Former senator for the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Anesia Baptiste, believes that the party is being affected by public distrust that it would, in fact, be different from the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP).
Baptiste, who is founder and leader of the small Democratic Republican Party (DRP), told iWitness News that she is open to re-joining either of the two major political parties.
She, however, said that the NDP’s political philosophy is closer to hers.
Baptiste left the NDP in 2012 after being fired as a senator by then opposition leader, Arnhim Eustace, over a strongly-worded letter she wrote him expressing disagreement with an NDP politician about not speaking adversely about people’s religions.
The ULP administration brought 16 charges against Baptiste in 2010 in connection with her successful joint campaign with the NDP convincing voters to reject proposed changes to the nation’s constitution.
The NDP, in November, selected Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines, Godwin Friday, until then also a party vice president, as party leader and leader of the opposition.
He replaced Eustace who had held both positions for 16 years.
Asked if she thought anything had changed with the NDP after it elected a new leader, Baptiste told iWitness News it was too soon to say.
“I have listened to Mr. Friday’s pronouncements, including your first live interview like that, with him — I commend iWitness News with that — and I listen to him talk about being inclusive, being willing to work with Vincentians generally speaking wherever you are in terms of the political spectrum if you believe that we need change and we need to remove this current government and having a government in place to do better. And he has said, basically, that he is willing to work with everybody, and that’s good,” she said in reference to comments Friday made in a Facebook Live interview with iWitness News in December, the first of its type in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
She, however, said that she cannot “make a proper judgment as yet as to whether his style and his operation would represent any significant change that people feel the NDP need to make to really make the difference that they would like to see”.
Baptiste said she believes radical change is needed “from the beginning to the end, in terms of the image of the party, the public relations, the public awareness of its work and so on; the importance of having one message and that [message] being resonated by all the spokespersons of the party.”
She told iWitness News that the NDP needs “that kind of united voice and there must be great convincing of the general public that you are not going to go there and do the same thing that they see happening, because I think there is still a lot of concern, distrust that politics would truly be different if we move from the current administration to an NDP administration, which, by the way, people feel they’ve seen before.”
The NDP, the nation’s oldest political party, has to be able to “really distinguish itself, from the old type of politics or even the old NDP in previous times, which was removed from office at a certain point, and really different from what currently obtains.”
The NDP, which came to office in 1984, was voted out of office in 2001, after it agreed, under the pressure of political unrest, to early elections, which came during the first half of its fourth consecutive term in office.
Baptiste told iWitness News that that the type of change needed in the NDP “is not only going to be represented in the change of a figurehead but general adjustment throughout the structure and the mannerisms of the party.
“A lot of work has to be done on the ground to convince people that you really are going to represent something different. And you need to understand your strengths from your weaknesses and understand who you can work with to give you the kind of national impact and the kind of national outreach that is necessary to make people believe that you are the change they need.”
Baptiste, however, said that she is not going to tell the NDP “exactly what to do” but added that she believes that a different type of politics is needed in the country and that is why she has the DRP.
“But it has to be genuine. It mustn’t just be talk, and it mustn’t just be accessing physical images but genuine change from the root; from the bottom, from the ground, in the behaviour, consistently, etc.”
The DRP’s six candidates were only able to attract 154 of the 65,504 valid votes cast in the December 2015 general elections, with Baptiste herself polling 45.