Sen. Luke Browne addresses the ULP’s rally in Sion Hill on Saturday. (IWN photo)

The ruling Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) candidate for East Kingstown, Sen. Luke Browne, says he has “the courage, and strength of character to deal with the tough issues” that affect the lives of constituents.

As evidence of this, he cited his letter published in a local newspaper in 2012 raising questions about the management and financial health of Building & Loan Association.

“Right here at home, I had the courage to write about Building and Loan despite the anticipated reaction of vested interests. I endured a lot of criticism because of it, but Building and Loan is certainly in a much better position now as a result,” he told a ULP rally in Sion Hill on Saturday.

Browne’s letter, which was written while he was an employee of the Ministry of Finance, triggered a run on the BLA that brought it to the brink of collapse.

The crisis that ensued resulted in the Financial Services Authority (FSA) taking over management and control of the Building Society and imposing strict restrictions on transactions.

Management has since been transitioned back to members of the BLA, but the FSA still maintains oversight and some of the restrictions have been eased.

A section of the crowd at the ULP rally in Sion Hill on Saturday. (IWN photo)
A section of the crowd at the ULP rally in Sion Hill on Saturday. (IWN photo)

Browne also told party supporters that, as president of the Guild of Students in Barbados, he fought hard and long against powerful opposition to make sure that students had the best possible University experience.

“As a Vincentian, I led a protest march in Barbados to bring attention to, and ultimately solve, problems that students faced on public transportation vehicles. We won that battle and every student who takes the shuttle to Bridgetown today is a beneficiary,” he said.

“The people of East Kingstown do not have to wonder if I will be there for them in times of need and distress. You already saw that at the time of the Christmas Eve rains and floods [in 2013], you saw that during Hurricane Tomas, and you basically see it on a daily basis.”

He said that while he was a student at the University of the West Indies, he was involved in a Service Learning Programme to address illiteracy on the Leeward coast of St Vincent.

“Before I came to local politics, I had already teamed up with a group of friends, principally Jamal Browne from Murray’s Village … and Kimsha Williams to deliver the BEHOLD the Man Lecture Series.”

He said as a continuation of work in that vein, he recently did the O.C. Forde Memorial Lecture series and subsequent to that, wrote a book on entrepreneurs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I could basically have been anywhere in the world working right now. I am well qualified and I have an excellent work ethic, that has allowed me to excel at everything I have done,” said Browne, a Rhodes scholar.

“But why work overseas? What would that have meant to the students of Sion Hill Government School who need help with lessons right now? What would it have meant to all the people who rely on me on a daily basis to keep a smile on their face? What would it have meant for the children who participate in my summer programme and who would otherwise have been idle and on the street?

“What would it have meant to the people from all corners of this constituency who needed the hope of a brighter future? My loyalty is to them,” Browne said.

He, however, acknowledged that he is not perfect.

“I try my best to do things and to use my time and talent to help people out, but sometimes I fall short despite my best efforts. Over the years, I may have disappointed some of you. Over the years, I surely made some honest mistakes. I am sorry. I don’t want us to make that spoil something good.

“I love the people of East Kingstown with all my heart, and it is because of that love that I jump out of my bed each morning, ready to work, ready to capitalise on another day. It is because of you that I find myself jogging ever so often past this spot so that I would keep fit for the job. I ask the Lord daily to help me fulfil my potential and to give me the strength, energy and insight that would help me to make life better for people.

“I would like everyone here to know that I am committed to you and to making you have the best possible future,” he said.

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