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Inside Politics - ALP Dysfunction

Issue of leadership in the ALPOver the past week, I have been approached by a number of people who wanted to hear my take on the recent public row between the leadership of the Antigua Labour Party and its chairman, Gaston Browne, over the economic citizenship issue.

I have decided to make my answer to be the framework for this week’s Inside Politics article.

Firstly, unless one is unfamiliar with the history of the Antigua Labour Party, s/he would know that internal conflicts have been part of its growth over these many years. If one goes back to the early years of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU), which gave birth to the ALP, there have been a number of major conflicts going back almost to the time of its inception.



In 1943, VC Bird engineered a take-over of the union, and there was another purging of the organisation in the late 1940’s. It was another major shake-up that led to the departure of George Walter el al in 1967-68, and many would remember the bitter conflicts between Lester Bird and the late Reuben Harris in the early 1980’s.

In fact, this reporter remembers that in the mid-1980’s, when then deputy prime minister Lester Bird convened a meeting of businessmen at the ACB conference room to detail his plans to redevelop lower St John’s into what is today Heritage Quay, Reuben Harris, a member of the Cabinet, was present, and openly expressed strong opposition to the project.

Bird listened attentively to his colleague, and calmly restated his position. The development was approved, and the rest is history.

There was also a bitter and very divisive fight within the ALP when an aging VC Bird was about to exit the political stage. Former finance minister John St Luce had the backing of the majority of Cabinet members, who were expected to deliver their delegates to vote in his favour at a special convention to select a leader.

Lester Bird, armed with the Bird pedigree and over 15 years’ experience as deputy prime minister, felt that he had earned the position.

Going into the convention, many felt that St Luce, with support from even Lester’s brother, Vere Bird Jnr, would emerge winner. At the convention, a strange thing happened - both men emerged with equal votes.

There are some who to this day have said that St Luce and his team ought to have demanded a recount; there was none. At the next convention, Bird won convincingly and became political leader, a position he still holds today.

The reasons for the history lesson are two-fold; firstly to highlight the fact that conflict has been a part of the ALP for many years, and secondly, to highlight a glaring defect in the party. That defect is the ALP’s inability to clearly set out procedures and systems for succession and renewal.



VC Bird retired in his 80’s, and there are many who felt that he should have left the scene as much as 10 years earlier. His failure to do so, and to clearly identify, with the assistance perhaps of his senior executive members, a successor, gave rise to the bitter infighting that fractured the party with the emergence of factions.

It almost led to the unseating of VC Bird himself, with the move by the infamous "Gang of 6" led by Lester Bird and there attempt to move a motion of no-confidence in his administration.

Unlike previous major conflicts, today’s public spats are taking place in an era of instant communication. A person doesn’t have to wait for the evening news; these disagreements are highlighted instantly and repeatedly. A political party in the 21st century has to be able not just to manage conflicts, but also to manage the process.

A political party, without clearly defined rules of succession, and where aging leaders do not recognise the "psychological moment" for them to leave the political stage, is only fermenting distrust and division.

The average voter in Antigua & Barbuda, if one is to take the census data, is likely to be female and below age 40. When that person looks at the ALP ticket, in its present configuration, what is there to attract the voter?

The optics (borrowing a term from the late Mr Harris) is wrong; a party lead by aging men with a token female or two. This is an optical illusion, because it does not reflect the society! It does not represent!

For this article, Inside Politics wanted to have one-on-one discussions separately with both Browne and Bird. But while Browne readily made himself available, meeting with Bird was a challenge, and it did not materialize.

Browne was very clear on the issue of leadership in the ALP. He said this has been at the root of many of the problems affecting the party. “The problem in the ALP is that the party leadership has been in transition for several years," he said. "It is the root cause of many of the issues that publicly seem to be tearing the party apart."

He is of the view that such conflicts are inevitable as, in his mind, the vacancy that is associated with transitional leadership will create competition among aspirants for the post of ultimate leader.

