ST. VINCENT: – The Ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) on Sunday celebrated its ninth year in office, with Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves warning supporters not to vote for the New Democratic Party (NDP) in general elections, widely expected this year.
“The opposition NDP doesn’t have a vision for this country. They do not look at the possibilities which are in us. They look at the limitations. And a political party which only looks at the limitations cannot develop a country,” Gonsalves said at a rally to the north of the island.
“We are celebrating nine years of excellent governance and we are looking forward, in the next term, to five years of even better governance, because we would have laid the foundations,” he said.
Gonsalves spoke of his administration’s successes in infrastructure development, education and healthcare, saying, “All of these things are because we have a people-centred vision.”
He however spoke to disgruntled supporters telling them not to sacrifice his administration because of personal grievances.
“Some of you may want to play Sampson and pull the temple down on everybody’s head, including your own, because you may not get some lumber or galvanise. I warn you: do not do that; because it will be sackcloth and ashes for you under the NDP government.”
Gonsalves said NDP leader and former Prime Minister Arnhim Eustace “is yesterday’s man, with day-before-yesterday ideas”.
He noted that after governing SVG for 17 consecutive years, the NDP lost the general elections of 2001, with a repeat of the 12-3 results in 2005. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
“What new ideas has Arnhim Eustace brought to the table so that you can repose confidence in them in 2010 or 2011?” Gonsalves said, even as he spoke of his administration’s “social-democracy” philosophy.
“That means that we seek to deepen democracy, protect and defend individuals rights and freedoms, make sure that there is justice and equity in the lives of our people and to make certain that individual enterprise gets rewards and, at the same time, we must have an equality of opportunity for every single Vincentian.”
He said the country’s wealth had doubled by EC$900 million (US$333.33 million) since his party came to office and attributed this to the focus on the state sector, private sector, and cooperative sector.
Gonsalves said that five years after coming to office, his administration’s “education revolution” provided secondary education for all 12-year-old Vincentians, an increase from 39 per cent in 2001, and has increased domestic electricity and pipe-borne water connections from 70 per cent to 96 per cent respectively.
He further said a ULP government would ensure that by 2025 there would be at least one university graduate in each of the country’s 33, 000 households.
“If you want to vote against that, you will be voting against your children’s interest, and your own interest.”
Gonsalves said his administration had brought “a sense of confidence” to citizens.
“You can be whatever you want to do or to be. You are not better than anybody else, but nobody in the world is better than you, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
The ULP celebrated its ninth year in office on the heels of the rejection, in a referendum last November, of proposed changes to the country’s constitution. Political observers say the proposed constitution had fallen victim to a vote on the ULP’s stewardship.
While Gonsalves said that he had tied his hand behind his back by dealing only with constitutional matters during the referendum campaign, he admitted then that many of his supporters were disgruntled.
Last month, former St. Lucia Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, whose St. Lucia Labour Party was voted out of office in 2006, cautioned the ULP that it needed to rebuild a relationship with supporters who have become disappointed or disaffected.
Gonsalves, who was in 2008 accused of sexually assaulting a female member of his security detail, has come in for strong criticism for his leadership style, with some observers saying that he is too autocratic, insulting, and arrogant.
He denied the rape charge and shortly after the accusation, the Director of Public Prosecution discontinued the case.
Since last year, Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibilities for legal affairs, national security and finance, has refused to answer questions from the opposition regarding the source of US$1 million (EC$2.7 million) in cash deposited in a government account at the state bank.
His administration has also brought 16 disciplinary charges against Anesia Richards-Baptiste, the communications manager in the Ministry of Tourism, who actively supported the opposition’s “Vote No” referendum campaign.
“… [T]o commence disciplinary proceedings at this time is wrong and mostly ill timed. It looks like persecution, smells like a witch hunt and have the feel of political party and government intent on committing political suicide,” social commentator Jomo Thomas wrote in his newspaper column.