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The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

Given that an election in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not far distant and that the New Democratic Party has convinced itself that it can win the upcoming election, many people will claim that this is not the time to be raising what will be perceived as negative matters about the party. They may be right in that opinion but I disagree somewhat. I think that the party leadership may be running a little ahead of itself because, based on my reading on the ground, I do not think they should be so confident of a win.

After my most recent visit, I left St. Vincent with the feeling that the party seems to have a definite tail wind, mostly among two segments of the population: the uneducated masses, and the struggling small farmers. These two groups, mostly consisting of non-urban voters, are the core of NDP support and their occasionally boisterous shouts are pushing the party to anticipate a possible win. These groups are mostly concerned with bread and butter issues but, the vast majority of them have little or no understanding or appreciation of fiscal and other national issues. This segment of the population is important but the NDP will be foolhardy to let the tail wag the dog, electorally speaking.

The small business sector, on the other hand, which used to consist of a large chunk of the former Labour Party wing of the ULP is virtually no more; most having departed to more lucrative shores, what remains is now a disgruntled remnant of their former selves. They have been replaced by the so-called ‘Syrians’ (a misnomer) and a few Orientals who seem to have invaded and bought out most of the small businesses in Kingstown during the ULP regime. From this group, I sense social dangers ahead for SVG as a result of the lack of acceptance by most Vincentians of these “foreigners”. However, they do provide a valuable service in terms of cheaper prices for imported goods. They are very aware of the fiscal and other national issues but, given the huge, imprecise, and growing national debt, they are sitting on an uncomfortable fence which is made more discomfiting by the fact that the NDP has not really attempted to win over that group by clearly enunciating how it will go about dealing with or improving their lot. Among this group, I sense more of a commitment, by the larger “Syrian” portion, to the ULP rather than to the NDP.

The civil servants are, for the most part, sitting comfortably, seemingly without a care, in their ULP provided nests and seem to have no need to worry about the near future. However, they are a large and powerful segment of the population, with important interlocking familial linkages to all other segments of the population. More than any other group, they have the power and ability to sway many members of other societal segments. As expected, this group is very heavily committed to the ULP. Until they are faced with an issue that clearly affects their comfortable security, this group will likely be the NDP’s biggest stumbling block to power. Depending on how it is handled by both political parties, the recent NIS loan, pushed through by the ULP government, and the ancillary issues which flow from it could probably be the factor that would arouse a large portion of the civil service population to silently come onside with the NDP.

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Given this combination of circumstances, it would seem to me that the NDP should not be pushing so hard for an immediate election. Now is not the time to “ring the bell” because if their wish is satisfied, they might find themselves in the same or a lesser strategic position than they are in now i.e. with not sufficient winning seats to form a new government.

Overall, however, the main reason why I am advising caution has to do with one main issue. There is a huge, very visible rift between past and present members of the NDP. The strengths that can be provided by earlier leading members of the party are not present on any NDP platform and the weaknesses of the untried and untested newcomers are being enhanced to the party’s detriment. The united mixed front that could pull together major segments of the party and the society is not there and this is the NDP’s biggest weak spot. There is, in other words, a huge political rift in the NDP that has to be fixed. If it is not dealt with and if the party loses the upcoming election, this issue will likely result in a quick and painful death for the NDP. But, if the party wins the election, this issue will, more than likely, lead to division in the government’s ranks. The all-hands-on-deck approach that will be needed to do the job that has to be done in SVG is not likely to be there.

In addition to this, the younger cohort of Vincentian voters who were kids during the earlier NDP rule, who have little or no memory of what government was like then, and who are mostly unemployed today, are disconnected from society and politics for the most part. The few educated among them have adopted a mindset that is now very well established throughout the world; they live in an electronic world and basically have no interest in politics. To them, these newcomers on the present NDP platform come across as a bunch of aging hotheads, lusting for power, and presenting very little to awaken some kind of allegiance in them. If the party cannot mesh the past and the present, the old and the new, together, if it cannot meld these factions and present a meaningful and united front to all segments of the society, it will be operating at a far lower political level than it possibly could. Almost everyone that I spoke with in SVG recognized these problems when presented to them but their most common stance can be summed up in the words of a former, extremely committed, NDP supporter who has made it clear that he himself will not be voting in the next election. His words were: “Yes we know about the problems but we can’t deal with that now. First we have to win the election. Then we deal with the problems!”

