose Eustace’s successor. (IWN photo)

It is, therefore, not yet clear if he would seek re-election as NDP chairman or will run for any other position on the executive.

In the December 2015 elections in East St. George, Lewis lost to the ruling Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) first-time candidate, Camillo Gonsalves, a former diplomat and minister of foreign affairs and son of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

At the convention, Lewis said that when people say they only joined the NDP because of the leader, “they ignore the noble existence of the other candidates and disrespect the power and authority that was given to you, the delegates and other members of the New Democratic Party.

“The makers of that most unfortunate statement will never recognise or accept the decisions that you make at the annual convention especially if it is not consistent with their own intentions,” Lewis said in the speech in which he told delegates that they are not “voting cattle”

He said a statement about joining a political party because of the leader “is normally the starting point for the erosion of the institutions of the party and an infection of the authority of leadership which can lead nowhere but to confusion, strive and ultimately, disunity”.

Lewis said the NDP’s constitution, being supreme, outlines the principles upon which a person becomes a member of the party.

“There is nothing wrong in saying that you support the party because of the leader or you support the leader of the party. That is everyone’s right so to do. A person can support a party without being a member of that party. However, to say that you join the party because of the leader is a completely different statement. If you join the party because of Dr. Friday or Mr. Leacock what will happen when they are no longer around? Those who said that they joined the Party because of Mr. Eustace are they still with the party now that Mr. Eustace is no longer around? Will they be committed to the party under the leadership of Dr. Friday or Mr. Leacock?”

Coverage of the open session of the #NDPSVG's extraordinary convention.

Posted by iWitness News on Sunday, November 27, 2016

2 replies on “Linton against persons joining NDP because of the leader”

  1. Linton is right! I see nothing wrong with his statement. People should look at the ULP to see what happens when the emphasis is placed on the leader and not the people who elected him. No one dear question Ralph for his behaviour and actions. That’s why Linton message is right on target. Vincentians have lost their voices for so long that they don’t know how to be independent.
    I too believe he should drop out of the next election as a candidate, but that doesn’t mean he should give up on the party. I see Ralph’s attitude and behaviour in many NDP candidates and that’s why I refuse to even consider them to lead SVG. All one has to do is listen to these guys speak and you can easily tell where they are coming from.
    Some Vincentians don’t like to hear the truth and that’s why Ralph can lie all day and they still ask for 4 more years. The AIA issue is a typical example of how stupid some folks can be when the truth is steering them in the face. The next was the introduction of Cubans to remove dirt for the airport. No one could see that crooked Ralph had made a deal with all those crooked leaders in Venezuela and Cuba to use Cubans at the airport.
    So I must again repeat that Linton is right and the power should be in the hands of the people and not in the hands of a dictator like Ralph. Life in SVG can never return to a normal state until he people are once again united. The result of a divided and lawless country is showing up in the numerous murders taking place on a daily basis.
    One more word of advice for the NDP: Start looking and updating the voters’ list now. I am sure there are folks with computer skills who can build a database of all voters in SVG. Don’t allow the person in charge of election issues tell you who’s on or off the list. Use people in constituencies to verify the accuracy of the list every 3 or 4 months. When people move to other towns or villages it should also be noted.
    Last but by no mean least is the reintroduction of voluntary town/village councils through SVG. That’s one way to keep in touch with the people and hear about their issues. Some politicians believe they know what people want and try to implement issues that don’t address what folks need.

  2. Linton, I don’t think this the time for this type shenanigan. The country needs to come together to start rebuild as one people…people before party!!!

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