Attorney-at-law Derick Sylvester and his close friend from St David, Medical doctor Trevor Layne had promised to raise approximately EC$1 million dollars to help the National Democratic Congress (NDC) then in opposition, if the city lawyer was given the top position of Political Leader of the party.
This was told to THE NEW TODAY by one of the top Congress members who was engaged in the process to find a new leader to take the party into the next general election following back-to-back defeats at the polls in 2013 and 2018.
According to the NDC insider the virtual quid pro quo offer was not put “in a direct way” by Sylvester and Layne but they informed the Congress delegation in the talks held that they could raise the money that was needed to pay off the party’s debt which was just over EC$1 million.
THE NEW TODAY understands that most of the debt was owed to St George’s businessman Kent Joseph who was bankrolling the party for several years.
The insider said that the Sylvester/Layne combination told Congress that “the issue of money won’t be a problem in terms of the party’s debt” if they were allowed to take charge of the party.
“They weren’t openly saying that we could give that (Money) for that (getting the Political Leader job for Sylvester) but they were making it very clear that they were in a good position to do that,” he added.
The top Congress official confirmed that Sylvester did submit his application to become a member of the party to the then General Secretary Glen Noel and withdrew it a couple days later.
Sylvester is said to have paid the yearly dues of $60.00 but it was not returned to him when he decided to pull out from the arrangement with NDC.
“He (Sylvester) did fill an application form and he did send it in and subsequently withdrew,” the official said.
The Congress member told THE NEW TODAY that the high profile lawyer was attempting to broker a deal in which he did not have to contest against anyone for the position of Political Leader and that he would enter the annual Convention as the single candidate for the job.
He said that Layne later told Noel that Sylvester decided to pull out after an engagement with the young brigade in Congress including a current member of the Cabinet of Ministers who were not supporting current party leader and Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell at the time for the top job in the party.
He said these persons were giving strong support to Sylvester and warned him that the “old guards” in the party “were fooling him” and might set the stage for an open contest on the Convention floor for leadership battle between him and Dickon Mitchell.
He said that Sylvester did not want to square off against Dickon Mitchell and backed off from Congress.
“He (Sylvester) essentially decided that he ain’t going through (with a contest) and offering himself up at the Convention and he resigned from the party one time,” he remarked.
Sylvester reportedly sent a letter to the then General Secretary of the Party Glen Noel, the newly appointed Ambassador to Cuba, informing him that he was withdrawing his membership application.
No reason was given in the letter by the attorney-at-law for withdrawing his membership application.
The source said that former General Secretary Noel and then Interim Political Leader Adrian “Persuader” Thomas were the two top persons that had the initial discussions with Sylvester and Dr. Layne on the lawyer’s ambition to join Congress to take over the political leadership of the party.
He said he got the impression from the talks held that Dr Layne was the one who played a key role in influencing Sylvester to become a member of NDC.
He said the lawyer initially engaged Thomas who then referred him to the Leadership Committee that was set up to identify a new leader to take the party into the next general election held in 2022.
He identified Thomas, the current Minister responsible for Agriculture and Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Andall as the two members of the Leadership sub-committee who then held official discussions with Sylvester on the issue.
The current Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Claudette Joseph was then brought into the discussions along with other senior members of the party and committee to engage with Sylvester.
“Once Derick (Sylvester) learnt that we couldn’t hand him the leadership he started to act differently,” said the NDC insider.
He stated that the argument advanced by Sylvester and Dr. Layne to get their hands on Congress is that the past two executives who were in place for the electoral defeats in 2013 and 2018 had failed and Congress needed “to create a new team and to bring in some new people on board.”
According to the source, it was clear from the talks that Sylvester and Dr. Layne were selling themselves as the persons who would come together and raise the funds to fight the political battle against Dr. Mitchell and NNP in the next general election.
He idetified one negative against the lawyer is that he did not have “the deep political depth” that was needed to lead Congress.
He added that “Derick (Sylvester) was like chalk and cheese” when it came to comparison with current party boss and Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell.
In addition, he said the Leadership Team was not convinced that Attorney Sylvester was prepared “to do the kinds of work that is required in terms of politics.”
“I think he thinks that just a name, image and being a reasonably successful lawyer would carry him through….,” he quipped.
The NDC insider pointed out that when Dickon Mitchell got involved in Congress it was to help the party out of its predicament of two election cycles and not being able to win a seat to sit in Parliament.
He said that Dickon Mitchell was able to impress the Leadership Committee that he was “the most knowledgeable, well-read” and “the person that was ready and capable to finance himself and not depending on the financial resources of the party to carry them forward.”
He also said that although Dickon Mitchell did not have political experience he was considered to be a far superior person in terms of intelligence and knowledge of events both regionally and globally to take over the leadership of the party.
He said the only sticking point for NDC vis-a-vis the current Prime Minister was the perception among trade union leaders on the island that he was anti-labour given the amount of cases he took to court for employers against workers.
He indicated that the party eventually took the position that as a lawyer Dickon Mitchell was offering “a professional service” and was free to take cases from clients to fight court cases on their behalf.
He likened the situation as similar to former NDC General Secretary and now NNP Deputy General Secretary, Peter David who as a criminal defense attorney was often representing a number of persons on drug charges in court which should not be interpreted to mean that he supported the illegal drug trade.
Dickon Mitchell was elected as Congress leader at the end of October 2021 and eight months later created history by becoming the first political leader on the island to end up with the job of Prime Minister of the country in such a short time in frontline politics.
Speculation is rife that attorney Derick Sylvester is now courting Dr. Mitchell and his NNP for the top job of Political Leader.
Dr Layne was named about three weeks ago as a Global Health Ambassador with the nine-month old Congress government.