By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday seemed to welcome the thought of former Fort Charlotte MP Alfred Sears running for the position of leader when the party holds its convention in November.
Mr Roberts also dismissed assertions that various PLP members are either afraid to challenge incumbent PLP Leader Prime Minister Perry Christie or are more content to tow the party line until he steps down, saying that Mr Christie “has been challenged on many occasions”.
On Wednesday, Mr Sears, the PLP’s recently ratified candidate for the Fort Charlotte constituency, told The Tribune that he is “available” to run for PLP leader, adding that “nobody should be afraid” to say whether they intend to contest the party’s top post.
Mr Sears would not confirm if his “availability” meant that he would actually take on Mr Christie; however he said such confirmation would likely come after he has done “some preliminary canvassing to see and determine the level of support.”
However, Mr Sears said he hopes that his track record of public service “would be viewed as a basis to give the public confidence” in his “integrity and competence.”
When pressed for comment on the issue yesterday, Mr Roberts responded by saying: “We are a democratic organisation. At the convention that will be held in November, all of the party’s positions will be declared vacant, and all persons in good standing who are interested in contesting any seats will be allowed to have their names placed in nomination.”
When questioned if he felt Mr Sears fell into the category of “persons in good standing,” Mr Roberts would only say: “Mr Sears has been elected as a candidate for the party.”
And when asked about Mr Sears’ comments that nobody should be afraid to say whether they intend to contest the party’s top post, as well as suggestions that persons are reluctant to challenge Mr Christie, Mr Roberts said: “Why should anyone be afraid? Mr Christie has been challenged on many occasions. Check your record. Many times he has been challenged.”
So far, four names have emerged in discussions surrounding the future leadership of the PLP – Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell and Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald.
Former PLP Chairman Raynard Rigby has also hinted that he might run for the position of PLP leader.
Both Mr Wilchcombe and Mr Davis have publicly expressed their respective leadership aspirations, but have indicated that their plans depended on whether Mr Christie offered himself for re-election, with Mr Wilchcombe in particular stressing that he would challenge the prime minister.
Neither Mr Mitchell nor Mr Fitzgerald would comment on the issue.
Last September, Mr Christie declared that he would go into the PLP’s next convention as leader and emerge as leader. He later told party supporters that he would not allow anyone to put a proverbial political gun to his head telling him when to demote his post.
Initially the convention was planned for November 2015 but was rescheduled for April 2016 because of the devastation left by Hurricane Joaquin in the Family Islands and recovery efforts, which were underway at the time.
The April date was then rescheduled until later this year to give attention to the June referendum on gender equality.
The PLP has not held a convention since 2009, even though the party’s constitution mandates that one be held every year.