Tuesday, 27 November 2012 02:30
By Dr. Isaac Newton
The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) has ushered in an event-making transition. It has made a generational shift from the powerful legacy of the Bird family to that of investing its future in the hands of MP Gaston Browne, a younger politician with admirable leg room for personal growth that brings to life an orientation for courage and vision in changing a political culture. Ideally, Browne must take the entire party membership with him.
He must inspire the best from each supporter and encourage everyone to work together in the ALP’s quest for national success.
The spot-on reaction of silence to this epochal event by several senior members of the ALP suggests that the ultimate outcome of this nail-biting decision will radically change leadership expectations. Some members of the ALP lifted their voices up in cheering celebration, while others were simply moved to tears.
The evocative opinion of several middle-aged members describes the change to bring about feelings of hope and confidence in the party’s resilience as positive. Younger members predict that internal transitional processes are likely to affect the soul of Laborites in a way that may never be undone.
Outside observers of this showdown between experienced leadership (former PM Lester Bird) and enduring leadership (former party chairman Gaston Browne), appreciate the overall maturity displayed (typical of our harsh local culture of political warfare) by the members of the ALP. The ALP is not only the oldest political organization in the history of Antigua and Barbuda; it is left to be seen, if full acceptance of 400 delegates’ votes, proved that its democratic practices are real.
At best, tempers are yet to be cooled and status quo supporters must still be given the opportunity for second-thoughts reflection. Internal tensions will not end immediately. If mismanaged, these tensions can unleash the hurricane. What Browne says he is willing to do, that of building bridges across both sides, is the best way to avoid a permanent spilt that could easily unsettle the giant stride that the ALP has achieved. Without intentional organic unity, the ALP will reap devastating repercussions for years to come.
Yet ideological differences over next steps cannot be hastily covered up through a process of premature mending of the fences. Consensus must be re-discovered against the larger vision of providing a superior plan of action to pull back the nation from its prolonged wilderness of unemployment problems, social pains, and institutional perils. Applied compassion mixed with critical thinking and bold strategic action is expected to flow, to convince social network voters that the ALP will be sound with Browne.
It is not hard to see why two-terms PM Lester Bird still have a vital role to play. He is regaled with all of the trappings of towering wisdom to help re-position the ALP into national prominence once again. Before his dignified departure from the scene of public service, Bird’s shrewd political insights, tried hands, and vast international contacts are sources hewn from a mighty rock that cannot be taken for granted or the ALP will be defeated in 2014.
Browne must put together a coalition of will and skill. This is needed to thrust the ALP into 21st century leadership. The art of communicating and planning to make sure that there is a place for all at the table is Browne’s most urgent task. He has to have the patience and prudence to heal the wounds and unite the party. In the process of doing this, perhaps he should establish a two-terms limit for the Prime-Ministership. This will create a nursery of new leadership talents that accommodates succession processes. And this single move will align with renewable energies needed to constantly adjust to societal shifts and international trends.
A new wave of appreciation for local intelligence and homegrown solutions must be allowed to flourish unchecked. This is not to say that the ALP should dismiss global best practices. But it is expected that Browne will encourage party members to devise exported solutions to international problems, in ways that animate the nation’s young minds and unlock their creative and entrepreneurial juices.
Where else would any political leader dare put forward the idea that foreign is superior and excellence is external except in a small island where poverty and punctured communal esteem reigns supreme. Browne has a chance to undo this tradition.
Preparing for national leadership requires a compelling vision of economic stability, moral clarity and problem-solving culled from human capital available at home and in the wider diasporas. The ALP must start by figuring out how to translate the party’s original purpose into a vision of relevance and restoration. A combination of old heads and fresh legs should iron out the ALP’s reason for being head-on. It is time to speak fairly and directly to the issues of take-out and take-down politics internally; and poverty, crime, gender inequality, and divisiveness nationally. The changing demographic will punish and reward leaders based solely on superlative performance.
Yes! The momentum for new leadership is here. Assembling the best local talent to deliver the most sustainable solutions should unify the ALP. However, Browne’s leadership must be morally bound to social justice activism and transitional goodwill from his elders, before the ALP sees a new generation achieving prosperity, health, and collective success.
At the same time, stalwart leader Lester Bird should publicly provide closure to festering undercurrents and preserve his own legacy, by appealing to his supporters to unify the party. If all efforts at a peaceful transition fail, Browne should draw on political ideals to guide the “New Labour Party” into a formidable nation- building organization, magnified by adaptive leadership and thriving economics.
Dr. Isaac Newton is an International Leadership and Change Management Consultant and Political Adviser. He specializes in Government and Business Relations, and Sustainable Development Projects. Dr. Newton works extensively, in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, education, leadership, political, social, and faith based issues.