KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel yesterday asked in Parliament if something was wrong with Northern Grenadines representative Dr. Godwin Friday, prompting the opposition Member of Parliament to ask him to give up his ministerial duties.
“Is the Member who is asking this question — the Member for the Northern Grenadines – is he sound in his mind? Is he natural? Is he a normal person?” Daniel said.
Daniel was responding to a question from Friday, regarding whether he had considered resigning because of his ministry’s mishandling of the black sigatoka fiasco.
Some farmers and other segments of the Vincentian population, including the opposition New Democratic Party has called on Daniel to go, because agriculture officials failed to spray against black sigatoka.
The ministry’s inaction further jeopardised the ailing banana industry, which was just recovering from a major blow inflicted by Hurricane Tomas last year.
But Daniel told Parliament that in 2005, he increased by 400 votes his margin of victory in the 2001 election and added a further 100 voted to that margin when he was re-elected for a third term last December.
“Mr. Speaker, the only politician sitting in this House with that kind of record is the Honourable Prime Minister, who, every time you go to the polls, consistently, you have been having that incremental increase,” Daniel said, even as Housing Minister Clayton Burgin said “I got increase, too.”
Daniel further noted that it was his Unity Labour party (ULP) that built a bridge over the Rabacca Dry River.
He said that while one person had said that constituents had to wait 2,000 years, he was willing to count from Adult Suffrage, in 1951.
“Mr. Speaker, I have done that and my constituents, they are proud of me for that,” said Daniel, who is yet to apologise for insulting statements in September about the origins of this nation’s black, East Indian, and Portuguese population as he emphasized his Garifuna heritage.
He further stated that it was the ULP administration, which came to office in 2001, that introduced secondary education North of the Rabacca Dry River.
“And they asking yo’ ‘bout resigning?” Burgin once again interjected.
But Friday told House Speaker Hendrick Alexander that he thought Daniel was misinterpreting his question.
“I am not asking him to resign as the parliamentary representative of North Windward. That is between him and the [constituents],” Friday said, adding that Daniel did not build a bridge and a school in his capacity as Minister of Agriculture.
“There are farmers out there who have to decide whether or not to risk further financial investments in their bananas. And if they don’t feel like they have proper leadership, they may not wish to do so,” Friday said.
Daniel, however, said that one of the reasons he would not resign was because he, along with “a star team”, has been able to reduce indigence, nationally, 27 to 3 per cent over the past 11 years.
“Should I resign for that?” he said.
“There are no two ways about it that over the years the banana industry would have been facing some difficulties. But it is this government, in 2003 establish a unit in the Ministry of Agriculture to handle diversification matters,” he further stated.
Daniel told Parliament that the ministry’s Basic Needs Trust Fund is refurbishing the hospital and clinic in Bequia.
“Mr. Speaker, that’s a programme from the Ministry of Agriculture, where I am assisting the honourable member in his constituency and he wants me to resign?”
Daniel further said he had not heard Friday making contribution on the issues he asks about in Parliament.
“Mr. Speaker, it appears to me that the honourable member is not even part and parcel of the development of the constituency of which he represents. I am told that all the representative will do is to walk the street of Kingstown and Bequia…” Daniel was saying when the Speaker interjected.
“Honourable member, just deal with the question …” the Speaker said calmly.
Daniel then said he has “a proud legacy”, which prompted Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to promote from junior to full minister in 2005 and senior minister last year.
“What does that say? There is confidence in the representative of North Windward,” Daniel said.