The main opposition New Democratic Party’s (NDP) candidate for Central Leeward, Ben Exeter, on Saturday emphasised that he is a born Vincentian as he outlined his plans for the constituency if elected to office in the next general elections.
“My name is Ben Exeter, and I was not recycled. My navel string is buried right here in Layou,” he said in a jab at his contender, former area representative Sir Louis Straker, who the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) called out of retirement in response to Exeter’s challenge against current MP Maxwell Charles, also of the ULP.
“I am a proud product of the village of Layou and a proud advocate of all the people of Central Leeward,” Exeter said of the town where he was born.
“I have walked along the seashores between Walliabou and Buccament and I have heard your voices, I have heard your cry. I’ve spoken to the fishermen, I’ve spoken to the residents, I’ve spoken to the boys on the block, I’ve spoken to young boys out of school looking for work and parents anxious to see their children’s future come to life,” he told the rally.
“I have walked and I have listened. I am on the ground and I know the pain felt by all of us as we struggle to live in hard times. I salute everyone here tonight, all the villagers with me here this evening. In Central Leeward, we are resilient, we are proud, we are strong, we deserve a government that builds a brighter future for us, on the strengths that we possess as a people.
“I have asked you for your support, to become your representative. I take this as a most serious responsibility,” the political newcomer said and went on to outline his plans for the constituency.
Exeter, who recently returned to SVG after decades in Canada, said that there are a few difference between him and Straker, who also entered politics after his return from the United States after decades.
“When I returned from Toronto, I created jobs. What has he done? He built a beautiful building, put his name on it, and a padlock.
“We in the New Democratic Party are ready to rebuild St. Vincent and the Grenadines, constituency by constituency,” Exeter said.
“We are ready in Layou for jobs, healthcare, good roads, constituency development — we are ready to protect our women and girls. We will protect you. That is our job to protect you.
Ready to fight crime. Our sportsmen and women, you need more opportunities in terms of scholarships opportunities. We ready for technology, ready to rebuild our agriculture, … and I am ready to work for the improvement of the lives of all of the people of Central Leeward,” Exeter said.
He said over 2,000 Vincentians will graduates from educational institutions this year without any hope of landing a job.
“A government’s job, people, is not to create jobs, but to create an environment for which private business could invest and thrive, and in turn create jobs for our citizens,” Exeter said, adding that an NDP administration will re-open the vocational centre in Central Leeward to provide trade skills for young people.
“My supporters this evening, hear me and hear me clear. If you expect me to take food out of the mouth of children because of the colour of the t-shirt their parents are wearing, don’t vote for me. Taking jobs from one person and give to another is not job creation. That is victimisation and we will not victimise anyone,” Exeter said.
30 IT jobs before Christmas
He said that an NDP administration will create 500 new jobs in the information technology sector in its first year in office and develop an IT college to produce a workforce on the cutting edge of technological advancement.
“This will open many opportunities for our young people. They will have the ability to work as developers on large enterprise systems,” Exeter said.
“Gone are the days when we have to export our brightest and best to help develop other nations. With today’s technology companies are outsourcing job via the Internet. This means the high paying jobs will come to our shore,” he said.
Exeter said he has been contacted by an individual who owns a large call centre and is expanding to St. Vincent and is willing to bring 30 new call centre jobs to Central Leeward before Christmas.
“So folk out there, get your resumes and your CVs ready because jobs are coming to Central Leeward. And we are not waiting ‘til we are elected to do this.”
Farmers, sports persons deserve better
Exeter said that farmers deserve to be back in the land, maximising opportunities that the NDP will make available by planting 1,000 acres of bananas in its first year in office.
This, he said, will be done with a view to bringing back banana exports to the UK up to the EC$50 million mark.
He said feeder roads to farms will be rehabilitated, and roads built to connect Vermont, Layou and Barrouallie to allow for alternative transportation routes generally.
He said that Barrouallie and Layou produce a majority of the national football players, and Buccament produces excellent cricketers.
“But the conditions in which they play are very sad and appalling,” he said, adding that an NDP administration will upgrade all playing field and hard courts with lights and implement a rigid maintenance schedule.
“It doesn’t make sense to build these facilities and have them abandoned or neglected half the time,” he said.
Exeter said what “when” elected he will appoint a committee of constituents, regardless of their party affiliation, to identify projects to be implemented under the party’s proposed constituency development fund.
‘not here to look back and point fingers’
“I’m not here to look back and point fingers. I’m here to share with you a vision for tomorrow, and the tomorrows to come. A vision that I know we all share; a vision that sees us living the lives that we deserve in Central Leeward. Tonight, I say that our tomorrow starts right here and now,” Exeter said.
Speaking at the same rally, Leader of the Opposition and NDP President Arnhim Eustace said Exeter has made inroad in the constituency since declaring his interest in politics.
“He has not been long on the ground, but everybody knows him already. And that’s not by accident. Ben Exeter has been a hard worker from the day he came back to this country,” Eustace said.
Eustace said that even before he knew him, Exeter indicated his interest in running for the NDP.
“Today, he is the candidate of the New Democratic Party of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and I am confident that he will be the next representative for Central Leeward,” Eustace said.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has announced that general elections will be held this year, ahead of the March 2016 constitutional deadline.