The ALP chairman is predicting that the aspirants will remain in competitive mode until "a sustaining leader emerges".



Inside Politics has surmised from a number of direct interactions that Browne’s assessment of the situation may find favour with the intellectuals, but for the rank and file of the organisation, all they hear is that the party’s leaders are having serious disagreements on the airwaves over an issue that is not an immediate concern for them. They are worried.

More on this issue in the next installment of Inside Politics.

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20 Comments In This Article   

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Soldier Crabs In The Barrel Enjoy The War Party.

#20 John French II » 2012-04-17 03:30

Notes From A Native Son Of The Rock. Today's news from the World Bank, reminds of Eddy Grant's "War Party". It can be said that notwithstanding his diminished credentials, Jim Yong Kim, by some quixotic arrangement, was selected over Madam Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is blessed with institutional knowledge(Former Director of WB),reform minded, hands on experience in development economics and public finance. Teachable Moment. Which brings me back to the Rock and Steinbeck's "Of Mice & Men". Journalists,opinion framers, bloggers, tv and radio personalities are not ghost writers Quote:
"Curley's like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. He's alla time picking scraps with big guys. Kind of like he's mad at 'em because he ain't a big guy."
Journalists are Inspirational, Aspirational & Transformative. Quote:
"I seen it over an' over-a guy talkin' to another guy and it don't make no difference if he don't hear or understand. The thing is, they're talkin', or they're settin' still not talkin'. It don't make no difference, no difference....It's just the talking."
"Mere Voice In The Wilderness" does not enjoy War Parties. Such is left to "Soldier Crabs".
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John French 11 Issue?

#19 Grey Ghost » 2012-04-16 08:43

John French 11 issue with "Navel Gazing at Personalities" is unwarranted, and laments there are other important problems facing the nation that deserves fair media coverage and recommended solutions. But, John French 11 as an analysis can also write on topics that he may find important to the public well-being offering solutions to the many problems our nation confronts.

So, rather than calling out Magic, Colin, and other the ball is in your court to start writing on various issues. There is no doubt political analysis will never stop, even though some may consider such articles overbearing, but we all have our democratic right, and if argued fairly, that too should be respected.
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RE: Inside Politics - ALP Dysfunction

#18 DadliMan » 2012-04-16 07:24

The one thing that Everton glossed over in this piece, is the negative impact of this in-fighting on the work (or lack thereof) of the ALP.

It is worth re-stating, that the ALP is, hands down, the worst opposition party anywhere in the world. With all these issues at hand, they have done nothing more than talk. They started to collect signatures for a petition on the fencing scandal. Where has that gone? Nowhere!

Now we have the Wadadli Power Plant issue. More talk. Outside of having some poorly attended public meetings, where they preach to the converted, what have they done? Absolutely nothing!!

The ALP hosts 5 programmes on ZDK, and this long-standing political organisation cannot raise the required EC$ 10,000 per month to keep those programmes on air without interruption. That is roughly US$ 3,700 per month. That's 37 people giving US$100 per month, and not even that they can do. But they can fight to lead. What a joke.
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DadliMan

Silence is deafening.

#17 Antiguan Woman » 2012-04-15 20:40

I always try to keep out of this Leadership argument within the ALP,since my primary endeavour is a deep wish to see the back of the UPP,although i may have my favorite,i think everyone does,i will be satisfied with anyone,as long as the upp is not returned to power. I decided to weigh in this time,hoping that the hon Gaston Browne is aware that without the alp his political career will be like the Tim Hectors et al of the past,i also hope his constituents realize that independently he will only be a spoiler like St pauls in 2009,Or maybe he can join with the upp,then again he will still be a loser,because i dont see the UPP winning another election fairly in Anu again.Frankly,for someone who i soo admired once,i am sorely dissapointed in his recent actions/inactions lately.
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Antiguan Woman

