The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is not “a new sugar daddy” for Vincentians, rather it represents true change.
So says Maia Eustace, daughter of leader of the opposition, Arnhim Eustace, Friday night as she likened the ruling Unity Labour Party unto an abusive partner.
Ms. Eustace, a lawyer, in a speech at the NDP rally in Rockies, continued where opposition senator Vynnette Frederick left off one week earlier.
She said that domestic abuse takes many forms, but one of the features she has experienced as a lawyer who also deals with domestic abuse issues, is economic exploitation.
This, she said, refers to the abuser telling the spouse, who is gainfully employed, to stop working and depend entirely on them for any financial maintenance.
This arrangement, she said, lays the foundation for economic exploitation, but added that not every family that makes that decision is abusive.
“So, if we compare that to the Unity Labour Party administration’s behaviour, we must look at things like squeezing, stifling the economy so that many people end up jobless,” she said, mentioning also Public Assistance (welfare).
“A dependency syndrome has picked up really like wildfire in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So that economic aspect is very powerful,” Eustace said, adding that another aspect is when a woman speaks out about abuse.
“Well, in that situation, she can be given blows or she can be denied the money she needs to run the household herself, to feed her children. All of those things will be denied here”
Eustace said the equivalent will be like what happened to the Port workers when they “spoke truth to power; when they decided to protest” and were fired by the government.
She said people are dragged before the court when they are critical of the prime minister.
Eustace spoke of physical abuse, saying the “long arm of the government, the tentacles of the state are the police” and mentioned the killing of three young men during Vincy Pac, a police operation, and the death of Sylma “Codo” Thomas who fell ill and was denied medical treatment immediately when she came down with a stroke during a police operation.
Speaking on what she described as the ULP’s verbal abuse of Vincentians, Eustace said:
“Well, I, as a Vincentian, I have heard depictions and caricatures of people like my father and Matthew Thomas and others that are so despicable and are meant to rob you of your very sense of self, rob you of your sense of agency.
“You get called a dutty dawg, you are told you are invisible. Would anybody tell your children or your spouse that you are invisible?”
She said that was the case when Gonsalves – who is of Portuguese descent — said that if he and Mr. Eustace – who is of African descent — were walking together at night and chanced upon former U.S. president, George Bush, Bush would recognise Gonsalves and not Eustace.
“That is telling you that you are invisible; you count for nothing. And that is, despite whatever you have already accomplished in your lifetime,” Ms. Eustace said.
“We have been told things like, if you publish the draft constitution in the newspaper Vincentians will take it and wrap their salt fish with it. You don’t read, clearly, and you don’t value any movement as significant as a referendum. You don’t understand it; you don’t have the capacity to understand it. You are brow beaten,” she said.
She said that when Frederick spoke out, she was called a “snotty nose gyal” and former senator, Anesia Baptiste was called “a picky head gyal”.
In Frederick’s case, another form of abuse was what she, Eustace, called pulling Frederick’s bedroom into the national living room by casting aspersions on her sexuality
“Her alleged sex life became fodder for national discussion. A lot of abusers do that. They shame you in your community. When they fling the licks on you in the house and you go outside to your neighbours, they have already turned many of them against you.
“They talk about your behaviour and they tell the most vicious lies, so that when you appeal to others for help, they are not available, because ‘You nah treat the man good. You nah play your role as a wife.’”
Eustace said that the ULP administration characterised Frederick in such a way that on minivans and in other places in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, “women themselves were saying the nastiest things about her.
“We could not understand, as a group, that when you insult one Vincentian, you insult all of us. When you insult one woman, you insult all women. When you insult one black Vincentian for his blackness, you insult all black Vincentians.
“Yet, when on the platform, you have said these things about my father and his complexion, the people in the crowd who were clapping hard all look like my father, all look like every single one of us. That is how abusers operate. And they can be extremely charming. That is how the ULP administration operates.
“And the message it sends is that, especially if you are woman, don’t you dare get on a platform and say anything in opposition to us.”
Eustace mentioned the case of Kate who decided to identify herself by her first name only when she spoke at the NDP conversation on women earlier this year.
Eustace said that despite the NDP’s invitation to sit at the platform, Kate sat in the audience until it was her turn to speak, during which she shared her experience of abuse at the hands of men.
The Opposition Leader’s daughter noted that Kate spoke of abuse at the hands of men, and not the ULP.
“And what happened to Kate the next day is that she was violated once again,” she said, noting that Elson Crick, communications consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister, announced on radio, Kate’s full name, previous names, passport number, travel dates “and purported to tell the truth of why Kate was in St. Vincent instead of Toronto, Canada.
“And there were women, who, afterwards, sought to close every possible door on Kate,” Eustace said.
“Do you realise that every time we hear these verbal attacks, it impacts how we see ourselves, because you are not supposed to be an outspoken woman, you are not supposed to be an outspoken black Vincentian, you are not supposed to be an outspoken government employee, you are not supposed to be an outspoken Vincentian on Public Assistance. You are never to speak out.”
She said that another characteristic of abusive relationships is that children are pulled in and told all sorts of lies, while the abuser tells everyone that he supports his children and gives them the best education possible.
“The equivalent of that, when we speak about the ULP administration, is the claim that the best education is being provided, when, in fact, the children are taking courses that are not accredited and a blatant lie is told, and, at no point, now that the truth has come out, has there been a moment when the Community College or the ULP administration stopped and said we are sorry that you were mislead. We made a grave mistake, we have erred,” she said.
Eustace says that when the abused person tries to break free of an abusive relationship, the abuser comes and tells them “the sweetest lies”.
“They tell you Labour loves you, all together now, we naah turn back now, own the government, it is yours. They come, they pave your road just before the election, they give you little piece ah galvanise and cement and lumber.
“And each time you stretch your hand out and take what actually belongs to you — because it is bought with the public purse — a little piece of you dies because you have compromised yourself; every single time.
“So, how many parts of us have died in the past 14 years? Plenty you know,” she said.
“So you tell them you are leaving, you go brave. Their friends come and encourage you. No, give him another chance. Astaphan comes to St. Vincent to tell you give them another chance, Dr. [Kenny] Anthony, at one point, use to come and say give them another chance. But that group of cohorts, that group is getting very small,” she said.
She said abusers make the abused feel guilty, but told NDP supporters that it is their right to vote against the abusive relationship
“Am I here to suggest to you that you are going to get the new sugar daddy, the new man to depend on? No. The NDP represents true change. It means breaking this dispensation completely. The business of government is going to change very drastically. Everyone, whether yellow, red, green or blue is going to be held accountable in the new St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” she said.
“The NDP is not there to give you hand-outs, not there to give you a fish, but teach you to fish or not even teach you, [but] create the opportunities so that the independent persons who want to offer lessons or set up a business that deals in training, those entities can thrive and offer those services.
“Because government is not supposed to be big government with a big ‘g’. it’s suppose to be little government, small ‘g’. It is supposed to create the environment that is conducive to your growth and your empowerment.”
Eustace said that if citizens have to wait for government to empower them, they are not empowered, but dependent.
“Are we ready for a new way of being in St. Vincent and the Grenadines? Are we ready? If you are ready? If you are fed up and if you want to see fairness return, opportunity return so that you can empower yourself, you know what you have to do,” Eustace said as the DJ played “Geh rid a dem,” an NDP campaign theme song.