ST. VINCENT: – Former prime minister and retired politician Sir James Mitchell has said the New Democratic Party (NDP), which he founded 35 years ago, will win at least eight seats in the Dec. 13 general elections and form the next government in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
Sir James, who retired from politics in October 2000, counted for the NDP the three Leeward seats, the three Kingstown seats and the two in the Grenadines. There are fifteen constituencies in SVG.
“Now, I know that they’re not teaching maths very well in the schools these days but I still believe they know how to add three in Leeward, three in the city and two in the Grenadines. That is eight. And anything we get on the windward is rally up,” he told NDP supporters at a campaign rally in Questelles, South Leeward, on Wednesday, Nov 17.
He said that NDP candidates who don’t heed his advice will lose in the elections and called the candidates for the three Leeward constituencies, Pattel Matthews, Norrell Hull, and Niguel Stevenson of North, Central, and South Leeward respectively to join him at the front of the platform.
“I am calling on these men and you the people of leeward to seal off the leeward coast from the ULP (Unity Labour Party).”
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Sir James was confident that NDP president and Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace will retain his East Kingstown seat for a fourth consecutive term.
He also believed that Senators Daniel Cummings and St. Clair Leacock will win in West and Central Kingstown respectively after their failed attempt in December 2005.
“That makes six. … I am guaranteeing you we have the two in the Grenadines,” Sir James said of the NDP stronghold, which along with East Kingstown, remained faithful to the party while the 12 other constituencies voted for the ULP in the 2001 and 2005 elections.
Sir James said that these elections will be different that in 2005 in that the Constitution Referendum last year November showed the NDP that victory was within grasp.
He said that the NDP would have won 13 of the 15 seats if the referendum were elections.
“We are not starting from scratch, we have a score,” he said.
“In 2005, in that last election, you just had that election by itself and you weren’t so sure whether you would win or lose. But, this time, we have had a referendum that has pointed you in the direction to see that we can win. So, we’re not guessing,” Sir James added.
Sir James encouraged NDP supporters to accept hurricane relief and other handouts from the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves administration.
“So, if something is being shared out from hurricane [Tomas] or from Lybia money or Chavez money take it. Nothing wrong with that; but what is government about? Government is about your quality of life everyday –quality of life, quality of education, quality of healthcare — somebody might be helping you with something, some school books or so on, but there are lots of things you want every day of life … You want to know that when you go to a hospital, you get attention. One sheet of galvanize is not equal to a good quality healthcare in the hospital,” Sir James said.
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He said the accident and emergency department at Milton Cato Memorial, the nation’s main hospital, is “overcrowded because of the poor medical attention in the country (rural areas)”.
“Long ago you had a doctor you could go to in the country and a nurse you could go to in the country. Little things like that are gone. So, bear in mind what you are voting about is your quality of life and opportunity, not just opportunity to run out of St. Vincent,” he said.
Sir James spoke of a study done in the Caribbean, which showed that 70 per cent of the region’s youth between ages 17 and 30, would migrate if given the opportunity.
“Those are facts. So how do we correct those things? By making sure that the resources that God has given us here and that how we know how to plough – produce results.
“They want to tell you go for Argyle airport. They forget they mash up the banana industry. They [are] giving you all kinds of dreams,” he said, and mentioned the ULP’s proposal to build a tunnel under Cane Garden to address traffic congestion between Arnos Vale and Kingstown.
“But what about the things you have lost over the years and the quality of your life that has gone down? … We have to guard against the collapse against our quality of life,” Sir James said.
Sir James was prime minister from 1984 to 2000 during which the Ottley Hall marina was built.
The project was later valued at between EC$3.5 million (US$1.3 million) and EC$7 million (US$2.59 million) but left the nation with a debt of EC$200 million (US$74.1 million).
A tribunal has been established to try to determine who, if anyone, is culpable for the disappearance of monies allocated to building the marina.
The tribunal is especially interested in the testimony of Sir James, who retained sole ministerial oversight of the construction of the facility.
Sir James has undertaken several legal manoeuvres to evade testifying before the inquiry, although he says his “conscience is clear”.
Meanwhile, Nigel “Nature” Stevenson, the NDP’s candidate for South Leeward, said that the lives of constituents have not improved since 2001 when they voted in Minister of Health Dr. Douglas Slater as their representative.
He said constituents should vote for “proper representation”, adding that he will ensure that their quality of life improves.
“It is all about Ralph Gonsalves. And, when Ralph Gonsalves withholds money from his minister, not a single person can ask him for money for a project. … The government of the day — Ralph Gonsalves — has no respect for his ministers. And if Dr. Slater, who was a man of stature, a man who was more respected than the present [candidate]; if Dr. Slater couldn’t get anything done for you, do you think that the man who call himself King David will be able to deliver?” said Stevenson, a former teacher.
David Browne is replacing Slater as the ULP’s candidate for South Leeward. The ULP says Browne is “a young man who gets things done”.
“As a poultry farmer, accountant, businessman, international lecturer, and agricultural consultant, David’s passion to connect with and help people shines through,” says the candidate’s profile on the ULP’s website.