KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Radio talk show host Junior Bacchus is not in unison with Matthew Thomas, co-host of “Stay Awake”, about forming a new political party.
But both men are united in trying to defeat a “common enemy” — Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves — even as they say the New Democratic Party (NDP) is an “ineffective” opposition.
“Up to today and beyond, our common vision, our common purpose is to see the back of this government — the Unity labour Party administration and Ralph Gonsalves,” Bacchus said Monday night of the party and its leader, which was in December 2010 re-elected to a third term in office.
NICE Radio has informed the men that in light of their proposed PRESS — the Political Party for Political Reformation, Equality, Socialization, and Services – they will have to begin paying for airtime, which they had been given free for the past six years. Thomas and Bacchus said Monday that next week’s programme will be the final.
Bacchus, who, along with Thomas, helped to bring the ULP to office in 2001, stopped supporting the party during its first term.
Thomas is a former member of Gonsalves’ Movement for National Unity (MNU), which, in 1994 merged with the St. Vincent Labour Party to form the ULP.
Both men, over the last six years, have been trying to convince Vincentians that the ULP is no longer good for this country.
Bacchus listed among the party’s perceived failings “the abuse of the country, the abuse of the treasury, the abuse of the good will of the people”.
“Enough people who have supported the party who have seen it deviate from original plan and principles,” he said as he mentioned the declining economy and the banana, arrowroot, and tourism industries. “The country is really in shambles,” he said.
Bacchus said he and Thomas have not criticised the NDP publicly “because we recognise that the common enemy is Ralph Gonsalves and the Unity Labour Party”.
He, however, said that the NDP was “ineffective in their approach” and the leadership of the party was “not forthcoming in its ability” to challenge the ULP “and put them under pressure for them to shape up and to get them out”.
“Because the purpose of the opposition is to get rid of the government party and move into to advance your programme. But we have not seen that,” he said of the NDP, which Arnhim Eustace has led to three consecutive defeats although the party won four additional seats in December 2010.
Bacchus said that while he and Thomas are not members of the NDP they were “involved in aspects of the election” on behalf of the party.
“A year has passed and no opportunity has been afforded anyone to have any serious internal evaluation. I know I am external but I know I am enough so I could have been invited,” Bacchus said.
“… Not that I have rushed because there is no evaluation. But I just feel it is timely for persons to take an introspection, take a deeper look at the New Democratic Party’s systems, procedures, performance and so on,” Bacchus further stated.
Regarding the “confusion or contradiction” surrounding his position on PRESS, Bacchus said he had already told Thomas that he has “no personal interest … to be involved in partisan politics”.
“I have no interest in starting a political party,” he said, adding that while he and Thomas will “never see everything eye-to-eye”, they agree on most things.
“Ninety-five per cent of the things, Matthew … and I share. We have a certain common thinking, philosophy, in relation to those things and the principles we stand for and our values and so on. That doesn’t mean that because we have a difference in 5 or whatever per cent that we must be at his throat or I must distance myself from him,” Bacchus further stated.
Meanwhile Thomas also speaking on Monday nigh recounted the earlier days of “Stay Awake”.
“I remembered when we started … one fellow met me and he described us a tag team. And I feel happy that an old man can team up with a much younger man and can be considered a tag team,” he said of Bacchus, his former student.
Thomas said he is satisfied that the public thinks that the programme is a good one but added that some people consider it a sitcom to be enjoyed after dinner and before bed.
Regarding PRESS, Thomas said: “We have to be reasonable. If you go out there in the name of nothing to preach against the governing party to get them out of office and people respond to your preaching to get them out of office, who benefits? Is the NDP….”
He said that some people think that PRESS would split the NDP, to the benefit of the ULP.
“We are satisfied that the NDP is not doing nearly enough …, the way they are going about things, giving Dr. Ralph Gonsalves another two years in office, he would strengthen his weak point and he would win another election in this country handsomely. And I cannot, it is not in my nature to leave it to chances to say, ‘Well, let me see what the intend to do.’ I see what they intend to do. [It’s] like they intend to be permanently in opposition,” he said, adding that while some NDP members were supportive of press while others were annoyed.
Thomas has said that PRESS will be shelved if it is unable to recruit about five “reasonable speakers, not candidates” by April.