In a clear statement of discontent with the leadership of Premier Donaldson Romeo, the members of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) ousted him in favour of current Minister of Communications & Works Paul Lewis late last night.
Insiders said the vote was cast via WhatsApp to allow for David Osborne, who is recuperating from illness in the United States and Minister of Education Delmaude Ryan who is Antigua, to make their choice. The votes were cast 6-2 in favour of Lewis, after Ryan had been unreachable during the voting. She, however, had backed Romeo remaining as party leader.
Lewis announced on the national radio Wednesday morning that he was honoured to lead the party into the next elections.
“Thank you Hon Premier for leading negotiations and contributing to the overall success of the PDM first term. The People’s Democratic Movement remains together as a united and committed party towards the task of taking Montserrat forward with all hands on deck as team,” Lewis stated.
Premier Romeo said the voting had been a democratic one and he will respect the outcome. He added that he will perform constitutional duties as premier until election day and thanked the people for their support over the years.
PDM has had a tumultuous five years in office. Second highest vote-getter Dr Ingrid Buffonge left the party within months of its win, choosing to serve as an independent member of parliament for the remainder of her time. She later led a no-confidence motion against the premier in October 2018, which was defeated. This season also saw the very vocal parliamentary secretary Gregory Willock walk the floor to become an independent member.
Claude Hogan, a key factor in its 2014 win was fired as minister of agriculture in 2017 and was rehired this year to replace David Osborne after he suffered a stroke.
Numerous claims of infighting and factions has peppered the party’s existence, coupled with five years of economic downturn for the island. Their term has also seen an increase in DFID controls of local decision-making and more high-paying technical consultants to overshadow local counterparts. The latest of these controls can be seen in the last minute signing of the CIPREG agreement, to access 30 million pounds as a Non-Budget Support Financial Aid Grant to support economic growth on Montserrat. The Grant will retroactively start on the 01 April 2019 and is expected to end on the 31 March 2024.
The funds come with the engagement of a DFID-selected implementation agency, which now duplicates the recently created Programme Management Office (another office which DFID insisted needed to be formed within the GOM) headed by UK-national Martin Partlett. The implementation agency, which will be allocated 10% of the grant, will have oversight of all projects developed under the CIPREG. It is not clear what the PMO’s role will now be.
Voters are scheduled to go to the polls on Monday, November 18, 2019 to elect a nine-member team to run the island for the coming five years.