ST. VINCENT:- Vincentians will have at least 10 days to scrutinise the election manifesto of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) before casting their ballots on Dec. 13, party leader and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on Friday, Nov. 19.
Gonsalves also told reporters that he will not mention during the campaign Margaret London, the main opposition New Democratic Party’s (NDP) candidate to run against him in North Central Windward (NCW).
However, speaking at his Unity Labour Party (ULP) rally in Biabou Saturday night, Gonsalves said he was defended London against “unfair” treatment by her party.
“Driving a horse and chariot through the Constitution is far worse than anything that Margaret ever say,” Gonsalves said as an audio recording was played of London commenting on radio that she doesn’t “wash every week”.
“I don’t mean to say anything against Margaret. All I was saying is that you say that you are not running Margaret because of what she said. How can you run Burton when he say something far worse than what Margaret say. How can you keep Mitchell on the platform when he said something far worse than what Margaret say,” Gonsalves said.
“I say they’re not fair with Margaret,” Gonsalves said as a clip was played in which former prime minister and NDP founder Sir James Mitchell said God is not bright enough o make retroactive legislation.
Burton Williams is a former minister of health and former parliamentary representative for South Windward under the NDP.
He is again contesting that seat and apologised earlier in the campaign season as the NDP chided him for saying that if elected he will look out for the interest of his supporters first.
The ULP this week raised questions about the eligibility of London, a nurse, to contest the elections amidst rumours that she might have a criminal record.
The NDP, which told Searchlight newspaper that it was reassessing London’s candidacy, is yet to issue a statement about the situation although a source close to the party said last week that one would come soon.
Gonsalves told reporters on Friday that the development surrounding London “and other things” were on his mind when he said at least one “calamity” would befall the NDP before Election Day.
“…the issue is not Margaret London. The issue has to do with the weak leadership of Arnhim Eustace and the disorganized state of the NDP and its inability, it lack of capacity, to present a slate of candidates to people,” Gonsalves said.
London replaced Cameron Balcombe as the NDP’s candidate for NCW, after Balcombe, who failed to dethrone Gonsalves in the December 2005 elections, resigned in September amidst protest by NDP supporters.
Gonsalves further said that the NDP announced its candidates “nearly two years ago” but “can’t get a slate after elections have been declared”.
“They even adopted one of our slogans when we were in opposition. They said we are more than ready. And here we are, one week away from Nomination Day … and they don’t know where they coming or going with candidates,” Gonsalves said.
The official nomination of candidates will take place on Friday, Nov. 26.
“That’s not the only one. There are other problems. Whether they are going to resolve them before Nomination Day or whether the people would resolve them for them after Nomination Day, that is a different issue. But what I am speaking about is their weak leadership, specifically of Arnhim Eustace and the disorganization of the NDP and their lack of seriousness.
“If you can’t do an elementary thing like this, how can you expect to run a country? If you can’t select a candidate for North Central Windward to run against me, how can you feed 1500 persons? How can you rehabilitate 3000 farmers?” he said in reference to Vincentians affected by Hurricane Tomas late Oct.
“That’s your testimonial. … I haven’t done this to them. They have done it to themselves. I’m going about my business organising the campaign of the Unity Labour Party simultaneously running the government. And, you see how serious and proactive and energetic we are. I tell my other ministers, I say go out in the field, campaign. I will come in here in the mornings or the public servants will address the serious policy issues,” Gonsalves said.
“And we are doing all of that. At the moment, Eustace just [has] one simply thing to do: find 15 candidates. And you can’t do that one week before Nomination Day.
“… It is an absolute disgrace and as I say, this is not about Miss London because I promise that I will not mention her name, if she is the candidate, in the entire campaign. People might sing songs. People might make comments; but me, I am not saying one thing. I am just going about my business as political leader of the ULP, Prime Minister of this country, and, in my own constituency, with the beloved people of North Central Windward with whom I tight and close like family, to be re-elected with a majority no less than what I was elected in 2005 when I got 82 per cent of the votes. So, if you want to find out about Margaret London, you have to ask Mr Eustace,” he said in response to a question from a reporter.
Gonsalves said that while the ULP is yet to release its manifesto, he has published papers on job creation and wealth creation, crime, and education in addition to his two books, which speak to the philosophy of the ULP and its approaches to the economy and other issues.
“… even before the manifesto appears, the people in this country have a clear idea what the ULP is about and the proposals. You have our vision, our philosophy, the socio-cultural framework from which we spring and to guide us and the policies and the programmes now and for the future,” he said.
He said he was still waiting to hear the NDP’s proposal, saying that its president, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, was “saying to go on a journey with them where the captain is sailing under sealed order”.
“If you are a leader of a party and you can’t say where you are going, you’re obviously sailing under sealed orders. … and he doesn’t even know how many crew members he will have with him because one week before the ship sets sail, they still scrunting looking for people. … And everybody on that ship wants to be a captain. They operating under sealed orders, the crew is incomplete. You will go on a ship with people like that?”
The Dec. 13 poll has shaped up to be a clear race between the NDP and the ULP, which is seeking a third consecutive term in office. Pundits have dismissed Ivan O’Neal Green Party as a non-starter.