My writings to this point have been very critical of certain political aspects of the ULP and the leadership of Ralph Gonsalves in particular. Given the political mind set of most older people in SVG, that a person has to be either ULP or NDP, people would tend to jump to the conclusion, based on my ULP criticisms, that I am an NDP member or sympathizer. Let me make it absolutely clear. I do not sympathize with any of the two parties! But, it is in my nature to always empathize with the underdog which is, in this case, the NDP.

I am basically a cynic in that, for me, if a majority of individuals agree on a particular subject, my natural tendency is to ask how and why they arrived at that point of view. Once I understand their logic, I can then open my mind to analysing the opposing minority opinion. In the end, I can usually see the good and the bad points and the similarities in both points of view and, as a result, I usually end up walking on top of an imaginary bridge separating the two sides, heading in a completely different direction than both sides, separated from the crowd, but leading to a lonely mental space that, in my mind, pacifies or melds both sides of the conundrum. In terms of politics, the word that best describes this approach is Liberalism.

One of the reasons why I became attached to Canada, as opposed to the United States, for example is my tiny involvement in the campaigns of three liberal Canadian politicians; they have best exemplified my type of Liberalism in politics. Those three politicians are now legends in the political landscape of Canada. They are: Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien (both became Prime Ministers of Canada) and Ralph Phillip Klein (a Liberal journalist, beer drinking pub buddy, who became mayor of Calgary, and who invaded the Province of Alberta Conservative party, and became an unmoveable Premier of Alberta). Over the years, on behalf of liberalism, I have done my share of the legwork through active participation in the communities I lived in during the rise to prominence of these three politicians. All true Liberal politicians leave their unique mark; they are usually long lasting politically, and they usually end up being strongly loved as well as hated by most people at the same time, but social change for the better is their undeniable and lasting hallmark.

I am not a political neophyte! As a matter of historical interest, I have tried to follow the political idiosyncrasies of SVG during all of the years I have been abroad. I know that the question running around in the mind of the reader at this point is: What does this have to do with the NDP in SVG? After all, as most people would say, SVG’s political problem has nothing to do with Liberalism. They would vehemently maintain that SVG’s choice is between a Conservative and a ‘Communist/Socialist’ party.

Respectfully, I beg to differ for, despite the fact that it is not common knowledge, Liberalism has played quite a prominent role in the history of SVG.

According to his autobiography, “Beyond the Islands”, the man who started the NDP in SVG, Sir James Fitz-Allen Mitchell is and has always been a Liberal thinker. How and why his party was and is described as a Conservative Party is a bit of a puzzle. I suspect that, in the 1970’s, during the worldwide hegemony of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, both hardline Conservative thinkers whose economic programmes have since fallen away from the acceptable wayside, liberalism was shunned, looked down upon to the extent that liberals themselves used the word sparingly.

At that time, in the 1970s, Canada was one of the few liberal strongholds in the world. It went so far as to be the first developed Western nation to begin opening its trading and cultural doors to Cuba, a thing that the United States still has trouble accepting and continues to hold against Canada. Internally, the country benefitted enormously as a result of its Liberal political mindset. On many subjects, it incurred the wrath of the United States and Britain with minimal effect, but it would have been an act of sheer folly, during that time, for Mr. Mitchell to introduce himself and his party to an overwhelmingly Conservative Vincentian population as a Liberal party.

So, why did he choose to name his political party the New Democratic Party? One must remember that Mr. Mitchell pursued higher education at the University of British Columbia. He was there, at the time when the New Democratic Party of Canada (a socialist inclined party, by the way) was putting forward suggestions for improving the social network of Canada. That party was the one that introduced concepts such as the Canada Pension Plan, Unemployment Insurance, and Universal Health Care to the Canadian people. They were not able to form a government but their so-called “communistic”, (as opposed to “social”), ideas resonated among liberal Canadians and it was liberal governments that made these social programmes a deeply enshrined part of the social system that so differentiates Canada from the United States.


