ST. VINCENT: – After almost 10 years in opposition, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is ready to retake the reigns of governance in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, party president and Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace told supporters on Saturday, Nov. 13.
Eustace said the NDP was already “in charge” and told his supporters at a major rally in his East Kingstown constituency that the general elections will be held on December 15. (See end of this post)
The ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) will stage a major rally in the south-eastern town of Calliaqua on Sunday
Political observers believe that Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves will use the event to announce the date for the general elections, constitutionally due by March 29, 2011.
“If Gonsalves change that date, he changing it tonight, you hear me? That is the date for the election and he was intending to announce it tomorrow. If he change it… ah will know!”Eustace further said.
Eustace said it was a difficult nine years on the opposition bench.
“We take whatever licks we get. I get plenty lick for all sort of reasons, even from my own people,” he said.
“Well, I learn a long time ago to keep my cool. It’s not everything you jump up for. There are times you lie still and then you come back. Well, the NDP is back and the NDP will move the ULP from office in the next general elections!” he said to cheers.
“We are now back! Some will say it take too long, it take nine years. But if we did do it in two years, this country would have been in flames and I was not prepared to take responsibility for any violence in this country, which would have caused any loss of one single human life,” Eustace said.
“People mightn’t see it as good politics. They say ‘Yo’ soft!’ You think I don’t have feelings too? Some say I want to react violently myself. But I said ‘Eustace, cool it! Cool it!’” Eustace further said.
“Today, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines recognise that we are in a situation where the New Democratic Party will form the next government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added.
After 17 years, the NDP was voted out of office in March 2001, three years after Eustace was elected to Parliament and five months after he became head of the NDP and prime minister.
Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell had agreed to call early elections after the ULP-led “Road Block Revolution” of April 2000 that shut down capital city Kingstown and threatened to grind the nation’s economy to a halt.
The NDP also lost the December 2005 general election three seats to ULP’s 12, a repeat of the 2001 elections results.
NDP supporters rang bells and blew conch shells during their rally in Sion Hill as each of the party’s 15 candidates spoke to elections issues.
Eustace said Vincentians were “looking forward to a change of government” and said he and his team have a great responsibility to the country.
“… we intend to win. And we intend to run a successful government where every man, woman and child, regardless of which party you support, will be treated equally. I make that solemn promise … with all sincerity. Because I have seen what victimisation has done to this country, to this people and this economy of ours,” he said.
Eustace said that the country could not have “a situation where victimisation determines the future of every individual”, adding that civil servants and person in the private sector have been victimised by the ULP administration.
“It is a serious, serious issue…. We can’t have that. And a New Democratic Party administration, I promise you, will change that. If it is the one thing we have to do in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is to stop the division of our country, the division of our people.”
Eustace said the government was victimising person as the country rebuilds after Hurricane Tomas, which affected devastated the agricultural sector and damaged 1,200 homes at the end of October.
“… when a government deliberately, deliberately, sets out to repair the homes of those who support them, we say enough, no more! … That is what it is: Victimisation all over again! We have had it all the time under this administration for the last nine years and it is getting worse rather than better,” he said.
“We should have the resources that we have being used to assist all, but that is not the case. And now we find that materials are being stored in the homes and the properties of candidates and they are giving that to their people and leaving out people that need to be helped, and that needs to stop.”
Eustace also spoke of some of his party’s plans for the country over the next five years, including for education and the private sector.
The former minister of finance spoke of his experience in “economics and development” and mentioning his participation in the 1976 meetings when the Eastern Caribbean Dollar was being pegged to the United States Dollar.
“I was in all those meetings. So I know how the economies of this region run and I tell you Gonsalves can’t handle that … and that is why we are in the mess we are today. … And, if you want that mess to clear up, move Gonsalves and put Eustace and the New Democratic Party and we will clear up the mess for you man,” he said.
Eustace also thanked his constituents for electing him to Parliament during the last two terms, the only NDP candidate on mainland St. Vincent to retain a seat.
“I know that this time, I will not be the only NDP [candidate] victorious on the mainland. There’ll be plenty more coming with me this time and we will sweep this country and we will change the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“The days of one NDP man in Parliament from the mainland are gone! … And you know that sound real sweet to me to me – sound real sweet. It isn’t easy sitting down there you know with 16 on one side and five sitting on the other.…
“Some people think it [is] easy but it is not. When it comes to [having] to prepare the bills and so on, we have to share the work among five. They could share the work among 16. But even then, we beat them in the debates over and over and over again,” Eustace said.
He spoke of the resilience of Vincentian and encouraged them to “keep that hope alive”.
“Keep alive the hope that you, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, having made a change of government, will see a brighter tomorrow; that your children and grandchildren will see a brighter tomorrow. That is what the NDP promises. We promise you hope. Hope for a brighter future and we are serious about that. We have spent endless time discussing the issues and we have a lot of proposals which you will see in our manifesto,” Eustace said.