ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — Former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas’s unwillingness to relinquish leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is fueled by concerns about deputy leader Nazim Burke taking over the reins of the party, a well-known Grenada political activist and commentator has said.
During the NDC’s term in office from 2008 – 2013, Burke portrayed himself as completely loyal to Thomas and once told a TV interviewer that he would never get into a “dog fight” with Thomas.
Burke, for his apparent loyalty, was rewarded with regular appointments as acting prime minister, with the appointments widely announced in news releases from the press secretary in the prime minister’s office.
However, activist Kennedy Budhlall told a reporter with Caribupdate Weekly that Burke is not now heavily favoured by Thomas to take over as NDC leader.
“If he (Thomas) had confidence in Naz, he would have stepped down and hand it over to Naz. A lot of his people around him are also telling him to stay on,” said Budhlall, who worked on Thomas’ successful 2008 election campaign.
Questions have swirled around the political future of Thomas, who presided over a fractured government and party that eventually suffered a humiliating 15 – 0 general election defeat on February 19.
The defeated candidates included Thomas and Burke, who are both lawyers.
Former finance minister Burke, who is in his mid-50s, is now an appointed senator in the Upper House of Parliament.
Over his political career that started in the 1980s, Thomas has been defeated three times in general elections.
His leadership future will be decided later this year at the NDC’s annual convention.
“I will remain as political leader of the party until we have the convention in which all executive positions will be contested,” Thomas said last week. “If the people think I need to be on and lead the executive, I will comply to their wishes.”
NDC deputy chairman Ken Joseph recently resigned, with Caribupdate citing his frustration with the party “not decisively addressing the leadership issue” as a reason for his resignation.
The newspaper said uneasiness also has been reported “over Thomas failing to give a clear indication about a timetable for stepping done, and Burke refusing to explain his true designs”.
Budhlall said part of the dilemma of the party is that Thomas, 66, is “by far the most popular man in NDC, so it’s hard to get rid of him. But that’s a bad thing for NDC because he cannot add to the base.”
On the hand, Burke is “so unpopular” and neither can he add to the base of the NDC, Budhlall said.