By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Trustee Valentine Grimes yesterday said “no candidate” is allowed to speak at the party’s convention this week as he shot down reports that the PLP’s top brass was preventing leadership contender Alfred Sears from addressing delegates during the event.
Mr Grimes, who has responsibility for internal elections, told The Tribune that “no one is speaking to the convention as a candidate in any evening session or day session,” countering the story put out by Mr Sears a day before that the PLP is engaging in “acts of desperation” ahead of the three-day event, its first convention in eight years.
Regarding Mr Sears’ claims that the PLP had appointed hundreds of stalwart councillors just days before the three day event, Mr Grimes said: “It’s an internal party matter and ought to stay an internal party matter.”
Earlier this week, Mr Sears told reporters that he has been denied an opportunity to speak at the party’s convention by organisers and said he was told he would not get the full list of voting delegates until Wednesday, which is the day the party will vote on executive posts.
Mr Sears said that he wrote to PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts to ascertain “what night I would be scheduled to speak so that my campaign team can prepare ourselves to present our platform and speak to the delegates and be available for an ongoing conversation”.
However, he told the media that he was told in a reply from the PLP’s secretary general “that I would not be allowed or afforded the opportunity to speak as a candidate for leadership”.
In response, Mr Grimes told The Tribune: “No candidate has ever been allowed to address delegates in that capacity in any evening sessions. No candidate has ever been allowed to address convention in that particular manner, it’s an internal party matter and ought to stay an internal party matter. No one is speaking to the convention as a candidate in any evening session or day session.”
The PLP’s convention begins today and continues until Thursday, January 26. Prime Minister Perry Christie, the PLP’s leader, is scheduled to address the convention on the final night.
The PLP has not held a convention since 2009, although the party’s constitution mandates that such an event be held every year. The event marks the first time Mr Christie has had a challenge to his leadership since National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage and attorney Paul Moss faced him in 2009.
Mr Sears has maintained that the party’s best chances of re-election are with him at its helm. He previously rebuffed suggestions that a leadership change would have a destabilising effect on the party so close to a general election.
However, PLP Deputy Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis has said he does not expect to see a change of leadership at the end of the event.
“I don’t see any new leader emerging from this convention,” Mr Davis said on Sunday. “I think that it is good that we can all gather all together in one place in conclave to chart the course for the next five years because this is not just a convention to elect leaders but also to set the course for the general election and to craft our plans for the next five years.
“I’m satisfied that we have been re-energised at the end of the day…this is about the PLP, it’s not about any individual and we will stay together.”