On the issue of leadership succession in the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), former senator Luke Browne says, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”
The former minister of health under the ULP administration let loose of his raucous laughter when he made the comment on Boom FM recently as he spoke about leadership transition in the party.
The ULP, which has been in office since March 2001 had indicated that it would transition from Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to another leader at its convention last year.
Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, the prime minister’s son, as well as Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar were considered as the frontrunners.
Caesar, who is minister of agriculture, as well as Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, the prime minister’s son, were the frontrunners to replace Gonsalves, 76, as the party’s leader and the nation’s prime minister.
However, in the lead-up to the convention last August, the party decided to shelve the leadership transition issue, the first steps of which were scheduled to take place at the convention, with the election of a deputy leader.
Instead, the ULP decided on Deputy Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel, 69, as deputy political leader of the ULP.
At the convention last year, a section of the crowd chanted “Caesar! Caesar!” as the prime minister walked in, apparently indicating their presence for Caesar as the party’s next leader.
In the recent radio interview, it was pointed out to Browne that some people see him as a radical who could bring down the ULP administration.
It was further noted that Caesar is his brother-in-law.
Browne then made the comment about giving to Cesar what is his and then laughed.
“That’s just in the spirit of humour. The truth is, I mean, I’m interested in what is best for the party and for the government. And if being radical means being willing to express your views on various points from time to time…” Browne said.
Browne said that the matter of succession is something that will be determined in accordance with the rules and laws of the party.
“The party has a constitution, and whatever might be the interest and desire of any individual within the party, the matter will be determined according to the rules and the constitution,” Browne said.
“So, it’s just important for us, as a party, to make sure that we give the highest possible regard to that. I mean, I have some views on the way in which things should possibly be allowed to play out in the interest of transparency and openness?”
Browne said that if the ULP is honest in relation to succession, it would say that “there’s an elephant in the room”.
Browne said that to the extent that the prime minister’s son may be a candidate for succession, “I think that that places a burden on the prime minister to make sure that he isn’t seen to be basically advocating the interests of his own son to the detriment of any other contender”.
Browne, who failed three times in his bid to win East Kingstown for the ULP, said he thinks that the prime minister “has an appreciation for that, too.
“He must have an appreciation for that, because I don’t see him as a man who will basically subject or subordinate the interests of the party, which he himself would acknowledge is bigger than any individual within the party, to what he might see to be personally expedient.”
He said he thinks the senior Gonsalves “will be careful along those lines” adding that the ULP has “models to emulate, and we will just proceed in the way that is, I’m sure, in the best interest of the party”.
Browne said there are certain things that the ULP could draw on.
“And maybe that is a conversation that we could have to a fuller extent, on another occasion,” Browne said, adding that what is important is that anybody who may want to lead the party has an opportunity to do so “within the framework of the constitution.
“And our party, I’m sure, including the leadership of the party, just wants to see best results for the Unity Labour Party. And for the country of St. Vincent and Grenadines.”
Browne said he is a radical in the sense of expressing strong views “but I’m also a part of the Labour Party family, it has to be said, and I’m not going to do anything that is inimical to the interests of that party.
“And I like to think as well that I am very conscientious in relation to my work. I work hard.”
Browne, a national scholars, said he has been listening recently to clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, who made the point that the two criteria that are “most connected to being predictors of success are conscientiousness, in terms of how you work, how you go about your work and so on, and disagreeableness … in the sense that, if you think that it is necessary to present a different point of view, then you go ahead and present that different point of view, whatever the cost”.
Browne said this should not be done in the spirit of malice or discord “but in the spirit of getting the best possible outcome.
“Because if you have, ‘yes men’, ‘yes women’ around who are not prepared to contend in the realm of ideas, then that is destructive. That is destructive for everyone. And I don’t want to create a destructive situation for St. Vincent and Grenadines. I love this country so much. And I pledge my loyalty and devotion to it,’ Browne said.
He said there are “yes men” in some realms of the ULP, adding that they will always exist.
“… that might just be a part of the psyche. I’m not necessarily knocking them here or there. But it’s just that in terms of the pronouncements of clinical psychologist, Jordon Peterson, you need to have an amount of disagreeableness in order for the ship to sail as smoothly as possible,” Browne said.
He said Malcolm Gladwell, an English-born Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker, made that point in one of his books that pilots “from a particular country, with a certain spirit, are better at navigating difficult conditions than pilots from a different country.
“Because if they see something that is going to create a possible disaster, they speak up, whereas other persons might hold their tongue, so to speak, to the detriment of the greater good of society.
“I don’t want to do anything that is to the detriment of the greater good. I will speak up on issues as they arise from time to time. As you see, and you know, remember, we have to remember that our formulation is in shakeup. We have a shake-up foundation,’ Browne said, in an apparent reference to the radio programme that helped to propel the ULP to power.