KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition to some policies and practices of the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration in 2007 did not end with the New Democratic Party, the political opposition, although the NDP was the most vocal.
A U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks says that in meetings in 2007 with NDP leaders and sympathisers as well as members and former members of the ULP, the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown “learned of growing discontent with the ULP administration”.
Eustace had his regular “many concerns,” which embassy officials told Washington he often expressed “without offering substantive solutions or plans-of-action”.
These included issues of trade and foreign investment, drug trafficking, and Kingstown’s warming relations between Havana and Caracas.
However, the cable said that trade unionist Noel Jackson, an “outspoken activist for the ULP”, was incredibly pessimistic about the economic situation, and surprisingly critical of the Gonsalves administration’s dealings with the labour unions.
Businessman Randolph Russell, a former minister of health, is said to have emphasized that within the ULP itself, the “Old Labour” contingent was dissatisfied with the then state of affairs.
The ULP was formed in October 1994 as a merger of the St. Vincent Labour Party (SVLP) and the Movement for National Unity (MNU).
The cable said Russell told embassy staff that labour sympathizers felt that Gonsalves had sought to “infiltrate” the unions with his advocates, resulting in union loyalty to the government.
“He described Gonsalves and the MNU as having ‘taken over’ the Labour Party completely.
“Russell sharply criticized Eustace for not attacking Gonsalves and the ULP using legal means (as has been done to them),” the cable said.
The leaked document further said that Embassy contacts predicted that the international airport project will either stall completely or will leave the country in extreme debt.
Deputy Labour Commissioner McCauley Daniel, who owned a house in Argyle that was being acquired by the government, “claimed that ‘local businessmen are afraid to invest’ in the project, and private sector leaders complain that the government has not approached them about investing or opening retail stores in the new airport,” according to the cable.
Embassy staff, commenting on their findings, told Washington that despite Gonsalves’ “public claims that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is ‘the strongest economy in the Eastern Caribbean’, there appears to be growing discontent among a wide range of private and public sector figures”.