ST. VINCENT: – The leaders of the two main political parties here have made last minute appeals to Vincentians to elect their respective candidates when voters go to the polls today, Monday, Dec. 13.
Pundits say that the 101,053 Vincentians registered to vote will choose either the incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP), which is seeking a third term and the New Democratic Party (NDP), which was voted out of office 10 years ago.
They have dismissed the Green Party as a farce that can only cause embarrassment to politics in the multi-island nation of 106,000.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, 64, of the ULP and Arnhim Eustace, 65, of the NDP each addressed the nation by radio and television during the dying hours of the campaign Sunday night.
Each leader said his party was better equipped to manage the affairs of the country over the next five years.
They, however, acknowledged that the moment of reckoning had come and electors now had the power to retain or fire them.
“When you go to the polls, ask yourself this: do you want to keep progressing with the Unity Labour Party or do you want to turn back and embrace the failed NDP policies of the past,” Gonsalves said.
“The NDP will be your government. The ULP asked you to own the campaign. They are missing the point. You the people must know that you own your government,” Eustace said.
Gonsalves, in a 30-minute address, said Vincentians were on the eve of the most important elections since 2001.
He said that citizens, ten years ago, “defended our democracy and liberated ourselves from an overbearing and vexing NDP regime”.
According to him, the choice is as clear as it was then.
Gonsalves listed some of this administration’s accomplishments over the past two terms.
He said his government doubled the economy, created 10,000 new jobs, and commenced the international airport at Argyle, among other accomplishment in education and social transformation.
When completed, the Argyle international airport will create jobs, reduce cost of living and travel, and bring in hundreds of millions of tourism dollars. Gonsalves said.
“When you go into the voting booth tomorrow, ask yourself who do you trust to build the argyle international airport,” Gonsalves said.
He said the NDP were puppets of their election campaign manager, Strategic Communication’s Laboratories.
“A vote for the NDP is little more than a vote to put these 21st Century colonialists and exploiters in charge,” he said.
Gonsalves said the nation was confronted with the worst global depression since the 1930s and needs strong leaders.
The ULP, he said, has strong, brave, and creative leadership, which has served the country well and will continue to do so in the future.
He said that character counts and integrity matters and that the ULP was presenting its best team ever.
“…the NDP is not a team. It is a collection of individuals with individual agendas and individual axes to grind. … The ULP’s candidates, on the other hand, are a united and fully integrated unit with a common focus on the advancement of our people and our country,” he said.
Gonsalves said his party has released two manifestos and hundreds of pages of policy papers.
He said an NDP administration will rely on “blatant lies, intimidation and scare tactics”.
The party, Gonsalves said, has no credible plans or vision for our country and has an ad hoc approach to representation.
He said that while the ULP believes in progress, it knows that it is often slow and that there is no magic portion to solve the nation’s problems.
Gonsalves restated the ULP’s ten priorities if re-elect for a third term.
These include poverty reduction, job creation and wealth creation, consolidating fiscal discipline, deepening the education and health revolution, infrastructural development, and youth and sports.
He said that ULP will unearth what happened at the Ottley Hall Marina project.
“The truth is, the power to keep our country moving forward is in your hands. On Tuesday, I will invite all Vincentians, those who supported and those who opposed us, to come together to own your government and build a better St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.
Meanwhile, Eustace said today’s is “no ordinary election,” adding, “The stake seems even higher than usual.”
He said “a new dawn” awaits Vincentians with an NDP government, saying his candidates are determined “make this a great country once more”.
A ballot for the NDP, he said, is a vote for the nation’s children, progress, and democracy.
“If you choose me as prime minister and my party as government, you have my solemn promise that we will not rest until this country is great again, a beacon of democracy, of progress, of pride, of hope and dignity within the entire Caribbean region,” Eustace said.
He was pleased that citizens discussed the issues “in an environment of robust debate”.
“Tomorrow, you have all the power. … We the candidates from all parties will be reminded of the word humility as you make your decision,” he said in his 10-minute address.
He, however, said he was confident that the candidates of the NDP will stand up to the scrutiny of the electorate.
Eustace told citizens they must decide if they wanted a nation that was ostracizing the United States and Europe for relations with Venezuela, Libya, and Iran.
He also said Vincentians must use their ballot to say if they want their country to go further into debt and “economic oblivion” and increasing dependence on “handouts”.
The alternative, according to Eustace is “the raft of international investments”.
He said that under an NDP government there will be “new money, new jobs, and a more entrepreneurial spirit that will drive our economy forward and create hope and wealth for generation to come”.
Vincentians, Eustace said, must decide if they want a country where the civil service is used as a political tool and where forced resignations, dismissals and intimidation are used to stifle the voice of the people.
The NDP, he said, offers a gentler style of government that will pay civil servants proper wages from the start rather than use pay rises as an election gimmick.
“I dream of a civil service that can concentrate on making the country work efficiently rather than worrying about their job security. I hope you do too,” Eustace said.
He said the electorate must choose between the parties “when it comes to delivery” and said the cross country road, the airport, and the education revolution did not materialize and that the health service is underfunded.
“This is not delivery; I believe it is a disgrace,” he said, adding, “The NDP will not accept such poor standards”.
He further said that an NDP administration “will not accept the kinds of corruption that have been revealed at the heart of the health and agricultural ministries”.
“I promise you that on December the 14th we will be working,” he said.
He said an NDP administration will “immediately focus on what is important”, mentioning “you, your jobs, the solution to your poverty, your future, your heath, your education, your children”
“…I am a man of my word. This country had such potential and I believe that the NDP is the key to unlock it. It is time to make this country great again. I ask you to vote NDP tomorrow,” Eustace said.