Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace. (File photo)
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace. (File photo)

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 5, IWN — Callers to his radio programme Monday expressed support for Arnhim Eustace as leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), one day after the party’s founder said he should go.

Former prime minister, Sir James Mitchell, in a local television programme on Sunday, made his second call for Eustace to resign as head of the NDP, saying voters have rejected him three times at the polls. He, however, did not say who should replace Eustace as leader.

“I know these things are distractions, you know. We have so much issues to handle in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you know. I am not going to let that distract me,” Eustace said on his weekly radio programme.

He, however, did not say why Sir James would want to engage in distraction politics.

And, when a male caller told Eustace he wanted to revisit “the question of leadership,” Eustace snapped, “I am not discussing leadership with you! Full stop!”

But, another male caller asked that people should not attack Sir James because of his opinion

“Mr. Mitchell is entitled to his opinion, whether he thinks you should go or yes. Those of us who support the party know you are the right man for right now and we support you,” the caller said, adding that the more than 30,000 persons who voted for the NDP in the 2010 election, support Eustace as party leader.

“Please, folk, just concentrate on the problems of the country and don’t attack or [be] side-tracked based on what you heard yesterday.

“Mr. Eustace is the leader of the New Democratic Party; fit, effective and efficient and we are gonna support you until you become the prime minister of this country,” the caller further said.

Read: NDP founder again calls for Eustace to go

Another male caller said that Sir James has too often chosen “some wrong time to say what he has to say.

“The place is heated now and when the ruling party is trying everything to divert what is going on, you cannot tell me you like your party and represent your party but you strengthening their [diversion] thing…” the caller said.

“Mr Mitchell has to learn to respect democracy and respect other people’s decision also. Because it is not Mr. Eustace have himself there, it is the people who vote for him,” the caller further said, adding that other NDP parliamentarians often express support for Eustace as leader.

He noted that Eustace has further democratised the NDP’s leader selection process, by giving the annual convention, rather than just elected MPs, the right to vote for the leader.

Former prime minister and founder of the NDP, Sir James Mitchell. (Internet photo)
Former prime minister and founder of the NDP, Sir James Mitchell. (Internet photo)

“Mr. Mitchell cannot continue to come with his cheap political psychology and trying to manipulate people. … It is time for someone to tell it as it is. You can’t come when sauce so hot, Mr. Mitchell, and trying to divert what is going on. You playing the same tactics that Ralph (Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves) them is playing. Stop it. I support democracy and, as long as they vote for Mr. Eustace to be leader, Mr. Eustace, you have my support,” the caller said.

A female caller said that a man race, economic situation, or level of education does not matter.

“People have to learn to understand that who God bless, no man curse. And I think that he has blessed you and I want you to remain in that blessing,” the woman said. “And I want you to stay focussed, because, all that these other people are trying to do is drag you down. And I just hope that you can stay strong and do what you have to do.”

Another female caller encouraged Eustace “to keep focused.

“I am from one of the Grenadine islands. Mr. Mitchell has [had] his day already; it is time for you to have your day. … Do not let him distract you and we are one hundred per cent behind you,” she further said.

Another female caller, who spoke with a foreign accent, told the NDP leader, “I just want to let you know I am behind you one hundred and ten per cent. …

“We love you, we want you to be the next prime minister and we are behind you and you are going to win it.”

Another caller, a male, said Mitchell, through statements he made during the campaign for the 2010 elections had helped the Unity Labour Party (ULP) to regain momentum after voters rejected proposed changes to the Constitution in a referendum in 2009.

“… after the referendum, we had the Unity Labour Party going wild; they don’t know what to do. … Mr. Mitchell come and put on a running shoe on the Unity Labour Party feet, and it never come off,” the man said in reference to Sir James’ comment that he does not trust even God with an election.

The caller said the ULP galvanised its Christian supporters and took the statement “to another level.

“It gave them a spike on the shoe and they take that and they start to run,” the caller further said.

He added that at a rally in Kingstown, Sir James told NDP supporters to give the ULP seven seats and to give eight to the NDP.

“You have people from Sandy Bay and all about coming to town to support the NDP and you will tell them give them seven and we will take eight down this side, give them the seven up there? So, like Mr. Mitchell has a problem with you,” the caller told Eustace.

The ULP won the election eight seats to the NDP’s seven, handing the party its third consecutive defeat with Eustace at the helm.

Sir James stepped down from the helm of the NDP in October 2000 after 16 years as prime minister and political turmoil earlier that year.

He handpicked Eustace as his successor and Eustace led the NDP into the March 2011 election, which it lost 12-3. There was a similar result in 2005, before the party came one seat shy of government in 2010.