ST. VINCENT:- Lawyer Dr Ralph Gonsalves of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) was on Wednesday morning, Dec. 15, sworn in as Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a third consecutive five-year term.
The National Broadcasting Corporation said that about 60 persons, including Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne, Gonsalves’ family, the ULP candidates in Monday’s elections, and the nation’s diplomats, were present at Government House where Gonsalves took the Oath of Allegiance, the Oath of Office, and the Oath of Secrecy.
Education Minister Girlyn Miguel, the four-time winner of the Marriaqua constituency, was sworn in as the nation’s first female Deputy Prime Minister while public servant Judith Jones Morgan was retained as Attorney General, also for a third term.
Gonsalves said that the other members of his Cabinet will be sworn on Saturday at the playing field in the Central Leeward town of Layou, where first-time candidate, former teacher turn diplomat, Maxwell Charles retained the seat for the ULP.
Sir Frederick, in congratulating Gonsalves, said “Sir, I know you are well aware of the onerous task facing you as you seek to build this nation over the next five years.”
The ceremonial Head of State said that Monday’s general elections, in which the ULP won eight of the 15 parliamentary seats while the New Democratic Party won the other seven, were probably “the most intensely fought election, at least in my memory.
“Suffice to say, that the elections are now over and our challenge is to unite the country. From the elections, I think we all can say that democracy is alive and well in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There might be election petitions but we are a nation of laws, and, if there are, the court will have to deal with them and we will have to be guided by the orders given from the court of laws.”
Sir Frederick appealed to his “brothers and sister” from the ULP, the NDP and the Green Party “to all see this nation as our nation.
“It belongs to all of us and if we work together, we will progress. If we don’t, then it will hamper our progress.”
He noted that Gonsalves is Prime Minister of the nation’s 106,000 residents, adding, “…we look to you for guidance and look to you to take the initiative to bring this nation together.
“We need this more than anything else. We are in very difficult times and only as a united people we will be able to overcome some of the difficulties which we are likely to face. It is my wish, sir, that God will give you guidance and wisdom as you try to lead this country forward,” Sir Frederick said.
Gonsalves said that the victory, in which his party got 32,200 of the 62,289 votes or 51.25 per cent, compared to the NDP’s 30,012 votes — 48.18 percent– and the Green Party’s 145 votes — 0.23 per cent, was the “sweetest” of his three election triumphs.
“It is the narrowest of the three victories but it is the sweetest because of the nature of the campaign waged against my party and against me personally. For ten years, there has been a campaign of personal vilification, of falsehood, of defamation, of innuendo, of scurrility, there have been concocted stories, a bitterness generated, which is unprecedented in our politics …
“We’ve had to confront a highly skilled outfit from Britain, which was extremely well-financed and in several constituencies, there was substantial domestic financing for the NDP from drug baron and criminal elements,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves said he was again extending to the opposition the hand of friendship he offered during his victory speech Monday night.
He, however, said that he had read on the Internet that the NDP had rejected his offer “for cooperation, for healing, after the period of electoral bitterness, and, in some cases, hatred”.
In responding to Eustace address Tuesday night, in which the NDP leader said that the elections were not free and fair, Gonsalves said, ‘As far as I know, the elections are over and there is a government….
“Once I’ve won, then another one lost; 32000 votes in the accepted arithmetic are more than just about 30,000 votes and eight is almost more than seven,” he said, referencing to the election results.
He noted that election watchers, including the Organisation of American States (OAS) observer mission, had said that the elections were free and fair.
The OAS, in a preliminary statement, said its ten member delegation visited every polling station in the multi-island nation.
“In every case observed, the polls opened on time and had the requisite materials and polling officials. In the morning, there were long lines of voters who patiently waited to exercise their franchise. The presiding officers, poll clerks, party agents and police worked harmoniously throughout the long day, helping citizens to find their polling stations and ensuring an organized and peaceful environment,” the OAS said.
“I will continue, as Prime Minister, to reach out. But in reaching out, let the leaders of the NDP be under no mistake that they lost the elections and they do not own this country or any part of it. We all do so. And, if it is necessary for me to appeal over their heads directly to their own supporters, I will do so,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves said his government will focus on the ten policies outlined during the election campaign as well as the rebuilding after Hurricane Tomas, which devastated the northern part of the island at the end of Oct. in an
“There will be no discrimination whatsoever on political or any other ground in respect of fixing people’s houses and proving for them in every material way until they get themselves back on their feet, this goes for the farmers also,” he said.
Speaking at the ULP election victory celebration at Argyle Tuesday night, Gonsalves said that Eustace’ has loss his final opportunity to be prime minister.
“…I say to you Arnhim, you will never, ever become prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines! … IF Eustace want to be a spoil sport, be a spoil sport because I am sure that [NDP Vice-president and Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown St. Claire Leacock] will appreciate that Eustace is trying all this to see if he could hold off resigning as long as possible. Eustace knows that for all practical purpose his political career is at an end,” Gonsalves said.
He further warned the NDP that whatever course of action it takes it should observe the law.
“All I ask, in whatever they do, they better be peaceful. They better be orderly,” Gonsalves said as he asked supporters to take advantage of opportunities provided by his government for their personal and family advancement.