ST. VINCENT: – Candidates for the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in the upcoming general elections promised on Saturday, Nov. 13, that they will give better representation than their Unity Labour Party (ULP) counterparts, if elected to office.
The 15 candidates, including opposition leader and parliamentary representative for East Kingstown Arnhim Eustace, addressed party supporters at a major rally in Sion Hill, East Kingstown.
“… you hear the other side they always like to talk about they charged up. But I want to say to you, and I want to say to all of them out there, that the New Democratic Party is fired up. We are ready to go because the charge of the Unity Labour Party is up,” said Niguel “Nature” Stevenson.
The former teacher fell just under 115 votes of unseating Minister of Health Dr. Douglas Slater in South Leeward during his first election outing in 2005.
Teacher Addison “Bash” Thomas is contesting the South Central Windward seat during his genesis into electoral politics.
He lamented the “deplorable conditions” of roads, the lack of sporting facilities and the “demise of agriculture” in his district.
Thomas spoke of the NDP’s success so far in using the courts to prevent the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves administration from increasing the number of constituencies from 15 to 17, notwithstanding the passage in Parliament of the relevant legislation earlier this year.
“… they can’t even handle what they have – the 12 [seats] – they want 17,” he said.
Pharmacist and agriculturalist Curtis Bowman, also a political novice, decried the state of healthcare in the country, and accused the government of trying to cover-up an outbreak of dengue fever.
“… I can tell you that from experience because I am recovering from dengue fever and the government of this country is hiding it and covering it up,” said Bowman who is hoping to defeat education minister Girlyn Miguel in Marriaqua.
Bowman further said the NDP is committed to providing a “first-class health service” that is “available, affordable and accessible to every single citizen”.
“Today marks 355 days since the prime minister was asked to say where that US$1 million in cash that was deposited in the NCB came from,” lawyer Vynnette Frederick said.
She said those where 355 days “of silence and contempt” for Vincentians “and we have had enough and will take no more”.
Frederick, who is contesting the West St. George seat, further spoke of Gonsalves’ “personal connection with leaders of country that do not embrace and practice democracy”.
She mentioned “the Libyas, the Irans of the world” and said these relationships where warming even as “we alienate our traditional allies, the United States, the UK and Canada where the most Vincentians outside St. Vincent reside”.
Former Minister of Health Burton Williams spoke of the recent death of Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson, 48.
“I have returned with a sense of urgency understanding that I have a task to finish to make sure that I can give the best of me to the people of South windward and the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said Williams who returned to the NDP this year after a fallout in 1994 with then Prime Minister Sr. James Mitchell.
“Since this ULP came to power … you can’t get anything to do if you don’t have … a ULP party card or if you don’t wear red,” said Williams, who was recently chided by Eustace for saying that if elected he would take care of his supporters first.
Norrell Hull has failed in his past three attempts to win Central Leeward for the NDP but now sees “the light at the end of the tunnel”.
The retired lawman spoke of the need for more aggressive crime fighting methods, saying that the ULP had not kept its manifesto promise to be tough on crime and its causes.
“Tonight, you have heard from a lot of candidates. And we have one thing in common and the common objective … is to rid this country of Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP and make SVG a better place for you, for your children, for everybody,” said former teacher Roland “Patel” Matthews.
In North Leeward, Matthews will come up against Minister of Science and Technology, physician Dr. Jerrol Thompson, to whom he lost by 22 votes in 2005.
“I have been a nurse for the last 22 years. I am accustomed to taking care of wounds but I don’t think I have it in me to take care of the wounds that Ralph had left here in this country,” Margaret London said in her maiden speech.
The political novice, who will face off with Gonsalves in North Central Leeward, compared herself to prominent women including Margaret Thatcher, Rosa Park and Susan Anthony.
“I have a fear for our future. I have a fear for our civil right and our civil liberties and we want our country back,” London said.
“In the Grenadines, they will never gain a seat and they can put that in their pipe and smoke it,” said Terrance Ollivierre, who has been representing the Southern Grenadines, an NDP stronghold, since 2001.
“They already give up on the Grenadines. They only going through the motions down there because they know they cannot trespass down there at all. That is NDP territory. The Grenadines always for the New Democratic Party,” Ollivierre said.
His colleague Dr. Godwin Friday of the Northern Grenadines said residence of the archipelago will not forget the “one dollar tax”, a user fee levied on travellers to the Grenadines for use of the ferry terminal in Kingstown.
Friday also lauded Eustace’s leadership, saying he was kept hope alive in the “darkest days” between 2001 to 2003 and kept the party and its Members of Parliament together as a fighting force “so that people in this country could see that they had good representation in opposition in the house of Parliament.”
NDP Chairman Linton Lewis restated his call for a meritocracy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“No longer will the policemen be afraid to do their jobs; no longer will the civil servant have to carry news on each other to get promotions; no longer will people in the private sector feel that there is no career growth,” he said, adding that all persons will be rewarded based on competence and effort.
“I will die in support of meritocracy and I will live in support of a meritocracy,” said Lewis, who Works Minister Clayton Burgin fended off in 2005.
Senator Daniel Cumming, spoke of mixed emotions, saying he had no doubt that the NDP will be the next government.
The West Kingstown candidate, who lost to culture minister Rene Baptiste by 35 votes in 2005, was, however, also “very cognisant of the fact that we will have a herculean task to restore so many facets of our society”.
“Together, I know, and I speak tonight to every public officer… I have confidence in the people of this country. I know that you have what it takes; I know you are not permitted under this regime to be yourself. But this New Democratic Party is going to empower every public officer to be professional and to be rewarded based on merit,” Cummings said.
“It has to be the commitment of this New Democratic Party tonight in all of this rain to heal this nation, stop the victimisation and discrimination, and understand, once and for all, this country can only go forward when as a plural country, we function as one people,” West Kingstown candidate Senator St. Clair Leacock said.
“There are some who are saying that me and me neighbour voting for – and they complete it. But we not saying that. Me and me family … we look at the economy, and based on what we see, our minds made up already, we voting for the key, the New Democratic Party. That’s, what were are going to do,” said teacher Elvis Daniel who is contesting the North Windward seat for the second time.
The ULP has fielded eight new candidates as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sir Louis Straker, culture minister Rene Baptiste, tourism minister Glen Beache, health minister Dr. Douglas Slater, social transformation minister Mike Browne, minister of state Conrad Sayers, ecclesiastical affairs minister Selmon Walter, and senator Julian Francis opt out of electoral politics.