TAIPEI, Taiwan: – The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Wednesday released a second campaign advertisement even as party leader Arnhim Eustace announced that individuals had been sued for a controversial commercial released last week.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday said he would sue persons who say US$1 million (EC$2.7 million) in cash deposited into the Accountant General’s account was tainted as drug money, even as he refused to explain the origin of the funds.
But Eustace on Wednesday said his party would continue to use the controversial advertisement.
“We live in a democracy. You have to be responsible. We do not believe anything is wrong with the ad and the ad will continue to play. But what is more, today, you will hear another ad,” Eustace said.
He said that the country’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression and association.
“We are supposed to be a free people,” he said, claiming that the Gonsalves administration wanted to infringe on citizens’ right even as it advocated constitutional reform.
“You want a dictatorship for SVG? The people of SVG don’t want any dictators. We like to be free.”
He said a bill to be read in Parliament on Friday to increase the number of parliamentary seats from 15 to 17 contravene the wishes of the population.
That proposal was among a set of changes to the Constitution which citizens rejected in a referendum last November.
The bill is expected to pass because of the government’s parliamentary majority but Eustace said his party had been discussing it for some time and will “raise voices” in Parliament
“It did not come as any surprise. So we will deal with it at the level of the parliament. Of course, the government has a majority. But we will deal with it”.
Eustace’s also took issues with Gonsalves regarding a statement about work permits for the NDP’s election campaign consultants.
Gonsalves had said his supporters would make SVG “inhospitable” to the London-based Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL). Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
He said they were “the descendants of the white colonialist” who wanted to “subvert the decency of our politics”.
Gonsalves had also noted that he had ministerial responsibilities for work permits and would “decide whether I grant them or not grant them”.
“I take that as a threat,” Eustace said, adding that Gonsalves “wishes to prevent people who are working for us for an election … from getting a work permit and from working”.
“…Well, that is not part of our democracy as I understand it,” Eustace said, adding that he had already applied for work permits for the consultant and was “waiting to see what happens”.
Eustace said SCL was an international firm that had worked for political parties in 19 countries, including SVG.
“I really don’t know what is happening in this country. … I listened to the threat yesterday and we have taken note of it,” he said.