He was touted as “new Labour” and one of the fresh faces and bright minds of Saint Lucian politics. In 1997 he brought the Dennery South seat safely home for the Saint Lucia Labour Party. During his tenure as a government minister, Damian Greaves held the portfolios of minister of Health and minister of Culture between 1997 and 2006. However he was replaced as an SLP candidate for the 2006 elections, which his party lost.Damian Greaves really needs no introduction, save to say the former government minister under Kenny Anthony is now an assistant professor at the School of Arts and Science at St. George’s University, in Grenada.
By his own account Greaves continues to follow closely life in Saint Lucia, often taking time to address his home island’s economy, its politics and its idiosyncrasies, sometimes via talk shows or in interviews. No surprise then that he readily agreed to talk to the STAR about the nomination last Sunday of Claudius Preville for leadership of the United Workers Party, now fronted by Allen Chastanet.
“Dr Preville’s entry into the fray is most welcome,” said Greaves on Wednesday during a telephone interview. “Here is a young man who has done well in terms of his education, in terms of his qualifications. Here is a young man from the Babonneau area who has been able to reach a certain level and able to make a contribution.”
As if in contradiction of a once popular notion, Greaves said: “I am not saying you must have a PhD to make a contribution. Or that you must have a degree to be of special service. What I am saying is that Dr. Preville has decided to contribute as leader of his party, which could be his first step toward the office of prime minister and there is no good reason why anyone should seek to throw cold water over that ambition.”
Further, people must stop thinking that when people decide to throw their proverbial hat into the ring that they are being mischievous or that they are Johnny come lately.”
He added: “The days of anointed leadership have long passed. It is my hope that, as young and energetic as he is, Dr. Preville will bring a new vision to local politics. I hope he can introduce a different way of seeing things, in terms of party politics; a different way of doing things in terms of bringing people together.”
As to the divisive nature of politics, Greaves is of the opinion different political viewpoints need not be reason to fight one another. While still loyal to SLP policies, he welcomed new ideas whatever their source.
“Our parties throughout Saint Lucia and the region have not developed an ethic relating to the nurturing of talent,” said Greaves. “Whenever it’s time for our leaders to make an exit we encounter problems.” Citing his own SLP, he lamented that he had received scant encouragement to move up the ladder.
“There was never a conscious and deliberate effort to nurture whatever leadership skills I may have,” he said.
I reminded him that the SLP had modified its rules to accommodate its present leader’s ambitions over all others back in 2005.
“When that motion was read on floor,” Greaves agreed, “I was one of those who voted for the rule change. Why? I thought at the time that Dr. Anthony had done well enough to be given another opportunity. But I must say that I was naive. Who’s to say someone else could not have stood on his shoulders, so to speak, and taken the party leadership where it had not gone before.?
Why the new thinking? “Right now age brings reasoning. Today I would not support the change of a clause in a particular constitution to that effect. I am wedded to the fact now that really people should spend no more than ten years at the helm as prime minister. I would like to see that inserted as part of our constitution of Saint Lucia.”
I suggested there were few discernible ideological differences between the ruling SLP and the opposition UWP. “That’s because we now have a phenomenon where parties try to be all things to all people,” said Greaves. “It is difficult to see a significant ideological or philosophical difference between the SLP and the UWP, that may be so. We need to go back to the drawing board and really craft, shape and place in a framework a particular ideology or philosophy by which the people will be guided by.” Should the people expect any time soon the return of Damian Greaves to elective politics? “I am keeping an open mind,” he chuckled. “Who knows what tomorrow might bring?”