Steve leave Gaston

#16 Bi-Lay » 2012-04-15 20:12

isn't Antigua & Barbuda a democracy, and does Gaston not have a right to his opinion, leave Gaston alone, he is intelligent, honest and trustworthy and will be a good leader. So, leave Gaston alone!
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Bi-Lay

RE: Inside Politics - ALP Dysfunction

#15 Fred » 2012-04-15 17:45

I find Dadliman unfair to Gaston. The man says that he supports economic citizenship but will abide by the wishes of the people. I see no dictatorship in his position but instead admiration for a man who is prepared to stand by his believe. As for Steve, he clearly has a beef with Gaston. Gaston has hit the problem in the ALP on the head. As some one who is picking his fights and his issues, he sure doesn't come across as power hungry to me. lets face it, he is a good leadership choice for the ALP.
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RE: Inside Politics - ALP Dysfunction

#14 SlyThatGuy » 2012-04-15 17:02

Sometimes we speak of "conflict" as something weird or foreign. Conflict is rooted in all parts of our human nature,and as long as we continue to interact and depend on each other,we'll always have conflict. Do you think the ALP's troubles would exist if it were easy to please everybody? Luckily,conflict can be resolved naturally;however,re solving it so that performance and productivity don't suffer is key.Okay,so here we have two heads-up party members who need each other and who cannot simply leave the relationship with no negative consequences.They know that they must settle the disagreement in a way that has a positive outcome for their relationship,for their party and for the society of which they're a part.
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@ tenman

#13 DadliMan » 2012-04-15 16:15

I hope you noticed that the references in your Truman quote were not exactly democratic organisations. LOL
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DadliMan

RE: Inside Politics - ALP Dysfunction

#12 STEVE » 2012-04-15 15:51

Browne was very clear on the issue of leadership in the ALP. He said this has been at the root of many of the problems affecting the party. “The problem in the ALP is that the party leadership has been in transition for several years," he said. "It is the root cause of many of the issues that publicly seem to be tearing the party apart." FOR ALL THOSE BLOGGER WHO HAVE SAID THAT I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH GASTON DID HE NOT SAY WHAT I HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG? IT IS ABOUT WHO WILL BE LEADER!! I say, with Gaston as leader of this country we may as well leave the U.P.P. in government AND THAT IS CERTAINLY NOT AN OPTION. Gaston have his part to play but it is clear in my mind that it is not "LEADERSHIP". In my opinion, the next political leader of the A.L.P. is MOLWYN JOSEPH and the next Prime Minister (after Lester Bird) will be MOLWYN JOSEPH. Get use to it Gaston and let your organization breathe. The U.P.P. want Gaston and leader and for those people who have a "political brain" guess why :-*
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STEVE

Upward & Forward To The Antigua & Barbudan Transformation PT4

#11 John French II » 2012-04-15 15:49

Notes From A Native Son Of the Rock. Expectations of Messers Barnes, Hughes & Sampson contd:
Contribute to political, economic, social & technology of the Nation.
Be transformative vehicles for communication & collaboration with the PEOPLE.
Be honest, truthful & responsible to & with the PEOPLE.
It can be assumed that the next election will be sometime in 2014 or approx 104 wks or 730 days. That should allow for each to contribute some 240 articles to National Consciousness and Strategic Development. This constant Navel Gazing at Personalities is not only debilitating and destructive to the national psyche but also counterproductive to National Consciousness and Nation Building. When digging a ditch with a pick and shovel, the digger is focused on the bottom, sides and front of the ditch, rather than on the Blue Sky Above. It is your role to aid the PEOPLE to see the Blue Sky.
May I suggest that with the number of Ministries, Departments and Tasks, enough articles are possible with focus on Strategic Directions rather than this Navel Gazing at Personalities. No Need to wait for Blue or Red Manifestos.
Heaven Help The Nation Of Antigua & Barbuda.
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John French II

Upward & Forward To The Antigua & Barbudan Transformation PT3

#10 John French II » 2012-04-15 15:14

Notes From A Native Son Of The Rock. This "negation of the personalities" is not just a social act, it is also an act of "depersonalization" whic can only be helpful if the "national consciousness" is moved from the abstract into the Transformative. Your Mission:
Serve and protect the public interest.
Advance and promote the value and proficiency of your journalist profession.
Support each other in your professional practice.

