ST. VINCENT: – The Ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) has said that the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has politicised “to the degree of fabricating reports of discrimination in humanitarian aid based on party affiliation” the distribution of aid to persons affected by Hurricane Tomas.
Hurricane Tomas devastated the agricultural sector and damaged 1,200 houses and other infrastructure when it made landfall in St. Vincent at the end of October.
And the ULP, in a press release this week, said, “Anonymous, baseless accusations have been covertly lobbed at the ULP Government that a few NDP sympathizers have not received proper attention from the relief effort due to their political activities.”
The party said that its political leader and Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, was very clear when he said “If there are any Vincentians, regardless of their party affiliation, that believe they are being discriminated against in terms of hurricane humanitarian relief, I want this reported. This government will not tolerate discrimination.”
The release said that if the NDP has any specific reports of discrimination, then these people should come forward, “instead of anonymously calling into the radio and spreading a despicable whisper campaign against a government that has emphasized transparency, openness, and equality in the humanitarian relief efforts”.
“Instead of hiding in the shadows and spreading rumours, the NDP should just come forward with specific cases of discrimination and let the government address these cases directly,” the release said.
The ULP said that over the past week “a handful of anti-ULP propagandists have staged calls to Nice Radio and make up fake stories just to try to tear down the good work that the ULP Government is doing to help Vincentians rebuild after Hurricane Tomas.
“But if there is any validity to these claims, the ULP invites the members of the opposition to report it to the government,” it said.
“Unlike the opposition, this ULP Government cares about every single Vincentian, and we are here to help every single Vincentian recover from the Hurricane. Show me these cases, and I will make sure that these Vincentians are taken care of by their government,” the release stated, quoting Gonsalves.
The release said the concept of equality is a tenet of the ULP, “and the government’s response has embodied this principle to the utmost of its ability during the hurricane recovery process”.
“The reality of the situation is that it would make no sense for the ULP Government to only provide humanitarian relief to some, and not to others. On December 13th, all Vincentians will have the opportunity to make a decision on whether or not to re-elect this government, and they will recognize that humanitarian relief has gone to all Vincentians in need,” the release said.
It further stated that in the last 10 years, the ULP has consistently provided humanitarian aid to the Vincentians during natural disasters, adding, “Hurricane Tomas is a fine example of the government’s swift, effective, and transparent response”.
NDP president and Leader of the opposition Arnhim Eustace on Wednesday, Nov. 17, told party supporters that the ULP was giving hurricane relief to ULP supporters.
“They want to use the materials for political purposes for the next election. They want to try to buy out people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines — buy your votes by giving you materials. I say to you, take the materials and still vote them out,” Eustace said.
Eustace told a person in the crowd at the campaign rally in Questelles that they were “lucky” to have received aid.
“I hope that with that luck there you going to vote the New Democratic Party,” he said.
Meanwhile, Luke Browne, the ULP’s candidate for East Kingstown, said that two constituents affected by the storm “will be assisted” notwithstanding a delay.
“We wait on material from the ship due to arrive today. Everything is in place to ensure fair distribution. HLDC (Housing and Land Development Corporation) has worked out an outstanding system, the details of which we could talk about,” he told I Witness-News.
I Witness-News had asked Browne specifically about Sion Hill residents Douglas “Muddy” Knights-King and Afine King who were this week still awaiting hurricane relief.
The roofs of their houses were damage during the hurricane.
The female King said that while National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) personnel have evaluated storm damage to their community they had not accessed her house.
She however said that Browne has said he would organise worker to repair the house.
“…but nothing has been done as yet,” she told a reporter in a recent interview.
Mr King said he was in a “devastating” situation “because everything for me right now is uncomfortable”.
“Right now it’s a big setback because look at my house. How can we be comfortable in this situation? The hurricane pass a long time now and I think they should [have already shown] show interest in us,” he said.
The government has been criticised for designating the distribution of relief supply to non constituency representative, including Browne, who will contest the Dec. 13 general elections against Eustace in East Kingstown.
Further, the government has been criticised for storing relief supply at the private properties of party members, including at Browne’s home in Sion Hill. The government has said this was done for security reasons.