KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The banana-growing districts here voted overwhelmingly for the Unity Labour Party last December but Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace will not stop talking about issues relating to the fruit, contrary to the urging of some of his supporters.
“… I cannot take that position,” the New Democratic Party (NDP) leader said on Monday.
His comments came as the industry recovers from black sigatoka, which ravaged 18 per cent of crops because the Ministry of Agriculture failed to spray plants to protect against the disease.
“I do not believe it is wise, I do not believe it is right to just stand aside and allow things to happen on the grounds that people did not vote for the New Democratic Party or they didn’t vote for me,” Eustace said in response to persons who says he should ignore the plight of banana farmers.
Eustace, a former prime minister and minister of finance, who is also a banana farmer, said that what happens to the industry affects the entire country.
“So, I can’t stand off from it like if it is something that has nothing to do with me or it has nothing to do with my constituency. It has to do with the country,” he said.
Eustace, an economist, who has predicted a fourth consecutive year of economic decline here, said that he wants to see an improvement in the banana industry and other sectors of the economy.
He spoke against government waste “on all sorts of unnecessary things” including “exorbitant” travel, which he described as “flitting and flying while our country continues to decline”.
“… in the end, what affects bananas affects other things in our society. The less income we have … from exports, something is going to suffer because of that,” he said.
“And therefore, I do not agree with those persons who are suggesting to me that because … of the way people voted you should leave them to suffer,” he further emphasised.
“… The reality is that all of us have to live in this economy here. All of us have a responsibility to bring it back … I can’t sit here and ignore that. I’d be failing in my responsibility as an elected Member of Parliament; I will be failing in my responsibility as an opposition leader in that regard; I will be failing my own country. That is how I view matters of that sort,” Eustace pointed out.
The East Kingstown representative, however, said he understands “the raw emotions that come at this time and … can understand that justification”.
“But that emotion and that justification is not right. It is not in the best interest of people — all the people of this country,” he said.
“And in light of that, I will continue to speak on these issues even though sometimes you wonder if is worthwhile. But I am satisfied that I have to speak on these matters in the interest of all the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.
“I understand what people are getting at. But, to me, that is like getting revenge. But the process of development of our country doesn’t depend on revenge. It depends on finding a path … that leads us to greater prosperity. We are going to have problems and obstacles along the whole way. But we will get to that position, and, I hope, not too long from now,” he further said.