At a special caucus held at PAM headquarters on Sunday 23rd September, 2012, 39 year old two term parliamentarian, Mr. Shawn Richards, was elected National Political Leader, to succeed Mr. Lindsay Grant, who resigned earlier this year to make way for the installation of a new party boss, effective 1st October, 2012.
It was the narrowest of victories however, because at the end of the poll, both Richards and his rival, Mr. Eugene Hamilton, were tied on 66 votes each. However it was the casting vote of the party chairman, Mr. Selwyn “Rusty” Liburd that eventually gave the nod to the Sandy Point parliamentary representative to take the honours of party leader.
The approved electorate for the special election was comprised of 15 official delegates from each of the 8 constituencies in St. Kitts, (9) members of the National Executive of the party, and (3 delegates each) representing the women’s and youth arms of the organization. It is reported however that not all delegates made it in time to cast their votes.
This was the first time in the history of the party, which was formed in 1965, that a new leader was selected via an actual contested vote. In previous times the party was able to determine the leadership question through consensus. With the resignation of Grant however, PAM took the decision to create a wider opportunity for any member to step forward to seek the leadership position. In the end only the two deputy leaders, Hamilton and Richards, made themselves available for the election just completed.
Hamilton and Richards, during the period of internal campaign, when they appeared at various functions together, openly declared that no matter the outcome, the losing candidate would fully support the new leader. This was also the resolve of Mr. Grant, who said that his two deputy leaders were capable and highly qualified to succeed him, and it is his intention to rally behind the next leader as determined by the party membership.
The formal ratification of Richard’s election is expected to take place this coming Sunday, 30th September, when a special National convention of the party is convened for that purpose.
Already, the new leader-elect has been expressing hope of unity nationally, as part of his mantra, to help lead his party back into government and to end the fractious nature that is so evident within the country.
In the meantime, Mr. Grant remains as leader until Sunday 30th September, with Richards assuming office the following day on Monday 1st October.
Letters and messages of congratulations, said one party official have already started to pour in to extend best wishes to the new PAM leader.