To achieve the above and fully educate the PEOPLE you are expected to:
Use your professional practice of journalism for their protection.
Respectfully adhere to the highest standards of ethical behavior.
Continually upgrade your professional knowledge and skills.
Actively promote National Consciousnes & Transformation.
Be educational leaders, cooperating, defining, adopting and adapting to USE, new applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and Higher Education.
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John French II

Upward & Forward To The Antigua & Barbudan Transformation PT2

#9 John French II » 2012-04-15 14:18

Notes From A Native Son Of The Rock. This Elite and Intellectual Class is more interested in partnership with the Managers of our Economic, Fiscal & Monetary and Financial Affairs than taking control for the benefit of the People and Nation. It can be boldly stated that Engineers of the Economy fully understand the Psychology of the Elites which has allowed them to capitulate and permit a certain margin of opposition always in a carribbean carnival of masquerading to take place as they know that they are totally safe from counteraction by the paucity of National Consciousness.
That you are wise, learned and honourable men is not to be gainsaid. In this constant search for National Consciousness and "Upward & Forward to The Antigua & Barbudan Transformation", it is untenable to be fighting Personalities on one hand and the other to be collaborating with the Personality Disorders. The First Past the Post System has as its objective the Election of The Party every Five Years. All other issues are Sinking Sand. We were taught that you cannot build a house on Sand. Modern Geotechnical, Civil & Structural Engineers have moved beyond that old addage. You Need To.
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John French II

Upward & Forward To The Antigua & Barbudan Transformation PT!

#8 John French II » 2012-04-15 13:42

Notes From A Native Son Of The Rock. This is primarily addressed to Messers Barnes, Hughes & Sampson. As journalists, opinion framers, bloggers, tv and radio personalities, it can be safely said that you play a major role in spreading daily awareness of the political, economic, social and technological directions and fortunes of the nation. It is of the utmost importance that you guard against liberalist and "edge up arriviste" deceptions and "ethical badmindedness" in your daily missives. These are difficult economic days and compounded with "Living in The IMF's NEST" have not made it easy for the poor m**. The People look to you for guidance, education and teachable moments in bringing the dynamism of national consciousness and resolve to understanding a Vision and Strategic Way Forward. The National African Political, Business and Ecclesiatic Elites together with their affiliated intellectuals have not only accommodated to the old order but are desperately seeking and making reconcilliations with the New North Atlantic Buccaneers, Arab Traders and Merchants, Indian Entrepreneurs, Latin Money Traders and Oriental Developers, Restauranteurs & Shop Keepers.
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John French II

LESTER BIRD BEWARE

#7 GREY GHOST » 2012-04-15 13:01

Everton good article, but you are agitating Lester Bird even more, since he will continue to fight until death doeth part!

Gaston summarise what is truly wrong with the ALP, there is Lester Bird's selfish motive and no clear transitioinal policy emanating from the leadership and " this has been at the root of many of the problems affecting the party. "

There is a foreign 'diplomatic' element influencing Lester Bird for his own fulfillment, Lester Bird shoud be aware of him, I will say more later...
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GREY GHOST

@[email protected]

#6 Dig It » 2012-04-15 11:34

Mr. Barnes, a very good article! DadliMan and Tenman, I will not say much, and, try to keep it short today because the political-climate in this country is just tearing the country a part, piece-by-piece, and limb-by-limb! The political dysfunction in the ALP leaves a “bitter- taste” in the mouths of many electorates, especially, the independent voters! Worst of all, the ALP internal problems is creating a “wedge” with many supporters of the party, who is either for or against the leader of the party! And, some of these supporters, instead of becoming “peace-makers” to force the party to unite, they themselves stir-the-pot more, by getting caught-up in the internal “gripes!” Yet, this doesn’t help the ALP to overcome of its fights, and, talk about the issues affecting the people and the country! Sometimes, I really feel like keeping my mouth "tight-lipped" on the issues of the Loyal Opposition and do as Thomas Jefferson said "Quote:
Be a listener only, keep within yourself, and endeavor to establish with yourself the habit of silence, especially in politics."
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Dig It

