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Posted: Thursday 28 March, 2019 at 6:28 PM

Astaphan: Succession Plan is one of Dr. Douglas’ gravest errors

By: Stanford Conway,

    Sam Condor may have been Prime Minister


    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – SOCIAL commentator and co-founder of Operation Rescue, Dwyer Astaphan believes that the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party might have still been in Office if its leader, Dr. Denzil Douglas, had had a satisfactory succession plan in the party.

    Speaking last Tuesday night (Mar. 26) on his organisation’s weekly programme -  ‘The Operating Room’-  aired on WINN FM, Astaphan made that comment, among others, following a recent interview when Dr. Douglas was asked what was his main regret in public life.

    Astaphan stated that in response, Dr. Douglas said his main regret was that he had not effected a satisfactory succession plan in the Labour Party.

    “I found this confession to be very interesting and it took me back to 2005 or 2006 at the Labour Party Annual Conference when I stood up and said that it was time for the Party to transition towards new leadership,” Astaphan said.

    He noted that at that time Dr. Douglas had been the Party Leader for 15 to 16 years and Prime Minister for 10 to 11 years. 

    “My thinking at the time was that he could step down during that term, setting up himself as an elder statesman and father figure for the Party; providing guidance and experience to Sam Condor, who could lead through the next election and he himself be succeeded by Timothy Harris or some other young person.”

    He continued: “Of course, I was singled out for scorn from certain high level members of the Party at the time and over the ensuing years for making that suggestion at the Party Conference. And, of course, the relations got progressively worse until I resigned from the Cabinet and then subsequently I was expelled from the Labour Party.”

    The former Minister of National Security noted that Dr. Douglas had another opportunity to implement a succession plan.

    “In and around 2008, another opportunity arose for Dr. Douglas to stand down when he; Asim Martin; Barbados Prime Minister at the time, David Thompson; Barbadian Hartley Henry, consultant to Dr. Douglas; Sam; Timothy Harris and I met at the Marriott Hotel, where Dr. Douglas offered to stand down within two weeks, only to change his mind.”

    Astaphan said Dr. Douglas was encouraged and supported by “some of the cronies who were happy milking Labour’s breast and milking the country’s breast, and, of course, jealously guarding whatever turf that carved out for themselves under Dr. Douglas’ leadership”.

    He claimed if Dr. Douglas had allowed that process to occur back then, the Labour Party would have stood a very good chance of still being in office today, possibly with Dr. Harris taking over after Condor, who might have been finishing off his tenure and making way for a new leader at or around this time. 

    “Remember, Sam had entered Parliament around 1989 together with Dr. Douglas, and Timothy Harris entered in 1993. So, Dr. Harris has been around for a long time; 26 years in Parliament,” he added.

    Astaphan also claimed that one of the ironies pertaining to the entire situation is that Dr. Harris, who Dr. Douglas had promoted, defended and protected in the early years, but who in the latter years did not receive his support, is now Leader of the country and Dr. Douglas is not.

    “Another irony in this story,” he said, “is, and maybe that is what Dr. Douglas was reflecting on, that had he encouraged the succession plan, his party might still have been in power. And while he might not have been the Prime Minister, he would have been the elder statesman.

    “I am sure, knowing the guy, this is one of his considerations.”

    Highlighting another irony, Astaphan said, “...Remember Timothy was subsequently fired from the Cabinet and then expelled from the Labour Party. Well, it is the same date when he was expelled, I think it was on January 26, 2013, a group of us met at his home and he told Sam that he had to resign from the Cabinet to show solidarity with him. 

    “One of the persons present disagreed, saying that Sam didn’t have to resign, he had to consider his own circumstances. But in his characteristic selflessness, Sam Condor turned to me and asked me to draft his resignation from the Douglas Cabinet; and the rest is history.”

    Astaphan further claimed that Condor could have remained in the Douglas Cabinet and the baton could have been passed over to him. 

    “And if Sam had done that, he might now be having his last days as PM as I suggested, handing over to a younger person with Labour possibly, maybe even probably, still in power because of what I just said also because of the fact that on the Team Unity platform, when that became a reality, Sam Condor was the glue to the People’s Labour Party and to the coalition, and the man who could reach out to persons who others couldn’t reach out to,” Astaphan added. 

    Astaphan also singled out Mrs. Condor, describing her “dynamo” not just among Team Unity’s women, but generally as a political force of nature.

    He declared that the Condors’ home was locale for a lot of significant activity in relation to the development of both the People’s Labour Party and Team Unity.

    “The bottom line is this, had Sam Condor not resigned, where Timothy Harris would be today? If Sam had stayed with Dr. Douglas he would have retained his seat in Parliament. Those four votes that Asim Martin lost might have been saved, because Sam had and still has a lot of political goodwill in East Basseterre as he does across the nation on both islands,” he posited.

    “And in Number Seven,” he added, “in a scenario like that, without the Labour vote and without the PAM vote, Timothy could have ended up losing his seat, if at all he had contested it.

    “If Sam had stayed with Dr. Douglas, as I suggested, there probably would be no Team Unity, or if there would have been a Team Unity I don’t think it would have had the potency that it had.”

    Reiterating his position on the leadership of the Federation, Astaphan said were it not for Condor Dr. Harris would never have been Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis.     

    “He might not have even been employed as bright, talented and qualified as he is. Maybe no institution in St. Kitts would have been able to afford him. He might have gone away and lectured at university or whatever the case may be. That is presuming he might not have gathered sufficient means over his 26 years in public life to launch out in a practice or business of his own.”

    He noted that it was all of those things that came to his mind when he heard Dr. Douglas’ comment that his main regret was not putting a proper succession plan in place in the Labour Party.

    “It surely was one of his gravest errors, and it was good that he pointed it out. I believe it may go down as having had a significant impact on the modern political history of St. Kitts. If it doesn’t attain that level of high impact that I think it possesses, then it will at least arouse discussion among political historian and political observers,” concluded Astaphan.  
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