I believe that, since it was not politic for Mr. Mitchell to brand himself as a Liberal, his next best choice in naming his party was to adopt the most Liberal linking Canadian party name and programme, hence — the New Democratic Party. But, given that the powers that be, in SVG (political and business) tend to be rather conservative, he chose to describe the party as being conservative while nullifying the socialistic background from whence came the party’s name. He then set about governing as a Liberal without mentioning the word liberal. Do you get my point of how a Liberal arrives at walking on the bridge and heading in a totally lonely, but different direction from the crowd? I may be wrong in all of this but, Mr. Mitchell is the only one that can gainsay my interpretation.

This much is clear to me. The Mitchell years in SVG government, those years of Liberal governmental thought, were years of amazing growth and prosperity for SVG. He took a bunch of guys who knew little about parliamentary rules and far less about government and made them into a highly disciplined team. There was a oneness between the government and the vast majority of the people. There was party politics to be sure but, it was mostly fought among the socialistic university hotheads who, in the end and despite the brightness, were all out-maneuverer by the wily Ralph Gonsalves in his formation of the ULP.

From my prejudiced perspective, looking back over the years, the Mitchell government was the best that SVG has ever produced. Towards the end of the regime, a few mistakes such as the Ottley Hall fiasco were made but, overall, Mitchell’s years as Prime Minister were boom years. The country advanced by leaps and bounds. Landless people suddenly became positive as a result of land reforms and the glory of building their starter homes or owning a little farm. The middle class became so positive, so confident in the future, that it bought into the ridiculous demand of around a thirty per cent increase in pay which was advanced by the then opposition leader, the enigmatic Mr. Ralph Gonsalves. Lo and behold, that same opposition leader, as Prime Minister, is now having trouble to pay a one and one half per cent increase to civil servants.

Established businesses were expanding and new businesses were springing up all over the place. Roads were built, repaired, and maintained. Massive new buildings appeared. The Cruise Ship Terminal and the relocation of the Grenadines wharf, the astounding transformation of the Grenadine islands from a state of the doldrums to a quietly humming economic engine, the Fish Market and so much that gave Kingstown a new look, a notable vibrancy. There was no need for a militaristic black shirt unit and haughty policemen and women everywhere. Kingstown was not infested with the shameful, uncontrolled street vendors as it is now and it was very unlikely that we would have found unkempt sleeping bodies on the sidewalks or beggars at every street corner. The type of racialism that permeates the society today was not a burning issue. All of this was accomplished while working toward a fiscal surplus and without pushing the country toward a fiscal cliff. For crying out loud, we even had traffic lights back then. Imagine That!

Something happened shortly after Mr. Mitchell left office. Something happened that destroyed the symmetry that once existed in the NDP! Something happened that resulted in propelling the country backward! Step by step, the party that Mitchell built began to slide toward a quicksand swamp. In a very short time, there was a disquieting “silent disappearance” of the individuals that made that party what it was. In a very short time there appeared an intractable negative osmosis in the party’s image and fortunes. That has never been repaired. This slide was not brought about by the astuteness of Ralph Gonsalves and his political gimmickry. It started within the party confines, before the ULP became the government. What remains of the Mitchell years is a love/hate dichotomy. We love him and we hate him at the same time! Although the leadership continues to blame Mr. Mitchell for his “interferences” the man is still admired and loved. The basic difference, the root of the problem between him and them, has to be recognized and dealt with if this party hopes to succeed in the upcoming election and in tackling the gargantuan task that lies ahead of it.

I have to ask: What happened to the party that Mr. Mitchell built? Why has Liberalism, that unknown force that once catapulted the nation forward, disappeared from the politics of St. Vincent and the Grenadines?

Shall I continue? You might not like it!