@ tenman

#5 DadliMan » 2012-04-15 10:13

Today, when he has no power, "this is a decision for the citizenry". Tomorrow, when he has power, he will do as he pleases.

If nothing else, I have to credit the UPP with teaching me never to trust what politicians say. In campaigning for the 2004 elections, I told countless people that the UPP would be different; that they would consult with the people and be open and transparent. Consultation, a la UPP, is to inform the public what the UPP has decided to do, and I will have to be convinced otherwise that it will be different under the ALP.
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DadliMan

dadliman and quotes

#4 tenman » 2012-04-15 09:38

Dadliman here's a contrary view/quote:
Quote:
How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt? What would Jesus Christ have preached if he had taken a poll in the land of Israel? What would have happened to the Reformation if Martin Luther had taken a poll? It isn't polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It's right and wrong and leadership. ~ Harry Truman Quotes
Dadliman there is nothing wrong about debating an issue you feel strongly about. The man has stated at the end of the day, its the public, not him, who will decide on this issue.

Quote:
Ultimately, this is a decision for the citizenry which should be determined by consultation with the people. Read more: http://www.Caribarena.com/antigua/news/latest/100167-alp-does-not-support-economic-citizenship.html#ixzz1s7FV6fhE
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tenman

learn lessons from our neighbors

#3 tenman » 2012-04-15 09:14

Mr. Barnes as usual great article. Political parties need to learn from the experience of other parties throughout the region. The labor party seems doomed to repeat the mistake of the UWP in Saint Lucia. You had an ailing leader , help bring them victory in 2006, and then die in 2007. In 2006 LB used Compton as an example of why persons should not have questions about his viability as a PM due to his age. LB said nothing when Compton died in 2007. The party then selected Stevenson King but due to his weak leadership ability internal power struggles continued with Richard Fredrick & Rofus Bousquet wanting leadership. This tension even existed when Compton lead the party and was blamed by some for the stress which brought on the stroke which caused Compton death (stress can help cause a stroke). The ALP needs to settle this matter or not only will the party suffer, but so also the country due to either it being a weak opposition party or a weak government.

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tenman

RE: Inside Politics - ALP Dysfunction

#2 DadliMan » 2012-04-15 08:35

By the way, Gaston's persistence with this Economic Citizenship may well prove to be his undoing in his fight for leadership. It is clear that the vast majority of Antiguans and Barbudans are opposed to this idea. It is not an admirable trait for a leader to persist with something to which the m*sses are opposed. That is how dictators are made. In Dr BS we already have a dictator. We cannot deal with another one right now.

There is a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi that could help Gaston:
There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.
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DadliMan

RE: Inside Politics - ALP Dysfunction

#1 DadliMan » 2012-04-15 08:25

Gaston appears to be consumed with this leadership issue - to the point where nothing else seems to matter. The UPP is providing the ALP with every opportunity to trounce them (UPP) in the next general elections. They have given the ALP issue after issue to plant into the memory bank of the electorate. However, Gaston, by his inaction and deafening silence, has been little more than a point of distraction.

On the other hand, Lester Bird's physical condition and varied ailments dictate that he groom a successor in quick time. He seems incapable of doing so, and the executive of the party has a responsibility to do for him what he cannot do for himself - appoint a successor. This may be the cause for some blood-letting, but in the end, the party will be better for it. Neither Gaston nor Lester has been willed the leadership position, and the sooner they realise it, the better.
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DadliMan

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