Somebody asked the Prime Minister the other day if Dwyer Astaphan’s sudden resignation resulted from bad blood between them. The answer, though quite diplomatic, was not quite convincing, for those who are close to them know that there has been a lot of estrangement which has grown over the last few years, and those who are not exactly within their perimeter, can read from their body language that between the two of them there was no love lost.
Some people, especially those in the political rank and file of both parties, never fail to express shock and dismay when they hear that their political leaders are not getting on.
This is probably because the leaders try to keep their personal animosities against each other carefully shrouded in order to give their supporters the impression of ONE LOVE and at the same time present their rival party with a façade of solidarity.
The deception works because the supporters are usually terrified by the truth that their leaders might not be getting along with each other. They are terrified because they know that once the general public realizes that their political house is divided against itself, it the house crash to the ground and they will suffer.
In St. Kitts-Nevis many people rely entirely on their party for general sustenance. If their party is in office, they expect a house, a job a scholarship for their child; they even expect immunity from prosecution when they or their relatives break the law. They have a personal interest in their party getting into and staying in power and they know that if their leaders show their mutual hostility in public, their well being, built on shifting political sands, will be seriously jeopardized.
Their rivals in the opposition long for their party to win power so that they can have access to the political largesse. They hope for a break-through and wait patiently for the differences between the leaders of the ruling party to spill into the public arena.
That’s how the process of change works in St. Kitts. The leaders fall out and everything crash.
Thirty years ago, the suffering and death of Robert Bradshaw created a crisis in the Labour Party on the succession issue. Paul Southwell discovered that there were itchings among Lee Moore’s supporters to have Lee Moore prepare to replace Mr. Bradshaw. Southwell brought the matter to the public and exposed the divisions within the Labour Party. By 1980 the Labour Party had fallen from power.
During the election campaign in 1990, Henry Browne got hold of a taped conversation between Michael Powell and Lauris James. Listeners were both stunned and intrigued by Powell’s portrayal of Prime Minister Simmonds as the biggest hindrance to progress in St. Kitts. This unflattering view of Simmonds was to end with Powell’s dismissal of from the Cabinet on All Fool’s Day. The sacking of Powell was a factor which eventually led to PAM’s loss of East Basseterre in 1993 and to Simmonds eventual fall from power in 1995.
The same thing happened to Simeon Daniel in Nevis. This hero of the Nevis Independence Movement enjoyed the support and admiration of the people of Nevis until he had to deal with the lifelong antagonism between his two administrative pillars Vance Amory and Joseph Parry. When it appeared to Amory that Parry was using his favoured position to upset him he left the Nevis Civil Service to form the CCM. With Amory safely out of the way Parry turned on his boss and took over the party leaving Simeon Daniel exposed to defeat.
Perhaps less obvious was the friction which developed between Malcolm Guishard and Premier Vance Amory. It was an open secret that between these two Nevis leaders it was not all jam and bread. When supporters of CCM complained to Vance about what they perceived to be Malcolm’s indiscretions, he would shrug his shoulder with resignation and reply: “I tired talk to Malcolm, you know.”
Guishard’s narrow defeat by Hensley Daniel had something to do with the voters’ perception that all was not well in the CCM cabinet.
In Robert Bradshaw’s leadership days only a few observers were able to discern that he and Joseph France had serious differences with one another.
France harboured a soft disdain for Bradshaw; he was always uncomfortable with Bradshaw’s penchant for display and arrogance. But because France was a very low-keyed non-controversial personality, nobody even heard him whisper the mutest disenchantment with his colleague.
Even when Bradshaw joined a gang to pillory Matthew Sebastian, accusing him of crookedness, France kept a stolid silence behind his benign smile as he saw his great friend and mentor tormented by Bradshaw and his gang.
When Bradshaw became president of the union, France served loyally as general secretary. It was France’s policy that nothing should separate him from the union which he had helped to found at the age of 12.
Bradshaw was aware that France did not like him. No two people could work so closely together without divining each other’s feelings. But it was more than just feelings.
As St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla prepared to enter the federation Bradshaw moved a motion to upgrade the leader of the majority party in government to the status of chief minister, a very reasonable provision which would be adopted in the other Leeward and Windward Islands.
But the unprecedented happened. Both Maurice Davis and Joseph France voted against the measure and denied Robert Bradshaw the pleasure of serving as the first chief minister of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, before he went to the Federal House of Representatives.
Bradshaw dropped Davis from the Labour ticket but he could not do the same with Comrade France. While he was absent in Trinidad, France served under Southwell as minister of education and social affairs, but when Bradshaw returned to power in St. Kitts however, as if by mutual agreement, France very deftly tripped back to his office and the general secretary job which he loved.
The truth is that the men/women who make up a government are all leaders in their own right and some of them are strong leaders with their own egos, styles and perspectives. It is inevitable therefore that there will sometimes be a clash of personalities.
Sometimes in the interest of self preservation, the differences are kept under a shroud. Eventually however the time comes when the best of friends must part.
I was having a discussion with two friends over the last weekend. One of them said. “Is a long time now Dougie want get rid o Dwyer.”
The other replied. “Is a long time now Dwyer want to leave.”
No bad blood? Tell that to the stars.