Today …I boldly call for an end to political parties.
These were the sentiments expressed by Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Grenada, Rev. Dr. Osbert James as he addressed government officials and well-wishers during the Ecumenical Service held at the Gateway Assembly last Sunday.
In a controversial address, the clergyman suggested that instead of politicians in charge of the nation’s affairs that the country should be led by “statesmen and stateswomen” as a replacement for political parties.
“Political parties seem to have been the bane of our country’s existence. I propose a partyless state in which we are led by statesmen, and women and legislators committed to the constitution and devoted to fulfilling the aspiration of the people as expressed in a National Sustainable Plan,” he told the congregation.
Among those present were current Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell of the Congress party, Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Mitchell of the New National Party (NNP) and former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
There was a perplexed look on the face of Dr. Mitchell who has served for about 23 years to become the longest serving Prime Minister of the country since Grenada attained its independence from Britain on February 7, 1974.
According to the religious minister, the time has come for Grenada to “find an alternative to political parties” and advocated for the 2020-35 National Sustainable Development Plan to become the guiding light for the country in the years ahead.
Rev. James charged that for Grenada to thrive, its leaders must encourage unity and allow citizens to create initiatives and with the Sustainable Development Plan in place the people can achieve their goals.
“If our nation is to move forward and prosper, it needs leaders who will unite us and a plan created by the people that will guide us. When we are united and have a goal to which we are committed for the long haul, there is nothing that we Grenadians cannot accomplish and overcome.
“When each citizen comes to the realisation that we are one people on one journey with one future, our trajectory would only be upwards.
“We also know that the political directorate cannot take a country where it needs to go without the full involvement and ownership of the people. All hands must be on deck if this fifty-year-old ship is to safely navigate the uncharted waters before it.
“I want to submit to you that the impact of a committed leader who is imbued with patriotic fervour cannot be underestimated. When a nation has several such persons, there is nothing within its mental, physical and spiritual resources that it cannot achieve.”
According to Rev. James, despite the creation of a national plan to take the country forward, different entities and organisations need to come up with initiatives to enact various plan and it will be left to the individual parties to come up with the strategies and action plans for fulfilling the national plan for the ensuing five years.
He noted that after the election cycle is completed in five years, the government in office should be evaluated based on their actions during their tenure.
“As such, the campaigning agenda would have been set by the people and not by the parties. Every agenda will be a people’s agenda,” he said.
The religious leader pointed out that in order for the Sustainable Development Plan to be executed effectively, the leader of Grenada must be people-centric and prioritise nation building.
“For us to accomplish this, we need a new kind of leadership. The leader that Grenada needs is one who is more concerned about the people than the polls. The leader that Grenada requires is one that is more interested in the quality of life of the people than about the quantum of votes he or she can muster at election time.
‘The leader that Grenada needs and the leader that can take Grenada to the heights that it has never achieved is one that is able to unite the people around nation building.”
Rev. James warned against segregation by the leader after the formation of a new government and for people’s interests to be given precedence.
“The problem with many elected officials is that after their initial attempts to be faithful to the promises they made pre-election, they start posturing for re-election and they themselves start unwittingly to fracture and segment the population by appealing to special interests.
“For after the election the administration may feel beholden to those who aided its ascension into office and therefore becomes a government of only some of the people.”
The cleric stressed that Grenadians should focus more on a politician’s execution of initiatives instead of the charm of the politician.
“If politicians know that they would not be judged on charisma, popularity or even experience but on what they have done in the best interest of the country, they will be more inclined to be doing what the people have asked them to do in a national plan and they’d be more concerned about their report card than their never-ending promises to do,” he said.
The religious minister advocated that governments should not reject another administration’s initiative just because it was not created by them.
“If we are ever to move forward as one people towards a common future, we must make factionalism obsolete and frustrate lawlessness wherever it manifests itself.
“If we understand our role and work as Grenadians, whether as leaders or as citizens, individually and collectively, to be for the glory of God and the good of the state, that we would not allow partisan politics to divide us.
“If country is most important, then what one administration did that is good must not be reversed as everything done by successive administrations is a proprietary possession of the people and not the party.
“The political directorate is to lead and guide but all of us are to bring our various talents to bear in the development of the country and so this is why I reiterate that going forward we must be guided by a national sustainable development plan that is owned by the people.
Rev. James advocated that Grenadians need to start to “think for themselves” and called for progressive leaders who are innovative and that focus should be placed on creating manifestos that are proactive.
“Our country needs well informed, astute and forward-thinking individuals who can think for themselves, and we need leaders who are not afraid to make difficult decisions because they are thinking about how these decisions may affect their chances at re-election. So out with party manifestos and in with the national sustainable development plan – plan must replace promise,” he told the congregation.
The clergyman also proposed a new scheme to replace the current first past the post electoral system in Grenada.
“It would not be a bad thing if instead of traditional elections, a number of persons are suggested, shortlisted, screened and selected as potential servant leaders. The adult population through a pre-determined method on the day set aside would choose qualified persons from business, finance, law, medicine, agriculture, academia and religion.
“For example, based on the gifts, training and experience to actionised, they are to have no party allegiance but must see themselves only and simply as servants of the state.”
Rev. James went on to say: “It’s necessary for us to choose a second set of people to monitor the work of those appointed. There will therefore be two sets of people, those who are to execute the plan and those who would monitor how it is being executed.”
“It is important however to note that the second group is a monitoring group and not an opposition group,” he added.
Rev. James called on Grenadians to abide by the law of the land as the country forges towards the next fifty years.
“Grenada is a beautiful place but if we do not rein in lawlessness, we will have no future. We cannot build a sustainable society if our laws are continually being transgressed without consequence.
“If we are not able to resist and eliminate the malignant menace of factionalism and lawlessness, we shall always be thriving and not achieving.”
He feared that Grenada’s society will disintegrate “if we do not remain united.”
“We have to secure the gains made and provide for the safeguarding of what we plan to do. If we are to do this, then the laws must be kept otherwise society’s foundation will crumble and we will not be a society united in a common odyssey. Unless we realise we are one people on the same journey, we are doomed to a pitiful future.
“If for the last fifty years, we had a hit and miss development, we must resolve for the next fifty to let a national plan focus our collective will and energies. It is then we would experience sustained development and we are going higher as we aspire, build and advance as one people together.
“So, let us as a nation under God, put our collective will and resources at the disposal of our country so it will only be up, up, up from here.”