St. John’s Antigua- ALP Chairman Gaston Brown, the successor-apparent to Antigua Labour Party (ALP) Leader Lester Bird, has seized on the opportunity created by the exit speech given by Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding to press for quicker turnover in political leadership.
Last week Golding announced that he was stepping down, and during his address to the people of Jamaica on Sunday night, he urged the older members of his party to make way for younger leaders.
Brown told the Daily OBSERVER yesterday that Golding’s call was sensitive to the trend of modern governance, especially as he listed a number of countries in which the leader is younger than the prime minister’s 63 years of age.
Brown said, though, that he wouldn’t advocate selection of any leader based on age only.
“Even though here in Antigua and Barbuda for instance, we have a young population and that the younger candidate of equal capability would invariably outperform an older candidate, leadership is not exclusively a function of age. So that even though I am one of the potential beneficiaries from that type of advancement of youth leadership, one would expect that the leader of any party, or of a country for that matter, would be equipped with certain skills; that they will come with the necessary integrity, the experience, qualifications, and certainly the energy and competence to effectively govern,” he said.
Brown also argued that it’s pure and simple desperation when people attempt to prolong their hold on political power. He explained his view by saying that some can not do without the livelihood provided by political careers.
“Politics is the only game in town for some of leaders, and that is why many of them would be prepared to stay on at all cost, even at the risk of becoming a liability to the state. Now, I’ve been actively diversifying my interests beyond politics to make sure that I do not find myself in a situation where I have to hold onto power at all costs, even at the expense of the state,” he said.
He committed to restricting individuals to two consecutive terms as head of government, and would this even to himself if he ever became prime minister.
The interview with Brown widened to cover the general power of prime minister under the system inherited from Britain. It’s a topic late Queen’s Counsel Dame Bernice Lake spoke on saying, among other things, that there should be popular elections to determine who sits in the Senate and in the Cabinet.
“You come before the people for a post to sit in and to comprise the Cabinet and you show your slate, you show what you are capable of for that part in the executive authority so that you are directly elected and not vicariously because you’ve got a seat and you comprise this amorphous body called the legislature out of which the executive is derived.
“I’m suggesting it should be separated, split apart and be directly elected by the people and be directly answerable to the people rather than having the executive answerable to the people via the legislature,” she said of the Cabinet. She held similar feelings about the Senate.
Gaston said he agreed with Dame Bernice’s devolution of power idea, but felt that the prime minister should retain the right to pick those serving closest to him or her.
“I have no problem with popular votes for senators, but in so far as the executive is concerned, that should be the purview of the prime minister to decide who he would like to serve in his executive. I think it almost vulgar that almost invariably losing candidates are placed in the Senate, excluding other capable individuals in the society who have certain expertise and who obviously would be precluded from serving,” Brown said.
He also said that until the constitution is updated, he would strive to ensure an independent Senate by replacing members who demonstrated partisan tactics in the conduct of their upper house duties.