Anatol Scott

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

17 replies on “The NDP in SVG — opening thoughts”

  1. Ricardo Francis says:

    I have read your article with tremendous interest and for the most part understand your position and the evidence you provided to demonstrate your position. I live in Canada and have made similar observations and conclusions, except to say that Ralph Klein was a good conservative. I am a CONSERVATIVE and understand the conservative mindset. Ralph Gonsalves once told me that LIBERALS and CONSERVATIVES are all the same across Canada. I do not agree with Ralph. I also know that Ralph favours LIBERAL governments in Canada. I favour CONSERVATIVE governments in Canada. Some of the problems that Canada has to deal with today is a result Liberal governments not doing what was right for the nation.
    With respect to James Mitchell and his politics, I am of the view that Ralph Gonsalves and James Mitchell sing from the same hym book since they have each others interest to protect. There is more than what the eyes can see. Did Ralph and James negotiate an unwritten agreement that the Vincentian public has no knowledge and or information as to its specific content. Do they have secrets for each other? […]
    I trust and hope that the Vincentian public will provide me with their confidence to govern the affairs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the future. History has a funny way of making and breaking men and women of hope, especially those who were entrusted with position that they have never earned, but were given to satisfy an agenda.
    Prime Minister Ricardo Francis of St.Vincent and the Grenadines in waiting and in the making.



  3. Flatulent, arrogant, impressionistic, simplistic, poorly researched … I could go on and on but you get the point, I’m sure.

    To say that the Mitchell government was the best in SVG’s history isn’t saying much since we have been badly served by poor leadership since day one.

    Cruise Ship Terminal … barely holding on.
    Bequia Airport.. . a failed project.
    Financial Complex… an eyesore wasting prime oceanfront property.
    The Market Building … a useless tomb vendors and customers hate which takes up what should have been parking space.
    Ottley Hall … a scam Mitchell still needs to answer for.

    No wonder you were never able to compete your Ph.D.

  4. Good Morning Anatol, there is so much in your letter that I would like to comment on, that I would end up writing much more than your original letter. I will try and write some more, perhaps I will write it as a letter to IWN.

    The Syrians in the Caribbean started arriving in about 1900/5. They were Christians that were from an area known at that time as Greater Syria, which comprised of Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon. They were persecuted because of their Christianity and they suffered severe economic hardships for the same reasons.

    Being Christians they quickly assimilated into the Caribbean Christian Community. Although the Syrian-Lebanese were originally Maronite, Antiochian Orthodox or Orthodox, in the Caribbean they preferred to join the Catholic faith, being closest to their own rituals and teachings. Many of them have never been to the Syria of today, and many of them did not originate from the area known today as Syria.

    Some of their families have been Vincentians approaching a hundred years.

    They are a clever people and astute business men, and there are even one or two astute Syrian business women in Kingstown. Trade and commerce is ingrained in their culture.

    Like the Chinese they tend to keep themselves to themselves and cause no bother in the host society. Perhaps having been here so long describing them as living in a host society is an insult, because they are Vincentians.

    The ULP has tried over the years to cultivate their favour, cultivate their vote […]

    Post one of the past elections, they were told as a group by the ULP candidate that he knew who didn’t vote for him, intimating that he had perhaps seen the ballot papers. I am told they actually believed just that, which made them more susceptible to abuse.

    All minority groups can be subject to abuse of one kind or another where ever they abide. But what we must remember, they are employing quite large numbers of black Vincentians, some of which would be unemployable elsewhere.

    Anatol we should never be jealous of people who are hard working, creative and industrious. They should be given the praise they deserve, and they should be protected from political and gangster abuse. Perhaps we can look into what has been going on once the regime changes, if proven, those that have administered evil must be punished.

    1. Steve Huggins says:

      INCIDENTALLY, many of the “Syrians” are actually LEBANESE – – – and a considerable number may be ethnically Jews, and even Menonite Christian or Druse. Indeed, some of the more traditional “Lebanese/Syrian families have centuries old tribal connections with some of the more southern Italians. I am being cognizant here of my Trinidad acquaintance with this community. [Tn’T being the frequent stop-over point for the SVG set] with some reference to the especially recent history ot Lebanon and SYRIA.

  5. Interesting perspective! While I don’t agree with everything Mr Scott has to say, many of the points he has made are very plausible.

