KINGSTOWN:- Saying that Martin Luther King is one of his heroes, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace on Thursday, Nov. 25, delivered a “we believe” speech, in which he outlined his New Democratic Party’s (NDP) dream for St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
“Martin Luther King used to dream dreams and I, too, have a dream for St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace told party supporters in Sion Hill, East Kingstown.
“We have heard the cries of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We in the New Democratic Party … care about what we hear and we have developed our own proposal to carry the country into the future,” he said.
NDP supporters had gathered to celebrate the one year anniversary of the party’s success in securing a majority “no” vote on proposed changes to the Constitution last year.
Eustace said he was confident that his party will win the Dec. 13 general elections, which pundit say is a straight race between the NDP and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party (ULP), which is seeking a third consecutive term.
Ivan O’Neal Green Party has been dismissed as a non-starter.
“I could not be happier when I look at this crowd of people that have come out to support the New Democratic Party as we move to take government in this country,” Eustace, a former prime minister said.
Eustace said the country “is not doing well … the poor is getting poorer … our health services are no good” and children are left behind, despite the “education revolution”.
“You are aware that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a country in decline. And if it continues to be managed by the Unity Labour Party, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I warn you, will become a failed state,” Eustace said.
He said the Gonsalves administration has tried to minimize the country’s removal from the United Nations Human Development Index.
The United Nations has said that SVG and several other nations were removed because of a lack of data under a new system of analysis.
Eustace said the NDP has heard the cries of Vincentians and dream that they will one day have “a government that is honest”.
“We dream that one day in St. Vincent and the Grenadines we’ll have a government of integrity. We dream, we dream, and we continue to dream that one day this country of ours will be noted for the quality of our people and the content of their character,” Eustace said.
He further said that his party dreams that SVG will be “a free country, a democracy which is very vibrant, where every man woman and child will be free to express the view of their own without fear of reprisal, without fear of victimisation”.
Eustace said that Vincentians took many of their rights and freedoms for granted until the Gonsalves administration came to office in 2001.
“… then we realised how important those rights and those freedoms are,” he said, mentioning the freedom to associate, the freedom join a trade union of one’s choice, and “the freedom to act and take decisions on your own, but do so responsibly”.
“We dream that our country and people, and our civil service, and our policemen, and our nurses, and our women, and our men, will all have the opportunity and the equal right to get a job that is dependent on your performance and your qualifications and not on the basis of your party affiliation,” Eustace said.
“Our country cannot exist, cannot develop, on the basis of half of the population. It can only develop if all of our people have the opportunity to share in the cake: if all of our people have the opportunity to a job; if all of our people have the opportunity to look after their families in a better way,” he added.
Eustace said the NDP believes that the nation’s moral standing and adherence to Christian principles are important.
“We believe that one of the more serious problems that we face in this country is that the present government has allowed this country to tread on a road of decadence — moral decadence, moral decay — and we have to lift ourselves up; we have to go back to those basic principles on which our grandparents, our fore parents lived, taught, and worked.”
He said some people might regard this as old fashioned but added, “because of the decadence, people excuse wrong and condemn right”.
“We must stand up for right, stand up for truth, stand up for honesty, stand up for discipline, and we must make sure that we do it with all our hearts and with all our soul and with all our might because that is part of the way forward for a better future for our country …”
Eustace said that because the nation believes in God, Vincentian children should be taught basic Christian principles.
“We believe that when we do that, love will be shared between all of us, whether you are in government or outside of government. Because, in that kind of environment, you will not have any discrimination, you will not have any victimisation; you will have a society where our people learn to live together as one…”
He spoke of his party’s Social, Spiritual, and Redemption Charter, “which includes much of this dream”, including the party’s policy that at least one person should be employed in each of the nation’s 33,000 households.
“…there are families where everybody is working and there are families where nobody is working.”
The institutions, including the church, have remained silent about many of the major issues affecting the country, Eustace said.
He felt that the Church has a “significant role” to play in addressing issues that are “not necessarily spiritual”.
“…they should condemn those things which are wrong regardless of whichever government is in power. The church cannot stay silent when wrong is perpetrated. The church must stand up for the basics in terms of the principles that are needed for our development.”
He called on church leaders “to play the role in building confidence and expression of freedom for all our people at all times”.
Eustace, a former minister of finance, said the knowledge-based economy proposed by the NDP, will help to combat youth unemployment.
He added that providing free Internet to all citizens will attract investments that will employ thousand of youth, in addition to revenue generated by agriculture and tourism.
“But we believe if we do not take a fresh look at these areas then we are bound to stay in the same mess in which Gonsalves has put us. And we believe also that all those major sectors of our economy should be looked at carefully and with prudence.”
Eustace said the finance of SVG “has gone to hell in a basket” and the government has left the country “broke”.
He said the government has to borrow for everything and the decline in revenue is “not simply because of the world economic crisis”.
He said the ULP administration has mismanaged the country “and caused great hardships for the people”, including by adding Value Added Tax (VAT) on “basic food”.
Eustace said this negatively affects poorer classes of citizens and an NDP administration will remove VAT from those items.
“We believe that it is important in our dream that we see the poor in our country rising to the point where they can look after their families in a meaningful way … in terms of their health needs, in terms of their education needs.
“And we know that dream can be made a reality. … And you know what we are working to in this dream, as we look at all the things that confront us in terms of our democracy, in terms of our economy, in terms of our freedom … that is carrying us to something in which we have great faith in the New Democratic Party, it is carrying us to a kinder and gentler society for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.
“We believe in that. That is our dream. And if we want to achieve our dream, if we want to make that dream a reality, you have to get rid of Gonsalves and his copy books and you know, what this means, is that we have had enough and no more. … And I say to you tonight that the new Democratic Party will realise that dream,” Eustace said.