Kent Vital, former political leader of the Dominica Freedom Party
Kent Vital, former political leader of the Dominica Freedom Party

The door to the Alternative People's Party (APP) has been all but slammed shut on Kent Vital, following his shock resignation recently as political leader of the 52-year-old Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), which he led for three years.

Vital had proposed a merger of the two parties with him as the leader – an initiative that both parties have rejected - as part of efforts to unite all opposition forces in a bid to defeat the governing Dominica Labour Party. However, his departure from the DFP has left him in a weakened position to negotiate, and APP has said while he's free to sign up as an ordinary member, Vital won't be accepted in any leadership position.

"Mr. [Vital is] not coming to our party at all, not as leader –[maybe] as an ordinary bench person, [and] not even as a candidate for Roseau either," one person affiliated with the yet-to-be formally launched APP told The Sun. "Certainly, our door is shut in his face, I can tell you that. He is not going to be a consideration for the leadership of the APP."

Sources who spoke to The Sun on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, indicated that the fledgling party came to this conclusion following talks with Vital last Thursday at which they found out he had never shared the APP's proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a "strategic electoral coalition" with the DFP executive.

"It's following the meeting when he confirmed that the [Freedom] party had not seen the document [we said] that is madness. So, we closed the door on Kent," stated one of the informants.

Vital confirmed to The Sun that he had not shared the document with his officers, but argued there was a perfectly legitimate reason for this. The former DFP boss explained that he advised the team of the APP's desire for collaboration but since meetings were being held online due to COVID-19, and in keeping with the party's policy of ensuring sensitive documents are secure, he declined to share the document online.

Instead, Vital said, he had proposed a face-to-face meeting at which he would share hard copies, but that meeting was never held. In addition, he said there was opposition to any collaboration with the APP, with one member of the executive feeling so strongly about it that he resigned when the matter was placed on the agenda for discussion.

"Before that separate meeting occurred there was another situation that arose that caused the environment for discussion with the APP not to be right and everybody knew it," he told The Sun, while refusing to disclose the nature of the issue. "Therefore, I decided not to go forward with that meeting because there was no appetite for it at that point . . . so this is the circumstance under which they never saw it."

In the proposed MOU the APP sought a "strategic accommodations for electoral purposes of party candidates" in the next general election with the DFP for "joint-platform representation(s), and constituency/candidate(s) accommodation, among others".

"What we presented is what Freedom party has been advocating, and the people actually never got the proposal," revealed one source. The APP has since resubmitted the proposal to the DFP through Bernard Hurtault, the interim leader, who has communicated his party's willingness to hold talks with the APP.

However, in the interest of transparency, any decision to meet with the APP will come only after the DFP executive holds a frank and open discussion on the recommendations, revealed Johnson Boston, the long-serving party chairman.

"We are not against meeting groups, individuals, organisations because that's what the party is about: to discuss what's in the best interest of Dominica, and the APP is no exception," Boston told The Sun. "And we are considering what they have sent to us recently through our interim political leader. We'll discuss it at the executive level so everybody can be involved and we'll take a decision from there as to the way forward."

The way forward won't include a merger or a name change, as neither party wants this, and in any event, stated one source, it was Vital who recommended the merger with a promise to "bring his four men from the Freedom party to go with our four that's out now" in exchange for naming him leader of the combined party.

"He wanted to be leader without a challenge. He didn't want to be challenged at the congress," according to someone familiar with the talks, who insisted the APP outrightly refused "because our eyes [are] not on Kent . . . to lead the party."

For his part, Vital dismissed any such suggestions from him as his personal views expressed during informal talks, stressing that "informal discussions …as to any potential name is irrelevant."

"The only thing that matters is the formal discussion," argued the former Caribbean Development Bank economist.

The APP is expected to hold its official launch on 16 May in Portsmouth, one day after holding its first congress in the Kalinago territory. The party is currently conducting an aggressive search for a political leader, whom it expects to present at the Portsmouth conference.

"We are very, very, very confident that the result of our search will land us a leader who is capable and who has reach across the board to assist with the building of the winning coalition that I think is necessary and the sort of impact that we need," one interim official told The Sun.

In the meantime, the party will continue to seek an arrangement with the DFP with Vital out of the picture.

"I don't know what was in Kent's mind but Kent screwed up big time," said one source. "We will be talking to the Freedom party, so he will be the one losing out."