  6. Ricardo Francis says:

    This is the second time that you have refused to upload my comments Kenton. Am I threat to your online blog as well? I ask, you should answer.

    I trust that you will not hide and reply accordingly.

    Ricardo Francis
    Prime Minister of St.Vincent and the Grenadines in waiting and in the making.

    1. Rocardo Francis:

      All comments are subject to moderation. Shorter comments are moderated before longer ones. We welcome your comments and in no way see you, or any of our readers as threats.


      1. Steve Huggins says:

        WOULD ADMIN enlighten us, while on this score, if any politically committed lawyer (POLITICIAN) is in any way involved in this vetting or moderating process?

  7. No one could have said it any better.

    Sir James is no doubt the best by far.

    The NDP today is a far cry from the NDP yesterday.

    This is indeed sad but true.

  8. There is quite a lot in Anatol Scots letter that I disagree with. But he is a very learned man regarding our true history, I deeply respect him for that. I think his modern history of today is somewhat off mark. His views may differ from our own, every one who is a decent honest man, like I believe Anatol to be, has the right to his views and opinions.

    I am extremely disappointed in you David making nasty personal remarks about Mr Scot. David why not question all his points without the personal attacks, attack the message not the messenger.

    James the Lion Heart, I knew when Anatol mentioned the Syrians it would make people pop up who are little more than racists. That why I firstly put the record straight, before such comments as yours were published. The fact is they pay import duty and VAT in huge amounts of groupaged imports, they pay their tax’s like most Kingstown business men. There is little that gets past our customs department, be assured they pay. Business is open for anyone in Kingstown to grab, even for you if you have the ability. Business is so bad in Saint Vincent under this government, I am surprised they can survive.

    Ricardo, Hi! long time you have deserted us for. A lot of what you say is correct, that’s why your cousin Ralph dislikes you so. Its my belief that Gonsalves is little more than an old fashioned Marxist, wearing the cloak of labour in an attempt to hide his true beliefs. I believe as a form of self protection Mitchell has decided to become one of his collaborators. Remember the old battle call, if you can’t beat them join them, or at least appear to.

  9. Steve Huggins says:

    WHEN in 2000 the naive little black boys went to GRENADA as TRADE UNION REPRESENTATIVES AND LEADERS, ORGANIZATION LEADERS, AND OTHER CIVIL SOCIETY PATRIOTS as directed by the OECS/CARICOM leaders in order to RESOLVE THE TRUMPED-UP ‘CRISIS’ of your uncle’s Ralph’s ‘road-block revolution’ [FINISH THE WORK OF MAURICE BISHOP], JAMES F. MITCHELL and RALPH GONSALVES went onto the beach “for a walk”, leaving all the dupes back at the hotel and meeting place TO TALK PRIVATELY with EACH OTHER – – – in the absence of any official recorder or witnesses.

    They came back to the hotel and announced that THEY [Mitchell and Gonsalves] had come to an agreement. Problem solved. OF COURSE, if any secret understandings or ‘agreements’ were made, is not yet publicly known. IMAGINE the LACK OF SHAME OR REPUGNANCE BY ALL THOSE FREE-RIDE ‘REPRESENTATIVES’. They had absolutely NO SAY in the negotiations or the actual terms of any agreement. WHO did the “Agreement” benefit ?


    BUT, ralph ‘GOT’ ‘government’.

    The corruption Commissions of Inquiry are YET TO REACH ANY WAY.

    Did the ULP administration make any sort of payment for Bequia airport lands at my former family ISLE L’QUARTE [sic] – – – some sort of “final payment”, quite open and above board apparently, but we needed some clearer elucidation of the precise circumstances. I may need such info in future when instructing my children, or even grand-children about the Cousin Martha Mitchell’s exploits and recounting the very exhaustive genealogical family line..

  10. This letter could not have come at a worst possible time. It makes you appear to have been bought out even though that might not be the case. #justsaying

  11. To J.A.S

    Bought out by whom?

    By Ralph Gonsalves – Never in this lifetime.

    By Sir James Mitchell – Not likely.

    By Arnhim – Heaven forbid

    I’m a Liberal and I’m walking on the top of the bridge looking down at and disagreeing with all sides.

