Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on Thursday congratulated the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) on hosting its 37th annual convention and belaboured his opinion on the discord between NDP head, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, and party founder, former prime minister, Sir James Mitchell.
Speaking in Parliament, NDP vice-president, St. Clair Leacock, congratulated the NDP on its 37th convention and Eustace for being re-elected unopposed as leader of the party.
Leacock, who is MP for Central Kingstown, noted that St. Vincent and the Grenadines only began having political parties in 1951.
“And the New Democratic Party, at 38 years, is the oldest political party in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In fact, it is the only party that has survived its founding leader,” Leacock further said.
He said there is a Caribbean phenomenon in that “many political leaders do not know when to leave the stage and it affects the succession plan in many of these parties.
“I am happy to be in a party, and I have been there for 30 years, in this party, this institution the New Democratic Party,” Leacock said during the time allocated for congratulatory remark.
Gonsalves, speaking shortly afterwards, also congratulated the NDP on its 37th annual convention.
“It is one of the two important parties of state, and in our multi-party system, political parties aggregate the interest of individual and groups and put those interest forward in political programmes,” he said.
He added that while “the NDP, undiluted, is the single oldest political party in the country”, the former St. Vincent Labour Party, “the main constituent entity” of his Unity Labour Party, was founded in 1955.
The ULP resulted from a merger of the SVLP and the Movement for National Unity in 1994.
Gonsalves said that the values of the founding leader of the SVLP “still persist — the values of social democracy.
“And I really want to take the opportunity of congratulating both political parties in that sense, of providing many years of democracy and freedom and development.
“And in that light, I think it is important that we congratulate not only founders like Robert Milton Cato, of blessed memory, but those who are alive, those who have played important parts, like [Sir] Vincent Beache, and, of course, Sir James Mitchell, who is the founder of the New Democratic Party, and who has done an extremely good job in building that political party.
“And I am sure that it was an oversight that the Honourable Member for Central Kingstown did not identify his (Mitchell’s) own tremendous contribution in building the political party.
“Indeed, it is correct to say that Sir James is a stalwart Caribbean nationalist and leader and I feel a particular affinity to him, if only on one account, Mr. Speaker: The fact that he and I are members of a club of two, that is to say, only the two of us are alive in St. Vincent and the Grenadines who have won elections to become prime minister, and, in this case, at least three general elections,” Gonsalves further said.
“I look out to see when he is not being given his due honour and respect that it be given.
“I know there have been lots of open letters written and the like. I don’t want to get into that. I just wanted to give Sir James the honour that is due to him for being the founder of the New Democratic Party and for his tremendous contribution, which he has made,” Gonsalves said.
He was speaking one day after Eustace wrote an open letter to Sir James in response to Sir James’ latest round of public criticism of Eustace’s leadership and the direction of the NDP.