Louis Straker — who has been dubbed “The Terminator” after he came out of retirement to be the Unity Labour Party’s candidate in Central Leeward in the upcoming general elections — on Sunday, asked Vincentians to return the ULP to office, saying the party’s “mission is not accomplished”.
The ULP will seek an historic fourth consecutive term for a Labour government in elections later this year, ahead of the March 2016 constitutional deadline.
“If it was not for the coming together of this mighty party, there would have been no Rabacca Bridge, no international airport, there would have been no help for the senior citizens and poor people would have probably been getting 60 or 70 dollars a month,” Straker said at a rally in Layou to mark 21 years since the formation of the ULP.
“Thank God for the Unity Labour Party,” he said of the party, which resulted from the merging of the Movement for National Unity and the St. Vincent Labour Party.
“And our mission is not accomplished. We have a greater work to do and we want you to stand by us,” said Straker, who was MP for Central Leeward from 1998 to 2010.
“The people of Central Leeward, we want you make sure that you give firm support to the Unity Labour Party. Don’t be fooled by NDP,” he told party supporters bussed in from across the country.
Straker replaces MP for Central Leeward, Maxwell Charles, as the ULP’s candidate in the district.
Charles was elected for the first time in 2010, but the party has called Straker out of retirement to replace him in response to what Straker himself has said was poor representation by Charles and what political observers have described as a formidable challenge by political newcomer, Ben Exeter, of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).
“Here in Central Leeward, we have accomplished a lot,” Straker said, adding that he would have liked if he had the time to answer certain charges made on the NDP platform.
The former deputy prime minister said the ULP has done a lot for Central Leeward and mentioned the Layou Waterfront, which was constructed to counter the rising sea in the town, and the playing field, which, he said, was sloping and uneven when the ULP came to office in 2001.
“Comrades, we have great plans for the future,” Straker said, adding that jobs in Central Leeward are of utmost importance to him.
“I know a lot of people, young people, are looking for jobs. And I want to give you a measure of hope, because we have 500 acres at Mt Wynne Peter’s Hope, and we are working hard in order to get a credible investor to invest and build a resort even larger than Buccament Bay so that people here can get employment.”
Exeter has promised 30 IT jobs in Central Leeward within its first year in office, while the NDP has promised 500 jobs in the sector, also within the first year.
“I am looking for almost 1,000 jobs in Central Leeward here,” he said, adding that with the resort in Mt. Wynne-Peter’s Hope, there will be a need for chefs, banquet chefs, wine stewards, food and beverage managers, bartenders, supervisory bartenders, executive housekeepers, regular housekeepers, hostesses, maids, purchasing agents, activities manager, reservation clerks, attraction guides, amusement park supervisors, green keepers, landscapers, health aid workers, caddy boys, scuba divers, golf coaches, electrical workers, air condition men, refrigeration repair men, concession attendants, bath house attendants, beach boy, laundry workers, musicians, drivers, farmers, fishermen.
“We are going to have over 1,000 jobs at that resort at Mt Wynne-Peter’s Hope,” he said.
Straker said that the ULP administration wants to build a modern black fish (pilot whale) shed in Bottle and Glass, Barrouallie.
“You may not know, but the outside world frowns on what obtains there now. You can’t hang black fish on a pole with flies going on and off. That is not sanitary enough for the outside world, and we want to build a modern black fish shed that we can light coming through the roof so we can dry the blackfish.”
Residents of Layou are entitled to a pedestrian Bailey bridge across the river near the supermarket so that persons going to the supermarket or the bakery do not have to skip river stones to get there or take the long route near the school when the river is flowing heavily, Straker said.
“And I ask the Prime Minister, I ask Julian (Sen. Julian Francis), give me my pedestrian bridge across the river there.”
A “major health facility”, in the form of a polyclinic, will be opened in Buccament in the next year.
“When you go over there and you see the polyclinic that a little place like Buccament is getting, I think that is a hospital, so when pain strikes you and you are in labour, you don’t have to drive all the way to Kingstown.
“A doctor will be there to give you your delivery, people will be employed, and Buccament, that was once famous only for tri-tri and plum and tamarind, is now famous for a major health facility, famous for the resort they have at Buccament, famous for Buccament Bay Secondary School, famous for a golden age centre, so it is a major village with worldwide reputation, thanks to the ULP,” Straker said.
Straker said that a foreign government has promised him 10 brand new computers for the Straker Resource Centre in Layou by the end of this year. He said he does not want more than 10 because he wants to keep the classes small.
He said the ULP has given out more than 4,000 lot of lands at 10 and 50 cents per lot to citizens, including 200 at Glebe Hill and 162 at Keartons and Wallilabou.
“But we have some other areas where we will have to give out lands,” he said, adding that more lands will be distributed in the constituency in the coming months.
Straker said that for the years that the NDP was in power, they did not even build a bus shed in Layou.
He said the first bus shed in the town was constructed when he was MP and that he is hoping that a further two can be constructed by the end of the year or early next year.
“Comrades, we have a lot to do together. You can’t afford to take a man like Ben Exeter and put him in office. The man who has said he left here at 9 years of age, and when he came back after 40 years he has seen no improvement in Layou or in Central Leeward.”
Straker sad that his grandparents worked on the Ruthland Vale Estate “and their sweat has fertilised, nourished this soil…
“And here I am, the son of estate workers offering myself once again to sit where the owner of the whole estate sat… I am offering myself to you here as your candidate for Central Leeward.”
He told party supporters that Exeter did not consider the people of Central Leeward or helping his relatives during his 40 years in Canada and stayed at Cobblestone Inn when he came home on vacation.
“All of a sudden, he loves Layou and wants to represent Layou.
“… Comrades, if he can’t see improvements in Central Leeward, then he is blind. And he has been bad talking this constituency, saying all he sees are prostitutes and homosexuals.
“And I said I have been living here, I came back here and I would love to know where these prostitutes – not that I want them for myself – but I don’t know of any prostitution ring…”
Straker said that while Exeter has said he has a plan to bottle and sell water from Layou, the people have already said they don’t support that idea.
The returning politician also described, as a “lie”, a promise he said Exeter made about bringing jobs that pay US$35 an hour.
“Foolishness. Don’t make him come here and fool you with such nonsense.”
Straker was confident that he can keep Central Leeward in the ULP column.
“I am happy and I feel confident and I feel confident that whenever it is that the prime minister announces the election, we are going to bring home the seat with the biggest margin than we have ever brought Central Leeward home.
“And we are going to bring home more seats than we have ever brought in. Stay with us. Let’s journey together, let’s hold hand in hand…” Straker said.