    Just to let you know, this conversation has moved far beyond IWitness News.


  12. To Peter Binose.

    I will welcome your comments on this and any subject at any time whether you agree with me or not.
    On the matter of ‘Syrians’! Perhaps you did not notice my addition of the word ‘misnomer’ in brackets which follow. I did that to indicate that a lot of those individuals who are grouped by Vincentians under the term Syrian are not Syrian at all; there are a number of Lebanese, for example, among them.
    I am aware of the historical presence of this community in the Caribbean. But, as far as St. Vincent is concerned there were very few there up until the 1980s. The most prominent member of that community used to have a big clothing store on Middle Street, facing the back end of Layne’s, I think. The store carried the name of the owner, a gentleman who very much fits your description of how they performed in the society. He was certainly one of the pillars of the business community in Kingstown at that time. I would certainly not consider that gentleman and his family as living in a ‘host’ country; as far as I am concerned, they are Vincentians through and through.
    I am certain that, in my description of the post-1980s arrivals, I do not hint in any way of being ‘jealous’ of them. As a matter of fact, I indicate that business-wise the more recent arrivals are performing a vital service in Kingstown. While I was there, however, I had to contend with the negative comments that almost every Vincentian had about the presence of these individuals. They hate the fact that these individuals have bought up so many stores in Kingstown and very many high-end properties in Cane Garden. There were also two very embarrassing incidents involving fisticuffs with oriental store owners while I was there. When I mentioned that “I sense social dangers ahead for SVG as a result of the lack of acceptance by most Vincentians of these “foreigners”, it is this type of negativity in the Vincentian community to which I was referring.
    I hope I’ve made myself clear.

  13. “Anatol not in tune still out ah touch!”
    The NDP (Now Defunct Party) has been more than negative for the longest while, ask any true Vincentian, they have become recalcitrant since they won those few seat in 2010, and this surprising victory (offered up by the ULP’s failure to consolidate its bases prior to the call for Referendum) have gone to their head, and ever since it’s been downhill; lack of real leadership, combined with a cast of rugged individualistic hyperbolic bunch “ah ask holes”. Arnhim is “useless”, Leacock is … (can’t find the right word) Linton is… (still can’t find the right word) and the rest ah’ them is… puke! And nothing like you Mr. Historian, going to save their behind, try all you want…aint going to happen!
    Anatol trust me, you’re all washed up. Yours and their true colors have already been realized. That “don’t mess with history” mumbo jumbo did you in. No one in their right mind will ever accept that kind of betrayal of Afro-Vincentian history that you put forth, unless they’re duped, confused and confounded like you, and those tag along that try to “big you up”; they can’t even awake from their slumber.
    Your passion for the analytics leading you astray, man! Folks like you who go about “nick picking” in the manner you accustom too, bound to run into problems beyond their reach, beyond their scope, beyond their right, because some things are going to be too small to grasp and you going to miss them, like you do in your writings; especially that shameful letter to the PM, which demonstrated a lack of serious scholarship, and your niggardly disregard and utter contempt for proper verification of facts. But knowing you, you wouldn’t want to admit that you could have been mistaken about anything, and you might even insist “boisterously” that everything you wrote was absolutely correct, and it will take more than a herculean effort to disprove your writings, because you know what you talking about; and Anatol is never wrong. With that kind of mind set you bound to fail, dude? Who will give up their “right” and accept yours. Not me! And certainly not PKnight, or P Knight (same difference), now where does that leave you?
    I’ve been following all these idiotic opinions and comments floating about concerning any and everything political in SVG, and I’ve come to the conclusion that “most” of what I’ve read and some of what I hear on the streets and on that despicable station Nice Radio, comes out of a particular worthless class of Vincentians all without a sense of National pride that is unpatriotic, corrupted, misinformed, liars of all shapes and forms, gossipmongers misleaders, and at the end of the day a class armed with poisonous utterances talking a whole bunch of foolishness; Land of the “blessed you say? This idiotic behavior from these folks, cannot jive with a people who pride themselves as “blessed.”; unless they blessed with a curse.

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