I will never abandon The New National Party.
Those were the words of former Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell as he addressed a sprinkling of party supporters last Thursday night at a meeting in Crochu in the St Andrew South-east constituency of his former Education Minister Emmalin Pierre.
The ageing 76-year old former Grenadian leader is in the midst of a battle to prevent his former Agriculture Minister Peter David, the ex-General Secretary of the rival National Democratic Congress (NDC) from laying his hands on the leadership of the NNP now in opposition.
The Keith Mitchell/Peter David friction has escalated to the point in which St Andrew North-west Member of Parliament and former Minister of Social Development Delma Thomas who quit the party just over two weeks ago said that Dr. Mitchell had called on her to “curse” David as he was trying to mash up the NNP with his quest to become leader of the party.
In his address at the meeting of the party branch, Dr. Mitchell said that the NNP is presently moving into transition with those in the leadership seeking “to lead and smooth that transition going forward.”
He did not specifically address the question of whether he will seek re-election as Political Leader at the next convention but said the work to be undertaken at the moment is “re-organising the party on the ground.”
“We will all be there doing precisely that and with that sort of re-organisation leadership at the Constituency level will emerge, leadership at the National level will emerge and we will all be holding hands together going forward.”
“Keith Mitchell is going nowhere. He is going to be here with the New National Party. So whatever happens with the leadership of the NNP, Keith Mitchell will be there – don’t worry at all.”
“When the time comes and if you see I am not the leader, I want you to be rest assured that I will be supporting somebody who I am convinced would carry the work and guidance of the New National Party.”
Dr. Mitchell was forced to respond to a statement made by a female party supporter who said she was hearing talk in the Market that if he cannot get back into power he will mash up the NNP before handing over leadership to anyone else.
He said: “If you listen to me tonight and all the other times that I answer the question, did I say anything that says that I am definitely going back to lead the party? Did you hear me say and did I say that if I ain’t getting it ah killing it?”
“You expect your opponent to say things but what worries me is when I hear a person or persons who is supposed to be NNP saying that I am against this person and I am against this person because I want to go back.”
“Listen to me: – I have said that I was given 23 years by you the people of this country to be Prime Minister of this country – what more can I ask? I am the most fortunate person that has passed through this country. I am 23 years and I must be angry. I am a man at peace – all I want to see is the NNP back in office with people who could run this country and serve the poor people of this country.”
Amidst the loud applause, a supporter could he heard in the background, singing: “Stay dey Captain stay dey.”
The longstanding former Prime Minister Mitchell stated that he had no intention of handpicking a successor to take over from him but to allow party supporters to have an input in the process.
“You the people must have a say in any change of leadership in this party. You will have a say – I might have a choice – somebody that I may prefer but if that person does not have the support of the people then what sense is that choice – still impose it on the people and then you go down to serious loss?”
“So don’t worry… there will be a process … if we leave the party where it was at the last general election, I don’t care who the leader emerges, that party is going down to defeat. Organise the party, strengthen the ground (work), build the organisation, stay in touch with your people …. NNP will be victorious.”
Dr. Mitchell reminded party supporters that under his leadership, NNP lost elections in 1990 and 2008 but the defeat at the polls nearly a year ago “is the worst loss.”
“The others we lost, we knew that there was a possibility that we would lose. This one, if I tell you that we expected that there was a possibility of a loss …. I am lying to you. That one shocked me,” he said.
Days after the loss to 44-year old attorney-at-law Dickon Mitchell and his team of mainly youthful candidates, the NNP boss indicated that the loss “really hurts.”
The NNP is currently split with one faction remaining loyal to Dr. Mitchell and another expressing support to David who is actively engaged in trying to mobilise support locally, regionally and internationally to take over the party.