ST. VINCENT: – Leader of the Opposition and president of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace has called upon Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves to join him in a press conference condemning election violence as the campaign for the Dec. 13 polls intensifies.
Eustace’s call on Monday, Nov. 29, came just hours after Gonsalves said Eustace has not condemned an attack of three female Unity Labour Party (ULP) supporters in Chateaubelair on Nov. 27, reportedly by NDP supporters.
Gonsalves was speaking Sunday night in Kingstown at an event to officially launch ULP candidates for the general elections.
He said Eustace’s affirmation “in one corner of his mouth that he wants electoral peace” is “wholly unacceptable” when he has not condemned the attack in North Leeward.
“Eustace stance on this matter marks him out as a hypocrite,” Gonsalves said.
Chateaubelair residents Ian Chance and Godfrey Neverson have pleaded not guilty to assaulting fellow townsmen Yulan Thompson and Rebecca Michael on Nov. 20. The case has been adjourned to Feb. 9, 2011 at the Chateaubelair court.
Eustace, in a statement on Monday, said Gonsalves has “abdicated his responsibility to our nation and our people”.
“He has still not appealed for calm in the country as tensions continue to mount during this election period. Again I make an appeal for calm in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.
“I also invite the Prime Minister to cross the party divide and join me on this matter. I invite the Prime Minister to make a joint statement with me at a joint press conference to appeal for a peaceful, free and fair election – for the sake of our country. I invite the Prime Minister to stand for peace and democracy in this country – which is right in the eyes of the people and in the eyes of God,” Eustace said.
He further said there is no victory if supporters of the political parties resort to physical violence.
“This matter is not just about an election. It is about the next generation — setting the right example for them. Let peace and justice prevail. Let our faith see us through. May peace reign from shore to shore, and God bless and keep us true,” he said, quoting the National Anthem.
Eustace did not speak of the details of a violent incident, which he said took place between ULP and NDP supporters in Central Kingstown Sunday night.
“I do not wish to go into details of the incident. I merely wish to respond to the recurring violence
I am fearful of what will happen to our country if this violence continues. I will not condone any violent conduct perpetrated by members of the NDP or members of the ULP done in the name of politics. It must stop, now,” Eustace said.
He said that democracy relies on the expression of differing views but added that while those views can be strongly held, they must never lead to violence.
“In a democracy there is civilized debate, not violence. We are a civilized society. We are a proud people. So I address the nation now not just as a political leader, but as a father, as a citizen of this country, a member of a local community and as a Christian man.
“We must end the violence, right now, for the sake of our country and our children. I am appealing beyond party politics, beyond matters of red or yellow, to ask for a peaceful election season.
“I appeal to every listener, from both parties to set an example to our children and to remember that the world is now watching this election.
“For the sake of our regional and international reputation, we must conduct ourselves with restraint. We must project our image with care and allow the international community to see us at our very best,” Eustace said.
The former prime minister asked citizens to join him in striving for calm and to “preach peace and to conduct themselves with dignity”.
The ULP, which is seeking a third consecutive term in office, and the NDP, which has been in opposition for the past ten year, are the major competitors for Parliament.
Pundits have dismissed the Green Party, led by Ivan O’Neal, as a non-starter.