Former Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said yesterday that unlike Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell, he never abandoned the party or said negative things about the party’s leadership.
Wilchcombe, who will face-off against Mitchell for the national chairman post, said he will fight for his party.
Wilchcombe also said he doesn’t believe that PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis should have told reporters that he can’t win the chairmanship post.
The party kicked off its 54th national convention at the Melia Nassau Beach resort yesterday, where Davis and PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper ran unopposed for the top leadership posts.
Davis called for his team, consisting of Mitchell, Cooper and Robyn Lynes, to run unopposed.
But the matter escalated this week after Mitchell issued a voice note seemingly criticizing Wilchcombe for running.
In that message, Mitchell said, “Let me say this about the chairman of the party, since this is the position they all seem to be targeting, I guess. The chairman of the party has to get along with the leader of the party, can’t be interested in getting the leader of the party’s job or working on behalf of someone else to get that job.”
Asked about Mitchell’s comments, Wilchcombe said yesterday, “I think it’s imperative to remember that I ran for deputy leader of the party and lost to Brave Davis, and I never once walked away from my party or ever considered leaving my party or not supporting my party.
“It’s only the person who is running against me that left the PLP. I think that’s a significant difference. I’ve never left the PLP. I never went against my organization. I never said negative and derogatory things about the leaders as Fred Mitchell did.
“So, I find it to be incredibly amazing when they talk about loyalty when I’m the individual who has demonstrated loyalty, never went, never left, never criticized, never took on my leadership and never denounced anything that the party was doing.
“I’m a PLP and I [will] remain a PLP.”
Mitchell yesterday refused to comment on the matter.
“I can’t speak to anybody else’s behavior,” Mitchell said.
“I can only speak for mine.
“I’m guided by a set of principles and I still stand by those.”
He added, “I’ve not made any comment about Mr. Wilchcombe or anything he says, and I maintain that.
“I have nothing to say.”
Mitchell said he is hopeful he will be given the chance to continue as chairman.
“It’s an honor to do it,” he said.
“I’ve said this is the job of a lifetime and I’m happy to do it, and hope I get an opportunity to do it again.”
On Tuesday, Davis told reporters that he didn’t think Wilchcombe should run.
“…I don’t think he could win and he would not win,” Davis said.
Wilchcombe said, “Mr. Davis, I think he should not have been saying that to start with because I have not disclosed what he and I spoke about when he asked to meet with me.
“I did not disclose that. I don’t think the leader of our party should be doing that, but nevertheless it’s his right and he’s done it. What you have to do is continue to move forward.”
Asked about claims that his decision to run is causing disunity in the party, Wilchcombe said, “What did we say that’s disunifying?
“The only thing that has been disunifying is some statements not made by me, but made by others who should be encouraging.”
The Melia was crawling with PLP delegates yesterday, some of whom expressed support for Mitchell.
“My mind has already been made up for Mr. Mitchell,” said Louise Snell Frazer.
“I love Mr. Wilchcombe very much, but my feeling is…this is not the time for any interruptions in our party, for us to be fighting for this position, that position.
“We need to come together, hold hands and be strong and ready for battle in the next general election.”
Loxwell Russell said he believes Mitchell has demonstrated perseverance and dedication to the party.
“[My choice is] Fred Mitchell because of his experience, his concern and the work that he did, even after that crushing defeat in the last election.
“He was there picking up the parts, and I think he’s the man to continue the job because they are doing an excellent job as a team. Why break up something that’s working?”
Wilchcombe said that no matter the results, he will always support the party.
“I’m a PLP, and I start with the premise that we’re all PLPs,” he said.
“So whoever wins, hopefully they will carry through with the mandate of the PLP and the philosophy of the PLP. So it’s not a good or bad feeling.
“You’d love to have the opportunity to drive the vehicle, to steer the party in the right direction, but if you don’t, well, you accept that.”
Voting will take place today between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., PLP Convention Chairman Michael Halkitis said.
He said 1,800 delegates had already registered.