KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — The Dr. Ralph Gonsalves government is being called upon “to adopt an open-handed concept of political power that fosters the new political culture [the] country most desperately needs and deserves”.
The call comes from the socio-political group People’s Movement for Change (PMC) in a statement issued on Tuesday.
It described as “unacceptable, repugnant, repulsive and repressive” the 16 disciplinary charges brought by the government against public servant Anesia Baptiste.
Baptiste, the communication manager at the Ministry of Tourism, has been charged for comments she made during last year’s Constitution Referendum campaign, in her newspaper column, and on radio and television.
The Public Service Commission says that, among other things, Baptiste showed support “so strident as to be seen to be personally pushing an agenda of individuals in an opposition party”.
But the PMC said that the ULP, which will seek a third term in office in election expected this year, “is not consistent in its practice and promise of a new politics”.
The group said when the ULP’s second term in office closes with “charging and warnings and [lawsuits] and threats against radio voices”, it suggests an “ominous scenario, not something to look forward to”.
Gonsalves last week said he would sue anyone who suggested that US$1 million (EC$2.7 million) in cash deposited into a government account at the state bank was tainted as drug money.
Lawyers representing Gonsalves have written to Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace demanding an apology and EC$500, 000 (US$185,000) in damages for an advertisement his New Democratic Party began running on radio two weeks ago.
Eustace said there was nothing slanderous about the advertisement even as the party released a second commercial.
The NDP also said it would stand by Baptiste, who appeared on its platforms during the referendum campaign and hopes to be the country’s first female prime minister.
The PMC called on the ULP administration “to make peace and cultivate justice”, saying that Vincentians “would do well to examine whether the charges laid against Mrs. Anesia Baptiste are unwarranted”.
“In the People’s Movement for Change, we are challenged to rise to our feet and go in search of a public policy that liberates the intellect of the citizen, the public servant and the political directorate.”
It said the charges “reinforce and re-empower the colonial culture and control of the Public Service”.
“An administrative and cultural transformation must take place in the policy framework and practice of the public service. Postcolonial thinking reflects a revolutionary yearning of policy makers, but such changes require not just reform, but remaking of the public service,” the group said.
It further said the ULP administration holds “a closed fist concept of their power”.
“When their policy is challenged, they feel personally damaged and so they protect themselves with formal and informal regulations,” the PMC said.