ST. VINCENT:- Chairman of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) Dr. Linton Lewis is disappointed with Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ independence address, saying he was expecting some insights into the ruling Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) election manifesto.
Gonsalves, addressing the military parade in Kingstown, outlined new policies aimed at improving the socio-economic well-being of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the nation on Wednesday, Oct.27, observed its 31st anniversary of political independence from Britain.
SVG celebrated independence ahead of general elections that are widely expected before year-end, earlier than the constitutional deadline of March 29.
Gonsalves spoke of six points of focus, including continued concession on Christmas barrels and packages sent from the diaspora; land distribution; the construction of two recreational facilities in Kingstown; and the distribution of one laptop to each of the nation’s students, commencing in January.
He also announced some developmental priorities for January, with projects and programmes totalling EC$169 million (US$62.59 million).
His address, however, did not contain any cash for citizens as was part of an EC$30 million (US$11.11 million) “gift to the nation” at independence last year, one month ahead of the Constitutional Referendum, which the government lost.
“I expected a presentation in that vein except that I was looking forward to a bit more being offered to Vincentians in the speech,” Lewis said of the prime minister’s address.
“I expected to hear the content of the government’s — ULP’s — manifesto coming out in that presentation as to what the ULP government will do for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the eve of an election,” Lewis told listeners to his party’s radio programme on Thursday, Oct. 28.(Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)
“And, to the extent that that was not clear, and perhaps nonexistent, I feel a sense of disappointment,” added Lewis, who will represent the NDP in East St. George in the upcoming elections.
Lewis said “the tide is so obviously against” the ULP and there is “nothing for the prime minister to feel very vibrant about”.
“Understandably, he is leader of the party, he is the Prime Minister at this time, and he would want to give some sort of confidence — instil some confidence — in his supporters to rally the base and to keep their support after the next general elections,” Lewis said.
“…I think he has realized that the people of this country — the vast majority of them — following the 25th November referendum last year, they are not looking into the direction of the ULP as the path to govern this country,” Lewis further stated.
“Being aware of that, it will not engender within him — he would feel this burning desire to be flamboyant and to be extremely vibrant. And I think that was lacking,” he said.
Gonsalves’ independence address was notably short, a mere 22 minutes.
The government would then not be able to pass a budget or spend any money before the elections if they are called next year. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
“When you are faced with a situation where your budget is drawing nigh … and with the dissolution of Parliament facing you on the 29th of December, and also with you being faced with a situation where there appears to be an overwhelming support for the New Democratic Party, all that put into the mix create some confusion as to when the election date will be really called,” he said.
“… [I]f you’re really confident that you will win an election, then understandably it would have been called already. But I think that the delay in getting candidates and the obvious support for the New Democratic Party have all militated against you calling the election date when you want to,” Lewis said.
The NDP has announced its full slate of candidates but the ULP is yet to announce its candidate for South Leeward, whose representative, Minister of Health Dr. Douglas Salter, has said he wants to quit politics.
“I think he has very little choice as to when the date should be announced. There is no more surprise in the date for the election because we knows it must be called between now and the 29th of March. So, with all of that in mind, I am not surprised that his independence address was a bit low-keyed and it is something on which I wouldn’t wish to make further comment,” Lewis said.
Lewis however said “it was a pleasure experiencing 31 years as a country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
“The question we have to always answer ourselves is ‘Have we really come that far mentally’? ‘Do we still have that sense of national pride and dignity within us and we do we feel very much like a Vincentian’?’ he further said.