Burton Williams has controversially said that an NDP government will take care of its supporters first. (File photo)

ST. VINCENT: – President of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Arnhim Eustace, has “condemned” a statement by NDP candidate and former parliamentarian, Burton Williams, who suggested that an NDP administration would cater to the needs of its supporters first.

Williams, a former representative for South Windward, speaking at an NDP rally in Carrier on Saturday, Sept. 25, reverted to the colloquial saying of pastors christening their children first.

But Eustace, speaking on his party’s programme on Nice Radio on Monday, Sept. 27, said the comments by the former Minister of Health do not reflect the policy of the NDP.

He said the leadership of the NDP has consistently indicated the need to look after the interest of all Vincentians, regardless of their political affiliation.(Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)

“That has been our position all the time, that we need to look after the interest of all people, and I emphasise the word all. It should not matter whether you are [a support of the] ULP or NDP,” said Eustace, a former prime minister.

“We do not support the wholesale and continued victimization of NDP supporters on the basis of their party affiliation. We have seen that victimization come to its highest levels under the Unity Labour Party [ULP],” Eustace said, reading from a prepared statement.

“All of our people — and again I emphasise all — should have the greatest possible opportunities for finding jobs and to make progress in their lives, not based on party affiliation, because that is responsible for the very deep divisions that now encompass this country and it has in fact negatively affected our performance,” he added.

“I therefore unequivocally, and in the strongest possible terms, condemn the statement made by Mr. Williams. It does not reflect the policy of the New Democratic Party, which is based on inclusiveness. Our policy is based on the need for equal opportunity, fair play, freedom and justice for all citizens, and we stand by that.

NDP leader Arnhim Eustace has said Williams’ supporters-first stance is not NDP policy. (File photo)

“… I want to say that we regard this as an important tenet, an important principle, one of the cardinal principles why we participate in this general election. Our country cannot develop by having one set of people performing all of our tasks. Merit is important and we have been stress the need to operate also on the basis of merit. I say no more on that subject,” Eustace said.

Williams, the NDP’s candidate for South Windward, is making a comeback to electoral politics, having apologized in July for running against the party in 1994 after a fall out with NDP founder and then prime minister, Sir James Mitchell.

Mitchell demanded the apology during the NDP’s 32nd convention at the party’s headquarters, Democrat House. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)

“I want to say to Burton: Before he gets my 100 [per cent] support, I want to hear him apologize to the party and the people of South Windward,” Sir James said then.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves weighed in on the controversy, recounting the development to party supporters at a ULP’s rally in Barrouallie on Sunday, Sept. 28.