By Jomo Sanga Thomas
Orando Brewster says God led him to medicine and God is leading him from medicine to politics. Most Vincentians will affirm that God will never mislead anyone. Therefore, Brewster is either misleading himself or he is being horribly misled by the ULP leadership, and all those who pass negative aspersions on anyone who questions his wrongheaded decision to enter politics at this time.
Orando Brewster is the ULP candidate for the constituency of Central Leeward. Brewster, a 33-year-old resident of Layou, recently completed the classwork necessary for his medical diploma. He has not fulfilled his two-year residency requirement and certification necessary for him to practise medicine.
As he celebrated his achievement and ULP supporters applauded his candidacy, some of Brewster’s classmates took to radio and social media questioning his claim that he has fulfilled the requirements for graduation. Some students affirmed that Brewster was not in class for the most recent set of exams. However, Brewster claimed that he took the final requirements online and was successful.
When the ULP got into power in 2001, Brewster was a 13-year-old child. His entire life has been touched if not shaped in one way or the other by Ralph Gonsalves, Sir Louis Straker and the governing party. Brewster has been involved in ULP youth work for years. He is one of the party’s rising stars.
The big question is whether his time is now? The question does not speak to his electability. He is running for the governing party, which has the power of incumbency. His chance of victory is good but he has a fight on his hand.
Most people may not know this, but in most academic fields, credentials are time-sensitive. If you fail to do what you need to do to qualify within a certain time, all your previous work would count for nought. If you are still interested after that time elapse, you will have to start over. PM Gonsalves, a former university lecturer, and the rest of the party leadership must know of these most basic facts.
Why would Julian Francis, Brewster’s political uncle, refrain from using his political muscle to dissuade Orando from taking on this task at this time?
Why would Sir Louis Straker, Brewster’s mentor and political grandpa, refuse to do everything in his powers to persuade the young political aspirant against making this decision?
Camillo Gonsalves, heir-apparent to the party leadership, why did you not use your emerging star power to plant an earworm into the heads of Daddy Ralph, Uncle Julian and Sir Louis, so that they would tell Brewster his time will come?
Most importantly, why would Orando’s political father refuse to sit him down and tell him, “Not so fast, youngster. You have a bright political future ahead of you. Hold on just a little longer. Take your time and complete your studies. Begin a career in medicine”?
The reason can be found in the fact that the ULP is a powerful vote-catching juggernaut. Its leaders are driven by one motive that is to get into power and remain in power. Everything else is secondary.
Clearly, the party serves itself well by offering Brewster as a candidate. He comes from the bosom of the people in Layou; a young man who made good on his academic promise, was a good athlete, a teacher and a man of the religious cloth.
Many citizens may say that Brewster is a big man who has free will and can make his own choices. Of course he can. But ideas and choices don’t just fall out of the sky. They are embedded in our consciousness by those around us. And even if he was headstrong and remained convinced that this was his calling and the call is now, the role of leaders is to nurture, guide and lead.
Deputy Leader Straker, Party General Secretary Julian Francis and leader Gonsalves should have lectured and mentored Brewster against taking on the responsibility at this time. By allowing him and possibly encouraging him to cut short his studies to run for the ULP, these men did not only fail the test of leadership, they also failed the youth of our country.
As a qualified, practising physician, Brewster has a contribution to make to his family, his people and the country. To allow him to cut short his studies to enter politics, the ULP is demonstrating that it is more concerned about its political fortunes than about the welfare of a young man and his family.
The erudite Emmanuel Quashie, a PhD candidate and strong supporter of the ULP, was being goaded by some to enter competitive electoral politics for the 2020 elections. He correctly answered that his primary consideration is to complete his studies.
But this is the silly season of electioneering and voting. Brewster’s candidacy is clear proof that the ULP is willing and ready to go through hell or high water to win for the fifth consecutive time. There is no legal transgression in the party’s decision to woe and win Brewster as one of its candidates. However, the morals and ethics of the decision present some challenges.
The party may win but Brewster will be the loser. If he were to win and become an elected parliamentarian, he will not be able to finish his studies to become a doctor. If he wins and ends up on the opposition benches, he cannot practise medicine because he has not yet fulfilled the residency requirement.
If you want to get a seat of the pants, a feel for why this decision by Orando Brewster is wrong, here’s a simple “Yes” or “No” test: Do you think Ralph Gonsalves would have allowed/encouraged any of his children, similarly situated as Orando Brewster, to contest the 2020 general election?
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.